MANILA, Philippines—It is up to the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, if it would allow the defense to present the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of President Benigno Aquino III and other government officials during the proceedings.
This was how the spokesmen of the prosecution panel saw the issue on discussing other officials’ SALNs through the defense panel’s request for subpoena of testimonies from members of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), specifically for the purpose of baring documents used in three stories “SALN: Good law, bad results,” “Great filers, big barriers” and “House of Secrets”.
Marikina Representative Romero Quimbo said that if allowed, the Senate would fall into “the very trap that is being laid out by the defense” which sought to “divert the attention” of the public by trying to expose whether other government officials have failed to declare assets in their SALNs.
“I think what is important is that the Chief Justice is not just accused of omitting entries… [he] is accused of completely lying under oath.”
Quimbo pointed out that Corona, for years, skipped the declaration of his properties in his SALNs “which he is supposed to do under oath. This is a clear act on the part of the Chief Justice to completely violate the SALN law and actually lie under oath. That is the accusation as far as we are concerned.”
“I think the Senate has also mentioned that the SALNs of the different other public officials are irrelevant to this case,” Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III said, adding that should the impeachment court approve the request for subpoena, the prosecution “will just have to abide by whatever the impeachment court will decide.”
“We’ve always said that the SALNs of other public officials are not an issue here [but that of Corona].”
Prosecutors filed on Monday, an opposition on the said request for subpoena by Corona’s lawyers, and Quimbo said that they would continue to “oppose any diversionary tactic on the part of the defense.”
He said that it was irrelevant to the case whether other officials violated the SALN law since for them “there’s always a remedy. Bring them to the Ombudsman, file an ethics case.”
In Corona’s case, there was only the impeachment, explained the spokesman. “We are going through that today, let us not be distracted.”
He said that if the defense really wanted to bare SALNs of other public officials, “tingin ko pinakamaganda nilang ipakita ay iyong mga SALN na hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa natin nakikita. Iyong SALN ng iba pang mahistrado ng Korte Suprema.”
“Buksan ang SALN ng iba’t ibang opisyal. Simulan kaya natin doon sa SALN ng mga Supreme Court justices na up to today ay hindi pa rin nakikita.”