MANILA (Mabuhay) — The scheduled arraignment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona for his tax evasion case was deferred again on Wednesday after the Court of Tax Appeals en banc issued an order temporarily restraining the Second Division from proceeding with the case.
During Corona’s scheduled arraignment before the CTA Second Division, Associate Justice Caesar Casanova announced that the en banc has granted Corona’s motion for issuance of a preliminary prohibitory injunction with urgent prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the proceedings until the en banc resolves his petition for review.
In its five-page ruling promulgated on October 6, the CTA en banc said it is necessary to hold the proceedings to a halt for at least 60 days so as not to render the issues raised by Corona in his petition for review moot and academic.
“There is an urgent need to temporarily suspend the proceedings and observe the status quo until the parties’ respective positions on the matter are heard in an oral argument,” the en banc ruling read.
Corona is accused of violating Section 254 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) for allegedly failing to pay his income tax for years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
He is also facing before the Second Division a case of violation of Section 255 of NIRC for failure to file or to supply correct information in his income tax returns (ITRs) also for the same years.
Corona has already been arraigned for the case of violation of Section 255, in which he refused to enter any plea, prompting the Second Division to enter a “not guilty” plea on his behalf.
In his petition for review filed with the CTA en banc in July, Corona, through his lawyers said the allegations stated in his case of six counts of violation of Section 254 were already included in his case of six counts of violation of Section 255.
Corona filed the petition for review after the Second Division denied his motion for reconsideration seeking the dismissal of his case of violation of Section 254.
“Basically yung charges nila, the other six charges [of violation of Section 254] are basically the same as the first six charges [of violation of Section 255] so we are asking for the dismissal of these other six charges,” Corona’s lawyer Reinhard Sanchez explained to reporters after the deferred arraignment.
The en banc has set the oral arguments on Corona’s petition for review on October 20.
The Second Division, meanwhile, has set the tentative date for Corona’s arraignment on December 9, unless the en banc grants the former chief magistrate’s petition for review.
“Until further orders ng Court of Tax Appeals en banc, walang mangyayaring arraignment [for 60 days]. Tentatively ini-schedule sa December 9 yung susunod na arraignment unless ma-grant ung petition for review naming,” Sanchez said.
It was the 12th time that Corona’s non-payment of income tax case has been deferred by the Second Division.
The case stemmed from a complaint filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) with the Department of Justice. According to the complaint, Corona owes the state around P120.5 million, inclusive of interests and surcharges, for his failure to pay his right taxes.
In 2012, the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, convicted Corona for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution over non-declaration of several assets, including real estate properties in his Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs), causing his removal from the SC.
In August of this year, a special division of the Sandiganbayan has ruled that there was probable cause to hold Corona on trial for a perjury case in connection to his alleged misdeclaration of assets in his SALNs from 2001 to 2011.
Corona and his wife Cristina are also facing a P130.59-million civil forfeiture case before the Sandiganbayan also in connection with their alleged misdeclarations in their SALNs. (MNS)