At 2:05 p.m., the hearing was called to order with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile Presiding.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The continuation of the impeachment trial of the honourable Chief Justice Renato C. Corona of Supreme Court is hereby called to order. (Gavel)
We shall be led in prayer by Senator Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes IV.
PRAYER BY SENATOR TRILLANES
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Secretary will now please call the roll of senators.
THE SECRETARY. The honorable Senator-Judges: Angara; Arroyo; Cayetano, Allan Peter ‘Compañero’; Cayetano, Pia; Defensor-Santiago; Drilon, Ejercito-Estrada; Escudero; Guingona; Honasan; Lacson; Lapid; Legarda; Marcos; Osmeña, Pangilinan, Pimentel; Recto; Revilla; Sotto; Trillanes; Villar; the Senate President.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. With 22 Senator-Judges present, the Presiding Officer declares the presence of a quorum. (Gavel)
Majority Floor Leader
SEN. SOTTO. Mr. President, may I ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to make the proclamation.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Sergeant-at-Arms is directed to make the proclamation.
THE SEARGENT-AT ARMS. All persons are commanded to keep silent under pain of penalty while the Senate is sitting in trial on the Articles of Impeachment against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. Mr. President, I move that we dispense with the reading of the May 25, 2012 Journal of the Senate, sitting as an Impeachment Court and consider the same as approved.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there any objection? (Silence) There being none, the May 25, 2012 Journal of the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court is hereby approved. (Gavel)
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Secretary will please call the case, before the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.
THE SECRETARY. Case No. 002-2011 in the matter of impeachment trial of honourable Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. May we ask the parties or respective counsels to enter their appearances, Mr. President.
REP. TUPAS. President, Good afternoon.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Good afternoon.
REP. TUPAS. For the House of Representatives, prosecution panel, same appearance. Aside from that, we would like to add appearance of the Speaker of the House, we are ready, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. As noted. (Gavel) Defense.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. For the defense, Your Honor, the same appearance. We are ready, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Noted. (Gavel).
Before we proceed I just want to make—I would like to clarify something from the defense, and I address this to the defense. Chief defense counsel, I understand that there was an interview done where you were involved this morning and that you indicated your determination to arrogate the result of this proceeding to the Supreme Court. Is this correct?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. I did not have any interview, Your Honor, with anybody this morning. In fact I woke up about nine o’clock already because of the preparation of my paper, Your Honor, in connection of the argument.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. I got this information, transcript of interview of former Justice Serafin Cuevas with Gwen Salvacion of DZBB.
SEN. SOTTO. Mr. President, most probably yesterday.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Yes.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Sunday yata. Sunday, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Sunday. I will quote what the defense counsel said: “We have no other alternative but to resort to certiorari. I have asked a petition for review questioning the validity of the actuations or the proceedings with the impeachment court and necessarily with a motion to nullify the entirety of the proceedings that took place therein. Yong pong appeal hindi po kami totohanang sumasakay doon sapagkat hindi naman nakalagay sa Constitution iyon. Ang nakalagay lang, the moment the Senate convenes as the impeachment court shall continue the trial. Wala po namang sinasabi ang desisyon shall be final and non-appealable. Wala po talagang ganon na nakalagay sa Saligang Batas.” We respect your position but I just want to remind you that reading of Article XI, there is provided there, the Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all impeachment cases. I just want to put that into the record.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Yes, Your Honor. If the question refers to the interview, I admit, Your Honor, that last Sunday, I think it is in her program I was interviewed and I made those statements, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. All right. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. Mr. President, a member of the court would like to raise a point of order. May we recognize Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Lady Senator from Iloilo.
SEN. SANTIAGO. Thank you. The Constitution provides and I quote: “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines thus the Senate can impose a lesser penalty like censure, reprimand, fine, suspension from office or the like. My question is, in case of conviction, how should the penalty be determined? I humbly present this question both to the Presiding Officer and to our colleagues not necessarily to be answered immediately but to be disposed of at the discretion of this court. Thank you.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Thank you. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. Well, perhaps, Mr. President, we can take it up after today’s session.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Yes.
SEN. SOTTO. Mr. President, with each side having rested their case, we now open the floor for the parties to present their respective arguments. Now, under Rule 20 of the Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials which I now quote “The final argument on the merits may be made by two persons on each side and the argument shall be opened and closed on the part of the House of Representatives.” And as previously ordered by the court, each side will have a total of one hour. The final argument on the merit shall be opened by the House of Representatives and after which the defense. The House of Representatives shall then close the arguments for a period not exceeding the time not used in their opening statement. With that, Mr. President, the court is ready to hear the arguments of the parties. I move that we recognize Representative Tupas.
SEN. SANTIAGO. Mr. President.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The gentle Lady from Iloilo.
SEN. SANTIAGO. Point of information please.
Since it’s not provided for in the Rules of the Senate, may I please inquire whether the Senator-Judges are allowed and then expected to examine those who will present the closing arguments or not.
I don’t care really any which way. I just want to know. Thank you.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. We will submit it to the body later after the arguments, Mr. President, but the tradition is that—well, in the court is that, it may be allowed depending on the judge. But in our case, we have not taken that up formally. We can probably take it up also, as I said, after the arguments.
So with that, taken into consideration the point raised by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, may I move that we recognize for the presentation of the arguments, for the House of Representatives, Representative Tupas.
REP. TUPAS. Thank you.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Gentleman from Iloilo.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. If Your Honor, please.
REP. TUPAS. May I just speak. I just need to speak first.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Yes.
REP. TUPAS. Mr. Senate President, earlier, the prosecution conferred with the lead defense counsel and we agreed that the prosecution will speak first, then the defense, then the second speaker for the prosecution, then the second speaker for the defense, then prosecution will close the argument to be delivered by the third speaker.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. But under our Rules, the opening argument is supposed to be done by the prosecution.
REP. TUPAS. Yes, Sir. That’s why we will open it. But the presentation will be alternate. Meaning, we will open it, first speaker from the prosecution, then defense, then prosecution, defense, then prosecution will close the arguments.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. So, you have three times to speak, two times for the defense.
REP. TUPAS. Yes, Sir.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. We admit, Your Honor, and we really have agreed on that, subject to the approval of this honourable court, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there any objection from the Members of the Court?
SEN. SOTTO. We have no objection, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair hears none; the motion is granted. (Gavel)
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Thank you, Your Honor.
REP. TUPAS. Mr. President, permission to begin the closing arguments for the prosecution. May we ask permission.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Proceed.
REP. TUPAS. Thank you.
Mr. Senate President, the honourable Members of this Senate Tribunal, Mr. Speaker of the House and Majority Leader, fellow Members of the House, counsels for the defense and prosecution, my fellow Filipinos, good afternoon.
Like all defining moments in our nation’s history, we are once again called upon to make a choice between right and wrong. The day of reckoning is here. Everyone has said his piece, it is now time for to make sense of all the pain that this impeachment trial has caused. Let it be clear that we meant not to destroy a man but to destroy the evils that plague our system. We do not rejoice over the fact that in the process, deep wounds were inflicted. But sometimes, great pain must be endured so that genuine healing may begin.
Today, we lay down before the Filipino people and this Impeachment Tribunal the truths that have come out of this proceedings.
Tungkol saan po ba talaga ang impeachment trial na ito?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Excuse me, counsel.
At this point, I would like to inform the court that if there is any Member of the court that wishes to ask clarificatory question about the statement of any speaker here in the course of their argumentation, you raise your hands, you will be recognized by the Majority Floor Leader, and you may post it, your clarificatory question, and you have two minutes, not more than two minutes.
REP. TUPAS. Is that after the delivery of the speech, Your Honor?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. If that is the pleasure of the House, after each speaker has delivered his speech.
Okay, so ordered. (Gavel)
REP. TUPAS. May I proceed now, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Proceed.
REP. TUPAS. Tungkol saan po ba talaga ang impeachment trial na ito? More than anything else, this impeachment trial is about our people’s aspiration to regain the greatness that was once ours. For how can we inspire greatness in our people if it is not greatness that sits on the throwns of power.
We Filipinos come from a long line of maharlikas and heroes with rich and proud heritage. Our history is lined with honorable men and women who suffered so much in the name of country.
Seventy years ago, this month, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos died in the hands of the Japanese rather than betray his country. Fifty years ago, former Chief Justice Manuel V. Moran, who was offered the chance to return to the Supreme Court, refused a midnight appointment rather than dishonour himself. Today, we have a Chief Justice who has been impeached and now faces judgment before this honorable tribunal.
Obviously, we took a wrong turn somewhere that led us to stray from the path of greatness. That is why on December 12, 2011, an overwhelming majority of the Members of the House of Representatives, 188 in all heeded the people’s call for truth and impeached Chief Justice Corona for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, a new ground for impeachment under the 1987 Constitution.
On January 16, 2012, the prosecution commenced the presentation of evidence that cast serious doubt on respondent Corona’s moral fitness to remain as Chief Justice.
Chief Justice Renato Corona must answer to the people for his wrongs, saw along articles of impeachment na inihain ng Kamara dito sa Senado, hindi na po namin kinailangan pang i-present ang lima dahil sa tatlong articles pa po lamang, kumbinsido na kami at alam naming kumbinsido na ang taumbayan, hindi na karapat-dapat manatili sa pwesto si Chief Justice Renato Corona bilang Mahistrado ng ating bansa.
Our quest for truth has led us to many truths about the Chief Justice. It has led us to the truth that the Chief Justice failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and networth, as required under the 1987 Constitution. It has led us to the truth that he lied about his assets in his SALN to conceal his enormous wealth. It has led us to the truth that he pedalled his position of power in exchange for material gain. It has led us to the truth that his loyalty does not lie with the Filipino people. On the whole, it has led us to the truth that he is in public service, not to serve his country but to serve his own ends.
Article XI, Section 17 of the Constitution requires all public officers and employees to submit a declaration under oath of assets, liabilities and networth, with an additional requirement for the highest officials, including the Chief Justice, that the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided in the manner provided by law.
A prime objective of the framers of the Constitution in requiring SALN was to strengthen the accountability of all public servants and to root out the perennial problem of corruption and abuse of power in government.
To be meaningful and effective, the SALN requirement must be complied with truthfully, completely and accurately. It must be complied with in good faith. No amount of denial, no lame excuse whatsoever can stand against the best evidence itself.
The SALN’s of the Chief Justice from 2002 to 2010, executed by him under oath, year after year after year. Responded Corona has repeatedly failed to truthfully and accurately disclose in his SALN numerous assets and real properties which he and his wife own, luxurious condominium units and huge parcels of prime properties in Taguig City, Makati City and Quezon City. Instead of declaring the acquisition cost of the real property, the Chief Justice declared only the fair market value for taxation purposes which does not serve the purpose of and has nothing to do with the computation of the networth in the SALN. The Supreme Court declared in the case of Republic versus the Sandiganbayan that it is the acquisition cost of the property that must be charged against respondent’s lawful income and funds. And what about the Chief Justice’s treasure proof of cash deposits that as evidence has shown could put acquisced fortune to shame?
Your Honor, Mr. President, siya na po mismo ang umamin. The Chief Justice himself admits that he owns three-peso accounts with an aggregate deposit of P80.7 million and four dollar accounts with a total of $2.4 million, none of which he declared in his SALN. He said that the family members co-mingled the funds in the same peso bank accounts along with the funds of the Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc. to earn higher interest. But oddly enough, the highest Magistrate, who is presumed to be chaining the law and the rules of evidence, presents no documentary proof or any evidence whatsoever to support his claim other than his self-serving statements. There is a legal presumption, whoever possesses the rights of ownership over a thing is presumed to be the owner thereof. His dollar deposits, he says, are the result of his foresight in dollar hedging since the late 1960’s. Again, he shows nothing to prove this other than his testimony.
The Chief Justice has woven a fantastic tale in his desperation to explain his incredible wealth. A legal presumption of unexplained wealth arises when a public official acquires an amount of property or cash during his incumbency that is manifestly out of proportion to his salary and his other lawful income. In fact, Your Honor, the Chief Justice Renato Corona, as ponente, in the case of Republic versus Sandigabayan and Ferdinand E. Marcos, wrote that, “When an official’s assets are gross disproportionate to the income, then the excess is prima facie ill-gotten. The burden is, therefore, placed on the official to prove that it is not.
Saan man po nanggaling ang kanyang salapi, ilan man ang kanyang magagarang condo units o lupain, gaano man karaming bank accounts at gaano man kalaki ang laman nito, hindi na po iyan ang pinag-uusapan natin ngayon. Ang tanong, nasa SALN ba niya ang mga ito?
At the core of Article II is the question. Did respondent Corona declare his peso and dollar deposits in his SALN as required of him by the Constitution and the law, he did not. While the Chief Justice admits his non-declaration of all his cash assets in his SALN, he stubbornly insists that his failure to do so is justified. According to the Chief Justice, he did not declare his dollar deposits because he believed that it is covered by the absolute confidentiality of foreign currency accounts under the Foreign Currency Deposits Act. This interpretation of the law is very disturbing. We beg to disagree based on the law itself and the principles of public accountability.
Your Honor, the prosecution submits that there is no conflict between the constitutional requirement of SALN and Republic Act 6426 or the law on secrecy of foreign currency deposits. The SALN requirement is addressed to government officials and employees to implement the constitutional provision on public accountability. It requires them to declare all their assets and networth and makes no distinction between peso and foreign currency, cash assets in the spirit of transparency and good governance.
On the other hand, the Law on Secrecy of Foreign Currency Deposits applies to banking institutions and its prohibition is addressed to the banks, not to the depositors. It penalizes bank employees who disclose details of foreign currency deposits of their depositors but allows the depositors themselves to waive the protection.
To adopt the Chief Justice’s interpretation of the law would be to encourage dishonesty in government and would lead to absurd situation where the law itself protects ill-acquired wealth hidden in foreign currency accounts. This is how the Chief Justice, the highest magistrate of the land, who is expected to possess superior legal wisdom, interprets the law to protect his own interest.
Your Honor, given all the things that we know now after four and a half months of trial, we go back to the question that we asked at the beginning of these proceedings: “By what standards should Chief Justice Renato Corona be judged?” We had answered: “By the highest standards. Standards thatare fair to demand of a Chief Justice and any member of the Judiciary for that matter.” Article VIII, Sec. 7(3) of the Constitution provides: “A member of the Judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.” A nation of heroes and honorable people demands to the Chief Justice Corona be judged by the conduct and character displayed by an Abad Santos and a Moran.
Against such standards, we then ask: “Does respondent Corona’s failure to completely, truthfully, and faithfully declare his assets, liabilities and net worth constitute an impeachable offense?”
Our answer is “yes” because it is both betrayal of public trust and a culpable violation of the Constitution. It is lying. It is dishonesty. It is deception of the highest order.
As explained by Constitutional Commissioner Rustico de los Reyes, “Betrayal of public trust is a catchall phrase, which includes all acts which are not punishable by statute as penal offenses, but nonetheless, render the officer unfit to continue an office. It includes betrayal of public interest, inexcusable negligence of duty, tyrannical abuse of power, breach of official duty by malfeasance or misfeasance, cronyism, favouritism, et cetera to the prejudice of public interest and which tend to bring the office into disrefute.
As shown by the evidence, Chief Justice Corona’s violation is culpable for it is wilful and intentional, judging by the habituality and sheer magnitude of the falsities, inaccuracies and omissions in his SALN. His lies in his SALN run into hundreds of millions cannot be ignored. All these belie defensive good faith.
In the case of Ombudsman versus Racho, the Supreme Court said: “Dishonesty begins when an individual intentionally makes a false statement in any material fact. It is understood to imply the disposition to lie, cheat, deceive, or defraud; unworthiness, lack of integrity, lack of honesty, probity or integrity and principle, lack of fairness and straightforwardness, disposition to defraud, deceive or betrayed.
Indeed, an honest public servant will have no difficulty in gathering, collating and presenting evidence that will prove his credibility, but a dishonest one will only provide shallow excuses in his explanation.
Ginoong Pangulo, sa paghahahin po namin ng aming ebidensiya sa Tribunal na ito, sana po matandaan natin na si Delsa Flores, isang simpleng empleyado ng Hudikatura ay hindi nagdeklara ng malitt ng sari-sari store sa kanyang SALN, tinanggalan po siya ng trabaho. Ang sabi ng Korte Suprema, “Although every office in government service is a public trust, no opposition exacts greater demand for moral righteousness and uprightness from an individual than in the Judiciary”.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate, we come now to the very heart of these impeachment proceedings. Is Chief Justice Renato Corona morally fit to remain as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? The damning revelations that came out to this impeachment trial go into the very core of the man’s character. Tulad po ng sinabi naming sa umpisa, pagkatao po ang pinaguusapan natin dito. Can we trust a man who has repeatedly thwarted the people’s will by lying under oath in his SALN to conceal wealth that he could not explain? Can we trust a Magistrate who was very much willing to receive discounts, favors, and other benefits from parties with cases before the Supreme Court. And can we trust a man who took advantage of his position and abused his power to commit grave injustice and oppressed his relatives in the name of greed?
Mr. Senate President, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate, the House of Representatives, in impeaching the Chief Justice took the first step towards the fulfilment of her oath as the keepers of our people’s trust. We have done our part as prosecutors in this impeachment trial despite the odds. No matter what the outcome will be, we know in our hearts that we have contributed to the betterment of our nation.
This impeachment is not so much about Renato Coronado Corona, but is more about setting aright that which is wrong. It is now up to the honourable members of the Senate, the Senator-Judges to take the final step to restore the greatness that we have lost. The people are hopeful. Let us end this right. Let us decide in favor of truth and greatness. Let it be done with Chief Justice Renato Corona
Thank you very much and good afternoon.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. Mr. President, I move that we recognize the counsel for Chief Justice Renato Corona to present the arguments for the defense.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. It is the defense’s start, so, who will speak?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Your Honor, please, may we ask permission for Dean Delos Angeles as the speaker for the defense, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Granted. Proceed.
ATTY. DELOS ANGELES. Your Honors, my countrymen.
After 42 hearings, there are two matters I wish to discuss. First, whether the confidentiality of foreign currency deposits under Republic Act 6426 is a justification not to disclose dollar accounts in his SALN? Second, if it is not a justification whether its non-disclosure in the SALN amounts to an impeachable offense.
Your Honors, the under Republic Act No. 6426 justifies a public official from disclosing his dollar accounts in his SALN. R.A. No. 6426 provides that all foreign currency deposits without any qualification as to whether they are owned by a private or a public person are absolutely confidential except upon the written waiver of the depositor. Even if Section 8, Republic Act No. 6713 requires public officials to file a SALN under oath, this provision does not amend the confidentiality of dollar deposits under the Foreign Currency Deposit Act which is a specific law. Besides, our Constitution provides under the Bill of Rights, a right to privacy and a right to information. I posit that the right of access to the SALN of public officers is covered by the right to information. However, in Republic vs. Eugenio, the Supreme Court ruled that bank accounts are not covered by the constitutional provisions regarding the right to information and full disclosure and I quote: “Unless the Bank Secrecy Act is repealed or amended, the legal order is obliged to conserve the absolutely confidential nature of Philippine bank deposits. Any exception to the rule of absolute confidentiality must be specifically legislative.”
When the Supreme Court issued the temporary restraining order in favour of PS Bank, Justice Arturo Brion in his concurring opinion not only cited the Eugenio case but added and I quote: “Notably the court declared that the Bank Accounts Law are not covered by the right to information under Article III, Section 7 and the requirement of full public disclosure under Article II, Section 28 of the Constitution which is statutorily implemented through Republic Act No. 6713.
According to Justice Brion, Republic Act No. 6713 did not repeal Republic Act No. 6426 and I quote: “The implied repeal of inconsistent laws that Republic Act No. 6713 mandates cannot be interpreted as a repeal of the express substantive right granted to confidentiality under Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6426 even if the latter was enacted earlier. Implied repeals are not favoured. The presumption is against inconsistency or repugnance and accordingly against implied repeals.”
In BSB Group vs. Go, the Supreme Court also ruled that in case of doubt, the confidentiality of bank deposits should be favoured. The court said and I quote: “Should there be doubts in upholding the absolutely confidential nature of bank deposits against affirming the authority to inquire into such accounts, then such doubts must be resolved in favour of the former.” This attitude persists unless Congress lifts his fingers to reverse the general state policy respecting the absolutely confidential nature of bank deposits.
We cannot, therefore, hold the Chief Justice liable because he believes in all good faith in the absolute confidentiality of foreign currency deposits.
It is argued by some, however, that insistence on the rule of absolute confidentiality will provide a safe haven for grafters and corrupt public officials who will simply conceal their ill-gotten wealth as dollars, never to be reported or declared.
They say that the Chief Justice is wrong to adopt the view favouring absolute confidentiality of foreign deposits, and that therefore, he must be convicted. Well there may exist a danger that corrupt officials may escape discovery, let us not mistake the Chief Justice’s use of this interpretation for the possibility of its abuse.
In this case, there is no showing that the non-inclusion of certain bank accounts was tainted with any malice or fault. What we have here is a situation where the Chief Justice, consistent with his practice for the last two decades, assumed that his reliance on the letter of the law could not be wrong. Yes, there may be what we call a lacuna in the law, a gap or a hole which may pertain to an unsettled question of law. In this case, the gap may have to do with the confidentiality of dollar deposits vis-a-vis the duty of public officers to disclose their assets and net worth in the SALN.
Notably, even BIR Director Estrella Martinez in all her 32 years of SALN examination did not find any public officer who disclosed a dollar deposit. Plainly, all these public officials understood RA 6426 and 6713 in the same manner as the Chief Justice.
We are all aware that the separation of powers requires us to look only to the Supreme Court decisions as definitive interpretations of the law. To this day however, there is no ruling that squarely applied to the confidentiality provided under RA 6426 with respect to the SALN.
The alternative to filling this lacuna is through an expressed repeal by amendatory legislation. In both cases, the results of these processes are decidedly prospective. In other words, the Chief Justice cannot be made answerable for his interpretation of the law prior to a Supreme Court ruling or legislative amendment explicitly declaring his interpretation as erroneous. To repeat, there is no liability for an erroneous interpretation of the law when made in good faith.
The Chief Justice, Your Honors, has acted consistently, unwavering in his conviction and belief that RA 6426 affords him full and absolute confidentiality, as held in Francisco vs. Nagmamalasakit na Manananggol. Just because he is the Chief Justice does not imply that he gets to have less in law than anybody else. The law is solicitous of any individual’s rights irrespective of his status in life.
Even if we assume that the Chief Justice should have disclosed his foreign currency deposits in the SALN, it is submitted that this non-disclosure in the SALN will not amount to an impeachable offense.
Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution provides, that the President, the Vice President, the members of the Supreme Court, the members of the constitutional commissions and the Ombudsman, may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes or betrayal of public trust.
This enumeration indicates that the impeachment and conviction of these high government officials should be based on nothing less than high crimes. Treason is abominable because it is an act of disloyalty to our country. It carries a penalty of 12 years and one day to death. Bribery is penalized by six years and one day to 12 years. Graft and corruption also carries a penalty of not more than 10 years. Betrayal of public trust, which is unique to the Philippines must also be based on a serious crime with a high penalty. For certainly, the high government officials should not be impeached and removed from office for a minor breach of the law In this case, Chief Justice Corona is not charged with treason, bribery, graft and corruption or even ill-gotten wealth.
Article II of the Articles of Impeachment accuses the Chief Justice of not disclosing his SALN to the public. The Chief Justice is however exempted from any liability for the disclosure of his SALN. He is bound by the resolutions of the Supreme Court en banc, regulating the release to the public.
It is also said that the Chief Justice did not disclose all his assets in his SALN. We have painstakingly shown however, that the real properties allegedly belonging to the Chief Justice are not actually his, and therefore, need not be disclosed in his SALN. The remaining issue is whether the non-disclosure of his other peso and dollar deposits, amounts to a culpable violation of the Constitution and/or a betrayal of the public trust.
The defense has shown that the peso holdings or deposits of the Chief Justice were disclosed in his SALN. The other peso accounts do not belong to him but are either owned by his children or held in trust for Basa-Guidote Enterprises or as part of the common fund from his mother. The Chief Justice relies on the basic principle that what he does not own, he should not declare as his asset.
It is therefore submitted that he cannot be held liable for culpable violation of the Constitution. His dollar accounts were not included for reasons earlier stated. According to Committee Report Number 1214, in the impeachment of President Elpidio Quirino, a violation of the Constitution committed unintentionally or involuntarily or in good faith or true honest mistake of judgment, is not a ground for impeachment.
Similarly, the Chief Justice cannot be held liable for betrayal of public trust. Father Joaquin Bernas explained that betrayal of public trust implies deliberate intent and perhaps, a certain degree of perversity for it is not easy to imagine that individuals of the category of these impeachable officials would go so far as to defy knowingly what the Constitution commands. It must be of the same gravity as the other offenses in the class, in other words, not every violation of public trust is an impeachable offense.
It is, therefore, respectfully submitted that the failure to disclose in the SALN his dollar accounts will not amount to an impeachable breach of trust. Indeed, the penalty of violation of the SALN is only a fine not exceeding P5,000.00 or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both, which cannot compare with the severe penalties for treason, bribery and graft and corruption.
More importantly, even before we can get to the matter of penalty for non-disclosure or non-inclusion, RA 6714 itself provides a corrective measure under Section 10 thereof. Perforce of Logic . There is no violation of law where the law itself provides a corrective measure. All that needs to be done is to call the attention of the public officer.” This is the remedy of first resort. Not to punish him, much less, to remove from office.
I further wish to point out that pursuant to the separation of powers, our Constitution rests the important role of impeachment in Congress hoping that it will act independently in hearing the impeachment of the officials of the other branches. Regrettably, we have witnessed the unusual rubber-stamping by the majority of the House of Representatives who never even read the articles of impeachment. The blitzkrieg endorsement of the articles of impeachment to the Senate was principally undertaken by the party-mates of the President.
The President then repeatedly declared that he wanted the Chief Justice removed. In support the Executive Branch then lent its full and awesome powers to interfere in the impeachment proceedings to oust the Chief Justice and to intimidate the Supreme Court. For example, the Secretary of Justice threatened other Supreme Court Justices with impeachment. The Land Registration Authority then falsely listed 45 alleged properties of the Chief Justice. The Bureau of Internal Revenue divulged confidential income tax returns and commenced investigation of the Chief Justice and his entire family. The AMLC looked into the bank accounts of the Chief Justice without a predicate crime or court order. The Ombudsman exaggerated and testified that the Chief Justice has 82 bank accounts and 10 to 12 million dollars in deposits. The Commission on Audit disauthorized the purchase of the Basa Guidote property after 11 long years. The cadence of their actions imply a conductor.
Such undue interference by the Executive Department in order to undermine the Judicial Department is clearly intended to weaken and then control the latter department to do away with effective checks and balances under a tripartite government system. Under the pretext of the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court are impediments to reforms sought by him, the President aims to remove the Chief Justice and make the Supreme Court subservient to his whims.’
It is our fervent hope that the Senate will not lend its assistance to this plot. Let not this institution allow the guillotine to fall on the judicial independence.
During the time of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a similar situation occurred. After being repeatedly rebuked by the Supreme Court, a peeved President Roosevelt wanted to undermine and control the judiciary by seeking to create additional positions in the US Supreme Court so that he could appoint a majority of the members. In refusing to pass the amendment, the US Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in its report, and I quote: “Let us of the 75th Congress in words that will never be disregarded by any succeeding Congress declare that we would rather have an independent court, a fearless court, a court that will dare to announce its honest opinions in what it believes to be the defense of the liberties of the people and accord that out of fear for sense of obligation to the appointing power for factional passion, approve any measure we may enact. We are not the judges of the judges.
Finally, the case of the Chief Justice is not complete without reference to the fundamental right to the presumption of innocence. We have seen the absolute lack of any damning evidence presented against the Chief Justice even where it was alleged by the prosecution that his acts are punishable violations. The defense has shown that the Chief Justice relied on sound legal basis for his position and in all instances guided by good faith and without of malice, but beyond what the prosecution failed to prove what strengthens the presumption of innocence is the credibility of the chief Justice in giving justice, in proving himself forthright, courageous and truth his innocence is buttress by the common sense truth behind his testimony affirming the experience of many Filipinos in their own families. His courage is shown by his dauntless determination to fight this impeachment and courage zestful of propaganda along the way. Most of all he has responded to the call of the Filipino people by defying all expectations and racing the bar of all public officials. Despite his reliance and confidentiality of RA 6426, the Chief Justice has upon the request of the Senate waive the confidentiality of bank accounts thereby setting the standard of transparency in public service. Indeed, the innocence of the Chief Justice arises not only from the object lack of evidence against him but from his conduct wholly consistent with the clear conscience.
Truly, Your Honors, you are called upon to judge a man who has proven why he is the Chief Justice.
After I speak, the prosecution will leisure ears with the last line or even the last paragraphs but their core ship(?) shall be in vain. For borrowing the words of the counsel of President Clinton, theirs will not be the last voice because the voice I will leave with you is the voice of reason, the voice of the law and the voice of truth. The voice that will reign forever in your conscience. Your Honors, the other defense counsel and I respectfully request that you render a verdict of acquittal.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Majority Floor Leader.
REP. SOTTO. The prosecution may continue. They have 40 minutes left.
SUSPENSION OF THE TRIAL
. REP. TUPAS. Mr. President, before the second speaker for the prosecution speaks, may we request for one-minute recess just to allow us to set up the PowerPoint.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. One minute recess.
The session was resumed at 3:10 p.m.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Session is resumed. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. Thank you, yes, Mr. President.
May we know from the prosecution if they are ready for their second speaker?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Are they recording the time?
REP. TUPAS. Mr. President, may we request that Congressman Rudy Fariñas of the First District of Ilocos Norte be recognized as the second speaker for the prosecution.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Granted.
REP. TUPAS. Thank you.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Proceed.
REP. FARIÑAS. Good afternoon, Mr. President and the honourable members of the Senate sitting in impeachment.
Narinig po natin yong depensa, mga alegasyon nila at mismong ang mga pahayag ni Chief Justice noong sya po ay nagsalita dito noong Martes at saka Biyernes. Medyo anti-climactic nga po ng konti dahil yong summation narinig naman po natin mula sa bibig ni Chief Justice Renato Corona mismo. Yong depensa po ni Chief Justice Corona I can put it in one word. Pwede ko pong sabihin po sa isang salita, palusot.
Ang alegasyon po ni Chief Justice ay ang kasong ito laban sa kanya ay dala ng matinding galit at paghihiganti sa kanya. Tama po sya na kami ay may matinding galit subalit maling-mali po sya kung ano yong ikinakagalit namin. Hindi po kami galit sa pagkatao ni Chief Justice, galit lamang po kami sa ginagawa nyang katiwalian bilang pinuno ng Hudikatura na dapat sana ay syang maging huwaran para sa ating lahat na nasa gobyerno.
Hindi po kami nag-aksaya ng panahon, mahabang oras sa loob ng halos limang buwan, pag-aralan lahat ang mga ebidensya namin, ihanda ang aming mga testigo, batikusin at minsan-minsan napagsasabihan dito na para kaming mga bata. Nagsasakripisyo po kami sa aming mga pamilya para lamang maging kasangkapan diumano ng paghihiganti ng Pangulo ng Pilipinas sa personal na isyu ng Hacienda Luisita. Tiniis po namin lahat ito gaya rin po ng malaking pagtitiis ng mga kagalang-galang na Senador dahil po sa pagpapatupad po namin sa aming sumpa na kami po ay tatalima at itataguyod namin ang Saligang Batas. Naglakas loob po kami na panagutin at nais patalsikin ang pinaka makapangyarihan na tao sa Hudikatura dahil ito lamang ang tanging paraan para mabawi ng taumbayan ang opisinang ipinagkatiwala sa kanya.
Ang pangalawang palusot po ni Chief Justice ay yong sinabi po nya na noong P2.00 pa lamang ang palitan ng dolyar noong late 60’s, sya at ang kanyang maybahay ay namili na ng mga dolyar dahil matibay po ito kaysa piso natin. Noong narinig po ni Pangulong Enrile ang sinabi ni CJ Corona, hindi nya napigilan ang sarili nya para kumpirmahin kay CJ Corona kung anong taon yon. Sagot ni CJ Corona eto po ang transcript:
“CHIEF JUSTICE. Ang exchange rate po noong mag-umpisa kaming mag-ipon nitong mga foreign exchange na ito noong late 60’s ay nasa two to one pa lamang.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. How much?
CHIEF JUSTICE. Two to one po noong mag-umpisa po kaming mag-ipon ng mga dollars namin. Two to one po pa lang ang exchange rate.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. When was that, Mr. Chief Justice?
CHIEF JUSTICE. Mga late 60’s po dahil ako po ay nagsimulang magtrabaho 1960. Ngayon po ay halos 45 to 1 na ang exchange rate kung natatandaan po ninyo.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Are you sure that late 60s or early 60s?
Sagot po ni Chief Justice, “Late 60s.”
The Presiding Officer, “That is after 1965?”
Alam po ni Presidente Enrile kung ano ang palitan ng dolyar noong mga panahon na yon dahil siya po ay Undersecretary of Finance noong 1966 hanggang 1968. Naging Customs Commissioner po siya at Insurance Commissioner, at pagkatapos po ay naging Secretary of Justice.
Totoo ba yung paliwanag ni Chief Justice?
Chief Justice Corona graduated from Ateneo de Manila University in 1970 and at its law school 1974. I know because he was one year ahead of me both in the College of Arts and Sciences and, as well as in the College of Law. Thus, he graduated in high school in 1966 and in elementary in 1962.
Noong 1962 po, and palitan po ng dolyar sa piso ay P3. Yan po. Yung isang dollar ay P3.60 po. The exchange rate, if we are to believe Chief Justice Corona that he started saving US dollars when the rate was 2 to 1, such could have only been between the years 1948 to 1959. He wants us to believe that when he was in Grade 4 in 1959, he was such a visionary that he already started buying dollars.
The exchange rate in 1969 when Renato Corona was in fourth year college was P3.90 to the US dollar. Maliwanag po na palusot.at pagsisinungaling sa Senado at sa buong mundo.
Pangatlong palusot, last Friday, when CJ Corona was asked by Senator Cayetano how much money he had in the bank. He admitted of having, at the very least, $2,400,000 and P80 million.
Chief Justice wants us to believe that he did not declare this in his SALN because of Republic Act 6426, as advanced by my esteemed colleague. But Republic Act 6426 took effect on April 4, 1972 or almost 15 years before the 1987 Constitution mandated such filing of SALNs. It was only in the—Dito lamang po sa 1987 Constitution, wala po sa 1935, wala po sa 1973 Constitution yung kautusan ng Saligang Batas na tayo magdeklara ng ating assets and liabilities.
Kaya nga po, pursuant to Section 17, Article of the Constitution, Republic Act 6713, otherwise known as the “Call of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees” was enacted into law in February 20, 1989. It provides all the following, ito po ang sinasabi ng batas, “Statements and Disclosure. Two documents shall contain information on the following: Letter c,” nakalagay po dito kung ano dapat ilahat po natin doon, “all other assets, such as investments, cash on hand or in banks, stocks, bonds and the like.” Very clear po dito sa batas na nagpapatupad sa Constitution na ating deklarasyon po, maski pera po sa baul o bangko, kailangan ideklara po natin.
Nasabi po nung kabila na yung kanilang witness o kanilang authority na hindi naman po hinarap sa atin dito ay wala pa siyang nakitang SALN na may nakadeklara na dollar. Hindi naman po kasi kailangang sabihin mong dollar ay pwede mo nang i-convert e. Halimbawa po ay kung ang cash on hand mo is may $100,000 ka, e di pwede mong ilagay na 4.5 million kung yon ang palitan. You don’t have to say it is in dollars.
Kaya lang po, si Chief Justice ay nagpapalusot po sa 6426 na sinabi ko na nga po 15 years pa po na napasa yung batas na yon. Napakaliwanag po ng ating batas.
Tingnan po ninyo sa ating SALN form. Ito ang pinirmahan po ni Chief Justice sa kanyang SALN form. Kung pwede po ipakita po diyan, “I hereby certify to the best of my knowledge and information that these are the true statements of my assets, liabilities, net worth, business interest and financial connections, including those of my spouse and unmarried children below 18 years of age, as required by and in accordance with Republic Act No. 6713. Ayan po. Nakapirma po siya doon at nakalagay po doon o sa unang paragraph, required by and in accordance with Republic Act No. 6713. Ang requirement nga ng 6713, maski na anong pera mo, maski na nakatago, i-decalre mo dahil hindi—kaya po, maski naman po iyong peso, may secrecy rin naman po naman iyan a. There is also secrecy in peso deposits, but you also have to declare because ang ipinagbabawal po ng 6426 is anyone looking into the account of a depositor. Hindi po pwedeng ibigay ng bangko iyon pero iyong nagmamay-ari po ng deposito, kailangan, ideklara po niya kung magkano ang pera niya sa bangko dahil kung hindi po, napakasamang interpretasyon po nito, lahat po ng gustong magtago ng pera ay bibili po ng dollar o foreign currency unit para hindi niya po ide-declare sa SALN, e kawawa po naman ang ating bansa.
So, very clear po, si Chief Justice po, pwede siyang—dalawang batas po ito, 6426 at saka 6713. Iyong 6713, sabi niya, dapat ideklara mo kung ano iyong pera mo, kamay mo man o nasa bangko. Iyong isa naman, bawal sa bangko maglahad kung ano iyong deposito. He can—he has the option to obey the law. What does he wish to obey? E di i-declare niya po iyong pera niya, ano naman ang violations sa 6426 kung i-declare niya kung ano ang pera nila sa bangko, wala pong violation. In fact, pwede nga niyang iladlad at katulad nga ng ginawa niya dito, ipinagmamalaki po niya na sila na raw po ang unang nag-waive ng kanilang deposits. So, very clear po iyong mga sinasabi ni Chief Justice about 6426 ay “palusot”. Hind side lang po iyan dahil nahuli po at tulad din po iyong mga $2.4 million niya na binili niya noong 2:1 po lamang iyon, maski ano pong kwenta ang gawin natin, hindi po aabot iyon. At kung totoo naman po iyong sinabi niya na noon pa, bago siya pumasok sa gobyerno, nakaipon na siya ng ganoong kalaking pera, e di ibig sabihin noon, all these years, nandoon po iyong pera niya, pero kung tingnan po iyong SALN niya, noong unang pumasok sa gobyerno ay mayroon pa siyang car loan na P300,000, may utang pa siya na P300,000 para sa kotse. E milyun-milyon pala iyong pera niya, bakit pa siya mangungutang ng P300,000 para sa kotse niya?
At noong sumunod na mga taon po, makikita sa SALN, may utang din po siyang P1 million sa mga bangko. E milyun-milyon pala iyong kaban niya, bakit ka mangungutang kung ang dami mong pera? Ganoon na rin po iyong bumale siya sa Basa-Guidote ng P11 milyon, bakit ka babale sa Basa-Guidote, e kanya rin pala iyon, sa kanya rin pala iyong pera at iyon ay tatalakayin ko po sa susunod.
Pang-apat na palusot, the Chief Justice, sa testimonya ni Ginoong Corona, inamin din niyang mayroon siyang P80 milyon na hindi niya idineklara, ang mga ito sa kanyang SALN. Ang palusot ni Justice Corona, hindi siya obligadong ideklara ito dahil co-mingled o halo-halong pondo at hindi lang siya ang nagmamay-ari ng milyones na ito. Kung totoo ito, bakit sa kanya lamang nakapangalan ang deposito? Alam naman po natin, pwede namang joint account saka lahat-lahat para kung ilan po. At saka medyo nakakalito po na siya, namimili ng dollar, mula’t mula pa noong 2:1 tapos iyong anak niya na nasa Amerika na kumikita ng dollar ay ipinapalit naman niya ng peso. At si Czarina daw ay may P15 million o may P10 million, hindi kop o maintindihan at mayroon po siyan P80 million, e bakit hindi niya ipalit sa dollar iyon para mas okay, pero hindi ho, nahuli lang po na iyon ang hawak niya kaya iyong mga palusot po, minsan, mahirap, hindi po magtugma-tugma. We tend to contradict ourselves if we do not tell the truth.
In the case of Fultron vs. Ironworks and China banking, a depositor is presumed to be the owner of the funds standing in this name in a bank deposit. Natural po, siya ang nakapangalan doon at kung ako naman po kaya, iyong mga anak ko po, sa edad ko pong ito, ibinibigay ko pa nga iyong pera ko sa pondo nila para kung may mangyari, po sa akin, e di kanila na iyong pera. Ito, baligtad po, dahil na-double heart bypass na, e kung malasin po siya, e di paano pa makukuha iyong pera na P80 million dahil nakapangalan po sa kanya iyan. Babayad ng estate tax, katakot-takot na transaksyon po iyan dahil hindi na malalabas sa bangko iyan kasi hindi naman po totoong co-mingled ito eh palusot lamang po iyon dahil para nga po—hindi naman po idedeklara iyan. At saka kung totoo po iyon, nagtataka po naman kami, ang haba-haba po ng panahon, mula pa noong March 22, kanila na po iyong turn na magbigay ng mga witness, kung sino-sino po pini-prisinta dito hanggang medyo nauubusan na ng pasensya po iyong mga Kagalang-galang na Senador. Kailan ba namin makikita iyong kliyente ninyo? Dahil noon pa sana ay di inilabas na ni G. Corona dito iyong alleged Far East Bank account executive niya para sabihin—ah totoo po na noong ganito ay talagang ganyang kalaki na ang pera ni—at saka control po niya lahat itong records na ito, di dapat nilabas po niya. Ipinakita niya. Maski noong Grade VI ako, nag-iipon na ako, mayroon na akong passbook nito, mayroon akong certificate of deposit. Iyong bank manager lamang po. Pero wala po eh. Maski po iyong mga anak niya na may kontribusyon doon sa pondo, nandoon po nanood sila noong nagte-testify siya, hindi po ba pinasu-subpoena naming iyan, pero hindi pinayagan dahil asawa, mga anak, eh di dapat sila po ang nag-testigo dito. Pero siya po nagtetestigo para doon sa mga anak niya who, we cannot cross-examine. Hindi naman po yata tama iyon. Kaya medyo palusot din po yata iyon dahil kung makikita po natin sa ebidensya, ang laki-laki na noong pera noong Carla Corona Castillo. Sa kanya rin po ibinenta ni Chief Justice iyong bahay at lupa nila for P19 million. Binenta niya kay Carla. Ang sabi ni Chief Justice, kaming mag-asawa hindi namimili ng real estate dahil pinag-aawayan iyan ng mga anak, pero ibinebenta niya iyong property niya doon sa anak niya. Kasi po palusot na lamang po iyan. Kasi nga, noong 2000 po, sunod-sunod ang—buying spree po si Chief Justice eh. Bumili ng condominium dito, bumili ng condominium dito, na hindi po idinedeklara sa kanyang SALN. Napakita na po namin—mga Belagio, Columns and everything. Biglang-bigla noong 2010 SALN, doon laman po lumabas, dineclare niya. Bakit po? Nagbago Presidente eh. Iba na ang Presidente. So, biglang nag-declare ng mga property na binili, pitong taon na ang nakaraan. Iyong isa, limang taon na ang nakaraan, iyong isa tatlong taon na ang nakaraan, biglang-bigla kailangang magbenta sa anak kunyari ng 11 milyon dahil ang dami ko nang napamili ah. Paano ko mae-explain ito. Pero hindi naman niya kailangan i-explain. Aba ang dami kong pera o. Mayroon akong 2.4 million dollars, may 80 milyon pa nga kami. Pero ito po lahat ay maliwanag na palusot.
Susunod po tayo, one last question. Kung ganoong kadami ang pera ni Chief Justice Corona, ay dapat naman po hindi na pinag-aawayan iyong pera ng Basa Guidote. Tingnan po ninyo ang SALN niya, taon-taon binabayaran niya ng one million kuno. 11 million, tapos bababa ng ten, bababa ng 9, bababa ng 8, 7, 6, 5 hanggang kunyari nabayaran na po, eh isang kaban lang naman po iyon. Noong tinanong po ng isang Senador dito, paano ka bumabayad doon. Ibinibigay ko kay Mrs. Ano, cash o tseke. Bahala siya pero idedeposit din doon sa account niya, ‘di po ba? Bakit ka pa babayad kung sa iyo rin pala iyong pera. E ‘di ba kalokohan na po iyon. Ibibigay mo iyong pera sa misis mo para ideposit din niya sa sarili mong account.
Nakakahilo po pero iyon po ang paliwanag ni Chief Justice.
Your Honors, our nation does not deserve to have a Chief Justice who intentionally and consistently hides the great bulk of his cash assets, reporting in his SALN only a measly 1.97 percent. Wala pa hong 2 percent of his total admitted cash assets. In short, Renato Corona, throughout his tenure in the Supreme Court, concealed from the public 98 percent of his total admitted cash assets amounting to P180 million.
Tatalakayin ko po ng kaunti iyong mga nasabi noong professor ko na si Dean Angeles. Eto po ang sinabi ng Supreme Court doon sa Francisco case at sino po ang sumulat nito? Ito po ang concurring opinion ni Justice Renato Corona. Sabi po niya, “Impeachment under the Philippine Constitution as a remedy for serious political offenses against the people runs parallel to that of the U.S. Constitution whose framers regarded it as a political weapon against Executive tyranny.” It was meant “march to fend against incapacity, negligence or perfidy the chief magistrate.” “Even if an impeachable official enjoys immunity, he can be removed in extreme cases to protect the public.” Si Justice Corona po ang nagsasabi po nito. “Because of its peculiar structure and purpose, impeachment proceedings are neither civil nor criminal. James Wilson described impeachment as confined to political characters, to political crimes and misdemeanour to political punishment.”
“According to Justice Joseph Story.” Eto pa rin po iyong ponente ni Justice Corona quoting all these American authorities. “In his commentaries and the Constitution in 1833: Impeachment applied to offenses of a political character not but that crimes of strictly legal character fall within the scope of that power, but that it has a more enlarge operations and reaches what are aptly termed “political offenses”, drawing out of personal misconduct or gross neglect or usurpation or habitual disregard of the public interest various in character and so much indefinable in their actual in volitions that it is almost impossible to provide systematically for them by positive law. They must be examined upon very broad and comprehensive principles of public policy and duty.” Eto po ang definition ni Justice Corona tungkol po sa impeacheable offense.
Ayan po, Your Honors, ‘wag po ninyong palusutin si Chief Justice Corona. Nasabi ko na po minsan dito na ito ay ginintuang pagkakataon po natin. Sinasabi po natin dahil ang impeachment po ay two-step process iyan. Kailangan po magkatugma ang House at saka Senate, kung hindi, wala pong mangyayari. Maski gaano po ka-corrupt o may ginagawang masama iyong impeacheable officer at gusto ng Senado tanggalin, kung hindi po namin isasampa iyong kaso, wala pong kaso. Kasi po nasa sa House of Representatives ang tanging kapangyarihan na magsampa ng impeachment. Ginawa na po nmain ang trabaho namin. Sinampa po namin dito iyong complaint at sa tingin po naman namin napatunayan po namin ang kasalanan ni Ginoong Corona.
Kung iyong ordinaryong kawan ng Korte ay tinanggal ng Korte Suprema na pinamumunuan ni Chief Justice Corona dahil sa hindi niya pagdeklara sa kanyang SALN na mayroon siyang maliit na pwesto sa palengke. Opo, inalis po iyong interpreter dahil hindi na nalagay sa SALN niya na may stall siya sa palengke. At dito po sa atin sa Senado, ay palalampasin natin o palulusutin natin na si Renato Corona, eh, good faith naman na hindi niya idineklara iyong kanyang $2.4 million at P80 million, masisira po ang bayan natin. Ang dali naman pong palusutin siya, eh, kung mahulihan po ako ng P50 million, sasabihin ko “Ambag-ambag kami nina Senator Cayetano, sina Senator Marcos, these two, lahat-lahat. Hindi naman po yata pwede, nagkontri-contribution kami sa pondo niya, maski ako lang po ang nakapangalan sa nanay ko po iyan, ang nanay ko eh, condo po niya iyan. Hindi pupwede iyon dahil ang presumption po kung sobra-sobra iyong perang nasa sa iyo, eh, iyan ay galing sa hindi magandang paraan.
Mga Kagalang-galang na Senador, huwag po tayong padadala sa mga palusot at maladramang pahayag ni Chief Justice Corona. Mas maliwanag po kaysa sikat ng araw na inaabuso at binabaluktot po niya ang mga batas para itago po niya ang kanyang mga pera na kung saan nanggaling ay kaduda-duda.
To keep a Chief Justice in office whose gross misconduct and dishonesty are well-established fact will weaken the authority of the Judiciary and undermine the rule of law. For lying under oath before the Senate and the Filipino Renato Corona should not only be given his wish to be excused as the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines. He should be removed as the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines. It would the greatest service to our nation and people to allow him to stay any minute longer as the head of the Judicial department of our government, the ball wark of truth and justice. The House of Representatives has done its constitutional duty of impeaching Renato Corona and proving his guilt, not only by clear and convincing evidence, but conclusive evidence brought about his admission before the honourable Senate of the charge against him under Article II of the Articles on Impeachment.
Dios ta Ginoo nay Apo, Presidente Juan Ponce Enrile, maraming salamat po mga kagalang-galang na Senador sa inyong pagtanggap ng mainit po sa amin dito sa loob ng halos limang buwan. At sa sambayanang Pilipino, maraming salamat po.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Dios ta gina, baling kaunay. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. Mr. President, we are ready to listen to the second part of the defense panel.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. If, Your Honor, please, ten minutes of my time is being granted by me to a member of the defense panel, Your Honor, may we ask permission that he be given 10 minutes to be deducted from my time, Your Honor. That is making– I understand I have only 37 minutes pa, 40 pa? Charge to my time, Your Honor.
SEN. SOTTO. You have 35 minutes left, unless there is any objection from the court, because the rule is two speakers.
REP. TUPAS. No objection from the prosecution, Your Honor.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Thank you, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. So, what is the proposal now?
SEN. SOTTO. A second speaker be recognized to take the 10 minutes of the portion of Justice Cuevas, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Granted.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Thank you, Your Honor.
ATTY. MANALO. Good afternoon to the Senators and to the Filipino peole.
Malaki po ang paggalang ko kay Congressman Rudy Fariñas. Isa po siyang bar topnotcher at galing din po siya sa parehong eskwelahan kung saan po ako gumradwyet. Marami po siyang tinanong. Why did the Chief Justice declared 2:1? Why did the Chief Justice put the real properties under the names of his children? But the question is not why, the question is why not. Why not did they choose to cross-examine him and pose these questions when he was here. The man presented himself to this court, he could have responded to all these questions, but they chose to waive. What is the effect of the waiver? Our rules are very clear that when cross-examination is waived, the testimony of the witness is unimpeached. it remains on record. The issue now here is his credibility.
Let me bring this situation in its proper context. Every person is presume innocent unless proven otherwise. That is very clear. I need not cite my basis for that because that is inherently natural in any system of government. The burden of proof in this case, it is also very clear, it is upon the prosecution. And if it fails to thoroughly show the facts upon which they based their claim, the defendant is under no obligation to prove his defense. And it the prosecution fails to establish any of the elements necessary to constitute a crime, Chief Justice Corona is entitled to an acquittal.
Let me go briefly to what they tried to prove. They tried to prove that the Chief Justice did not declare his assets in his SALN. They have presented witnesses, documents, but everything has been explained. It has been shown that the real properties which they wanted to prove were not really 45, it was only five. And it was also shown that all five have been reported in the 2010 SALN. Are we going to trivialize this by saying that parking lots have to be included when in fact we know that the accessory follows the principal? We don’t have to go to this anymore. Are we going to even go into the timing of when the Chief should have reported this? Should it have been in 2008 or 2009 or 2010 when in fact witnesses here have testified under oath that the Chief Justice had issues about the unit? The Chief Justice was at the very least in good faith. That to me is very clear.
Again, they have pounded the Chief Justice on his dollar accounts. They have said, inamin na nya. He already said that he has $2.4 million. What else is there to prove? As if the Foreign Currency Deposit Law does not exist. First of all, how were they able to prove this? This was proven through the testimony of the Ombudsman which, with all due respect, in my opinion as a lawyer, is hearsay. The AMLC officer who prepared that report was never presented in court. That AMLC officer was never made to explain the entries that he made there. The AMLC officer was never presented to show the supporting documents that he relied upon. What did the Ombudsman say? Hindi ko naintindihan yong AMLC report so what did I do. I called the COA to explain to me the AMLC report. Of all the people to call the COA. Why did not she call the AMLC? They were the ones who prepared the report. Bakit hindi sila ang pinagpaliwanag? And I proposed an answer to these questions. The answer is very simple. The AMLC refused to testify because there was no court order allowing that inspection. That is very clear under the law, Authority to Inquire into Bank Deposits, Section 11. The A-M-L-C or the AMLC may inquire into or examine any particular deposit or investment with any banking institution or non-bank financial institution upon order of a competent court. Did the Ombudsman ask the AMLC, where is your court order? She did not. She said she never investigated the AMLC.
When it has been established that there is probable cause that the deposits or investments are related to unlawful activities, what are these unlawful activities? Kidnapping, drug cases, high jacking, that is definitely not within the exception, those are definitely not within the case. And so what did the Chief Justice do? Confronted with this situation, what did he do? He told everybody, I interpreted the law in accordance with the Foreign Currency Deposit Act. And he dared everybody. Hindi po ba pare-pareho ang interpretation natin nyan? Isn’t it? That’s what he said. We all look at it the same way. And he said, I will sign my waiver now and I will prove to you that we all have the same interpretation. Let’s open our accounts, let’s open our SALNs, let’s show it to the Filipino people that we have the same interpretation. Did anybody take up that challenge before the honourable court? Nobody, nobody, nobody because the Chief was able to show that his interpretation has been followed by most of the honest, hardworking public officials of our bureaucracy. There is no one witness here who testified that the Chief Justice accepted a bribe. There is not one witness here who said, ako po ang nag-deposito nyan kasi po may kapalit po na desisyon yan. Not one. We are all surmising. They are saying, kaduda-duda yong movement ng pera. Napakalaki noong araw na ito, napakalaki noong ganon. E bakit hindi mo pinatunayan? Why did you not present the witness? We never decide cases based on doubt. We decide cases based on facts. That is how our system works.
Now, let me go to my last point. The prosecution says that the Foreign Currency Deposit Law is repugnant to the Constitution. My question is, can the Senate impeachment court declare the Foreign Currency Deposit Law unconstitutional?
The Constitution is clear. Cases involving the constitutionality of any treaty, international, executive agreement or law shall be heard by the Supreme Court en banc. That is very clear. And isn’t it the greatest height of contradiction If it is the Senate who will declare the product of its own work, the law that came from it, as contradictory to the Constitution? Galing po sa inyo yung batas. Umasa po ang mga kababayan tapos sasabihin nyo hindi nyo pwedeng gamitin ‘pag kayo ay nalitis.
And even assuming that there is—that there is a tinge of unconstitutionality, the rule is decisions of this nature have prospective application and let me read, “The principal of prospectivity has also been applied to judicial decisions which although in themselves not laws are neverthe less evidence of what the laws mean. The reason why under Article VIII of the new Civil Code judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form part of the legal system. A compelling rationalization of the prospectivity principal of judicial decisions is the imperative necessity to take account of actual existence of the statute prior to its nullification as an operative fact negating acceptance of a principle of absolute retroactive invalidity.
If it is unconstitutional, you cannot apply it retroactively. That is a medication that the Chief has already took. You cannot tell the medicine, do not take effect. The person has already drank it. It has already taken its effect. If it is against the Constitution, it should only be applied prospectively.
In closing, let me just respond to Congressman Tupas’ statement that the Chief Justice peddled his position for material gain. That is a lie. That is an absolute lie. The Supreme Court is a collegial body. He might be referring to the FASAP case. He might be referring to the TRO granted to former President Arroyo. But the court acts as an entity separate and distinct from the individual personalities of its members, consistently with the intrinsic nature of a collegiate court, the individual members act not as such individuals but only as a duly constituted court. Their distinct individualities are lost in the majesty of their office in re almasen.
Do not blame the Chief Justice, Congressman Tupas. It was the Supreme Court who rendered that decision. And if you’re relying on the dissenting opinion of the honorable Chief Justice Sereno,—Justice Sereno, let me just say that the dissenting opinion cannot be sustained. A dissenting opinion is not binding as it is a mere expression of the individual view of a court who disagrees with the conclusion of the majority of the members thereof.
That will be all, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. The continuation of the defense, Mr. President.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. May I just be allowed, Your Honor, to carry on the discussion …
SEN. SOTTO. You have 27 minutes and 36 seconds.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Nabawasan yata ng malaki. Thank you.
There seem to be no question, Your Honor, as to the existence of Republic Act No. 6426, which deals with the confidentiality of foreign accounts deposit, but a question apparently surfaced is the challenge or the allegation to the effect that this is—these law is in violation of the Constitution.
I do not know of any case whatsoever nor any proceedings before the Supreme Court, Your Honor, questioning the legality and the constitutionality of that law, and simply because a Senator or a Justice say that the law is unconstitutional is no dictum to the effect that it is really unconstitutional, unless there is a pronouncement on the unconstitutionality of a law, it remains valid, it is effective and it is enforceable against everybody within the Republic of the Philippines.
As of date, I am not aware of any law or any case, Your Honor, that even merely challenges the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 6426, what does that imply? It is certainly valid, effective and subsisting, and therefore, any and all depositors of foreign currency may avail thereof with no fear that they have lost the right to claim the confidentiality enshrined in the said law. Now, may we ask if there is any proceeding that the prosecution know, whereby the constitutionality of this law is being challenged or have been challenged? Second, if there is any proceeding, has it resulted in the declaration of the unconstitutionality of the said law. We venture the guess, Your Honor, that the entire annals of jurisprudence may be searched in by but it will not yield any answer to the effect that this law have been declare unconstitutional.
Now, may I go a little further, Your Honor, even our Legislative Department, Your Honor, both of Congress, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are unanimous in abiding with the dictum of confidentiality enshrined in this law. They have amended this particular law in some time in 19—in 2002, Your Honor, and I am referring to Republic Act No. 9194, which laid down the dictum, Your Honor, or the jurisprudence to the effect that whereas under Republic Act No. 6426, the only exception whereby that grants confidentiality to the Republic Act No. 6246, Your Honor, is the written, lack or absence of written permission on the part of depositor.
Under the AMLC Law, which amended that particular provision, there are now two exceptions. First, it added a new exception, and that is when there is a criminal proceeding involving transactions which are illegal, violative of the AMLC Law, and which have been filed before a court, Your Honor, and there are proceedings to that effect, and the transaction involved is any of the transaction mentioned on that law, for instance, Anti-Graft Law, robbery, Your Honor, piracy, and a lot more of other enumerated. If the investigation deals with that particular omission, Your Honor, then, it cannot, the depositor or the—cannot raise the defense that their deposits, Your Honor, are secured and therefore, confidentiality is available to them under Republic Act No. 6426.
Now, it had been argued, Your Honor, that that does not induce criminality or does it not do a favour, especially to wrongdoers in the government service, whereby in order to evade being criminally liable for their illegal acts, they convert their properties or money into foreign account deposits. That maybe true, although I do not subscribe entirely to the correctness of such a view. Even if it exists, the remedy is not judicial, Your Honor. The remedy is legislation. Let us amend the law. Let us remove all these exceptions. The necessity for written permission must be removed if the entirety of what is alleged is that it is conducive to the commitment of illegalities, bribery and violation of the Anti-Graft Law on the part of public officials. But such is not the case. The legislature or Congress never envisioned a situation where, in the process of allowing foreign currency deposits and its depositors to claim confidentiality, will be resulting in violation of the law on for instance, smuggling, kidnapping with ransom, and so on down the line.
Now, secondly, it is very clear now, under the AMLA Law as amended, that the confidentiality enshrined under Republic Act 6426 may no longer be invoked, if the prosecution, Your Honor, is a prosecution for any of the transactional offenses enumerated under the AMLA law. In other words, it is another exception whereby the depositor may no longer avail himself of what is known as foreign currency deposit, Your Honor.
Now, I was amazed by the peroration of my learned colleague, who had spoken before us, Your Honor, to the effect that allegedly there a lot of falsities, a lot of lies permeating the declaration of the honourable Chief Justice. I wanted immediately to agree with him. But his behaviour before and during the presentation of evidence or declaration by the Chief Justice does not approve of such kind of a plea, Your Honor. Why? Because Chief Justice Corona was here, he was available for cross-examination, if they doubted the credibility of Chief Justice Corona, they should have taken advantage of the opportunity to cross-examine him. But it is on record, Your Honor, that there was no such cross-examination. In fact, it was categorically and positively waived by the lead counsel of the prosecution, Your Honor. And for that, we were heavily thankful because it shortened the stand activity of Chief Justice Corona, Your Honor.
Now, they likewise referred to a lot of fabricated lies, Your Honor. More especially with respect to alleged buying of dollar deposits and so on, Your Honor. There is no statement on record, Your Honor, by Chief Justice Corona that he started buying when he was still an undergraduate continuously up to the point that he accumulated the amount that he admitted before this honourable Court. I would like to commend Chief Justice Corona because notwithstanding several advices during the conferences that we had, that it is his right not to testify because he cannot be compelled to testify, these proceedings being akin to a criminal case, he still insisted in bringing before this court an admission to the effect that he has so much, he has so much. He should be commended for that matter, Your Honor. But what is his explanation? Let me go a little farther. What is the allegation with respect to the non-entry in the SALN of the Chief Justice Corona of the various properties alluded to by the prosecution consisting of 45 pieces of properties. Little by little, Your Honor, while the trial goes on, we were able to show, I believe to the satisfaction of this honourable court, that there were no 45 pieces of properties and that ultimately, there were only five. That is why the other properties which do not belong to him and which are registered of persons whom he does not even know, need not be accounted for by him in the SALN that he filed for that matter.
Now, he is also being charged or blamed of fraud because allegedly there were acquisitions made by him on a particular year, but they were not registered on that year and they were registered later, or a year or two years thereafter. We have no quarrel with that. Even our evidence show that there were some vacillation on the part of the family of Chief Justice Corona because there were some doubt as to the validity of the transfer of ownership to him. And therefore, his non-reporting may not be considered as intentional, fraudulent, malicious and can be the subject of an impeachment proceedings, Your Honor.
Now, there were statements made here in connection with an employee, a law employee of the [Department of] Supreme Court or Justice relative to certain acts committed by him or her but that cannot be equated. There is no parity of facts between that case and this case. That is merely an administrative case. This is an impeachment case, Your Honor, governed by the provisions of the Constitution and grounded on definite and specific grounds, Your Honor, namely culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, other high crimes, violation of the Anti-Graft Law and betrayal of public trust.
May we ask the prosecution, Your Honor, whether there is any jurisprudence on the point that a mere deficiency or a mere inaccuracy in the entries made by a filer in the SALN is constitutive of a ground for impeachment which they claim now. I do not think and I am not aware. I’ll be heavily thankful, Your Honor, and be fully appreciative if they can enlight(en) because this happen to be my forte in criminal law which is still my forte being a member of the faculty of the University of the Philippine College of Law.
Now, if it is not an impeachable offense, Your Honor, it if it cannot be a ground for impeachment, then, why are we building up matters after matters to the prejudice, not only of the light, the honor and the reputation of the Chief Justice but his entire family which even after years may no longer be erased or obliterated because it already sucked into the minds of the common people being the subject of what we call conferences even outside of this court, Your Honor.?
Now, let me go a little further, Your Honor, with the kind permission of this Honorable Court. There is a statement here made by the Honorable Ombudsman relative to the properties and deposits and cash deposits and accounts, which she declared while on the witness stand. Unfortunately, Your Honor, we cross-examined her, she was truthful in admitting that there are no charges at the time filed against Chief Justice Corona. He is not a respondent nor an accused in any crimes mentioned under the AMLA law but that pursuant to his general power as Ombudsman, she conducted the investigation on the strength of the affidavit complaint presented or submitted by several persons, Your Honor. These are the persons we introduced in evidence. We called them to testify in order to prove our contention that none of them have mentioned the existence of the $10 million account referred to in the report of the Honorable Ombudsman, Your Honor.
Now, in order to justify further her statement on a matter with respect to properties and deposits, Your Honor, she waved certain papers, Yonor Honor, allegedly they were entries or they were papers, Your Honor, furnished her by the Anti- …
… there is only an initial but we do not know whose initial they are. The question is: Is that admissible in evidence? Our answer is: No, because if it is not property authenticated, then it is violative of Section 25 of Rule 132 on evidence. And what does it say? May I be permitted to read the same. “Whenever a copy of a document or record is attested or the purpose of evidence, the attestation must state in substance that the copy is a correct copy of the original or a specific part thereof as the case maybe. The attestation must be under official seal of the attesting officer, if there be any—or if he be a clerk of court having a seal under the seal of said court.
We noticed and we gather upon the examination of those documents, Your Honor, I hope I am pardon by the Court that they are mere scrap of paper, the attestation required by law is not present and therefore they are not admissible in evidence. If they are not inadmissible in evidence, what probative value that he says. I hope the court pardon me by saying it is totally useless, it is totally irrelevant to the matters brought about by her.
Now, there were also statements made by her to the effect that these papers are allegedly furnished to her by the AMLA people, Your Honor. That allegedly was furnished her by the official of the AMLA, Your Honor. Some members or our colleague in the legal profession say: “E, why you did not call the AMLA people to contradict that, that they never have furnish her”. That is not the job of the defense, Your Honor. The position here of the Chief Justice is akin to an accused in a criminal case. The general presumption enshrined in our Constitution, that he enjoys the privilege of being an innocent, or innocent of a crime which is attributed to him holds water. He is not under legal obligation to prove his innocence, Your Honor. It is the burden of the prosecution in this particular case, the prosecution to prove his guilt, and that is failure to indicate or enter it to his SAL the required matters that ought to be stated in there. I have not seen yet any document to the effect that a failure to state in a SAL, Your Honor, on the part of the filer, especially, impeachable officers could be a ground for impeachment, Your Honor. Impeachment must be treated with caution, must be treated circumspectively, and not half hazardly or done as our government official of the opposite persuasion may claim, Your Honor. And that brings me to the matter, although, I’m a little bit reluctant, Your Honor. Power challenge against the validity of the impeachment complaint in this particular case. Why? Because when we examined the documents attached to the complaint, Your Honor, more particularly, to the signature and verification and certification, we find nothing in there, we state that the 188 members of our House of Representatives, whose signatures attached there were convened at any time prior to the certification in order to pass upon the probable aspect of the complaint, Your Honor.
I hope, and in this connection, Your Honor, we are in total conformity with the jurisprudence on the point, more especially, by the ponencia of Chief Justice Panganiban, Your Honor, wherein on the issue of observance of due process during the initiation of impeachment, Your Honor, may I be allowed to read in part, Your Honor, for purposes of having them entered into the record, Your Honor.
Brought during the oral argument.
Senator Salonga and Petitioner Francisco Chavez denounced the second impeachment complaint as violative of due process. They argued that by virtue merely of the endorsement of more than one third of the members of House Representatives, the Chief Justice was immediately impeachment without being afforded the twin requirements of notice and hearing. The proceedings were therefore null and void. And Justice Panganiban then who became the chief has said, “I must agree”. Going further with his ponencia, Your Honor, he further lay down the following dictum—the due process clause, Article III of the Constitution reads: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” Enshrined in our Constitution is a condition sine qua non that cannot be ignored in any proceeding, administrative, judicial or otherwise. Citing Mr. Bernas, a commentarist of several cases, Your Honor, it is deemed, according to him, written into every law, rule or contract even though not expressly stated therein. Hence, the House Rules on Impeachment insofar as they do not provide the charged official with notice and opportunity to be heard prior to being impeached are also unconstitutional.
Along this line, Your Honor, may I also bring to the attention to this honourable court the concurring opinion on the same subject, Your Honor, by retired Justice Ynares Santiago and it runs this way, Your Honor: “The impeachment complaint suffers yet from another serious flaw. As one of the micus curae, former Senate President Salonga pointed out, the signing of the impeachment complaint by the purported one-third of the Congressmen was done without due process. The Chief Justice against whom the complaint was brought was not served with notice of the proceedings against him. No rule is better established under the due process clause of the Constitution than that which requires notice and opportunity to be heard before any person can be lawfully deprived of his right. Indeed when the Constitution says, no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, it means that every person shall be afforded the essential element of notice in any proceeding. Any act committed in violation of this due process must be declared null and void. With the citation, Your Honor.
Now, I brought home to the attention of this honourable court, Your Honor, this particular jurisprudence on the point because if we follow the proceedings that attended the filing of this case, Your Honor, I hope the prosecution of the government will pardon me for saying it. It was although we may be charged as bias, Your Honor, we notice the blitzkrieg manoeuvre that accompanied or clothed the filing of this information. True, there were allegedly a point presentation by the honourable lead counsel at the time of the meeting of the Congressmen who signed, the 188. What we do not notice, any statement or the statement relative to verification and certification is totally bankrupt any statement to the effect that they assemble, they discussed this matter and it was only after determining that there was really notice and proper opportunity for investigation was made that they came to the filing of this case and so on.
My point is this, Your Honor—the number of the complainant whether they be more than 200 Congressmen affixing their signatures, assuming their signatures, the affixing of their signatures were voluntary and personal, that does not nullify the provision on due process because it is a time-honored principle of our Constitution that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
Now, if the impeachment complaint is filed only by a member or by a private citizen with the endorsement of a Member of the House of Representatives, the procedure enshrined is it must be acted upon by the Committee on Justice, there must be deliberation and whatever the result of the deliberation, it is presented before the House in plenary session. Those are the only things that were dispensed with if the information of the impeachment complaint is filed by more than one-third of the Members of the House, Your Honor.
With that, we rest our case, Your Honor. We only pray, Your Honor, na sa amin pong pagdulog sa kagalang-galang na hukumang ito ay sana po ay, dumulog po kami sa Poong Maykapal, hiniling namin kung maaari, tanglawan po ninyo ang pag-iisip, ang puso at damdamin ng mga Senador na huwes na hahatol sa kasong ito.
Sana po, umiral ang buong katarungan sa ikaliligaya hindi lamang ng impeachment, hindi lamang ng nasasakdal, kundi ng buong Republika ng Pilipinas. At sana po, ito’y maging mitsa na para magkasundo-sundo ang buong nagkakaalit at lumigaya ang buong Pilipinas.
Salamat po ng marami, Chief Justice.
SUSPENSION OF HEARING
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Session suspended for a few minutes before the closing …
SEN. SOTTO. Before the closing of the prosecution.
Mr. President, may I move that we suspend for five minutes.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Five-minute suspension.
It was 4:15 p.m.
The session was resumed at 4:43 p.m.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The session is resumed. The prosecution. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. Yes, for the closing, there are 15 minutes left for the prosecution, 15 minutes and 30 seconds.
REP. TUPAS. Yes, we have 15 minutes, 30 seconds, Your Honor. For the third and last speaker for the prosecution, may we request, Your Honor, that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., be recognized to close the case for the prosecution.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Granted. Proceed.
THE SPEAKER. Mr. Senate President, Members of the Senate, countrymen.
Thank you for allowing me the honor of addressing this august Chamber and the people of our great republic. I stand before you as the elected Speaker of the House of Representatives and I stand as well as one of the 188 Congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.
Your Honors, together the Upper and Lower Houses of Congress constitute a single whole. Together we represent the people of this country, their values, their aspirations and their sense of right and wrong. What is at stake here is the principle that those who do wrong will be held accountable by system, by the institutions set up by the people themselves.
This impeachment trial has been a long and tedious and even divisive process. But we have gone through it because our people deserve something better. We want a judiciary that is independent not only of the influence of Malacañang or of Congress, but also from personal ambition and personal greed.
We want a judiciary where no one can say anything offensive about our justices because they truly live in the light of justice and integrity, and willingly injure the harsh glare of public scrutiny because they have nothing to hide.
Your Honors, this impeachment trial was conducted for the most noble of purposes. It was conducted in search of the truth. Our prosecution team has proven Mr. Corona’s partiality when upon a simple letter, he engineered a ruling adverse to the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines or FASAP.
We have proven how the highest magistrate of the land was willing to tip the scales of justice with his own hands when it comes to the former President. When Mr. Corona handed down a TRO effectively allowing Mrs. Arroyo to leave the country, the nation uttered a collective cry of outrage because the very spirit of public accountability was coming under attack by no less than the Chief Justice, the highest embodiment of justice in the land.
And the truth, Your Honors, has been laid bare before this court. Yes, I have heard all the arguments, the legal lease about these laws. But Mr. Corona himself has admitted to having amassed two point million dollars. That’s a lot of money, Your Honors, and P80 million in cash. Although, as shown by the evidence, the amounts he has illegally amassed are much more, none of them found their way into his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. He has given nothing but give excuses for why he did not account for them.
Your Honors, even as an ordinary individual, a man of common sense, I cannot really understand what is the value of a SALN that wherein the bulk of one’s properties and assets are not disclosed. What’s its value? Just a pro-formatting.
Your Honors, this impeached Chief Justice effectively wants to be exempted from the SALN Law, in effect. He has not been declaring his true net worth through the many years that he has been in the public service. And yet he, himself, concurred in Supreme Court decisions for lowly public servants, as talked about here, were dismissed from public office because they did not declare their true net worth.
Your Honors, he wants this court and the court of public opinion to ignore his millions of dollars and pesos undeclared in his SALN. He cites a law on foreign deposits in the incredible comingling of funds as his excuses for holding/hiding such huge amounts from public eye.
My question is, why? Is he prohibited from disclosing them in his SALN? Shouldn’t he be the one to set a good example for all of us? Isn’t it disturbing, Your Honors, that the Judiciary’s highest official, the last bastion of justice for uniform application of laws all over the land, is himself the very person hiding behind these laws, bending justice, so to speak, to hide his act?
Our people will not allow that, Your Honors. We are one people with one rule of law, with one standard for public conduct. Mr. Corona has spoken about a chilling effect on the judiciary, and of course, the framers of our Constitution did want impeachment to have a chilling effect on those who would wish to betray the public trust on those who had abused the powers of their office for personal gain.
Public office, as we all know is a truism, is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, apt with patriotism, justice and lead modest lives. This is the command of the Constitution.
The same Constitution additionally requires that members of the Judiciary must be of proven competence. Again, integrity, probity and independence, this requirement, one that is unique to judges is not an empty reiteration of the exacting standards in holding public office. In essence, it manifests the constitutional intent to make the possession of the highest moral values is sine quanon condition for membership in our judicial hierarchy.
Your Honors, I stand as the voice of an institution that together with yours, form the Legislative branch of government. The Legislature, props and passes the laws, the Executive enforces these laws. But of what use are our efforts to build a better future if the head of the entire Judiciary interprets the law to the crucible of partisanship or personal gain.
The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona has come down to a vote. The burden that Your Honors now assume does not involve a single determination of which side exhibited a mastery of deniesties(?) in a legal proceeding.
What this honorable court is called upon to decide is far more than the entitlement to the Chief Justice to his position. In truth, what this honorable court must ultimately determine is the standard of conduct required by the Constitution of the person to whom is entrusted the leadership of the entire Judiciary. Will we look forward to a Chief Justice who can be an independent person? A person with nothing to hide and a person whose loyalty, ultimately rest on the people or will we allow to continue in office someone who has clearly betrayed the public trust.
Your Honors, I ask that you’ll see through the character of Renato Corona, and reflect whether this is the man that we want as our Chief Justice, the head of the entire juidicial system for the next six years.
May I ask that you vote according to conscience and the evidence, and find Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty.
May the truth be your guide, Your Honors. May the truth be your guide.
Thank you. Good day.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. I would like to posit some questions if there is none who will ask question.
I just want to clarify certain points.
SEN. SOTTO. Mr. President, I have not received any reservation from any of the members of the court.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. I would like to ask the defense two questions. What injury or prejudice may arise if a depositor who is a public officer or employee who have a foreign currency deposit would include that deposit or its the amount represented by that deposit in his statement of assets, liabilities and networth?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Well, I am not very sure, Your Honor, as to what and the extent thereof insofar as damages is concerned …
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. No, the question is, what, in your opinion, would be the injury to be prevented or prejudice to be avoided warranty the depositor of a foreign currency deposit to be permitted not to include his foreign currency deposit in his statement of assets, liabilities and networth if he is a public officer or a public employee.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. The probability of let jus say kidnapping, extortion and so on may come into the picture, Your Honor, because especially with the present trend of criminality in the country today, there is no assurance that one is immune from any of these offenses, Your Honor. That may be one.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Was that contemplated, in your opinion, by the framers of Republic Act 6426 if as well as its predecessor presidential decrees?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. If we go into the Declaration of Policy, Your Honor, the declaration of policy is entirely different from the disastrous consequences or unwarranted circumstances that may occur thereafter, Your Honor. Because the policy behind it is to encourage.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. All right. Related to this first question of mine, I will ask you, will a public officer or a public employee, who maintains a foreign currency, incur the punitive penalty of Republic Act 6426 if he would reflect that deposit in his statement of assets and liabilities.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. I do not see, Your Honor, that probability, but it could amount to a vitiated consent, Your Honor, as contra-distinguished from voluntary permission on the part of the depositor, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. You see, I asked this question because we are forgetting that the law allows the exposure of a foreign currency desposit by expressed provision of Republic Act 6426 if the depositor himself would do it. There is no secrecy law in this country, monetary secrecy law that prohibits or inhibits or proscribes the depositor from revealing his own deposit. What is prohibited is for third parties to reveal it, and that is why they are penalized. But the depositor is not. Now, that is my next question. Now, my next question is this. The first sentence of Section 70, Article XI of the Constitution, do you consider that sentence as a mandatory provision that requires to be obeyed by a public officer or public employee of the Republic of the Philippines.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. The way I recall, Your Honor, the provision, it is a general statement of the law.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. I will state it to you. “A public officer or employee, shall, upon assumption of office, and as often thereafter as may be provided by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and networth.” Do you consider that a command of the people or was it something that can be disregarded?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. I do not think that is something to be disregarded, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. It must be obeyed.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Correct, Your Honor, but when there are rights that arise from a different law, Your Honor, I do not see any reason as to why it cannot be availed of in this particular instance, the depositor, Your Honor. Why the law had granted that is beyond my comprehension, Your Honor. That is a legislative function. The policy behind it may only be known from the legislators themselves. I am not privileged neither can I define or phantom the reason behind it, Your Honor. All I know…
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. That will be our function. We are just asking if you have any notion about it.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Thank you, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Alright. Now, my next question is, if it is a command, a sovereign command, justinian concept of command, if it is a sovereign command, will disobedience of that command constitute a culpable violation of the Constitution?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Well, I would not—I would not be in a position to do so, Your Honor, or to make a statement to that unless the actual true facts surrounding the circumstances are known to me because that will be a matter of conjecture or a surmise on the part of—my part.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Constitution speaks of culpable violation. Now, I am sure all of us graduates of U.P. went through a study of Roman Law.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. That is correct, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Alright. What is culpa? From where culpable was derived?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Mere intentional, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Ha?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Intentional, Your Honor, culpa.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. No …
JUSTICE CUEVAS. No intent, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Culpa. What is culpa?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Crime, Your Honor. The way I …
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. There are four kinds of culpa. Culpa lata or magna, culpa levi, culpa levisima, culpa aquiliana. Now, …
JUSTICE CUEVAS. I am not …
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. … go to elementary school boat in Roman Law. What is culpa?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Well, I am not, as of this moment, Your Honor, I am not very well in a position to recall. Maybe I was absent when it was discussed by my professor, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Well, that is your bad luck.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. And besides, …
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. And I think that this is material in the consideration of this provision of the Constitution. What is the difference between culpa and dolus?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Culpa if I recall, dolus is intentional. Dolus is intentional, if I recall correctly. Culpa is negligence, something like that. I am not very sure.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Deserving of blame.
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Yes, Your Honors.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Now, disobedience to the provision of Section 17 first sentence, do you consider that as the deserving of blame?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. If it is intentional, Your Honor, then, definitely, …
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. It does not call for any intent. Where in that provision will you find intent?
JUSTICE CUEVAS. Well, I think, this is the provision or statement as may be required by law, Your Honor.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Anyway, I am asking this question for our guidance. For our guidance as base on your opinion, both sides, I would like to hear both sides of us. What is the position of the prosecution? Can you help us in defining what is culpa?
REP. FARIÑAS. Well, when it comes to refer culpable violation of the Constitution, Mr. President, according to the records of the Constitutional Commission, violation of the Constitution is understood to mean wilful and intentional violation of the Constitution and not violation committed an intentionally or involuntarily or in good faith or through an honest mistake of judgment and it implies deliberate intent, perhaps, even a degree of perversity for it is not easy to imagine that individuals in the category of these officials would go so far as to defy knowingly what is the Constitution commands. That is what the records of the Constitutional Commission define or show what culpable violation is, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Alright, thank you very much. I have no more questions. I do not know the other members of the court if they have any questions. Majority Floor Leader.
SEN. SOTTO. Mr. President, the court is ready to retire, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Alright.
SEN. SOTTO. So, may I ask that the Sergeant-at-arms make an announcement.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. The Sergeant-at-arms is directed to make the announcement.
THE SERGEANT-AT-ARMS. Please all rise. All persons are commanded to remain in their places until the Senate President and the Senators have left the session hall.
ADJOURNMENT OF SESSION
SEN. SOTTO. Mr. President, there being no other business for the day, I move that we adjourn until two o’clock in the afternoon of Tuesday, May 29, 2012.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there any objection? The Chair hears none; the motion of the Majority Floor Leader is approved. (Gavel)
It was 5:05 p.m.