Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ombudsman Morales’ power-point presentation offered no evidence, just arrows of fund movement spinning around like a San Fernando X’mas lantern; OMB’s tale seems straight from some Mafia or Mexican or Colombia drug lords. What was AMLC’s real role here? Executive Director Vicente Aquino should be summoned to testify, as trifling with $ accounts will frighten investors.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales came swinging yesterday with aplomb and arrogance, spilling out a simply incredible and fantastic story about how Chief Justice Renato Corona had allegedly amassed wealth in the millions of dollars stashed away in 82 accounts in five banks over a period of about ten years. CJ Corona has denied the claims made by OMB Morales in her power-point presentation and challenged her to resign her post once he proves her allegations as lies.

Resignation should be the only way out for OMB---just as CJ could face conviction if he cannot prove that he does not have the resources to have justifiably acquired the Arabian Nights wealth ascribed to him, and that he did not steal it.


Readers sent quick observations thoughtfully put together, expressing incredulity about OMB’s allegations. Read these and ponder well. For my part, I offered last Sunday the observation that the $10million alleged accounts do not jibe with the image of the Corona couple who has lived in the same sub-middle class neighborhood inherited home for the past 25 years, sans househelp.

 I argued that if CJ has that kind of fortune he should have bought property in Fifth Avenue, NYC, or Hillsboro, SF or similar fancy addresses. Why would daughter Charina buy a starter-home in California on 30-year installment?  Why would Cristina Corona buy a typhoon-damaged bargain sale penthouse unit in a middle-range condo building in Makati?


The above details of simple living don’t add up to the image of a person seemingly obsessed with spinning his incredible dollar wealth around from bank to bank DAILY, like some character straight from a Mafia movie or a  drunken drug lord. 

As a former senator put it, if one were to believe OMB’s allegation, one wonders how CJ even got to read the interminable pleadings at the SC, much less participate in those tiringly long en banc sessions---he was painted as a man obsessed with pyramiding wealth.  Wala nang ginawang iba si Corona.


Could OMB’s power-point presentation based on computer-generated, search engine documents supposedly furnished by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) be part of a getting-even with CJ in their years of association in SC?

As brought out by lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas yesterday, CJ, as head of the Judicial and Bar Council, refused to vote for Morales, who was one of three nominees for OMB in 2010. Moreover, she is the cousin of the reputed rival of CJ for the top post, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio;  in her bitterness over her cousin's failure to bag the top post, Morales became the lone dissenter in the near-unanimous decision of the SC to back up GMA's authority to appoint the CJ.  Morales and CJ also clashed in some rulings of the SC.

But as Sen. Bongbong Marcos noted yesterday afternoon after the Senate session, the most frightening conclusion about the allegations OMB raised---with the apparent cooperation of some elements in AMLC, the Bangko Sentral, COA and some political figures--- is the extent the administration would resort to, to pursue its adversaries. 


Here are observations raised by one reader:

1.  If I were Corona - presumably a bright veteran experienced lawyer wise to the ways of the world - and I am receiving tons of dollars illegally:
 a.  I would have my dollars deposited in off shore banks abroad such as Hongkong - accounts where my name  will not even appear – certainly not in gossipy Manila (by the way, HK banks do say that a good number of Filipino politicians have accounts, some fat ones too, there).

 b. If I were stupid enough not to know about off-shore banks, I would maintain only one or a few accounts.  Many accounts spell disaster in gossipy Manila.

2.  Corona may have a dollar account for use for buying plane tickets etc.  Every one worth his salt has one.  One can open a dollar account here with a deposit of even 200 dollars.

3.  It is possible that his children working in USA maintain dollar accounts in Manila with Corona as co-signatory.  Anyone who has a little brain knows it is important to have even 2 co-signatgories.  Why?  I f Corona's daughter opened an account here with her as the sole signatory, and if something happens to her the account would be frozen.  And the Coronas will have to go to court to claim the daughter’s deposit. But with one or two co-signatories, they can immediately withdraw it without any trouble,

By the way, families do this even for their peso accounts.


Another reader worries a lot about the way the provisions of the Bank Secrecy Law and the Foreign Currency Deposits Act are being violated in the unauthorized disclosures by the prosecution earlier, and now by OMB Morales. The reader maintains that these laws governing FCDU accounts may have been violated and the OMB could be prosecuted for disclosing such accounts without a court order n the Bank Secrecy Law, and the express authority of the account holder in the case of the FCDU.

 This reader opines that the local banks should file criminal charges against people who disclosed the alleged accounts, for the banks’ very integrity is at stake. At the rate the laws governing local and foreign deposits are being violated, the dollar depositors will flee from our shores, thus negating the purpose for which these were enacted, i.e, to beef up our foreign reserves.  

Very true.


Another reader offers various nitty-gritty on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’s expose on CJ’s alleged dollar account---all worth considering and thinking about:

1. There are too many accounts for a one individual, 82 in all... the respondent/depositor is neither the head of a criminal syndicate or a Drug Lord.

2. There is too much circuitous movement from one account to another.

3. There were no supporting documents like signature cards, deposit/withdrawal slips, written bank instructions from depositor presented. In fact, displaying manifest bad faith, the Ombudsman (OMB) repeatedly---and arrogantly--- said she did not deem it necessary to attach the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report nor inform the respondent that there was such a report or investigation going on.

4. The power point presentation was obviously prepared in advance and Haydee Mendoza of COA was allowed to slip into the witness stand even without a subpoena.

5. Even if Defense wanted to present Emmanuel Tiu Santos as first witness Senate President Ponce Enrile insisted on allowing the OMB to testify first on the argument that "there is no higher official than the Ombudsman and she is already here." Did he know in advance that she had a "bombshell" present in the form of this fabricated power point presentation? This was obviously part of their grand scheme.

6. An individual with ill gotten wealth would not put any account under his/her real name, it would be placed under a nominee or a dummy, or a dummy corporation just like FM and Jose Velarde did.

7. The power point presentation seems to have been made from a computer- generated "search engine", like the alleged debunked 45 properties of the CJ, which lumped all those properties with the same surname together.

Another reader opined that since LRA's Eulalio Diaz got away with perjury and lies the first time, the prosecution through OMB is again using the same foul tactics, which should be immediately and decisively exposed.

These supposed 82 accounts are totally incredible and mind-boggling.
There is a clamor  for the Senate to subpoena AMLC executive-director Vicente Aquino, the bank managers involved in the supposed five banks  and all the bank records pertaining to the accounts, such as like signature cards, written instructions of depositor, deposit/withdrawal slips---in order to establish the veracity/ or untruth of these accounts mentioned in OMB’s presentation. This is a sensible suggestion that the Senate should act on ASAP, if only out of justice and fairness to respondent Renato Corona.

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  1. Wala talagang pinagkaiba yang si Omb Moralies kay Sec Liela Dilemma.

  2. 82 US dollars account under one name and in different banks in different places? That's ridiculous and lacks logic. Why will he burden himself of monitoring those 82 accounts aside from his Peso account? Even the richest people in the world, do not maintain those numerous accounts even if they have a battery of accvountants. The mafiosis, the druglords, and high profile criminals do not maintain such number of accounts in different banks in different places under one name. Granting, arguendo, that Corona is indeed into something illegal, he wouldn't be opening 82 accounts containing huge sum of money under one name knowing fully well that there is an existing law that could forfeit that money once discovered. Siyempre gagamit siya ng ibang name or dummy, like the Jose Pidal name of Mike Arroyo. We must remember that Corona is not just an ordinary lawyer. He is the Chief Justice. Naturalmente alam niya ang mga pasikot-sikot sa mga ganyang transactions. He is not that stupid. His accusers are insulting his intelligence.

  3. In my opinion the best things to do is to invite the ALMC official/s who submitted the report to OMB and second invite also banks officials of banks mentioned in PT presentation to validate the correctness and worthy of OMB report. We cannot just rely on such PT presentation without the needed documents to back up the said report.

  4. As I listened to the OMB's testimony, I cant help but feel sorry for her as she obviously been used unwittingly by Malacanang. The AMLC report has been prepared long ago and was just waiting for her call when she takes the bait.

    1. As I had suspected, and as the CJ explained in his testimony, these are time deposit accounts. And as all of us businessmen know that when your time deposits mature, these accounts are terminated or closed and when you make another placement, another account is created. It may seem fresh funds to the unlearned but in reality these are just the maturing time deposits being rolled over.