Press Release
May 29, 2012


Sa nakalipas na limang buwan, ang atensyon ng sambayanan ay nakatuon sa impeachment trial ni Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. Mula sa pagiging pribadong abogado, siya ay nanungkulan sa ilalim ng dalawang Pangulo at nahirang bilang Punong Mahistrado--isang natatanging tagumpay para sa isang abogado, at ang pinakamataas na posisyon sa isa sa tatlong magkakapantay na sangay ng gobyerno.

Ngunit napapaloob dito ay isa pang storya, ang kwento ng isang pamilya na pinagwatak watak ng mapait na away tungkol sa pagaari at pera. Tumagal ng tatlumpong taon ang away, nauwi sa demandahan--at humantong pa sa paglilitis na ito.

Pera, kapangyarihan, away pamilya--ito ang ugat ng storya. Hindi ang lahat ng ito ay matutugunan natin sa paglilitis na ito, subalit hangad din natin na ito'y matuldukan.

The question, quite simply, is the Chief Justice's alleged failure to disclose a true and complete statement of assets, as mandated by the Constitution, and whether this constitutes culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust.

The Constitution and our statutes[1] oblige every public official to make and submit "a complete disclosure of his assets, liabilities, and net worth in order to suppress any questionable accumulation of wealth".[2]

This obligatory constitutional rule seeks to eradicate corruption, promote transparency in government and maintain a standard of honesty in the public service.

The Prosecution and the Defense were one in producing proof that the Chief Justice has bank accounts he did not declare in his SALN. Removing any iota of doubt about this vital fact was the Chief Justice himself who openly admitted before this Court that he has four (4) U.S. dollar accounts totaling U.S. $2.4 million, and three (3) peso accounts of P80.7 million.

I may grant the Chief Justice's plea of honest mistake of judgment. But given his broad experience in public law and practice in investment advisory services, his willful and deliberate omission, together with the magnitude of the subject matter, amounts to a culpable violation--thus a failure meriting condemnation.

The Chief Justice justified his willful failure to disclose his U.S. dollar accounts on the so-called absolute confidentiality provision of the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (R.A. 6426). However, it seems clear that the mantle of protection is extended to foreign depositors in the spirit of promoting foreign investment. The law was never intended to be a convenient device for Filipino public officials to conceal their assets.

When the accounts were disclosed by no less than the Chief Justice, this left no prohibition against this Impeachment Court from admitting the evidence and weighing it on the scales of justice.

The defense argues that the Ombudsman illegally obtained documents on Chief Justice's bank transactions because there was no pending case involving the subject bank accounts or any court order authorizing the production of such records.

The defense, however, fails to consider that the documents produced by the Ombudsman were official records of the AMLC, which it receives from covered institutions pursuant to law. The Ombudsman has the power and authority to obtain these records from the AMLC pursuant to the Constitution and the Chief Justice's own SALN waiver.

On the whole, the defense's main objection rings hollow since the Chief Justice himself admitted to the existence of the accounts, and the amounts they held--not to mention the fact that information on these were provided by witnesses presented by the defense panel themselves.

The Supreme Court no less has said, "no position exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than a seat in the Judiciary."[3] As the head of the judiciary, a standard far higher is placed on Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

This impeachment trial breaks new ground. This Senate, sitting as judges, adopts its own rules and makes it own decisions. Within the bounds of the rule of law, it can initiate new doctrines and new precedents. Its pronouncement is the final word.

It seems unnecessary for me to dwell further on the P80.7 million account the Chief Justice stated is commingled with the funds of his children and the Basa-Guidote family. But this fund could very well provide the seed of reconciliation for the two feuding branches of the family.

For these reasons, I find the Respondent GUILTY of the charge under Article II of the Articles of Impeachment.

[1] More particularly Section 7 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practice (R.A. 3019) and Section 8 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (R.A. 6713)

[2] Office of the Court Administrator v. Usman, A.M. No. SCC-08-12

[3] Office of the Court Administrator v. Usman, A.M. No. SCC-08-12; October 19, 2011; citing Magarang v. Jardin, Sr., 386 Phil. 273, 284 (2000).

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