OMBUDSMAN CONCHITA CARPIO-MORALES told the impeachment court that her office was investigating impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona based in part on data coming from the Anti Money Laundering Council or the AMLC, a financial intelligence unit charged with investigating money laundering activities.
In particular, Morales said that her office had asked Corona to explain reports that he had amassed $10 million based on information she got from the AMLC.
Last month, the Ombudsman revealed that it had asked Corona to explain reports that he had illegally amassed $10 million in unexplained wealth. The Ombudsman said the accusations were made by at least three complainants who had filed affidavits before her office.
Morales was asked to appear before the Senate impeachment court based on a request by Corona’s defense team. Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas said they want Morales to testify on the circumstances behind the investigation she ordered as the Ombudsman into Corona’s alleged dollar bank accounts.
At the start, defense lawyers appeared to be highlighting Morales’ run-ins with Corona, both with regard to his appointment as Chief Justice, and her appointment as Ombudsman.
In particular, it was pointed out that Morales dissented in the Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the power of former President Gloria Arroyo to appoint Corona as Chief Justice despite the election ban on appointments.
Morales had sustained her objection to the appointment, saying that the president “had no authority to appoint the Supreme Court Chief Justice.”
Cuevas then pointed out that Corona had voted against her nomination as Ombudsman.
“Whether he was opposed to my nomination, I do not know,” Morales replied. “But it is a fact that he did not vote for me.”
Because of the exchanges between Cuevas and Morales, presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile decided to declare Morales as a hostile witness of the defense panel, or one who offers adverse testimony to the calling party during a direct examination. With that, defense lawyers would be allowed to ask Morales leading questions normally not allowed of ordinary witnesses.
Morales acknowledged that none of the three complainants had mentioned the figure $10 million that her office had asked Corona to explain and respond to.
“We received reports about the $10 million,” Morales said, ” based on the papers from the AMLA.”
Morales said it was not clear if the $10 million was in any way connected to the $700,000 Philippine Savings Bank account earlier being linked to Corona.
Morales added that the AMLC had furnished her office with a 17-page report that was the basis for the investigation being conducted by her office.