By HANNAH L. TORREGOZA, ROLLY T. CARANDANG, and MARIO B. CASAYURAN
May 29, 2012, 7:20pm
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, on Tuesday afternoon found impeached Chief Justice Renato C. Corona guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for failing to disclose his statement of asset, liabilities, and net worth (SALN).
Voting 20-3, the senators convicted Corona on the ground that he failed to disclose all his assets, including his peso and dollar deposits, in his SALN.
Those who voted to convict Corona were:
1. Sen. Edgardo J. Angara
2. Sen. Alan Peter S. Cayetano
3. Sen. Pia S. Cayetano
4. Sen. Franklin M. Drilon
5. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
6. Sen. Francis G. Escudero
7. Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy E. Estrada
8. Sen. Tesfisto Guingona III
9. Sen. Gregorio B. Honasan
10. Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson
11. Sen. Loren B. Legarda
12. Sen. Manuel M. Lapid
13. Sen. Sergio R. Osmeña
14. Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan
15. Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III
16. Sen. Ralph G. Recto
17. Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.
18. Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III
19. Sen. Antonio F. Trillanes
20. Sen. Manuel B. Villar
Those who voted to acquit Corona were:
1. Sen. Joker P. Arroyo
2. Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago
3. Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.
During the trial, the defense panel had invoked the bank secrecy law as reason for the Chief Justice not to include his dollar deposits and some of his peso accounts in his SALN.
But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, in defending his vote to convict Corona, said that “the constitutional principle of public accountability overrides the absolute confidentiality of foreign currency deposits (FCDs)”.
“With all due respect, I believe that the respondent Chief Justice’s reliance on the absolute confidentiality accorded to foreign currency deposits under Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6426 is grossly misplaced,” Enrile, who was the last to cast a vote, explained before the court.
Enrile also acknowledged that the Chief Justice does not stand accused of having amassed any ill-gotten wealth before the Court.
“Paragraph 2.2 of Article II of the Articles of Impeachment accuses the Respondent Chief Justice of failing to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth as required by the Constitution.
“I submit that the Chief Justice had justifiable and legal grounds to rely on the Supreme Court’s procedural and policy guidelines governing such disclosures as embodied in a Resolution promulgated way back in 1989 when the Respondent was not yet a Member of the Supreme Court,” he said.
But whether the said guidelines of the Supreme Court violate the letter and spirit of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, Enrile said the principle of public accountability is not for the impeachment court to pass upon.
“I grant that the Chief Justice believed in good faith that after periodically filing his sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court were sufficient to allow the Clerk of Court to comply with the Constitution and the law,” he said.
Aware of the possible “political repercussions” of the final verdict they are called to render, Enrile reiterated it is the Senate’s duty to resolve the “moral dilemma” brought about by the Corona trial in favor of upholding the law and sound public policy.
“If we were to agree with the respondent that he was correct in not disclosing the value of his foreign currency deposits because they are absolutely confidential, can we ever expect any SALN to be filed by public officials from hereon to be more accurate and true than they are today?”
“I am not oblivious to the possible political repercussions of the final verdict we are called upon to render today. I am deeply concerned that the people may just so easily ignore, forget, if not completely miss out, the hard lessons we all must learn from this episode, instead of grow and mature as citizens of a democratic nation,” Enrile said.
“As one who has been through many personal upheavals through all of my 88 years, I, too, have been judged, often unfairly and harshly. But I have constantly held that those who face the judgment of imperfect and fallible mortals like us have recourse to the judgment of history, and, ultimately, of God,” he said.
“And so, with full trust that the Almighty will see us through the aftermath of this chapter in our nation’s history, I vote to hold the Chief Justice, Renato C. Corona, guilty as charged under Article II, Par. 2.3, and that his deliberate act of excluding substantial assets from his sworn SALN constitutes a culpable violation of the Constitution,” the Senate President added.
In acquitting Corona, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago explained her standard of proof in her decision is “overwhelming preponderance of evidence,” saying her standard is very high because the removal by conviction on impeachment is a stunning penalty, the ruin of a life.
She lashed out at Corona accusers who, she said, introduced dubious evidence at the impeachment court.
According to the feisty lady senator, the omission of Corona’s $2.4 million and P80 million deposits in his SALN is not impeachable.
“The defendant admitted he did not declare his dollar accounts and certain co-mmingled peso accounts in his SALN. Did this omission amount to an impeachable offense? No, said Santiago.