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SC creating ‘safe haven for criminal acts,’ says justice

/ 03:10 AM February 15, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court order stopping the opening of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s dollar accounts has created “a safe haven for criminal acts” and “cultivated an atmosphere of impunity,” according to Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

In a 30-page dissenting opinion to last week’s decision by the high tribunal to temporarily stop the opening of Corona’s foreign currency deposit, Sereno said the Constitution itself mandated public officials to disclose all of their assets and that failing to do so would constitute “prima facie evidence of unexplained wealth.”

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The Supreme Court granted the petition of PSBank for a temporary restraining order stopping the Senate impeachment court from opening Corona’s dollar accounts. PSBank had explained that under the Foreign Currency Deposits Act (RA 6426), dollar accounts can be opened only with the permission of its owners.

The Senate impeachment court voted 13-10 to respect the TRO.

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‘Valid exception’

“Granting the prayer of petitioners for injunctive relief is tantamount to endorsing their position on absolute confidentiality, so much so that higher values, such as public accountability, cannot even be considered as a valid exception to the said privilege,” said Sereno.

“This contention pushes the law to an absurdity, as the adherence of this absolutist stance invites unscrupulous public officers to convert their peso deposits to foreign currency accounts in order to hide from the law and evade criminal liability,” she said.

Sereno is an appointee of President Aquino and Corona has formally asked her to inhibit from the deliberations on his petition to stop his impeachment trial.

Sereno said the high court TRO resulted in RA 6426 being used “as a shield to conceal malfeasance and other unlawful conduct.

“This court’s resolution has therefore created a safe haven for criminal acts and cultivated an atmosphere of impunity. Certainly, this was never the intendment of the law,” said Sereno.

‘No basis’

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“In the end, this court’s resolution results in an iniquitous situation, where the supreme interest of the public to maintain accountability among public officers is relegated to the sidelines in favor of a statutory privilege that arose purely out of economic considerations,” she added.

Sereno dismissed the grounds PSBank cited in asking for a TRO, adding that the high court had “no basis” for issuing the order.

“Considering that petitioners alleged entitlement to injunctive relief is based on mere news reports, exaggerated theories of a possible bank run, or stubborn fears of culpability, this court has no basis to enjoin the impeachment court from exercising its constitutional mandate to require the production of documents and rendering of testimony before it under the assailed subpoena,” she said.

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TAGS: Corona Impeachment, dissenting opinion, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Renato Corona, TRO
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