No fishing expedition allowed.
President Benigno Aquino III and others demanding the public disclosure of the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona should file the appropriate motion before the Supreme Court, court spokesperson Midas Marquez said.
Marquez, also the court administrator, said that instead of taunting Corona, Palace officials and their allies should appeal the high court’s Sept. 22, 1992, en banc resolution on the subject.
“Since (1992), the SALN of lower court judges and justices of the appellate courts and the Supreme Court had not been published. Why raise the issue now against Chief Justice Corona?” Marquez told reporters in an interview on Thursday.
He said Corona’s decision not to disclose his SALN was just “pursuant” to the resolution approved by the tribunal then headed by Chief Justice Andres Narvasa.
“After Narvasa, all the chief justices who came after him also did not publish their SALNs. Corona was just complying with that policy,” he said.
In its 1992 resolution, the court restricted the release of the SALNs of justices and judges purportedly to shield them from acts which may “endanger, diminish or destroy their independence and objectivity in the performance of their judicial functions.”
Advice to President Aquino: Read
Last week, the President dared Corona to make public his real net worth after the Chief Justice explained that he had been religiously filing his SALN as instructed by the Narvasa court.
The issue about Corona’s SALN was included in the articles of impeachment which the House of Representatives submitted to the Senate on Thursday.
Asked to comment on the President’s challenge to Corona, Marquez said: “I think it would be better if he reads the resolution. [The rules are] very clear. He just needs to understand the resolution.”
Denying claims that they had been remiss in filing their SALN, Marquez said Corona and other justices had been submitting documents concerning their assets and liabilities to the Office of the Clerk of Court annually.
Citing the tribunal’s 1992 resolution, he said individuals requesting a copy of a judge’s SALN must secure a court order first.
All about independence
The resolution, titled A.M. No. 92-9-851-RTC, was actually just a reiteration of a similar ruling which the high court issued on May 2, 1989, Marquez said.
In the 1989 resolution, which the court made based on a petition filed by one Jose Alejandrino, the 15-member tribunal unanimously voted to deny the request for SALN “directly or indirectly traced to a litigant, lawyer or interested party in a case pending before the court.”
“The independence of the Judiciary is constitutionally as important as the right to information which is subject to the limitations provided by law,” the tribunal said.
It said the court must deny requests for the release of SALN which were “not made in good faith and for a legitimate purpose, but to fish for information and … to influence a decision or to warn the court of the unpleasant consequences of an adverse judgment.”