MANILA – The family of the late chief justice Renato Corona on Friday thanked supporters and lauded his vindication in a forfeiture case that was dismissed by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.
In a statement sent to the media by family lawyer Carlos Villaruz, Corona’s wife, Cristina, and their children, said they ”cannot contain their happiness and joy with the Sandiganbayan’s dismissal of the forfeiture case against them.”
“They thank God for this wonderful blessing, and to all those who joined them in prayer, and supported them during these difficult and heartbreaking times. They also give their utmost gratitude to the Honorable Justices of the Sandiganbayan who ensured that true justice and the rule of law would be upheld,” the statement read.
The statement added that the Corona family has been in agony for years because of the cases.
“With the dismissal of this last case, they cannot help but feel vindicated since our courts have consistently ruled that CJ Corona and his family did nothing wrong,” the statement said.
The Sandiganbayan dismissed the forfeiture case on Thursday against Corona and his heirs, as well as his trustees, assignees, transferees, and successors-in-interest, because they were able to “adequately prove that their income could enable them to acquire the questioned assets.”
The Ombudsman had claimed that Corona amassed PHP137.93 million in assets by 2010 but declared only a portion of the same in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
From 2002 to 2011, Corona reported a total income of PHP30.36 million from being an associate of the Supreme Court (SC), a member of the Judicial and Bar Council, a member of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, and in his 15-month stint as chief of staff of President Glorial Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001 to 2002.
The Corona family said that the prosecution’s computation did not consider other sources of income such as the expropriation by the city of Manila of a property worth PHP34.7 million from the family owned Basa-Guidote Ent. Inc., and commingled personal funds from the Corona children, Ma. Carla Beatrice Corona-Castillo, Francis Corona, and Charina Corona-Salgado.
The Coronas also maintained that the funds were put in money-market placements, which were repeatedly rolled over to several long-term investments or dollar time deposits that have matured over the years and have earned substantial interest income, including during the time when Corona was in the SC.
The Sandiganbayan noted that while Corona may have been liable for negligence as he failed to properly indicate his assets in his SALN, the assets cannot be labeled as unexplained wealth because the late magistrate, his wife, and children have legally accumulated wealth over years of working.
Corona was appointed chief justice by Arroyo in May 2010, a month before her term ended.
Arroyo’s successor, the late Benigno Aquino III, called it a midnight appointment but a majority of SC judges ruled the two-month ban does not apply to the position of chief justice.
In May 2012, Corona was found guilty in an impeachment court for his alleged failure to accurately declare his assets in his SALN.
Corona died in 2016 at the age 67 following a heart attack. (PNA)