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We beg to differ.


A critic of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona lamented over Twitter, “But Corona is using the law for his own protection.” Eureka! Corona’s critic had the answer to the dilemma dividing the sentiments of the entire nation. Indeed, if the law cannot protect the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, then the law cannot protect anybody in the country. Equal protection of the law applies to everybody including Corona. As stated in Article III, Section 1,2,3, of the Bill of Rights:

Section 1. 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.

Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Section 3. (1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law.

(2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.

On the last day of his testimony at the impeachment trial, Corona claimed that apart from the violations committed by the prosecution, the Office of the Ombudsman was in violation of his rights and other laws as stipulated in the constitution, which includes the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) and the dollar secrecy law:

“I am not aware of being guilty of a predicate crime,” he said. “I am not under any investigation and there is no court order, yet the Ombudsman released the alleged AMLC report and made a PowerPoint presentation during her testimony.”

Under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, investigators must first establish a suspect’s link to a predicate crime before they can look into his bank accounts.

The law also requires a court order before a suspect’s bank accounts can be opened for scrutiny.

The suspect also needs to be informed that he is being investigated by the AMLC before his bank accounts can be checked.

Technically speaking, the prosecution and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales did not have authority to look into Corona’s accounts without the waiver allowing access to his bank accounts that he only issued on the 25th May 2012. This means that the manner with which they gathered the evidence used in their investigation into Corona’s accounts was in violation of the Constitution particularly Corona’s right to privacy.

It is interesting to note that the prosecution is now relying heavily on the presentation by defense hostile witness, Ombudsman Morales to secure his conviction. According to prosecution spokesman Congressman Miro Quimbo, the AMLC report supposedly obtained for the Ombudsman was enough evidence and that whatever results Corona’s waiver would produce would be of no use to them. However, the evidence presented by the Ombudsman should not even be admissible for any purpose in any proceeding including Corona’s impeachment trial as stipulated in Section 3.2 of Article III.

Even more bizarre, something highlighted by Senator Chiz Escudero, is the fact that the prosecution is not interested in checking the accuracy of the unauthenticated AMLC report on which Ombudsman Morales based her spurious interpretation. Escudero was in disbelief upon hearing that the prosecution does not need the waiver from Corona at all considering that it was the issue of access to Corona’s account that caused the Senators a lot of stress during one of their earlier caucuses at the start of the trial.

The prosecution had almost caused branches of government to collide with each other when they insisted the court subpoena Corona’s dollar accounts — a request which would have put the Senate court in violation of the dollar secrecy law. One can be forgiven for thinking that prosecution is afraid to find out that the Ombudsman’s report might not match what’s in Corona’s account. It likely means that they are afraid that Corona could be telling the truth.

The Senator Judges are likewise not interested in looking into Corona’s account now that it is finally open for inspection citing that “the court is hearer of facts” and not supposed to produce evidence for the defense and the prosecution. It seems no one is interested in the truth after all. The golden opportunity to find out if Corona is telling the truth about his dollar accounts and peso accounts with co-mingled funds is being ignored to be able to stick to their self-imposed deadline to end the trial by 31st of May.

How can the Senators arrive at an objective decision when they don’t want to look at all the facts? This would constitute a denial of due process.

Some say that the point of contention now is whether or not the Senators will agree to Corona’s interpretation of the Foreign Currency Deposit Republic Act 6426 or the dollar secrecy law and the The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act 6713 that covers the law on filing the Statement of Assets, Liability and Network (SALN).

Corona was very clear in his response to a bewildered Senator Kiko Pangilinan’s question on which law takes precedence, is it the SALN or the dollar secrecy law? The Chief Magistrate of the Supreme Court did not even see a conflict in the two laws because the SALN law includes the words “as may be provided by law” and that particular law in Corona’s case is the dollar secrecy law, which requires absolute confidentiality of the depositor’s accounts. To be sure, here is the part of the laws on disclosure of the SALN under Art. XI, Section 17:

A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth. In the case of the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law”

How can you argue with that? It is crystal clear that Corona was just following the law when he did not include his dollar deposits in his SALN and as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; it is expected of him to do so. I can’t imagine any of the Senators — except, perhaps, for Senator Drilon and Pangilinan — making a big deal of this unimpeachable offense considering it is Corona’s money, which he simply invested in US currency.

His salary had already been taxed and his dollar deposits would have been presumably taxed accordingly. Besides, now that we know that he only has a measly total of $2.4 million dollars – not $12 million, as earlier reported, we can all sleep at night knowing that he has not siphoned public funds into his accounts. And let’s not forget what Corona kept repeating during his testimony. If he really wanted to hide his money, he would not put it under his name. A CPA-Lawyer even claims that Corona did not have to include his dollar deposits in his SALN:

Estrella Martinez, a CPA-lawyer who served in the BIR for 32 years, on Thursday said Corona was under no obligation to reveal such accounts because of the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (Republic Act No. 6426).

Martinez, an expert on SALNs having spent years at the BIR and with a master of law degree in taxation from the University of the Philippines, said foreign currency deposits have “no place in the SALN” because of the strict rules of RA 6426.

That partly explains why, she said in a paper given to the Inquirer, “in all my 32 years as a tax collector, I have never encountered a government official declare his dollar deposits in his SALN.”

“A dollar deposit cannot be declared as assets in the SALN because this will not affect his net worth,” she wrote. “It is of judicial notice that increase in net worth is taxable under Section 24 of the Tax Code, because net worth comprises such acquisition in ‘peso’ only.”

Martinez added: “Some passive income, like interest on dollar deposit, has been subjected to a final withholding tax, which the dollar depositor is not mandated to declare in his income tax return or SALN. This dollar transaction will just appear in an alpha list submitted to the BIR.”

There you go. Martinez’s explanation is easy enough to understand. I hope the Senators will not make things too complicated for them when they decide on Corona’s verdict.

Corona’s critics do lament about a lot of things against him but most of it is grossly exaggerated. Their failure in pinning down Corona has to do with their defiance of the law and in going against someone who knows how to use the law to protect himself.

[Photo courtesy Washington Examiner.]

Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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75 Comments

  • roi says:

    I think the bigger issue now is not about his guilt on non-declaration of some of his assets. Many senators now think that their judgment must be premised on whether CJ Corona is still fit to remain in office. This is very dangerous because some senators may decide to impeach him not based on the grounds of the complaint nor on evidence, but solely on their perception that he is no longer fit to remain as CJ of the SC.

    • Eye says:

      No one can withstand the brutal attack of the forces of the government. They threw him the book and still, all we have is his omission in his SALN, which is correctable. Surely, that cannot compare to the litany of lies promulgated.

      The prosecution has turned our country into lynching mob. Who, then is fit to stay in office.

  • Domingo Arong says:

    Ilda

    The find the link below to be relevant: “RULES IMPLEMENTING THE CODE OF CONDUCT AND ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES (REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6713)”
    http://www.doj.gov.ph/files/rulesra6713.pdf

    Take careful note that Section 1 of Rule VIII (Review and Compliance Procedure) of the Rules provides that:

    “The following shall have the authority to establish compliance procedures for the review of statements to determine whether said statements have been properly accomplished:


    “(c) In the case of the Judicial Department, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court;


    “The above official shall likewise have the authority to render any opinion interpreting the provisions on the review and compliance procedures in the filing of statements of assets, liabilities, net worth and disclosure of information.

    “In the event said authorities determine that a statement is not properly filed, they shall inform the reporting individual and direct him to take the necessary corrective action.

    “The individual to whom an opinion is rendered, and any other individual involved in a similar factual situation, and who, after issuance of the opinion acts in good faith in accordance with it shall not be subject to any sanction provided in the Code.”

    In short, as the official in the Judicial Department solely bestowed with “the authority … to determine whether [SALNs] have been properly accomplished” and “In the event … a statement is not properly filed … inform the reporting individual and direct him to take the necessary corrective action”; it is clear that CJ Corona’s interpretation and opinion of the laws pertaining to the filing of SALN declaration is binding in so far as the Judicial Department is concerned.

    In fact, note that as the compliance officer of the Judicial Department, CJ Corona is also authorized to direct “the necessary corrective action” and that such “corrective action” done “in good faith in accordance with it shall not be subject to any sanction provided in the Code.”

    • Ilda says:

      @Mr Domingo

      That makes a lot of sense, indeed. Galing nyo talaga!

      The CJ should just instruct the senators to tell him to do the corrective action in his SALN. :)

      • Domingo Arong says:

        Thanks Ilda. Clearly, the rules are silent regarding the procedure to follow in the particular case where the compliance officer is the “public officer” found to have filed an incorrect statement in the SALN. In fine, who will watch the watchers here?

        To my mind, the opposing view of some Senators may be regarded at the moment merely as “dissenting opinion” to CJ Corona’s majority–the CJ being the duly authorized compliance officer of the Judicial Department.

  • Gregory Macaltao says:

    I recommend that you watch was this gentleman says about the case…and his conclusion that the CJ should be convicted.

    This guy explains things without hysterics…what he states is very logical……

    http://anc.abs-cbnnews.com/videos/526/salipsip-a-conviction-for-corona-will-make-public-officials-more-honest-in-their-salns/

  • jay says:

    will enrile, who has been corrupt and a coward all his life do the right thing or having taken the money hide behind an abstention

  • Eye says:

    Has the Legal system and language succumb to a system and language from the streets … how utterly embarrassing.
    Don’t know if we will ever recover from this internationally. No Rule of Law, No Due Process …

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