Aquino won’t sign waiver
Palace says Aquino not bound by Corona actBy Christian V. Esguerra, Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
President Benigno Aquino III is not waiving his right under the laws to keep his bank accounts confidential even after Renato Corona’s removal as Chief Justice for untruthful declaration of wealth.
Speaking at a news conference in Malacañang Thursday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte confirmed that Mr. Aquino declared during the presidential campaign in 2010 that he would waive his privilege of secrecy under the country’s banking laws if elected President.
Valte said, however, that Mr. Aquino wouldn’t sign any such waiver at this time.
“Let’s go back to the context,” Valte said. “It was the accused [Corona] who issued the challenge to every Tom, Dick and Harry who was willing to take on his dare. Is it fair to put the President, who has not been accused of graft, who has not been accused of dishonesty, in the same category as the man who was just removed from his post?”
Valte was answering questions raised by Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano’s call for a new standard in his explanation for his vote to convict Corona on Tuesday.
Corona submitted a waiver to the Senate impeachment court on May 25—too late and useless, as he had already admitted keeping $2.4 million and P80 million in bank accounts that he did not report in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
“I ask the President to instruct his Cabinet to sign the waivers or resign and leave the government,” Cayetano said. “Lead by following, or get out of the way.”
Cayetano proposed waivers for all executive officials, members of Congress and the judiciary.
But Valte insisted that the President was not issuing a waiver.
“You have to remember that this all came about because one man was on the stand, was being accused of something,” Valte said. “Do we put other people in the same situation even when they are not being accused of hiding anything?”
The President and the members of his Cabinet have all declared their assets, Valte said. Their SALNs have been available to the public since they were sworn into office, she said.
No dollar accounts
Valte added that President Aquino had no foreign-currency bank account.
“No one is saying that his disclosures in his SALN are incomplete or are inaccurate and the same goes for members of his Cabinet,” Valte said. “Just like Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said [Corona’s] waiver was for theatrics,” she added.
The SALN, Valte said, contains a waiver that authorizes the Ombudsman to look into the officials’ finances with help from all governmental agencies.
And there’s the bank secrecy law, which, Valte said, provides for exceptions and these could trigger the opening of public officials’ bank accounts.
‘Lead by example’
But Cayetano said President Aquino should “lead by example,” though he was willing to give Mr. Aquino time until a system that would prevent abuse could be introduced.
In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Thursday, Cayetano acknowledged “concerns” that Mr. Aquino and other government officials might have if they followed Corona’s lead.
Cayetano called for a system that would not use waivers other than to weed out corrupt officials and employees.
“I am in favor of giving him time to sign and put these things in place,” Cayetano said.
“His presidency and programs are worth supporting so I encourage him to find ways to address (the) concerns then sign (his own waiver) and get his Cabinet to sign waivers,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano was glad about the Supreme Court’s decision to release the SALNs of all its justices.
Lesson in honesty
Speaking at a news forum Thursday, Cayetano said Corona’s impeachment should serve as a lesson in honesty and transparency in public service.
In the case of the executive branch, he said, the President could order all officials and employees to submit waivers.
“The President can say, ‘If you don’t want to sign, resign,’” Cayetano said.
Cayetano acknowledged that waivers could be used against public officials, especially with midterm elections to be held next year.
He said the waiver could also be used to producing “fake” bank accounts to accuse officials of corruption.
But he considered the waiver a “new paradigm” in transparency and accountability, and he observed that more public officials are following Corona’s example.
Several members of the House of Representatives have signed waivers, and the leader of the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai, Mike Velarde, is calling on other government officials to follow suit.
“If they are not hiding anything [they should sign]. Besides, the purpose of this SALN is for the public to know what they have,” Velarde told reporters during the 6th National Catholic Charismatic Congress in Pasay City Thursday.
“If the SALN is the reason why CJ Corona was convicted, then that is also one of the things that people should look into [in the case of other public officials],” Velarde said. With a report from Jerome Aning
First posted 5:28 pm | Thursday, May 31st, 2012