Explanation of Vote on Article 2
Impeachment Trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona
By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
29 May 2012
Today, we face a difficult task of deciding whether the man who holds the highest position in the Supreme Court has committed acts tantamount to betrayal of public trust that would warrant his removal from office. It is all the more difficult for me because I took my oath before this man.
If this were a purely legal process, my legal training would require that much of the evidence presented is disregarded due to irregularities in obtaining the same. But this is not a purely legal process. The framers of the Constitution did not set the Quantum of evidence nor the burden of proof required to convict. Much was left to the individual conscience and collective wisdom of the Senate.
Further, impeachment cases are heard by senator judges with different professional backgrounds of the 23 senator-judges, less than half of us are lawyers. Thus, I was challenged and admittedly burdened by the need to balance my legal training as a lawyer and my calling as a public servant, particularly a senator-judge.
The Chief Justice states that the requirement in the Constitution to declare ones assets liabilities, and net worth, is “AS MAY BE REQUIRED BY LAW”. He then cites RA 6426 or the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (FCDA), as that law which states dollar deposits are absolutely confidential, thus providing him with a shield. But is that the law in point? I submit it is not. It is RA 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, which, among others, requires the submission of a Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SALN) and provides for the details thereof. It requires stating all kinds of assets including cash on hand and in banks. There are no exceptions. To allow the contrary view would be setting a deadly precedent. It would allow any official to hide his assets behind the cloak of the FCDA. Does that make sense? It does not, both from a legal point of view and from a lay person’s view. Bakit pwedeng itago ang pera sa dollar? Makatarungan ba ‘yun?
RA 6426 on the secrecy of foreign currency deposit is not an exception. In fact, it is easy to reconcile it with RA 6713. A government official should declare his assets and liabilities. But no one can examine the bank accounts without his written consent.
The defense then posits the view that misdeclaration in the SALN is minor and therefore not an impeachable offense compared to other impeachable offenses like bribery and treason.
As a lawyer, to me, minor inaccuracies in the SALN, such as parking lots or a unit whose ownership is under contention, would not amount to betrayal of public trust. In fact corrections are allowed under the law. But, the failure to declare 2.4 million dollars and some P80 Million pesos is not minor. In decided cases, the Supreme Court has ordered the dismissal from service of public officials and employees for failure to delare a sari-sari store, two motor vehicles, and for non-declarationof several assets such as real properties and bank deposits (Rabe vs. Delsa Flores, Ombudsman vs. Nieto Racho, Flores vs. Montemayor)
I also have difficulty accepting the defense on comingled funds. The fact of comingling, I can accept that but the huge amount involved leaves too much doubt in my mind.
In our interpretation of the law, we who hold a position of public trust, must choose the interpretation that will uphold pubic interest over private interest. Regardless of whether malice or an intent to suppress the truth was present, we must remember that Public office is a public trust. Once that trust is gone, we must step down to preserve the integrity of the position we hold. ‘Pag wala na ang tiwala ng taong bayan dapat bumaba sa puwesto ang isang opisyal para mapangalagaan ang posisyon na ‘yon.
Lastly, we need to remember that we can only mature as a democracy if we can learn from this experience.
From the start, I questioned breaches in procedural law and ethical conduct of various participants in the impeachment process — The trial by publicity and the irresponsible hurtling of bloated unverified figures of assets, among others. My fervent hope is that in the future, the pursuit of justice is conducted in a more responsible manner, lest our children are left with the impression that those accused of wrongdoing can be persecuted without respecting their rights.
The other lesson must go beyond the Chief Justice. It is the call for transparency. I echo that call. Those of us who sit as judges, those who acted as prosecutors and all those in public service should not hide behind our titles. We must come clean and give meaning to the constitutional requirement that we declare all our assets.
Mr. President, on the accusation made in Article 2, I find the respondent GUILTY. #