Thursday, February 9, 2012

News Update PS Bank bares Corona's millions of savings

Amid defense's efforts to block the presentation of Chief Justice Renato Corona's bank accounts, the Senate allowed a bank official to testify on the Day 14 of the impeachment trial.

Pascual Garcia III, President of Philippine Savings (PS) Bank, brought original copies of five peso accounts under the name of Corona from 2007 to 2010 to be presented as evidence for Article II of the impeachment complaint dealing with Corona’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Garcia said that based on bank certifications on ending balances of those five accounts, only two contain balances as of Dec. 31, 2010 – one with P7 million and the other with P12.6 million.

Garcia added that the account containing P7 million (or P7,148,238.83 to be exact) was only opened by Corona in 2010. On the other hand, the account with P12 million (or P12,580,316.56 to be exact) was opened in 2009 with an ending balance of P8.5 million during that year.

But in his SALNs, Corona declared that he only owned P3.5 million in cash in 2010 and P2.5 million in 2009.

As for the other three accounts subpoenaed by the court, Garcia said one of them contained P5 million as of 2007 but was closed in 2008, while the other two were opened in 2009 but contained no balance since.

The PS Bank official was subpoenaed to bring a total of 10 Corona accounts but Garcia did not bring the other five which are dollar accounts.

Garcia invoked the Foreign Currency Act which enforces absolute confidentiality. “The disclosure of these accounts would have exposed us to criminal liability. We thought it best not to disclose at this particular time without consent from the depositor,” he said.

Senator Franklin Drilon said Garcia must explain in writing why he should not be cited in contempt for not complying with the subpoena.

Senator Joker Arroyo, however, noted that in former president Joseph Estrada's impeachment trial, Senate then did not impose penalty on the bank that also refused to expose Estrada’s dollar account.

“We should be guided by precedence. We should grant the witness some consideration,” said Arroyo, who served as one of the House prosecutors during the Estrada trial.

Garcia also said that they sought the guidance of the Supreme Court regarding the release of Corona’s dollar accounts. The PS Bank filed a petition for a request of issuance of temporary restraining order protecting them from having to disclose the documents.

However, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile ruled that in the absence of a TRO, the impeachment proceedings shall proceed.