Philippine Daily Inquirer – Senators’ explanation of their votes: Verdict rebuilds ‘new paradigm of transparency’ (excerpts)
The Constitution and our statutes 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.”
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 US dollar accounts totaling $2.4 million, and three 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.
ALAN PETER CAYETANO
The impeachment court does not simply pass judgment on this specific case, or on this specific Chief Justice. The court action, being far-reaching and precedent-setting, is actually rebuilding a new paradigm of transparency and accountability in public office.
The verdict of this court will affect more than 1.3 million civil or public servants, government employees and officials. It will affect 100 million Filipinos in other countries. It will affect our future.
I cannot agree with the Chief Justice’s interpretation of the law in his explanation of the P80 million and $2.4 million deposits. However, in signing the waiver that allows the Ombudsman to look into his bank accounts, he has set a new standard.
I ask the President to instruct his Cabinet to sign the waivers or resign and leave the government. Lead by following, or get out of the way. Executive, legislative, judiciary. COA, Comelec, BIR, Customs, judges, governors, mayors, barangay captains, congressmen, senators, let us agree on one standard.
…I aslso have difficulty accepting the defense on commingled funds. The fact of commingling, I can accept that but the huge amount involved leaves too much doubt in my mind. In our interpretation of the law, we who hold a position of public trust, must choose the interpretation that will uphold public interest over private interest. Regardless of whether malice or an intent to suppress the truth was present, we must remember that public office is a public trust. Once that trust is gone, we must step down to preserve the integrity of the position we hold…
From the start, I questioned breaches in procedural law and ethical conduct of various participants in the impeachment process—the trial by publicity and the irresponsible hurtling of bloated unverified figures of assets, among others…
The other lesson must go beyond the Chief Justice. It is the call for transparency. I echo that call. Those of us who sit as judges, those who acted as prosecutors and all those in public service should not hide behind our titles…
The Constiturion commands the respondent Chief Justice to file an accurate and complete SALN.
Respondent concealed his luxurious condominiums for five years after they were fully paid. Worse, respondent reported the values of these condominiums at less than 50 percent of their acquisition cost.
Respondent admits he did not declare $2.4 million and P80 million in his SALN. The enormity of respondent’s hidden assets—over P180 million, or 50 times more than his declared cash assets—is scandalous. It is grossly disproportionate to his total income for 10 years of about P27 million. It establishes a prima facie case of ill-gotten wealth under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The Supreme Court dismissed Delsa Flores, a lowly court interpreter, for not reporting in her SALN her stall in a public market.
The Chief Justice must be held to a much higher standard.
Where our Constitution and our laws require disclosure, he chose the path of concealment. He has lost his moral fitness to serve the people. He has betrayed the public trust.
Matapos aminin ni Chief Justice Corona na mayroon siyang $2.4 million at P80 million na hindi niya dineklara sa kanyang SALN, naging simple na lamang po ang kailangan naming pagpasyahan… Ito po ay: Hindi nga ba ito kelangan ideklara dahil sa RA 6426 o FCDU law? Kung sasang ayon kami sa posisyong ito ni Chief Justice Corona, dapat namin siyang ipawalang sala at kung hindi naman, ay dapat mag-gawad kami ng hatol laban sa kanya.
Ikinalulungkot ko na di ko po masasang-ayunan ang posisyong ito ni Chief Justice Corona. Para sa akin, maliwanag ang mga batas natin at di ito nagbabanggaan. Ang pinagbabawalan ng FCDU law na mag-release ng impormasyon ukol sa dollar deposits ay ang mga banko at di ang depositor. Samantala, ang Konstitusyon at RA 6713, pinag-uutos na ideklara ng lahat ng opisyal ng pamahalaan ang lahat ng kanilang yaman at pagkakautang. Kung ayaw mo ito ideklara, eh di huwag kang tumakbo para sa, o tumanggap ng anumang, pwesto sa pamahalaan. Subalit kung ikaw ay nasa pamahalaan, kelangan mo itong ideklara.
Dahil dito, mabigat man sa aking kalooban, kailangan kong mag-gawad ng hatol laban kay Chief Justice Corona.
JINGGOY EJERCITO ESTRADA
I pray that as we conclude this defining moment, we can unite again as a nation, as a society and attend to the many pressing problems.
I take this view after hearing the arguments and counter-arguments that the Chief Justice did not include in his SALN, $2.4 million and P80.7 million. This he admitted in open court.
The defense proved that he owned only 5 properties, not 45; 4 dollar accounts, not 82; and $2.4 million, not $12 million. Did he properly declare these five real properties and four dollar accounts containing $2.4 million? Did he declare these at the proper time? The answer is no.
It was argued by the defense panel that the noninclusion of dollar deposits by the Chief Justice in his SALN was made in good faith and is covered by the provision of absolute confidentiality under the Foreign Currency Deposits Act. I regret to say that I am not convinced.
I, therefore, make this painful decision with a heavy heart but confident that we have given justice to our people. For this reason, I find him to have violated the Constitution.
TEOFISTO GUINGONA III
The facts are indisputable, the applicable laws are clear and the Constitution leaves no room for perverted interpretations.
Renato C. Corona failed to comply with a constitutional duty. He has failed to present convincing evidence to support his acts and omissions. He brazenly presented a twisted interpretation of the Constitution to justify his violations.
While the highest law of the land recognizes distinctions in rank, it must not be read to create distinctions in accountability. For this reason, Renato Corona, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines, must be removed from office after having been found guilty of two serious and impeachable offenses: Culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
GREGORIO HONASAN II
This trial is not about personalities, emotions or partisan politics but about judging whether a magistrate is fit for the job. Is his integrity beyond any doubt? Is his understanding of the law absolute and beyond question as his position demands? At every moment of his career, did he speak out against injustice and uphold the law?
An institution is only as strong as its leader. We senator-judges are only extensions of the will of the people. We have not proven if the defendant is corrupt or if he is malicious. What is clear is that based on the doubt cast on his capability to dispense justice and do his duty, he is no longer fit to preside over the highest court.
Malinaw na may duda na sa kakayahan ng punong hukom. Doubt is the opposite of faith and faith is the source of hope. I find him guilty.
Chief Justice Renato Corona had at one point $3,977,790 and 87 cents. At a given time he had P91,280,499 and 22 centavos. If you ask me, so, what is the difference between $3.9 million and $2.4 million, between P91 million and P80.7 million? My answer is: a lot of money.
Chief Justice Renato Corona used to work as a senior officer of the tax and corporate counseling group of the tax division of a prominent accounting firm, Sycip Gorres and Velayo and Co. He also taught commercial law, taxation and corporate law at Ateneo de Manila University for 17 years. I find it hard to believe his testimony that he does not understand accounting.
Chief Justice Corona testified under oath that he invested in currencies and not in properties in the late 1960s, mindful of the Basa-Guidote family squabble over some real estate properties left by their deceased parents.
The fact is, the family feud started in 1989. One cannot simply learn from the lessons of the future, even if the standards of moral fitness for such a lofty position in government were lowered, an acquittal may still be difficult to justify.
I therefore find the respondent guilty as charged under Article 2 of the articles of impeachment.
Nakinig po ako sa bawat inaano nila dito. Ngayon, naayon po lalo na si Congressman Fariñas, pinrisinta niya, malinaw na malinaw na si Chief Justice ay lumabag sa batas. Siya mismo inamin niya ang $2.4 million at P80 million niya. ’Yun siguro hindi na kasinungalingan ’yun, katotohanan na.
Hindi ako puwedeng magsalita sa mga republic act, hindi maniniwala ang tao sa akin. Hindi ako nagmamarunong dito. Ang ginagamit ko lang konsensya, hindi ako nag-aral mag-Ingles, walang alam sa batas.
Nun pong magsalita si Chief Justice Corona, nagsusumbong sa taumbayan, awang-awa po ako sa kanya. Akala ko totoo ang sinasabi nya. Hindi pala. Mas pinaniwalaan ko pa si Congressman Fariñas nang mag-PowerPoint dito. Yung sinasabi niyang pizza pie, hindi totoo ’yung 82 accounts, siguro po, ang pagbabasehan ko, 100 basong tubig sa isang dram lang ang kanyang account.
Kung ang ating mga batas tulad ng Republic Act No. 6713 ay nagpaparusa ng dismissal sa isang ordinaryong kawani ng gobyerno sa paglabag ng mandato upang maiwasan ang katiwalian, wala po akong nakikitang dahilan para po hindi ipatupad ang parehong batas na ito sa isang Punong Mahistrado.
We are all guided by the basic principle of equal application of the law.
And in Thomas Jefferson’s own words, “It is certainly for the good of the whole nation … to deal law and justice to all by the same rule and the same measure.”
If we acquit the Chief Justice, we would tragically lift the floodgates for public suspicion and widespread distrust on the highest institution of our judicial system. We would also lower the bar of public accountability of government officials.
It was not easy, it is painful, but we must do it.
SERGIO OSMEÑA III
Did Chief Justice Renato Corona violate the Constitution?
Justice Corona admitted that he did not disclose in his yearly statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) over P180 million in cash and near cash assets.
Justice Corona gave as his excuse the FCDU law. Yet nowhere in that FCDU law is the depositor not allowed to disclose his own deposits. All the FCDU law prohibits is the depository banks and third parties from disclosing the account and its deposits.
Is the violation of the SALN law of such gravity as to merit impeachment?
Numerous decisions on cases involving SALN law violations have been handed down by the Supreme Court. If public officers had been dismissed from office for failing to declare far less remarkable and less valuable assets in their SALNs, despite and regardless of their excuses, then there is more reason to apply the law when the assets in question amount to over P180 million.
Did Justice Corona betray the public trust?
Contained in the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, under Canon 2, which covers integrity, are two sections: 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer. 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the people’s faith in the integrity of the judiciary.
Justice must not merely be done, but must also be seen to be done.
As a lawyer and an officer of the court, it pains and saddens me to say that clearly the Chief Justice displayed a disturbing pattern of dishonesty, willful concealment, and evasion and a blatant and wanton disregard of the provisions of the Constitution on the SALN.
Sa paglilitis na ito, nakita rin natin ang pagkatao ni Chief Justice. Siya ba ay dapat pa nating pagkatiwalaan? Kung hindi po natin i-convict si Ginoong Corona, anim na taon pa siyang uupo bilang Chief Justice. Kung kaya niyang ipagkait sa mismo niyang kamag-anakan ang kanilang ari-arian sa Basa Guidote gayong daang milyon na pala ang kanyang salapi, siya ba ay dapat pagkatiwalaan sa loob pa ng anim na taon?
Dapat po siya na ma-convict dahil siya po ay nagkasala.
Si Chief Justice na mismo ang nagsabi sa kanyang talumpati sa harap ng Manila Overseas Press Club noong June 24, 2010.
Sabi po niya, “I believe that a member of the judiciary who is found guilty of dishonesty should not only be dismissed from the service; he should also be disbarred—no ifs or buts.
Sa kanyang mga labi na mismo nanggaling na nararapat siyang ma-convict at masibak sa pwesto.
AQUILINO PIMENTEL III
There is no law exempting commingled funds from disclosure in the SALN. Minarapat sana ng punong mahistrado na iwasan ang ganitong mga alanganing transaksyong pinansyal. Hindi na nga iniwasan, ginagamit pang kasangkapan (dahilan) upang hindi tumupad sa kanyang tungkuling ilahad ang tunay niyang yaman…
… The respondent relies too much on the phrase “of an absolutely confidential nature.” That phrase is practically useless as the Secrecy of Bank Deposits Act itself provides four exceptions. Jurisprudence and other laws add six more exceptions. The Foreign Currency Deposit Act itself provides one exception, and jurisprudence and other laws provide for a further two more exceptions. How can something be of an “absolutely” confidential nature when there are so many exceptions to the rule of confidentiality?
… The respondent has consistently misinterpreted all the laws as releasing him from his constitutional duty to disclose his entire assets in his SALN … Under RA 6713, any violation is sufficient cause for removal or dismissal of an ordinary public employee … Ang batas para kay Juan ay batas din para kay Renato.
There is no such thing as a SALN so statistically perfect that it is precise to the last decimal point. If a government employee is asked to catalogue what he owes and what he owns, some information may fall into the crack, not as an act of deliberate concealment, but as an unwitting omission done in good faith.
So this boils down to the degree of the unintentional miscalculation, and logic dictates that we accept slight inaccuracies…
In the case of the Chief Justice’s SALN, the undeclared assets are so huge, 50 times more than what he declared in cash—2.4 million in US dollar deposits, 80 million in peso deposits—that they cannot be brushed aside as innocent exclusions.
The very same Constitution that he had sworn to obey and uphold makes it mandatory for a public officer like him to submit a true declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth.
Mr. Corona knows this because in cases brought to the Supreme Court, he had punished his fellow government workers for failing to disclose far lesser amounts.
RAMON REVILLA JR.
As much as the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines expects and demands, and is worthy of all the respect and considerations due his office and his person, he in return has the responsibility to be the epitome of a public servant with the highest ethical standards.
In the end, I arrived with a conclusion that, through his own direct admission, the Chief Justice failed to properly disclose all of his assets in his SALN. This, therefore, has necessary consequences that attach to the position he holds in trust.
I prayed hard for Divine Providence and guidance in this one great decision of my life.
Although difficult [to make], for the sake of unity and healing of our country, for the sake of upholding government institutions, and for the sake of the next generations and our future, I find Chief Justice Renato C. Corona guilty.
VICENTE SOTTO III
Article 2 of the articles of impeachment states that respondent committed a culpable violation of the Constitution and therefore betrayed the public trust when he failed to disclose to the public his SALN.
I have come across Supreme Court decisions whereby lower court judges have been dismissed and deprived of all their benefits for simple infractions of law or missteps in judicial conduct.
Question: Should the same strict measures ought to be applied to the members of the Supreme Court?
This trial has been heard by the people. The Constitution mandates that the Senate try impeachment cases. Ang taong bayan ay naghahalal ng mga senador mula sa iba’t ibang propesyon at estado ng lipunan upang sila’y katawanin at bumigkas ng kanilang saloobin.
Ang tunay na hukom sa paglilitis na ito ay ang taong bayan. Nadinig nila ang dalawang panig. Tulad namin, hindi lahat sila abugado. Ngunit ang kapangyarihan ng demokrasya ay nasa kanilang mga kamay.
In my conscience, your honor, I have heard their decision and therefore I vote guilty.
ANTONIO TRILLANES IV
Based on the evidence and admissions, Chief Justice Renato Corona had at least P80 million and $2.4 million which he did not disclose in his SALN.
As an explanation, he said that he was bound by the absolute confidentiality clause of the Foreign Currency Deposits Law. As to the peso deposits, the Chief Justice claimed that they were commingled with other funds that were not his and, therefore, he could not disclose them.
However, Article 11, Section 17 of the Constitution is very clear in its language: “A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth.”
To interpret the confidentiality clause of RA 6426 as a proscription to the disclosure of dollar deposits is erroneous, self-serving, and an afterthought. As to the claim that the peso deposits were commingled, the AMLC documents which showed a steady stream of deposits worth millions of pesos to the accounts of the Chief Justice were given more weight and credence.
A conviction signifies that our system of checks and balance is working well and that impeachment can now be effectively used as a tool of the state to make high government officials accountable for their actions. From now on, no one is untouchable.
SENATE PRESIDENT JUAN PONCE ENRILE
Some have raised the question: Why should the Chief Justice be held accountable for an offense which many, if not most others in government are guilty of, perhaps even more than he is? They say that hardly anyone declares his true net worth anyway.
Here lies what many have posited as a moral dilemma. I believe it is our duty to resolve this “dilemma” in favor of upholding the law and sound public policy.
If we were to agree with the respondent that he was correct in not disclosing the value of his foreign currency deposits because they are absolutely confidential, can we ever expect any SALN to be filed by public officials from hereon to be more accurate and true than they are today?
I am not oblivious to the possible political repercussions of the final verdict we are called upon to render today. I am deeply concerned that the people may just so easily ignore, forget, if not completely miss out, the hard lessons we all must learn from this episode, instead of grow and mature as citizens of a democratic nation.
Those whose intentions and motivations may be farthest from the lofty ideals of truth and justice are wont to feast upon this man’s downfall should this court render a guilty verdict.
I am equally aware of the tremendous pressure weighing heavily upon all the members of this court as we had to come to a decision on this case, one way or the other.
But to render a just verdict according to my best lights and my own conscience is a sacred duty that I have sworn to perform.
As one who has been through many personal upheavals through all of my 88 years, I, too, have been judged, often unfairly and harshly. But I have constantly held that those who face the judgment of imperfect and fallible mortals like us have recourse to the judgment of history, and, ultimately, of God.
And so, with full trust that the Almighty will see us through the aftermath of this chapter in our nation’s history, I vote to hold the Chief Justice, Renato C. Corona, GUILTY as charged under Article 2, Par. 2.3, and that his deliberate act of excluding substantial assets from his sworn statement of assets, liabilities and net worth constitutes a culpable violation of the Constitution.
Ang desisyon ko po ay base sa kanyang inamin na kanyang pag-aari. Ito po ay ang $2.4 million at iyung P80 million. Dito po medyo ako nahirapan dahil alam po naman natin na ang posisyon po ng pangunahing mahistrado ng ating Korte Suprema ay siyang merong pinakamataas na batayan ng integridad.
Nabalitaan ko po iyong isang empleyado na nahatulan dahil hindi nagdeklara ng kanyang tindahan. Nahirapan po ako diyan. Bagamat mabigat po sa aking kalooban, talagang naniniwala kasi ako na dapat ideklara ang FCDU account dahil iyon ay pag-aari pa rin.
Ang isyu po dito ay kung dapat idineklara sa SALN ang dollar deposits. Sa dami-dami po ng sinabi, doon lamang nalimita ang isyu at dito po kami halos lahat gumawa ng desisyon. Sapagkat hindi naman po namin matanggap na hindi kailangang ideklara ang FCDU account.
Naniniwala po ako na dapat pantay-pantay ang implementasyon ng batas na ito, mayaman man o mahirap, miyembro man ng Korte Suprema o pangkaraniwang mamamayan kaya po ako ay bumoto ng guilty.
‘Omission in good faith not impeachable’
A bill of attainder is a law passed by one House and approved by the other creating an offense where there was none. Inventing a crime out of actions, willful or not, that were innocent when they were performed. It is a legislative act of convicting an accused of acts that were not offenses in the very measure by which he is condemned through a vote instead of a trial on the basis of accusations taken as proof.
Today, we are one step from violating the Constitution and passing a bill of attainder. No once can stop us if we do not stop ourselves. This is not justice, political or legal. This is certainly not law. For sure, it is not the law of the Constitution; it is only naked power as it was in 1972.
I have not thought that I would see it again so brazenly performed but for what it is worth, I cast my vote, if not for innocence falsely accused, of offenses yet to exist and if not for the law and the Constitution that we were privileged to restore under Cory Aquino then because it is dangerous not to do what is right when soon we shall stand before the Lord.
The defendant admitted that he did not declare his dollar accounts and certain commingled peso accounts in his SALN. Did this omission amount to an impeachable offense? No.
Under the rule of ejusdem generis, when a general word occurs after a number of specific words, the meaning of the general word should be limited to the kind or class of thing within which the specific words fall. The Constitution provides that the impeachable offenses are: “culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.” An omission in good faith in the SALN carries a light penalty, and is even allowed to be corrected. Thus, it is not impeachable.
There is no conflict between the Constitution and the Foreign Currency Act. The perceived conflict is so simplistic that it is seriously laughable. If there is any conflict, it is between the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards, which provides for a waiver of confidentiality; and the Foreign Currency Act, which provides for absolute confidentiality.
It is for Congress to balance on the one hand, the need for public accountability from public officers; with, on the other hand, the desperate need for foreign investment, which entails confidentiality, on pain of driving away investors from our country.
FERDINAND MARCOS JR.
In view of the ambiguous situation created by the concurrent application of the 1987 Constitution, the SALN law, and the FCDA law, and absent a determinative judicial pronouncement that resolves the contrary positions on this legal issue, the Chief Justice must be presumed to have acted in good faith. It has been held, after all, that not all omissions and misdeclarations in the SALN amount to dishonesty.
The framers of the Constitution intended “culpable violation of the Constitution” to mean a willful and intentional violation of the Constitution.
“Betrayal of public trust,” on the other hand, was meant to be a catch-all phrase to encompass all acts violative of the oath of office or which render the officer unfit to continue in service.
Both grounds, however, were contemplated to exclude unintentional or involuntary violations, errors made in good faith and honest mistakes in judgment.
Granting, therefore, that the Chief Justice violated the SALN law, this certainly does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.