Corona non-disclosure of assets as impeachable act questioned
MANILA, Philippines—The issue of whether Chief Justice Renato Corona’s alleged failure to declare all his properties in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) was an impeachable offense or not was put to a debate at the resumption of the impeachment trial on Thursday.
Corona’s counsel, former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas, pointed out that under a provision in the Civil Service Commission, no penalty is imposed to a government official who would be found to have filed an inaccurate or incomplete SALN.
“In fact, under the same procedure if after the examination of what was filed there seem to be errors or discrepancies, then he is allowed to make a correction. This is the provision of the rules and the regulation,” Cuevas said, responding to Senator Alan Cayetano’s queries.
“To us, it’s our humble opinion your honor that if there may have been discrepancies, inaccuracies, incompleteness… these can be remedied after a review of the SALN is made,” he said.
“If it’s not intentional your honor, no criminal liability nor administrative liability is incurred by the filing official. The law of the matter is very clear,” he pointed out.
But Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr, a member of the prosecution, said that Corona did not declare a single acquisition cost of his properties from 2002 to 2010.
Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile then asked Barzaga if the prosecution was offering the SALN as evidence for culpable violation of the Constitution or for betrayal of public trust.
Barzaga answered “Both,” saying that it was the highest form of betrayal of public trust when Corona intentionally left some blanks in his SALN.
The prosecutor then cited a Supreme Court ruling where on the case involving the Presidential Anti Graft Commission vs Pato where the court ruled that “If there has been omission or not faithful or true declarations of the properties, the filer cant avail” of the same provision cited by Cuevas.
“The filer can’t avail of this provision. In that particular case, the filer would be liable for perjury because its made under oath,” Barzaga went on.
But when Enrile asked whether it was a high crime, Barzaga said, “No your honor. It is not a high crime.”
Enrile then reminded the prosecution that under the Constitution, culpable violation of the Constitution covers treason, bribery, graft and corrupt and other high crimes only.
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