Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Recto Convicts Renato Corona Guilty at Impeachment Trial

Recto Convicts Renato Corona Guilty at Impeachment Trial

Here is the text of the explanation of vote of Senator-judge Ralph Recto who found Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty:

"I base my decision on facts presented in this court, and not on opinions aired outside of it; on testimonies of witnesses, and not on theories of wags; on the arguments of lawyers, and not on the analysis of their spokesmen; on submitted evidence, and not on anonymous leaks; and above all, on the figures in official documents, and not the numbers on the recent polls, because as a judge, my duty is to choose what is right and not what is popular.

"Let me put forward my observations on this trial :

"First, in an impeachment complaint, length is not strength. Better for an indictment to be short but substantial, than one that is long in allegations but short in proof.

"Second, haste makes waste. The reason why the trial simmered in the Senate is because the articles were served half-cooked instead of well-done.

"Third, the way evidence was produced left a bad taste in the mouth.

"Mr. President, let me now explain my vote.

"There is no such thing as a SALN so statistically perfect that it is precise to the last decimal point. If a government employee is asked to catalogue what he owes and what he owns, some information may fall into the crack, not as an act of deliberate concealment, but as an unwitting omission done in good faith.

"So this boils down to the degree of the unintentional miscalculation, and logic dictates that we accept slight inaccuracies because if we leave no room for those, then, believe me, no government official will be left behind his desk.

"In the case of the Chief Justice's SALN, the undeclared assets are so huge, 50 times more than what he declared in cash - 2.4 million in US dollar deposits, 80 million in peso deposits – that they cannot be brushed aside as innocent exclusions.

"The very same Constitution that he had sworn to obey and uphold makes it mandatory for a public officer like him to submit a true declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth.

"Mr. Corona knows this because in cases brought to the Supreme Court, he had punished his fellow government workers for failing to disclose far lesser amounts.

"He should have declared the above.

"Thus I vote guilty on Article II.

"Mr. President, in a few hours we will be pulling the plug on this afternoon political telenovela. With a sigh of relief, let's go back to our regular programming, where hard, unheralded work is done away from camera lights.

"The end of the trial doesn't call for celebration. It calls for getting our bearings back and setting our priorities right again.

"One in five people who watched this trial on TV occasionally go hungry. One in three in the labor force had all the time to watch because they had no work.

"Five in 10 people who followed this trial rated themselves poor. 80% do not have a bank account or savings.

"So if we think what we have done here is herculean, then we stand indicted for being clueless of what our people want and ignorant of our true potential.

"It is easy to impeach one man. What is hard is to impeach hunger, to impeach joblessness, and to impeach poverty.

Estrada Votes Guilty for Renato Corona at Impeachment

Senate President Pro-Tempore-judge Jinggoy Estrada voted for conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona. The following is the text of his explanation:

"Magandang hapon po sa lahat.

"This trial and this court, the entire process, its completion is a historic redemption of our justice system. We owe that in great measure to the brilliance, sense of fairness and firm resolve of our presiding officer, no less the Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. I say redemption because this same process failed to achieve justice for my own father, former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. It failed because clearly the plan was to resolve the issue in the streets. And it failed sadly because the presiding officer at the trial of my father proved to be a partisan himself. Those sordid events led this nation to nine years under the rule of a woman, a small woman, who was installed by the rule of the mob and the imprimatur of a Supreme Court that succumbed to the pressure of that mob.

"I am more than sure that my father would have been given the chance to be heard fairly, justly and squarely katulad ng pagkakataon na ipinagkaloob ng impeachment court na ito kay Chief Justice Corona. Had the impeachment rules been strictly implemented then in 2001, those private prosecutors who disrespected this court by walking out, thus robbing my father the chance to defend himself, would not have been allowed to do so, much less be held in contempt.

"Today we confront and make history. We make a historic decision this day to pass judgment on the chief magistrate of the Supreme Court of this nation after 44 gruelling days of trial spread out in four difficult months. Our people followed this trial closely and in this exercise we have demonstrated to them and to the international community that our country adheres and subscribes to the supremacy of the democratic framework and the majesty in fulfilling the mandate of the most basic of all our laws – the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.

"Sa paglilitis na ating isinagawa sa harap ng sambayanang Pilipino, itinaguyod natin sa ating Senado ang itinadhana ng ating Saligang batas. Binigyang-buhay natin ang diwa ng mga proseso ng ating batas at bingyan natin ng patas na pagdinig ang panig ng taga-usig at ng nasasakdal.

"Today, I join the nation in a fervent prayer that we can begin healing the wounds inflicted by the pain of this trial. We pray that we can as soon as possible bring closure to this painful episode in the annals of our country. I pray that as we conclude this defining moment, we can unite again as a nation, as a society and attend to the many pressing problems that face us.

"I take the view after hearing the arguments and counter-arguments that the Chief Justice did not include in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth his SALN, US$ 2.4 million and 80.7 million pesos. – this he admitted in open court. Napatunayan ng depensa na hindi 45 properties, kung hindi 5 lamang. Hindi 82 dollar accounts, kundi 4 lamang. At hindi 10, 11, 12 million dollars, kung hindi 2.4 million dollars lamang. But these numbers are irrelevant because the most important question is: "Itong limang real properties, apat na dollar accounts na may halagang 2.4 million dollars ba ay idineklara ng tama? Idineklara ba ito sa takdang oras o panahon?" Ang sagot ko po ay hindi.

"It was argued by the defense panel that the non-inclusion of dollar deposits by the Chief Justice in his SALN was made in good faith and is covered by the provision of absolute confidentiality under the Foreign Currency Deposits Act. I regret to say that I am not convinced. Because the Chief Justice is a learned man of law. He is in fact, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – isang opisyal na hindi lamang malalim ang kaalaman sa batas, kundi isang opisyal na may tungkuling basahin kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng mga batas. Bilang Punong Mahistrado, siya ay dapat na may higit na kaalaman at pag-unawa sa diwa ng batas at tungkulin niyang ipatupad ito nang walang bahid na pagtatakip sa pansariling interes. And I believe that the framers of the Foreign Currency Deposit Act did not intend to create the opportunity for public officials to conceal their assets or stash away foreign currencies under this law.

"I therefore make this painful decision with a heavy heart but confident that we have given justice to our people. Sa kadahilanang ito, wala akong pag-aalinlangan ngayon na ang nasasakdal ay nagkasala at lumabag sa itinadhana ng ating Saligang Batas. Sa wikang Ingles, in my eyes, he is guilty.

"Maraming salamat po."

Ping Lacson Votes Guilty on Renato Corona

Ping Lacson Votes Guilty on Renato Corona
Here's the explanation of vote of Senator-Judge Panfilo Lacson on the 44th and final day of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona on Tuesday:

"When a witness takes the stand, he is first to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That makes half-truths no better than lies.

"I have always been an investigator all my public service life. Modesty aside, I have the uncommon ability to determine if a person is telling the truth or not.

"An error in judgment has no place in this trial because it is final and irreversible. Equally important to me is the testimony of the respondent, particularly in this case, because the exalted position of the highest magistrate of the land must shut its door to anyone who desecrates the solemn oath that engulfs a testimony in any judicial proceeding.

"Over the weekend I did my homework and discernment. Let me share it with you.

"Chief Justice Renato Corona had at one point $ 3,977,790 and 87 cents. At a given time he had P91,280,499 and 22 centavos. If you ask me, so, what is the difference between $ 3.9 million and $ 2.4 million, between P91 million and P80.7 million? My answer is: a lot of money.

"Chief Justice Renato Corona used to work as a senior officer of the tax and corporate counseling group of the tax division of a prominent accounting firm, Sycip Gorres and Velayo and Company. He also taught commercial law, taxation and corporate law at the Ateneo de Manila University for 17 years. I find it hard to believe his testimony that he does not understand accounting.

"Chief Justice Corona testified under oath he invested in currencies and not in properties in the late 1960s, mindful of the Basa-Guidote family squabble over some real estate properties left by their deceased parents.

"The fact is, the family feud started in 1989. One cannot simply learn from the lessons of the future, even if the standards of moral fitness for such a lofty position in government were lowered, an acquittal may still be difficult to justify.

"Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I therefore find the respondent guilty as charged under Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment."

Twisted Interpretation of Law by Miriam Defensor Santiago

Twisted Interpretation of Law by Miriam Defensor Santiago

Senator-judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago voted to acquit Chief Justice Renato Corona. The following is her written explanation of her vote:

"The Constitution provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent, until the contrary is proved. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. How much proof is necessary? In other words, what is the standard of proof? I have adopted the very high standard of "overwhelming preponderance of evidence." My standard is very high, because removal by conviction on impeachment is a stunning penalty, the ruin of a life.

"The defendant admitted that he did not declare his dollar accounts and certain commingled peso accounts in his SALN. Did this omission amount to an impeachable offense? No.

"Under the rule of ejusdem generis, when a general word occurs after a number of specific words, the meaning of the general word should be limited to the kind or class of thing within which the specific words fall. The Constitution provides that the impeachable offenses are: "culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust." An omission in good faith in the SALN carries a light penalty, and is even allowed to be corrected. Thus, it is not impeachable.

"The Constitution simply provides that a public officer shall submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth. That is all. There are no details. The Constitution is a brief declaration of fundamental principles. Many constitutional provisions are only commands to the Congress to enact laws to carry out the purpose of the charter.

"As a general rule, constitutional provisions are not self-executory. The usual exceptions are the Bill of Rights, and constitutional prohibitions. All other constitutional provisions, such as the SALN provision, need implementing laws to provide the details. Hence, Congress, to implement this constitutional provision, has passed a number of laws, including the Foreign Currency Act, which confers absolute confidentiality on dollar deposits.

"There is no conflict between the Constitution and the Foreign Currency Act. The perceived conflict is so simplistic that it is seriously laughable. If there is any conflict, it is between the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards, which provides for a waiver of confidentiality; and the Foreign Currency Act, which provides for absolute confidentiality.

"It is for Congress to balance on the one hand, the need for public accountability from public officers; with, on the other hand, the desperate need for foreign investment, which entails confidentiality, on pain of driving away investors from our country. The argument that a dollar deposit protected from inquiry would nullify the principle of transparency is for Congress to resolve. We could retain the absolute confidentiality clause, with the amendment that Filipino public officers are not protected.

"The prosecution mistakes admission for confession. In a confession, the defendant admits guilt. In an admission, the defendant merely states facts, which might tend to prove his guilt. In the instant case, the defendant did not make a confession, but merely an admission, with a legal defense.

"As a former RTC judge, I find it reprehensible that the AMLA document was introduced in evidence, without authentication, as required by the Rules of Evidence. I am deeply disappointed that on at least three occasions, the prosecution claimed that its documents came from an anonymous source. Are you for real? Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. False in one thing, false in all things.

"The defendant used his own name in all his questioned transactions. He could have done otherwise, if his purpose was invisibility. Why would a suspected criminal leave his calling cards at the scene of the crime?

"Assuming for the sake of argument that there is a preponderance of evidence for the prosecution, the preponderance is not overwhelming."

"Would you be surprised if I vote not guilty?"

Renato Corona Judged Guilty

Senator-judge Franklin Drilon voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona. The following is his explanation:

"The Constitution commands the Respondent Chief Justice to file an accurate and complete SALN. This requirement is not a mere formality, as it goes into the heart of Respondent's moral fitness to hold public office.

"Respondent concealed his luxurious condominiums for 5 years after they were fully paid. Worse, Respondent reported the values of these condominiums at less than 50% of their acquisition cost.

"Respondent admits he did not declare 2.4 Million U.S. dollars, and 80 Million pesos, in his SALN. The enormity of Respondent's hidden assets – over 180 Million pesos, or 50 times more than his declared cash assets – is scandalous. It is grossly disproportionate to his total income for 10 years of about 27 Million pesos. It establishes a prima facie case of ill-gotten wealth under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

"One hundred eight million pesos. Res Ipsa Loquitor. The thing speaks for itself.

"Respondent justifies his concealment of his dollar accounts because of the alleged confidentiality in R.A. 6426. This kind of interpretation will encourage aspiring thieves in government to simply hide all their loot in FCDU accounts. The law does not prohibit Respondent from disclosing his foreign currency deposits. It bars the bank from disclosing them without his consent. In fact, he authorized this court to inquire into them.

"How can Respondent, the Chief Justice no less, claim good faith in asserting such a twisted interpretation of the law? Besides, the defense of good faith cannot be invoked. The punishable act of non-reporting of assets in one's SALN is mala prohibita, where good faith is immaterial.

"Respondent concealed his 80 Million peso deposits because allegedly they are "commingled funds" of BGEI and that of his relatives.

"Respondent presented n o evidence to substantiate his claims. If BGEI funds are held in trust, respondent must report such funds as assets, and enter the corresponding liabilities, in his SALN. He did not. He cannot claim good faith. He was the manager of SGV's Tax Department.

"The Supreme Court dismissed Delsa Flores, a lowly court interpreter, for not reporting in her SALN her stall in a public market.

"The Chief Justice must be held to a much higher standard.

"Those who dispense justice must conform to the highest standards of professional integrity, and personal honesty. Chief Justice Corona knowingly, deliberately, and with malice aforethought, filed inaccurate and false SALNs to conceal his enormous wealth. Where our Constitution and our laws require disclosure, he chose the path of concealment. He has lost his moral fitness to serve the people. He has betrayed the public trust. He cannot be Chief Justice a minute longer.

"I found the Respondent guilty."

Chief Justice Renato Corona is Guilty

The following is the explanation of Senator-judge Edgardo Angara on his verdict to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona:

"Sa nakalipas na limang buwan, ang atensyon ng sambayanan ay nakatuon sa impeachment trial ni Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. Mula sa pagiging pribadong abogado, siya ay nanungkulan sa ilalim ng dalawang Pangulo at nahirang bilang Punong Mahistrado—isang natatanging tagumpay para sa isang abogado, at ang pinakamataas na posisyon sa isa sa tatlong magkakapantay na sangay ng gobyerno.

"Ngunit napapaloob dito ay isa pang storya, ang kwento ng isang pamilya na pinagwatak watak ng mapait na away tungkol sa pagaari at pera. Tumagal ng tatlumpong taon ang away, nauwi sa demandahan—at humantong pa sa paglilitis na ito.

"Pera, kapangyarihan, away pamilya—ito ang ugat ng storya. Hindi ang lahat ng ito ay matutugunan natin sa paglilitis na ito, subalit hangad din natin na ito'y matuldukan.

"The question, quite simply, is the Chief Justice's alleged failure to disclose a true and complete statement of assets, as mandated by the Constitution, and whether this constitutes culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust.

"The Constitution and our statutes[1] oblige every public official to make and submit "a complete disclosure of his assets, liabilities, and net worth in order to suppress any questionable accumulation of wealth".

"This obligatory constitutional rule seeks to eradicate corruption, promote transparency in government and maintain a standard of honesty in the public service.

"The Prosecution and the Defense were one in producing proof that the Chief Justice has bank accounts he did not declare in his SALN. Removing any iota of doubt about this vital fact was the Chief Justice himself who openly admitted before this Court that he has four (4) U.S. dollar accounts totaling U.S.$ 2.4 million, and three (3) peso accounts of P80.7 million.

"I may grant the Chief Justice's plea of honest mistake of judgment. But given his broad experience in public law and practice in investment advisory services, his willful and deliberate omission, together with the magnitude of the subject matter, amounts to a culpable violation—thus a failure meriting condemnation.

"The Chief Justice justified his willful failure to disclose his U.S. dollar accounts on the so-called absolute confidentiality provision of the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (R.A. 6426). However, it seems clear that the mantle of protection is extended to foreign depositors in the spirit of promoting foreign investment. The law was never intended to be a convenient device for Filipino public officials to conceal their assets.

"When the accounts were disclosed by no less than the Chief Justice, this left no prohibition against this Impeachment Court from admitting the evidence and weighing it on the scales of justice.

"The defense argues that the Ombudsman illegally obtained documents on Chief Justice's bank transactions because there was no pending case involving the subject bank accounts or any court order authorizing the production of such records.

"The defense, however, fails to consider that the documents produced by the Ombudsman were official records of the AMLC, which it receives from covered institutions pursuant to law. The Ombudsman has the power and authority to obtain these records from the AMLC pursuant to the Constitution and the Chief Justice's own SALN waiver.

"On the whole, the defense's main objection rings hollow since the Chief Justice himself admitted to the existence of the accounts, and the amounts they held—not to mention the fact that information on these were provided by witnesses presented by the defense panel themselves.

"The Supreme Court no less has said, "no position exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than a seat in the Judiciary."[3] As the head of the judiciary, a standard far higher is placed on Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

"This impeachment trial breaks new ground. This Senate, sitting as judges, adopts its own rules and makes it own decisions. Within the bounds of the rule of law, it can initiate new doctrines and new precedents. Its pronouncement is the final word.

"It seems unnecessary for me to dwell further on the P80.7 million account the Chief Justice stated is commingled with the funds of his children and the Basa-Guidote family. But this fund could very well provide the seed of reconciliation for the two feuding branches of the family.

For these reasons, I find the Respondent GUILTY of the charge under Article II of the Articles of Impeachment."

Renato Corona Is Guilty, Court Found

By Lilybeth G. Ison

The prosecution panel from the House of Representatives hailed on Tuesday as a "victory for accountability, transparency and the rule of law" the decision of the Senate, sitting as the impeachment court, to convict Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. 

The prosecution said the removal from office of the chief magistrate "heralds a new beginning for the judiciary whose image has been tarnished in the course of the chief justice's impeachment, as well as provides a big boost to the Aquino administration's campaign to cleanse the bureaucracy of graft and corruption."

"This is the start of putting our Republic back in order for we did not convict a man but rather we saved our institutions from grievous harm of corruption and betrayal of public trust," said House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III, one of the spokesmen for the prosecution.

"We showed our determination towards transparency and good governance with this verdict," he stressed.

Tanada said that in carrying out the very first verdict of conviction in an impeachment trial, the Senate has shown to "our people and the world that our country is politically mature and ready to forge ahead in our fight for transparency and accountability in our democratic processes."

For his part, Aurora Rep. Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, also spokesman for the prosecution, said much more remains to be done by the government to ensure transparency, accountability and adherence to the rule of law, which are all key to good governance.

Angara expressed hope that the chief justice's conviction would pave the way for the restoration of the people's faith in the institutions.

"We are hopeful that this historic decision of the Senate impeachment court will help restore the people's faith in the judiciary and in government," he said.

"We hope it is not just a change of personnel but a change in mindset and a change in the way things are done in government," he added.

Tanada congratulated the entire nation "not because we convicted Renato Corona, but because we were able to stop the downward spiral of our judiciary into a morass of corruption."

"Today we, as a people showed the world that our country is politically mature and ready to forge ahead in our fight for transparency and accountability and most importantly strengthen our democratic processes," said Tanada in a statement.

"It is unfortunate that we have to go through this process to achieve political maturity, but it must be done if we need to join the family of democratic, transparent states," he said.

"The conviction of the chief justice is a referendum on the political agenda of President (Benigno) 'Noynoy' Aquino (III), especially his anti-corruption drive. With the Senate convicting the chief justice, the people are behind President Aquino's administration," he noted.