Government abandons P130.5-million wealth case vs late CJ Corona

THE government has abandoned the P130.5-million forfeiture case filed during the term of the late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III against the late Chief Justice Renato Corona and his heirs.

In a four-page resolution issued last January 30, 2022, the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division noted that the government, through the Office of the Ombudsman, did not appeal anymore its November 3, 2022 decision, dismissing the forfeiture case and lifting the writ of preliminary attachment issued the properties of the Coronas.

Based on its records, a copy decision of which was received by the Ombudsman through electronic means on November 4, 2002 and personal service on November 7, 2022, but no motion for reconsideration was timely filed by the government.

Thus, the Sandiganbayan declared its November 3, 2002 final and executory.

“The failure of herein petitioner to file a motion for reconsideration or appeal from the dismissal of its amended petition for forfeiture against respondents renders finality to the decision dated November 3, 2022, which is executory by operation of law,” the Sandiganbayan said.

“Considering the finality of judgment in the instant case, it has now become a ministerial duty of the Court to issue a certificate of finality and to cause its entry of the same to the Books of Judgments,” it added.

Since its decision has now become final and executory, the Sandiganbayan granted the plea of the Coronas to order the sheriff to serve copies of the certificate of finality of judgment to the relevant government agencies, parties and other garnishees, for the purpose of lifting the writ of attachment that the anti-graft court previously issued.

“Considering that the ancillary remedy of issuance of writ of preliminary attachment exists only as part or incident of an independent action, the dismissal of the instant amended petition for forfeiture consequently results in the dissolution of the writ of preliminary attachment,” it said.

In its November 2022 ruling, the Sandiganbayan declared that the properties subject of the forfeiture case was legally obtained by the Coronas.

It held that they were able to fully explain the legality of their “undisclosed” cash and other assets, thus, cannot be held liable for forfeiture of their properties.

The anti-graft court also agreed with the Supreme Court that the late Chief Justice was a victim of political persecution under the Aquino administration.

It echoed the Supreme Court’s ruling on the request of Corona’s widow, Ma. Cristina, for the grant of retirement and other benefits to the late chief justice, where it declared that the statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) “is a tool for public transparency and never a weapon for political vendetta.”

Corona was ousted by the Senate as the country’s chief magistrate through impeachment proceedings in May 2012 after pronouncing him guilty of betrayal of public trust for failure to properly disclose his properties and cash assets in his SALN.

Corona, however, accused the then Aquino administration of orchestrating his impeachment following the Court’s 2011 decision ordering the distribution of the 4,915.75-hectare Hacienda Luisita to the farmer-beneficiaries of the sugar estate owned by the family of the late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

At the height of his impeachment trial, then former Akbayan representative and now Senator Risa Hontiveros, along with several others, filed a complaint for violation of Republic Act No. 9194 (Law of Forfeiture of Ill-Gotten Wealth).

After the conduct of a fact-finding investigation on the said complaint, then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales issued a resolution on January 14, 2021 recommending the filing of a civil case for forfeiture of Corona’s ill-gotten wealth.

Specifically, the Ombudsman claimed that Corona’s SALNs for 2001 to 2010 show an unexplained rise in wealth of P8.9 million; that he has undeclared peso and dollar cash assets and undeclared real properties that were acquired for amounts that are much higher than what were reflected in their SALNs.

However, the Court held that the Corona family was able to prove that the former Chief Justice had been gainfully employed for almost 45 years and that he had funds other than his lawful income in government service.


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