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Republic of the Philippines
Record of the Senate
Sitting As An Impeachment Court
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
AT 2:20 P.M., THE PRESIDING OFFICER, SENATE PRESIDENT JUAN PONCE ENRILE, CALLED THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL OF SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE RENATO C. CORONA TO ORDER. The Presiding Officer. The continuation of the Impeachment Trial of the Hon. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Renato C. Corona is hereby called to order. We shall be led in prayer by Sen. Manny Villar. Senator Villar. Almighty Father, In Psalm 58, You asked, “Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge uprightly among men?” Maraming salamat, Panginoon, sa Iyong mga salita. Higit naming kailangan ito ngayon habang ginagampanan ang aming mga tungkulin bilang mga hukom sa paglilitis na ito. Salamat, Panginoon, sa makasaysayang araw na itinakda Ninyo upang tuldukan ang paglilitis na ito. Ito ang katapusan, ngunit ito rin ang simula, simula ng panibagong gawain para sa Inyong mga lingkod. Anuman ang hatol, tulungan Ninyong makausad ang aming bansa na dala-dala ang bagong pag-asa na Inyong ipinangako. Tulungan Po Ninyo kami sa aming tunay na gawain na matulungan ang mga walang trabaho, ang mga nagugutom, ang mga maralita, at ang mga nangangarap. Basbasan Mo po kami na sa pag-unlad ng aming demokrasya ay ang pag-usad rin ng aming ekonomiya. Bahaginan Mo po kami ng Iyong karunungan at pang-unawa. Ikaw ang magsilbing gabay at ilaw sa pagbuo ng aming desisyon. Mangibabaw nawa ang respeto sa bawat isa. Mangibabaw nawa ang paggalang. Mangibabaw nawa ang katarungan. At higit sa lahat, mangibabaw nawa ang tama.
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Ipinapanalangin namin, O Diyos, na manaig ang mga testigong nagsasabi ng totoo. Manaig ang mga testimonyang walang bahid ng kasinungalingan. At higit sa lahat, manaig ang katotohanan sa lahat ng ito. Give unto us the strength of discernment to choose what is right and honorable, as guided by our conscience and steered by Your divine will. As You said finally, “Consummatum est.” To God be the glory. Amen. The Presiding Officer. Amen.
The Secretary will please call the roll. The Secretary, reading: Senator Edgardo J. Angara ............................................................... Present Senator Joker P. Arroyo ................................................................... Present Senator Alan Peter “Compañero” S. Cayetano ................................ Present Senator Pia S. Cayetano ................................................................... Present Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago .................................................... Present Senator Franklin M. Drilon ............................................................... Present Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada ....................................................... Present Senator Francis G. Escudero ............................................................ Present Senator Teofisto L. Guingona III ...................................................... Present Senator Gregorio B. Honasan II ....................................................... Present Senator Panfilo M. Lacson ................................................................ Present Senator Manuel “Lito” M. Lapid ...................................................... Present Senator Loren Legarda ..................................................................... Present Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. ................................. Present Senator Sergio R. Osmeña III .......................................................... Present Senator Francis N. Pangilinan ........................................................... Present Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III ........................................................ Present Senator Ralph G. Recto .................................................................... Present Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. .................................................... Present Senator Vicente C. Sotto III ............................................................. Present Senator Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes IV ........................................... Present Senator Manny Villar ......................................................................... Present The President ..................................................................................... Present The Presiding Officer. With 23 Senator-Judges present, the Presiding Officer declares the presence of a quorum. Senator Sotto. Mr. President. The Presiding Officer. The Floor Leader is recognized. Senator Sotto. Mr. President, may I ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to make the proclamation. The Presiding Officer. The Sergeant-at-Arms is directed to make the proclamation. The Sergeant-at-Arms. All persons are commanded to keep silent under pain of penalty while the Senate is sitting in trial on the Articles of Impeachment against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.
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The Presiding Officer. The Floor Leader is recognized. Senator Sotto. Mr. President, I move that we dispense with the reading of the May 28, 2012 Journal of the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court, and consider the same as approved. The Presiding Officer. Is there any objection?[Silence] There being none, the May 28, 2012 Journal of the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court is hereby approved. The Secretary will please call the case before the Senate acting and sitting as an Impeachment Court. The Clerk of Court. Case No. 002-2011, in the Matter of Impeachment Trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. The Presiding Officer. The Floor Leader. Senator Sotto. Mr. President, may we ask the parties and/or their respective Counsel to enter their appearances. Representative Tupas. Good afternoon, Mr. Senate President, and ladies and gentlemen of the Senate. On the part of the House of Representatives’ Prosecution Panel, same appearance. We are ready, Your Honor. The Presiding Officer. It is noted. The Defense? Mr. Cuevas. For the Defense, Your Honor, the same appearance. We are ready for the scheduled promulgation of the decision of this case, Your Honor. The Presiding Officer. The Floor Leader. Senator Sotto. Mr. President, the Senate has met as an Impeachment Court for 44 trial days starting January 16, 2012, to consider the Articles of Impeachment against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. The Court convenes today to conclude this trial by voting on the Articles of Impeachment. Mr. President, pursuant to Article XI, Section 3, paragraphs 6 and 7 of the Constitution, and Rule XXI of the Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials, we are ready to vote on the articles. The Presiding Officer. Before we proceed, the Chair would like to remind the Members of the Court, the parties to this case and the public that on March 12, 2012, this Court ruled that no evidence from both the Prosecution and the Defense will be received and no verdict will be rendered on Articles I, IV, V, VI and VIII. In accordance with that earlier ruling, the votes will only be taken on Articles II, III and VII. The Clerk of Court will now read Article II. The Clerk of Court. Article II. — Respondent committed culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayed the public trust when he failed to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth as required under Section 17, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution. The Presiding Officer. The question is on the second article of impeachment. Senator-Judges in this Impeachment Court, is the Respondent, Renato C. Corona, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, guilty or not guilty?
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The Clerk of Court will now call the roll and each Senator shall have time—we will not limit the time. This is a historical event and each one of us must vote according to his conscience and explain the reason for his vote. So, therefore, each Senator shall have as much time to explain his or her vote in this case. Proceed. The Clerk of Court. The Honorable Senator-Judge Angara. Senator Angara. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, distinguished brothers in the profession from the Prosecution and Defense, ladies and gentlemen. [Kung nalaman ko lamang dinala ko na iyong libro ko, Mr. President.] Sa nakalipas na limang buwan, ang atensiyon ng sambayanan ay nakatuon sa impeachment trial ni Chief Justice Corona. Mula sa pagiging pribadong abogado, siya ay nanungkulan sa ilalim ng dalawang Pangulo at nahirang bilang Pinakamataas na Mahistrado—isang natatanging tagumpay para sa isang abogado—ang pinakamataas na posisyon sa isa sa tatlong magkakapantay na sangay ng pamahalaan. Ngunit napapaloob po dito ang isa pang istorya, ang kuwento ng isang pamilya na pinagwatak-watak ng mapait na away tungkol sa pag-aari at pera. Tumagal ng tatlumpongtaon ang away, nauwi sa demandahan, at humantong pa dito sa paglilitis natin. Pera, kapangyarihan, away-pamilya, ito po ang ugat ng istoryang ito. Hindi ang lahat ng ito ay matutugunan natin sa paglilitis na ito. Subalit hangad po namin, hangad ko po na sana dito rin ay magkaroon ng hantungan o closure ang away-pamilya. The question, Mr. President, is quite simple: Does the Chief Justice’s alleged failure to disclose a true and complete statement of assets, as mandated by the Constitution, constitute a culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust? The Constitution and our statutes oblige every public official to make and submit—and I quote: “a complete disclosure of his assets, liabilities and net worth” or SALN 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 public service. The Prosecution and the Defense, combined as one in producing proof that the Chief Justice has bank accounts that he did not declare in his SALN and removing any iota of doubt about this vital fact was the Chief Justice himself coming here to testify openly and openly admit that, in fact, he did have four (4) US dollar accounts totaling $2,400,000 and three (3) peso accounts of P80,700,000. 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 amounts involved, amounts to culpable violation. Yesterday, you were asking: What is the root meaning of “culpable”? Mr. President, I just looked up this morning what is the dictionary meaning of “culpable.” It means simply “a failure meriting condemnation.” The Chief Justice justified his willful failure to disclose his US dollar accounts on the so-called absolute confidentiality provision of the Foreign Currency Deposit Act. However, it seems clear to me,
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that the mantle of protection is extended to foreign depositors, to foreign savers in the spirit of promoting foreign investments. The law was never, never intended to be a convenient excuse for Filipinos, especially for Filipino public servants, to conceal their assets. When the accounts were disclosed by no less than the Chief Justice, this left this Court no restraint, no constraint, no prohibition against admitting the evidence and weighing it on the scales of justice. The Defense argues that the Ombudsman illegally obtained documents on the 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. Mr. President, this argument overlooks one important fact. It 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 written waiver on his SALN. On the whole, the Defense’s main objection does not sound acceptable. It rings hollow to me since the Chief Justice himself admitted to the existence of the accounts and more than that 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.” As the head of the Judiciary, a standard far higher is placed on Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. This impeachment breaks new ground. This Senate, sitting as judges, adopts its own rules and makes its own decision within the bounds of the rule of law. It can initiate new doctrines, it can pass new precedents. Its pronouncement is the final word. It seems unnecessary for me to dwell further on the P80.7 million account of the Chief Justice which, he said, is a commingled fund, 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 this reason, Mr. President, I find the Respondent Guilty. The Presiding Officer. The Secretary. The Clerk of Court. The Honorable Senator-Judge Arroyo. Senator Arroyo. I will not discuss what both the Prosecution and the Defense had already argued in the closing arguments. Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, impeachment is a political process, not a political assassination. An impeachment aspires to be a judicial proceeding that makes imperative that it stick to judicial rules. An impeachment must ever uphold the due process that no citizen, high or low, can be denied. That is why we wear judicial robes as you see them, to listen, to ponder, and decide like judges according to law. What started in the House was not an impeachment, for an impeachment is an accusation accompanied by necessary formalities, attended by the appropriate solemnities, flanked by the liberties and guarantees that a genuine grand jury proceeding upholds. The purpose is to arrive at a sound finding of probable cause, sufficient to lodge a valid complaint charging real offenses before the appropriate tribunal.
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The Senate is being asked to remove the Chief Justice from office all because he submitted an allegedly erroneous SALN. The Senate trial could be as close to a criminal proceeding in a court of law as non-lawyers can approximate thus far, as all the great authorities agreed. What has happened is the passage of that to which the Senate President once warned—that we were veering close to a bill of attainder. A bill of attainder is a law passed by one house and approved by the other creating an offense where there was none, inventing a crime out of actions, willful or not, that were innocent when they were performed. It is a legislative act of convicting an accused of acts that were not offenses in the very measure by which he is condemned through a vote instead of a trial on the basis of accusations taken as proof. I cannot imagine removing a Chief Justice on account of a SALN. Today, we are one step from violating the Constitution and passing a bill of attainder. No one can stop us if we do not stop ourselves. This is not justice, political or legal. This is certainly not law. For sure, this is certainly not the law and the Constitution; this is only naked power as it was in 1972. I have not thought that I would see it again so brazenly performed, but for whatever it is worth, I cast my vote, if not for innocence falsely accused of offenses yet to exist and if not for the law and the Constitution that we were privileged to restore under Cory Aquino then because it is dangerous not to do what is right when soon we shall stand before the Lord. I vote to Acquit. Thank you. The Clerk of Court. Honorable Senator-Judge Alan Peter Compañero Cayetano. Senator Cayetano (A). “You shall do no injustice in judging a case; you shall not be partial to the poor or show preference for the mighty; but in the righteousness and according to the merits of the case, judge your neighbor.” Leviticus 19:15. Why do we complicate the simple? Di ba simple lang naman ang issue? Sino ba ang nagsasabi ng katotohanan? Ano ba ang katotohanan base sa ebidensiyang naibigay dito sa Korteng ito? Ano ba ang katotohanan? Almost 10 years ago, nasa Amerika po kami at nagpapagamot po ang aking ama. Hindi pa namin alam at that time na may kanser na pala po siya sa tiyan. Dahil gabi-gabi naman po siyang umiiyak sa sakit around two o’clock in the morning, tinanong ko siya, “Dad, anong masakit?” Nagulat po ako sa sagot niya dahil sabi niya, “Alan, 40 years ago I studied here, I worked here but I was determined to go back home. Forty years later, nandito na naman ako. Ang dami nang umunlad na bansa, ganun pa rin tayo.” Nabasa ko sa kanyang mata ang simpleng katotohanan na iyong corruption at kahirapan ay dinudurog ang espiritu ng isang nadudurog na ang katawan. Mas masakit pala iyon na iyong espiritu at pag-asa ang nadudurog lalo kung para sa sariling bayan. Gusto ko pong magbago ang ating bansa. Gusto ko po na makita na nakatawa rin ang aking ama. Ngunit mayroon ding kanser ang ating lipunan, kanser na ang ibang batas at ang ibang pamantayan o standards sa ating lipunan ay iba para sa mayaman at makapangyarihan at iba para sa mahirap. Kanser ang corruption, kanser na para sa mga mayaman at makapangyarihan na ang simple ay ginagawang kumplikado.
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Dahil sa kanser na ito, iba’t-iba ang interpretasyon ng batas para sa mayaman at mahirap. Hindi ko po matanggap ang interpretasyon ng Pinakamataas na Hukom ng ating bansa na iyong $2.4 million ay hindi kailangang ideklara sa SALN sa ilalim ng RA 6426. Hindi ko po puwedeng matanggap na isang public official sa isang simpleng ploy o paraan na iku-convert niya ang kaniyang pera sa dolyar ay puwede na niyang hindi ideklara sa SALN. Kaya po ba nating tanggapin ang interpretasyon na kung ang $2.4 million po ninyo ay ilalagay ninyo sa safety deposit box, ilalagay ninyo doon sa Kaha de yero ninyo doon sa opisina o itatago ninyo sa baul sa bahay ay kailangan itong ideklara sa SALN, pero kapag idineposit mo sa isang dollar account, hindi mo na kailangang i-deposit sa SALN? Mukhang ginawa nating kumplikado ang simpleng-simple. Pesos, kahit may confidentiality, kailangang ideklara. Pero pagdating po sa dollars, hindi kailangang ideklara? Pati ba naman sa pera may diskriminasyon tayo? Pati ba naman sa sarili nating bansa, mangingibabaw pa ang dollar sa peso? When a public official especially a judge is faced with two possible interpretations of the law, one which will give life to the spirit of the sovereign will of the people embodied in the Constitution, and another that will protect only himself, it is his moral, human, constitutional duty to choose to protect the Constitution and not himself. If a public official has a choice between harmonizing several laws with the Constitution, RA 6713, 6426, and the other choice is to make them repugnant with each other or hindi puwedeng mapagsama, ano ang dapat niyang desisyon? Hindi ba simple? Lahat ng abogado alam iyon. You construe it that you will harmonize all of these laws. Ito po ang tanong ko: Paano po kapag may kaso ang 1.3 million civil servants, ilan man sa kanila, isa, dalawa o marami sa Korte Suprema? Paano kung halatang-halatang itinago lang ang pera pero dollar account ang ginamit? Will the Chief Justice have the moral ascendancy now to convict that public official? Hindi puwede. Dahil sa sarili niyang depensa, ginamit na niya ang interpretasyon na ito. Sana po kaya kong tanggapin na ganoon yun ang interpretasyon niya but just in case idineklara pa rin niya, I would respect him for that. “This is what I think the law is, but this is what is good for the country. Therefore, idideklara ko pa rin.” Hindi ko rin po matanggap ang interpretasyon ng P80 million na aminado niyang hindi idineklara or part of it ay hindi idineklara na ipinaliwanag niya sa pamamagitan lang ng isang kuwento. Ni wala siyang isinabmit (submit) sa atin na ebidensiya—walang ITR ng mga anak niya, walang mga resibo, walang mga passbook—sasabihin lang po na based on his credibility. I am not saying he is not credible. But if it were anyone else, if it was not CJ Corona on the stand, tatanggapin ba natin ang sagot na iyon? O sasabihin natin, ano ba ang iyong ebidensiya? Especially when the explanation is against human experience or normal human experience. Marami po na may edad na sa lipunan, ilalagay sa mga anak ang mga account nila. Pero tama po, bihira iyong anak ang inilalagay ang pera sa kanilang magulang. Bakit ang isang clerk, hindi lamang nag-deklara ng isang stall sa palengke, tinanggal na? Bakit ang mahirap kapag nagnakaw bawal? Ano ba ang sinasabi natin sa mahirap? “Bawal magnakaw.” Bakit sa mayaman, “bawal magnakaw ng kaunti”? Kasi kapag nagnakaw ng marami, lahat na ng technicalities, lahat na ng batas, lahat na ng puwedeng ikumplika ang sistema para protektahan siya ay nasa kaniya. Bakit po kapag mahirap ang nahuli, ang
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sasabihin sa kaniya, “Sa presinto ka na magpaliwanag”? Bakit po kapag mayaman, lahat ng lusot, batas, technicalities, available sa kaniya? Sa totoo lang po, sobra po ang ganda ng pagpapatakbo ng ating Presiding Officer ng Korte na ito, and I admire the Prosecution and the Defense, and I admire my colleagues. Pero, let us be honest with each other. Forty-four days, more than 200 hours. Sa totoo lang po, isang linggo kaya nating tapusin ito kung inilagay na lamang natin sa stand at nagsabi na lamang tayo ng totoo sa isa’t isa, eh. Ang tingin ko po kung mahirap po ang akusado, nasa presinto at nagpapaliwanag na lamang siya. Tingnan ninyo po, kahit sa cellphone, hindi ba kapag mahirap, nahulihan ng asawa na may “sweet” na text sa iba, ano ang sasabihin niya: “Honey, mis-sent po iyan; hindi ko cellphone iyan.” Pag mayaman, kukuha pa ng abogado. Sasabihin mo pa: “Darling, hindi ko text iyan. Hiniram ng iba iyan. Nakikigamit lamang ako ng cellphone o share kami in trust iyan. Commingled ang mga text kaya hindi akin iyan.” Why do we complicate what is so simple? Technicalities should protect the rights of people, and I do not blame this Court for sticking to technicalities because this is supposed to protect the rights of the people. Pero, somehow in this country, it is being used to protect people who plunder this country. I remember my law professor at Ateneo School of Law. Sabi niya sa amin — and those who are here who have graduated at the same school will remember this: “If you are strong on the facts, pound on the facts, if you are strong on the law, pound on the law. But if you are not strong or you are weak both on the facts and the law, pound on the table.” Pukpukin ang batas kung doon ka malakas. Pukpukin ang katotohanan o ang facts kung doon ka malakas. Pero pag hindi, pukpukin mo na lang ang mesa.” Iyon po ang turo sa ating mga abogado. But can we not agree as a nation to pound on the truth, to pound on justice, and to pound on grafters in this country? Sabi po ng iba, mabait po si Chief Justice Corona. Sabi ng iba, hindi siya notorious sa Supreme Court. Actually, kilala din po namin siya at mabigat po sa amin ang desisyong ito. Some describe him as decent. Kaya sabi po ng iba sa akin: “Mag- abstain ka na lang kasi kumplikado naman ang batas, kumplikado naman ito.” This is my reply to them with all due respect: “If your client cannot explain, I cannot abstain. If you did not disclose, we have to depose, and if you are not fit, you cannot sit as the CJ of our Supreme Court.” You will have your day in court. You will have your day in media, for a civil case, for a criminal case. But for the impeachment case, ang pinag-uusapan po natin ay iyong kabutihan ng ating bansa. The Impeachment Court does not simply pass judgment on this specific case or on this specific CJ. The Court’s action, being far-reaching and precedent-setting, is actually rebuilding a new paradigm of transparency and accountability in public office. The verdict of this Court will affect 1.3 million or more than 1.3 million civil or public servants, government employees and officials. It will affect 100 million Filipinos here and abroad. It will affect our future, because transparency and accountability fight corruption, and corruption has a direct correlation to investments, business, jobs, prices, and the quality of services we give our people. Ang corruption po ay direkta ang epekto sa presyo, sa kawalan ng trabaho, at sa kita ng bawat mamamayan.
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I cannot agree with the CJ’s interpretation of the law in his explanation that the P80 million and $2.4 million. However, in signing the waiver that allowed the Ombudsman to look into bank accounts, he has set a new standard—bagong pamantayan. Sabihin niyo man napilitan, sabihin niyo na lumabas, pumirma pa rin siya at sinabmit (submit) niya iyong waiver. We should all follow the standard. Itong pamantayang ito ay dapat para sa ating lahat. Transparency of bank accounts is good. I ask the President to instruct his Cabinet, sign the waivers or resign and leave government. Executive, legislative, judiciary, COA, Comelec, BIR, Customs, judges, governors, mayors, barangay captains, congressmen, senators, let us agree on one standard. At least, eto pong ginawa ni CJ ay maganda. We can agree on safeguards and protection. Hindi naman ibig sabihin na lahat na lang ay kakalkalin ang bank accounts, di ba? Payagan natin ang Ombudsman na kung may kaso o issue laban sa inyo makita niya at tingnan po ito. Hindi po pang-abuse o pang-harass ito but all of us should have the same standard. The waiver, taken together with the SALN at kung maipapasa natin ang Freedom of Information Law, we will have entered a dawn of transparency and accountability in our country. It will be a new milestone in the “Tuwid na Daan.” For myself, gagawin ko po ito. Kapag ako inimbestigahan ng Ombudsman papayag po ako na buksan ang aking account. Okey po ako sa waiver. Walamg dapat ikakatakot kung walang tinatago. Ayoko ko ring i-harass, ayoko ko ring kulitin, pero wala po tayong choice, eh, kung gusto natin magbago ang bansa dapat pare-pareho. Hindi ko makakalimutan ang pag-iyak ng aking ama noong gabing iyon, hindi dahil sa sakit ng tiyan o dahil ang katawan niya ay unti-unti pong nadudurog sa sakit kung hindi dahil sa pagmamahal sa kanyang Inang Bayan, ang bansang Pilipinas. Nais ko po ng pagbabago. Nawa’y sa desisyon na ito nakapag-ambag, nakatulong po ako ng kaunti. Masakit man ang proseso sana nagdulot ito ng pagbabago sa ating bansa. Presume him guilty, presume him innocent, give him his day in court, ascribe to him good faith, yes, sa civil and criminal cases, sa media, et cetera but not today and not in this Impeachment Court. GUILTY with the penalty of removal from office. The Clerk of Court. The Honorable Senator-Judge Pia Cayetano. Senator Cayetano (P). 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 the 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 the 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 the 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 one’s assets, liabilities and net worth is “as may be required by law.” He then cites Republic Act No. 6426 or the Foreign
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Currency Deposit Act as that law which states that dollar deposits are absolutely confidential, thus providing him with a shield. Is that the law in point? Is that the law that the Constitution stated will be required by law? I submit it is not. It is Republic Act No. 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, and provides 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 Foreign Currency Deposit Act. Does that make sense? It does not, both from a legal point of view and from a lay person’s point of view. Bakit puwedeng itago ang pera sa dolyar? Makatarungan ba iyon? Republic Act No. 6426 on the Secrecy of Foreign Currency Deposit is not an exception to the law requiring the declaration of the SALN. In fact, it is easy to reconcile the same. A government official should declare his assets and liabilities. But then, no one can examine the bank account 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 and some P80 million is not minor. In decided cases, the Supreme Court has ordered the dismissal from service of public officials and employees for failure to declare a sari-sari store, two motor vehicles and for nondeclaration of several assets such as real property and bank deposits. These are the cases of Rabe v. Delsa Flores, Ombudsman v. Nieto Racho, Flores v. Montemayor. I also have difficulty accepting the defense of commingled funds. Yes, the fact of commingling of funds, I believe, is common among families, but the huge amounts involved leave 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 public interest over private interest. Regardless of whether malice or the 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. Kapag nawala po ang tiwala ng taong bayan dapat po bumaba na sa puwesto. Dapat po pangalagaan ang posisyon na iyon. Lastly, we need to remember that we can only mature as a democracy if we can learn from this impeachment experience. From the start I questioned breaches in procedural law and ethical conduct of various participants in the impeachment process—the trial by publicity, the irresponsible hurling of bloated unverified figures and assets, among others. My fervent hope is in the future, the pursuit of justice will be 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 of us who act 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.
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Mr. President, on the accusation made in Article II, I find the Respondent GUILTY. The Clerk of Court. Honorable Senator-Judge Defensor-Santiago. Senator Defensor Santiago. 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 that standard of proof? I have adopted the very high standard of overwhelming preponderance of evidence pursuant to the recommendation of Prof. Charles Black of Yale University, author of The Impeachment, considered the bible for the whole world on impeachment process in a democracy. 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. Let us begin with this threshold question: 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 shall 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. It is even allowed by law to be corrected by the person who submitted it. Thus, it is not impeachable because it is not in the same class as the offenses enumerated in the Constitution. If we disregard this rule of ejusdem generis, then we can interpret the law to mean anything as long as the enumeration of specific words is followed by a general word. Wala nang limitasyon iyon. Pag sinabi pala ng Constitution, “other high crimes or betrayal of public trust”, wala na palang limitasyon iyon—-iyan kung hindi ka nag-aral ng batas. Sabi ng batas, you apply the rule of ejusdem generis—kailangan may listahan na isa-isa nilang sinasabi kung ano ang kasalanan at mayroong isang salita na hindi mo malaman kung ano ang kasalanan. Dapat basahin mo iyan na pare-pareho doon sa kasalanan na nalista na. In other words, it should belong to the same class. Does omission in the SALN belong to the same class, as, for example, treason, bribery, et cetera? The Constitution simply provides that the public officer shall submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth. I am quoting the Constitution. 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. Hindi naman puwede na basahin mo ang Constitution na para ka bang nagbasa ng diyaryo, tapos kanya-kanya kayo ng interpretasyon. Hindi ganuon iyon. Kaya nga mayroon tayong constitutional law, which is said to be the most difficult subject to pass in the entire College of Law. Hindi ganoon kadali magbasa ng Constitution. Constitutional analysis is a field of art in itself. It is a technical field. Kaya apat na taon ang abogasiya. Kung maski sino na lang pala pwedeng mag-interpret ng Constitution, bakit pa tayo may mga abogado? Eh di kanya-kanya na lang.
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The usual exceptions are the Bill of Rights—-iyan, self-executory iyan, basahin mo, sundin mo— and constitutional prohibitions—pag sinabi ng batas, “hindi puwede ito,” iyan sundin mo kaagad. Pero lahat hindi mo puwedeng masunod kaagad-agad. Maghintay ka kung anong batas ang ipapasa ng Kongreso. Wala kaming ginagawa sa Kongreso kundi maghintay kung ano ang sinabi ng Constitution. That is the main function of legislation. All other constitutional provisions such as the SALN provision, need implementing laws to provide the details. Hence, Congress, to implement these constitutional provisions, has passed a number of laws including the Foreign Currency Act, which confers absolute confidentiality on dollar deposits. Nakikinig lang ako doon noon sa mga argumento na the Foreign Currency Act violates the Constitution. I was already hoping with all my heart that God would strike me dead. Mabuti pa ang mamatay ako bilang isang abogada kaysa makinig ako ng mga rason na ganuon. Wala iyan sa libro, wala iyan dito, wala iyan doon. Para bang hindi ka nagbasa ng batas mo. Ibig mong sabihin wala na palang batas na umiiral sa mga trial na ito kundi kanya-kanya ng isipan? There is no conflict between the Constitution and the Foreign Currency Deposit Act. The perceived conflict is so simplistic that it is seriously laughable—-nakakatawa ka o nagpapatawa ka. If there is any conflict, it is between the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards on the one hand, which provides for a waiver of confidentiality, and the Foreign Currency Deposit Act, on the other hand, which provides for absolute confidentiality. Kaya sinusunod natin ang batas—-the Constitution—-pero ang batas na pinaiiral ng Kongreso ang mukhang may conflict. Pero hindi mo masabi na the Constitution is clear, so the Constitution will, of course, prevail over an ordinary law. Ano namang klaseng kagaguhan iyan? Galit kayo dahil ginamit ko ang salita na “kagaguhan.” I repeat, kagaguhan iyan. Why do we study law if that is your opinion? At bakit mo tawagin na quasi-judicial itong proceedings na ito if it is all purely political and anyone can have his own opinion? 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. Iyan ang rason kung bakit mayroon tayong Foreign Currency Deposit Act dahil gusto natin na iparating ang foreign investment at walang foreign investor, I promise you, na darating kung mayroong bayan na may batas pala na lahat ng dolyar mo ideklara mo. Walang darating maski ni isa. That is the purpose of that law. Did anyone of you bother to find out why we have a Foreign Currency Deposit Act? Puro lamang ang tingin ninyo tungkol sa impeachment. Iparke mo ang pera mo diyan, mamaya isasalungat ko iyong mga argumento ninyong iyan. It makes me angry as a former law professor and as a future judge of the International Criminal Court that you should presume to administer justice in this manner. I am insulted by the way your minds run. The argument that a dollar deposit, protected from inquiry, would nullify the principle of transparency is for Congress to resolve. E, ‘di tayo, kayo sa House at kami sa Senate, tayo ang gumawa niyan, tayo ngayon ang may problema. Bibigyan natin ng solusyon ang problema. We could retain the absolute confidentiality clause with the amendment that Filipino public officers are not protected. Iyon ang dapat na gagawin natin. The Prosecution mistakes admission for confession. In law, in a confession, the defendant admits his 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, reprehensible beyond belief that the AMLC document was introduced in evidence without authentication as required by the rules of evidence.
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Nagpapanggap-panggapan pa tayo na Korte tayong quasi-judicial. Iyon pala, sinabi pa natin na if there is any need, we shall use as a supplemental authority the Rules of Court. Iyon pala, hindi natin susundin ang rules of evidence. Hindi ka puwedeng magdala maski na anong papel sa Korte, iauthenticate mo. Kung hindi mo naintindihan ang authenticate, huwag kang mag-abogado diyan. I am deeply disappointed that on, at least, three occasions, the Prosecution claimed that his documents came from an anonymous source. Strike me dead. Three times is just too much coincidence. Are you for real, Prosecution? Falsus in unum, 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. Kung ayaw ninyong matuklasan, napakadali. Gamitin niya ang pangalan ng iba. Lahat naman tayo....hindi naman lahat… marami sa atin dito kung tungkol na sa batas, ibang pangalan ang ginagamit. Sigurado ako niyan. RTC judge ako eh. Mag-isa lamang akong RTC judge dito sa Korteng ito. Maski ano, puwede mong ma-manufacture sa Pilipinas. Minsan binigyan pa nga ako ng death certificate ng akusado, pagkatapos pinahuli ko; huling-huli, buhay na buhay. Ganoon ang ating Korte dito. Huwag niyo akong paandaran ng kalokohan ninyo dahil alam na alam ko iyon. Kayo, nag-practice kayo isang taon, dalawang taon? Ako, RTC judge. Why would a suspected criminal leave his calling cards at the scene of the crime? Kung noon pa gusto pala niyang itago ang kayamanan niya, bakit niya ilagay sa pangalan niya? Marami dito sa Pilipinas naglalagay sa ibang pangalan ng ibang tao. Hindi kaya alam ng abogado iyon? May masters pa sa Harvard, may doctorate pa sa UST. Ganoon ba siya katanga? Assuming for the sake of argument that there is a preponderance of evidence for the Prosecution, the preponderance is not overwhelming. Iyan ang English. Inihanda ko para sa two minutes ko. Eh wala pala kaming limitasyon. [Laughter] Ngayon Tagalog naman at hihingi na ako ng paumanhin abanse pa lamang, dahil kulang na kulang ang Tagalog ko. Unang punto: Kung matalo ang Chief Justice dito, ibig sabihin pala ang mga nananalo ay mga honest na tao dahil kinondena nila dahil corrupt ang taong iyon. Palagay din natin na itong mga representante—dahil nga tayo we represent the people, is that not so? That is why we are elected officers; we are supposed to represent our constituencies. Kung hahatulan nating may sala iyan dahil crooked siya, di ibig lang sabihin honest tayo. Ngayon, kung lahat pala tayo honest, o marami pala sa atin ay honest, why is the Philippines often, or if not all the time, why is the Philippines always ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the whole world? Iyan, sagutin ninyo ako niyan. Nagpapakalinis kayo. Aba kung malinis pala ang mga opisyales natin at malinis pala sa buong bansa, bakit palagi tayong nililista ng Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in the world? Magtitinginan tayo? Sino kaya dito? Iyan ang unang punto ko. Pangalawa, tumigil na nga kayo ng kapapanggap-panggap ninyo, mga artista. Mayroong mga pulitiko na alam na alam natin kung ano ang loopholes nila sa SALN. Ang sinasabi ng batas, kapag katapusan ng Disyembre, katapusan ng taon, magdeklara ka kung magkano ang pera mo sa bangko. Hindi ba wini-withdraw nila pera nila sa buwan na Nobyembre o Disyembre para pag nag-file sila ng SALN nila, wala nga silang deposito o kaya mayroon lang silang couple of thousands kasi winidraw (withdraw) nila eh. Pag Enero, i-deposit nila uli. Taongbayan, kayo ang mag-testigo. Iyan, bakit hindi natin habulin iyong ganoon? Pangalawa, palusot. O pangalawang ginagawa nila na loopholes sa SALN lahat ng pag-aari nila—real estate, bank accounts, iba pang pag-aari—ilalagay sa ibang pangalan. Iyan ay very,
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very widespread. O di wala na naman silang pag-aari dahil lahat inilagay na nila sa ibang pangalan. Kung bawal ang asawa at ang mga anak dahil sa batas ay inspeksiyunin pati iyan iyong mga malapit sa kanila, di doon sa mga malalayo na mga kamag-anak. O kaya maski hindi kamag-anak, sa kaibigan na pinagkakatiwalaan nila. What a hypocritical accusation. That is a problem with this country. We are all for honest government, and yet the world condemns us as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. That is why it is difficult to win in any international election, in any international campaign, because the Philippines, among others, has a reputation of being a corrupt country. Isip ng iba kung corrupt ang bayan na iyan, walang matinong lalabas diyan. Walang matinong ibubunga iyan. Bakit bawat isa ba sa inyo walang sala tungkol sa SALN? Bigyan ninyo ako ng isa pang buhay. Panginoon, bigyan mo ako ng isa pang buhay at iimbestigahin ko lahat isa-isa dito sa Senado at sa House of Representatives. Tingnan natin. Pati sarili ko imbestigahin ko. [Laughter] The Presiding Officer. Order please. [The Senate President banged his gavel.] Senator Defensor Santiago. Ang daming loopholes ng SALN na iyan, bakit hindi kayo umimik noon? Bakit ngayon bigla na lang kayong so exorcised about a loophole? Well, if that is the case, then let us all just put our assets in dollars and the purpose of the SALN will be perverted or corrupted. That is true. But what about all the other loopholes? Bakit ngayon lang kayo nagalit tungkol sa loophole na iyan? Bakit hindi noon pa? Dahil iyong iba sa atin ginagamit iyong mismong loopholes na iyon. Hindi lang sila ma-impeach. Sunod na punto. Sinabi ko sa umpisa, this is quasi-judicial and this is quasi-political. Iyan aminado iyan ng mga authors—si Prof. Charles Black ng Yale, si Prof. Raoul Berger ng Harvard. Mga tinitingala iyan ng mga authorities all over the world. Ngayon, this is quasi-judicial. Ibig sabihin, kalahati niyan pulitika, kalahati niyan batas. Napakahirap gawin iyan. Ngayon, ako dahil naging RTC judge, ang ginagamit ko lang ay ang batas. Wala akong ginagamit na pampulitika dahil hindi na ako makatakbo uli. Tinatawag na ako ng International Criminal Court. Wala na akong kinabukasan sa pulitika sa Pilipinas. Even though I wanted to, I am prohibited because this is already my second consecutive term. Ngayon, ano ba ang sinasabi na quasi-political? Imbestigahin nga natin for future impeachments. Ano ang sinasabi na quasi-judicial, quasi-political? Madaling intindihin ang quasi-judicial. Kalahati niyan ay tungkol sa hustisya o tungkol sa batas, pero ang kalahati niyan ay tungkol sa pulitika. Ano ang ibig sabihin ng tungkol sa pulitika? Tungkol sa pulitika, dahil ang ibig sabihin niyan ay pag-iisipan mo at pakinggan mo ang mga taong bumuto sa iyo. That is actually the meaning of quasi-political. Because people might disagree with what the law says, iyon ang pakikinggan mo. That is the meaning of quasi-political. Hindi ang ibig sabihin quasi-political na buboto ka ulit, bibigyan ka ng mamahaling proyekto sa public works na kung saan maaaring kumita ka. Alam naman natin iyan kung magkano ang halaga ng public works mo, 10% ang mapupunta sa iyo kung gusto mo. Hindi iyon ang ibig sabihin ng pulitika. At hindi ibig sabihin na quasi-political na isipin mo, naku, tatakbo ako, either for reelection or for another position, or I need some position in government for my kaalyado ko, whom will I use as my dummy. That is not the meaning of quasi-political. The Presiding Officer. May I request the Lady to wind up please.
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Senator Defensor Santiago. I thought that I was unlimited. I prepared a two-minute paper but I will obey the injunction. At saka, isang punto. Nang matapos mag-prisinta ng ebidensiya ang Prosecution, naglabas ng mga survey na ang mga tao gusto pala na guilty ang Chief Justice. Ngayon, natapos ang Depensa, nasaan ngayon ang mga survey? Wala. At huli sa lahat at pinakamahalaga—hindi na importante kung ano ang magiging desisyon natin ngayong hapon—ano ang magiging katuparan, ano ang susunod sa ating desisyon? Ulit ba mananalo tayo sa botohan, panalo na tayo? Sa masa na nakararami sa ating bansa and we follow the rule of the majority, sa kabataan sa pamantasan dahil they are educated constituency, sa kasaysayan ng ating bansa, this will go down in history. Nagtrabaho ako abroad, nagka-cancer ang tatay ko, bumalik ako, ang sabi ng tatay ko, “Mag-resign ka nga riyan sa trabaho mong iyan, wala kang silbi sa bayan mo. Magsilbi ka sa sarili mong kababayan.” Nagsilbi na nga ako. Pero kung ang pulitika ay mangingibabaw sa batas, wala na rin akong silbi. Bayan, kayo ang maghatol sa ginagawa rito sa Impeachment Trial. The Presiding Officer. What is your vote? Senator Defensor Santiago. Would you be very surprised if I say that I vote Not Guilty? The Clerk of Court. Honorable Senator-Judge Franklin M. Drilon. Senator Drilon. Mr. President, the Constitution commands every public official, including 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 a public official’s and respondent’s moral fitness to hold public office. Respondent concealed his luxurious condominiums for five (5) years after they were fully paid. Respondent reported the values of these condominiums at less than 50% of their acquisition costs. Respondent admits that he did not declare $2.4 million and P80 million in his SALN. The enormity of the Respondent’s hidden assets over P180 million or 50 times more than his declared cash assetsis scandalous. It is grossly disproportionate to his total income for 10 years of about P27 million. It establishes a prima facie case of ill-gotten wealth under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. One hundred eighty million pesos. Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. Respondent justifies his concealment of his dollar accounts because of the alleged confidentiality in Republic Act 6426. This kind of interpretation, Mr. President, 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 deposit. What the law bars is for a bank to disclose this foreign currency deposits without the consent of the depositor. In fact, the Respondent authorized this Impeachment Court to inquire into them. How can the 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 nonreporting of assets in one’s SALN is mala prohibita, where good faith is immaterial. Respondent concealed his P80-million deposits because, allegedly, they are commingled funds of BGEI and that of his relatives. Respondent presented no evidence to substantiate his claims. If BGEI funds are held in trust, Respondent must report such funds as assets and enter the corresponding
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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 find the Respondent guilty of Article II. The Presiding Officer. Thank you. The Secretary. The Honorable Senator-Judge Escudero. Senator Escudero. It is written: “Do not judge, lest you be judged; for the measure you measure with will be measured back to you.” Mr. President, distinguished colleagues in the Senate and the House, the Prosecution and the Defense Panel, my countrymen, magandang hapon po sa ating lahat. While I do not approve of the manner and way by which the House of Representatives initiated, proceeded and handled this impeachment when they filed the complaint for impeachment before the Senate, the House, in the exercise of its constitutional mandate, in the exercise of its wisdom, determined that nondeclaration in one’s SALN is an impeachable offense. Ang ibig sabihin po nito, mula ngayon, dahil sa pag-determinang iyan ng Kamara de Representantes, puwede na nating tanggalin ang Punong Mahistrado, kabilang ang Pangulo at Ikalawang Pangulo ng bansa at gayundin ang ibang impeachable officers kapag sila ay mayroong ari-arian na hindi idineklara sa kanilang SALN. Mr. President, matapos pong aminin ni Chief Justice Corona na mayroon siyang US$2.4 million at P80 million na hindi niya idineklara sa kaniyang SALN, naging simple na lamang ang kailangang pag-desisyunan at pagpasiyahan ng Senado at ito po ay: Hindi nga ba ito kailangang ideklara dahil sa Republic Act 6426 o FCDU Law? Kung sasang-ayon tayo sa posisyong ito ni Chief Justice Corona, dapat natin siyang ipawalang-sala. Subalit kung hindi tayo sasang-ayon dito, dapat ay gawaran natin siya ng hatol. Ikinalulungkot ko po, Mr. President, na hindi ko masasang-ayunan ang posisyong ito ng Punong Mahistrado. Para sa akin, maliwanag ang batas. Hindi po ito nagbabanggaan. Ang pinagbabawalan ng FCDU Law na mag-release ng inpormasyon tungkol sa dollar accounts ay ang bangko at hindi ang depositor. Samantala, ang ating Saligang Batas, Republic Act 6713, ay ipinag-uutos na ideklara ng lahat ng naninilbihan sa pamahalaan ang lahat ng kanilang yaman at pinagkakautangan. Kung ayaw ninyong ideklara, eh di huwag kayong tumakbo o tumanggap ng anumang puwesto sa gobyerno. Subalit kung ikaw ay naninilbihan sa pamahalaan, dapat lamang at kailangang ideklara mo ang lahat ng ito. Dahil dito, mabigat man sa aking kalooban, kailangan kong maigawad ang hatol laban kay Chief Justice Corona.
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Maging ganoon pa man at sa kabila ng aking hatol, nais ko pong muling batiin muli si Chief Justice Corona dahil sa kasaysayan ng ating bansa, siya ang alam kong kauna-unahang opisyal na naglakas-loob at nag-execute ng waiver para buksan ang lahat ng kaniyang mga deposito sa bangko. Sana siya at ang kasong ito ang magsilbing hudyat para sa isang bagong simula sa ating bansa, isang bagong simula na kung saan ay hindi na puwede ang dating gawi. Hindi na puwede ang dati nating nakasanayan. Panahon na po ito marahil na taasan natin ang antas ng pamantayan ng mga naninilbihan sa pamahalaan at dapat po pantay ang pamantayang ito, hindi lamang kay Chief Justice Corona, kundi para sa ating lahat. Kahapon isinumite ko sa Senado ang isang waiver pabor sa Ombudsman upang buksan, kung kinakailangan, ang anumang deposito ko, dollar man o anumang uri ng currency, kaugnay at kalakip ng aking SALN. Hinihimok at hinahamon ko ang lahat ng aking kasamahan sa Senado, gayundin sa Kongreso na gawin din ito. Hinihiling ko rin sa aking mga kasamahan sa Senado at sa Kongreso na ipasa sa lalong madaling panahon ang iniakda kong Senate Bill No. 107 na naglalayong i-require ito sa ating lahat. Hindi simpleng pagtanggap ng hamon, kundi aktuwal na pagpirma. Tulad po ng sinabi ko sa aking pambungad na salita, kung anuman ang panukat na ginagamit natin sa paghusga o pag-akusa ay siya ring panukat na dapat nating gamitin sa ating mga sarili. Ika nga ni Congressman Fariñas, “kung hindi natin pinapalusot si Chief Justice Corona, puwes tayo rin ay huwag nang magpalusot.” Ito ay hinihiling ko para magkaroon po ng saysay, kahulugan at positibong kahihinatnan ang kalbaryong pinagdaanan, hindi lamang ni Chief Justice at ng kaniyang pamilya, kundi ng ating bansa bunsod ng proceedings na ito. Dalangin ko po na sana ay matapos na ito at magsimula nang maghilom ang pait, sugat at pagkawatak-watak natin. Sana naman po pagkatapos nito, tama na, magtrabaho na tayo. Let us move on and let us move forward. Pagtuunan na po natin ng pansin ang mas mahahalagang problema ng ating bansa na may kinalaman sa ekonomiya at paglagay ng pagkain sa bawat lamesa. Tanggap at nalalaman nating lahat na anuman ang hatol na igawad ng Hukumang ito, hindi naman biglang magkakatrabaho iyong walang trabaho at hindi naman biglang gagaling ang maysakit. Hindi biglang makakapag-aral ang hindi kayang makapag-aral, at hindi gaganda ang buhay ng ating mga kababayan. Mr. President, anuman ang maging hatol natin sa hapong ito, nais kong sabihin to the Chief Justice and his family, I wish you well. Nawa’y gumaling po kayo sa inyong karamdaman sa lalong madaling panahon. Patnubayan nawa kayo at tayong lahat ng Diyos kaugnay sa malaking hamon at pagsubok na sabay-sabay po nating kinaharap at pinagdaanan nitong mga nagdaang buwan. Mr. President, on Article II, I find for the complainants and render judgment against the Respondent Chief Justice. The Presiding Officer. One-minute suspension, if there is no objection. [There was none.] The trial was suspended at 3:34 p.m. At 3:35 p.m., the trial was resumed.
The Presiding Officer. The trial is resumed. The Presiding Officer. Secretary, call the next speaker. The Clerk of Court. The Honorable Senator-Judge Ejercito Estrada.
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Senator Estrada. Kagalang-galang na Pangulo ng Senado, sambayanang Pilipino, 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, than 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 accounts, those sordid events led this nation to nine (9) 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 pagkakataong 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 have not 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 (4) 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 binigyan 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, $2.4 million and P80.7 million. This, he admitted in open court. Napatunayan ng Depensa na hindi 45 properties kundi lima lamang. Hindi 82 dollar accounts, kundi apat lamang. At hindi $10 million, $11 million, $12 million, kundi $2.4 million 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 ba ay idineklara nang 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
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the Foreign Currency Deposit 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 na walang bahid ng 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. The Secretary. Honorable Senator-Judge Guingona. Senator Guingona. Mr. President, before I proceed, I just would like to manifest that I will be submitting after my explanation a more comprehensive written decision which will form part of the records. The Presiding Officer. Granted. Senator Guingona. Ginoong Pangulo, sa paglilitis na ito, ang aking boto ay para sa kasagraduhan at kapangyarihan ng Saligang Batas ng Republika ng Pilipinas. Mr. President, if there is one thing that our nation would have learned in this impeachment process, it is this—that we must renew our respect for and protect the sanctity and primacy of the Constitution of our Republic. Ang ating Saligang Batas ay sagrado at walang sinumang may kapangyarihan sa ating bansa ang mas mataas pa dito. Ito ay sagrado, lahat dito ay dapat sumunod, ipatupad ito at igalang ito. Ito ay sagrado kaya lahat ng lingkod-bayan, ibinoto o in-appoint man sa tungkulin, ay pinasusumpa na ito ay itataguyod at ipagtatanggol. Ang hindi pagsunod, ang hindi pagtupad, ang hindi pagtatanggol sa ating Saligang Batas ay isang malinaw na paglapastangan sa pinakamataas na batas ng ating republika. At sa kaso pong ating nilitis, Ginoong Pangulo, pinag-aralan ko ang mga sumusunod: Nagkaroon ba ng paglabag at paglapastangan sa sagradong Saligang Batas ng Pilipinas? At kung nagkaroon nga, ang lumabag at lumapastangan ay dapat bang hindi na payagang manatili sa kanyang puwesto at tungkulin? Inihayag ba ng nasasakdal ang lahat ng assets, liabilities at net worth niya bilang pagsunod sa utos ng Saligang Batas? Ang sagot ko po, hindi po ginawa. Nagkaroon ba ng bahid ang kanyang integrity at probity sa panahon ng kanyang panunungkulan sa pinakamataas na korte ng ating bansa? Ang sagot ko po, opo, nagkaroon po ng malaking bahid. Nilabag ba niya ang utos ng Saligang Batas na siya ay dapat maging accountable to the people sa lahat ng pagkakataon at maglingkod ng may utmost responsibility, integrity and loyalty? Ang sagot ko po, opo, nilabag po. One of the actions of the accused stands out, Mr. President. Mula mismo sa mga labi ng nasasakdal, inamin niya na naka-deposito sa iba’t-ibang mga bangko ang mga salapi niya na
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nagkakahalaga ng walumpung milyong piso at $2.4 million. Pero nasaan ito? Nasaan ito sa kanyang sinumpaang Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth? Idedeklara lamang ba ito kung kailan gugustuhin ng isang mataas na opisyal? Puwede ba siyang magtago sa likod ng Foreign Currency Deposits Act? Mr. President, ito ay isang pagbaluktot ng probisyon ng Konstitusyon. How can one man use the very same Constitution which mandates full public disclosure to justify concealment of millions of dollars in his personal bank account? This is constitutional perversion in its ultimate form. Ginoong Pangulo, sino ba ang inaasahan ng ating bansa at lipunan para maging pangunahing tagapagtanggol ng Saligang Batas? Hindi ba ang Korte Suprema? Ano ang aasahan nating pagtatanggol kung ang mismong pinuno nito ang unang humahanap ng butas para baluktutin ang ating Saligang Batas?. Ang Saligang Batas ay sagrado. Anumang paglusot sa mga utos nito, anumang pagbaluktot dito ay paglabag at pambabastos sa pinakamataas na batas ng bansa, the Constitution above all. Ginoong Pangulo, batay sa ebidensiya, sa mga mismong mga sinabi at pag-amin ng nasasakdal at bilang pagkilala sa kasagraduhan ng Saligang Batas ng Pilipinas, ito ang hatol ko: ang nasasakdal na Punong Mahistrado ng Korte Suprema ay hindi na, hindi na po karapatdapat sa pagtitiwala ng sambayang Pilipino. Mr. President, I vote to Convict the accused Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Maraming salamat po. The Presiding Officer. The Clerk of Court. The Clerk of Court. Honorable Senator-Judge Honasan. Senator Honasan. To our countrymen, my fellow Filipinos, Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, honorable members of the Prosecution and Defense panels. From the beginning of this trial, I have been looking for a reason to acquit based on compassion, based on the basic precept that a man is innocent until proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. And based on my own personal experience, I know what it is like to have my family maligned and to be deprived of due process. That being said, this trial is not about personalities, emotions or partisan politics. This is about judging whether the highest magistrate in the highest court of the land is fit for the job. It is his integrity beyond any doubt. Is his understanding of the law absolute and beyond question as the position demands? At every moment in his legal career, did he speak out against injustice and uphold the law rising above us all? An institution is only as strong as its leader and we, Senator-Judges, are only extensions of the will of the people. We have gone through the process to bring us as close as possible to certainty. It is my opinion that we have not proven if the Defendant is corrupt or if he is malicious. What is clear is that based on the doubt cast on his capability to dispense justice and to do his duty, he is no longer fit to preside over the highest court in the land. Ang malinaw po ngayon ay may duda na sa kakayahan ng ating Punong Hukom. Doubt is the opposite of faith and faith is the source of hope. Doubt does not happen in our brain where reason lives but in our hearts where our moral compass rests. I vote to ask the Chief Justice to step down from the pedestal where he was installed by the nation and where he was supposed to preside over the highest court in the land, so he may once more walk
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among our people where all public officials must be judged. Bumalik na siya dito sa atin, sa piling ng taumbayan para maranasan niya ang bunga ng kanyang pagkukulang. Sambayanang Pilipino, ang hatol ko po ay guilty. Mr. Chief Justice, I wish you strength and honor. Thank you, Mr. President. The Secretary. Honorable Senator-Judge Lacson. Senator Lacson. When a witness takes the stand, he swears 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, at one point, had $3,977,790.87. At a given time, he had P91,280,499.22. 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, Velayo and Co. 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 Renato Corona testified under oath that he invested in currencies and not in properties in the late ‘60s, 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 II of the Articles of Impeachment. The Presiding Officer. Secretary. The Secretary. Honorable Senator-Judge Lapid. Senator Lapid. Magandang hapon po, Senate President. Mga kasamahan kong SenadorJudge, Prosecution at Depensa, sa ating mga kababayang nanonood at nakikinig sa TV at radio, inuulit ko, magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat. Alam niyo po, wala man lang akong speech dito o ano, wala po akong dala. Iyong mga kasamahan ko dito, pag pinasok sa isip nila, dadalhin sa bibig at maganda na ang sasabihin. Bilang high school graduate po, sa ating mga kababayan, ano ang sasabihin ni Lito Lapid, na hindi marunong mag-English, na hindi maalam sa batas? Ano kaya ang magiging desisyon? Didesisyunan po ang Kataas-taasang Hukom ng isang high school graduate lamang na tagaprobinsiya ng Pampanga.
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Napakinggan ko po ang Depensa—siguro purihin po natin ang Depensa. Napakagaling nila sa mga nakakaintindi ng abugasya. Purihin din po natin ang Prosecution, naghahanap ng mga ebidensiya. Nakinig po ako sa bawat ebidensiyang inaano nila dito. Ngayon, naayon po, lalung-lalo na si Congressman Fariñas, iyon pong prinisenta (present) niya kahapon dito, para sa akin lang po ay malinaw na malinaw na si Chief Justice Corona ay lumabag sa batas. Siya mismo, inamin niya na may $2.4 million at P80 million na bank account. Iyon po siguro ay hindi na kasinungalingan iyon, iyon po ay totoo na. Nagpipresinta po ako dito, hindi bilang abugado. Hindi po ako puwedeng magsalita ng Republic Act dahil hindi maniniwala ang tao sa akin. Hindi po ako nagmamarunung-marunong dito. Ang ginagamit ko lang po dito ay konsensiya, representante ng masa na hindi nakapagaral, hindi marunong mag-English, ni walang alam sa batas. Kaya noon pong nagsasalita dito si Chief Justice Corona, nagsusumbong sa taumbayan, awang-awa po ako sa kanya. Akala ko totoo ang sinasabi niya, hindi pala. Mas pinaniwalaan ko pa si Congressman Fariñas nuong nag-PowerPoint dito. Ngayon, ang sinasabi niya ay isang pizza pie. “Hindi po totoo iyan na may otsenta’y dos akong account.” Siguro kung ako ho, ang pagbabasihan ko, iyong isang daang basong tubig nilagay sa apat na drum lang ang kanyang account. Naaawa po ako sa kanya dahil naiintindihan ko po kung ano ang damdamin niya at sa kanyang pamilya. Naranasan ko rin po iyan. At sana sa pagkakataong ito, pasasalamatan ko siya dahil noong pangalawa kong panalo bilang senador, sa kanya ako nanumpa bilang isang senador. Pasensiya na po. Pasensiya na po, ang hatol ko sa inyo guilty. The Clerk of Court. Honorable Senator-Judge Legarda. The Presiding Officer. Please maintain decorum in this Court. We do not want to be disturbed. Senator Legarda. Mr. President, Sambayanang Pilipino, hindi po madaling humusga ng kapwa, lalo na kapag ang nasasakdal ay ang Punong Mahistrado. Mahirap pong humusga sapagkat tayo ay tao lamang. Ngunit ito po ay isang sagradong tungkulin na ating dapat gawin. It is a sacred mandate I must keep and I do it in all honesty and sincerity without anything in exchange, without bending to any perceived pressure but borne out of intensive study, contemplation and prayer. Mr. President, while we ponder on the three (3) Articles of Impeachment, the most robust documentary and testimonial evidence and debates have centered around Article II. I, therefore, select Article II as the anchor of my verdict because I hold that public and truthful disclosure of assets, liabilities, and net worth by a public official is a key and fundamental element of governing through the norms of transparency and accountability and a centerpiece principle of democracy. Disclosure of SALN is the only window by which the public can judge whether or not we have undeservedly enriched ourselves in public office. Through it, we, as public officials, earn public trust. Public trust is not simply an administrative entitlement by those in government. Mr. President, I am disappointed that concessions of disclosure of SALN and the waiver of bank secrecy have only been belatedly and calculatedly done when these have been rendered moot by the practical turn of events. I also believe that interpretations in the wordings of a law should not obscure
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the charge of betrayal of public trust supported by evidence, for public trust is earned through transparent, often voluntary gestures of honesty by officials in question, and not solely by legal argumentation, no matter how sophisticated. In casting my vote, Mr. President, my chief concern is the credibility and the trust of our people in the most important institution of our land whose mandate is to interpret the law and render wise and fair judgment equally to all. Sa dinamirami po ng mga argumentong legal, ebidensiya, at pati na po ng napakaraming PowerPoint presentations na inilatag ng Prosecution at ng Depensa sa paglilitis na ito, isa pong kaso na hinatulan ng Korte Suprema noong 1997 ang tumawag sa aking pansin. Ito po iyong kaso ng isang kawani ng Hudikatora, isang interpreter sa Regional Trial Court na siyang tinanggal sa serbisyo dahilan sa hindi niya naideklara ang kaniyang negosyo sa palengke sa kaniyang SALN. Ginoong Pangulo, kung ang ating mga batas tulad ng Republic Act No. 6713 ay nagpaparusa ng dismissal sa isang ordinaryong kawani ng gobyerno sa paglabag ng mandato upang maiwasan ang katiwalian, wala po akong nakikitang dahilan para po hindi ipatupad ang parehong batas na ito sa isang punong mahistrado. Mr. President, we are all guided by the basic principle of equal application of the law. And in Thomas Jefferson’s own words, and I quote: “It is certainly for the good of the whole nation to deal law and justice to all by the same rule and the same measure.” If we acquit the Chief Justice, we would tragically lift the floodgate for public suspicion and widespread distrust on the highest institution of our judicial system. We also lower the bar of public accountability of government officials. It was not easy. It is painful, but we must do it. I, therefore, vote for removal from public office. I vote to convict. The Clerk of Court. Honorable Senator-Judge Marcos. Senator Marcos. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, the Lady Justice wears a blindfold for a reason. She is to render judgment based on law and evidence without regard to the circumstances and personalities of the parties involved. However controversial they may be, she is to dispense justice without fear or favor. We here all took an oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws of the Philippines. And, like Lady Justice, we are bound to do so without fear or favor. An impeachment trial is sui generis. But, be that as it may, the Bill of Rights stands supreme over all the powers of government including the power to impeach, and nowhere is this precept more opposite than in this case, where the government has mustered all the resources at its disposal not only to secure evidence against the Chief Justice but further to ensure his conviction. The crucial issues that have picked the interest of the Senator-Judges, as well as the public, were outside the original ambit of the impeachment complaint and have been brought forth only after its filing. Evidence in some of these issues came from questionable sources, beginning with the unidentified little lady to documents anonymously left on gates and in mail boxes. At the expense of the sub judice rule, evidence had been presented to the public on several occasions even before they were formally offered before this Court. Worse, information was grossly exaggerated with the apparent intention to predispose the public mind against the Chief Justice.
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Notable examples would be the Land Registration Authority report with the discredited list of 45 properties and the unauthenticated AMLC report claiming that the Chief Justice allegedly owned $10 million dollars. Still, the Chief Justice sufficiently addressed the accusations against him with regard to the filing of his SALN and the disclosure of his real properties and peso deposits. Relative to his dollar deposits, the Chief Justice believed that he was under no legal duty to declare these deposits pursuant to Republic Act No. 6426 which affords absolute confidentiality to all foreign currency depositors. This interpretation of the law is now being publicly criticized as flawed. However, it is known to all of us that quite a number of public officials construe Republic Act No. 6426 vis-àvis Republic Act No. 6713 in exactly the same manner. In view of the ambiguous situation created by the concurrent application of the 1987 Constitution, the SALN law and the FCDU law, and absent a determinative judicial pronouncement that resolves the contrary positions on this legal issue, the Chief Justice must be presumed to have acted in good faith. Indeed, it has been held that not all omissions and misdeclarations in the SALN amount to dishonesty. The framers of the Constitution intended culpable violation of the Constitution to mean a willful and intentional violation of the Constitution. Betrayal of public trust, on the other hand, was meant to be a catch-all phrase to encompass all acts violative of the oath of office or which render the officer unfit to continue in service. Both grounds, however, were contemplated to exclude unintentional or involuntary violations, errors made in good faith and honest mistakes in judgment. Granting, therefore, that the Chief Justice violated the SALN law, this certainly does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. We may be faulted for erring on the side of conservatism, but what we are doing is nothing less than redefining the relationship between branches of government. And when such great affairs of state are uncertain, the resulting instability puts every Filipinos future in limbo. This is an important, delicate momentous event and because of that we should tread very lightly. We must be very, very careful and very, very fair in making this decision because what we do today will reverberate throughout our social and political history affecting generations beyond ours. When the furor has died down and this political storm has subsided, I know that like Lady Justice, we shall find solace in the fact that this decision, though may be not popular, was fair, impartial and just. On the arguments presented and on the ground that the presumption of innocence has not been overcome, I vote to Acquit the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Clerk of Court. Senator-Judge Osmeña. Senator Osmeña. Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, honorable members of the House of Representatives, distinguished members of both the Prosecution and the Defense panels, my countrymen. In arriving at our decision today, we narrowed our concerns into four: 1. Did Chief Justice Renato Corona violate the Constitution? 2. Did he do it knowingly and willingly? 3. Was the violation of such gravity as to warrant his impeachment? 4. Has Justice Corona betrayed the public trust?
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Ironically, the answers to the first two questions were supplied by the Defendant himself when Justice Corona admitted that he did not disclose in his yearly Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) over P180 million in cash and near-cash assets. While not in consonance with the SALN law, Justice Corona gave as his excuse the FCDU law. Yet nowhere in that FCDU law is the depositor not allowed to disclose his own deposits. All the FCDU law prohibits is the depository banks and third parties from disclosing the account and the amount of deposits. Searching for the answer to the third question took a little longer. Is the violation of the SALN law of such gravity as to merit impeachment? Not surprisingly, the answers were again supplied by Justice Corona and the High Court. Numerous decisions on cases involving SALN law violations have been handed down by the Supreme Court. Among others: Rabe v. Flores; Concerned Taxpayer v. Doblada; Carabeo v. Court of Appeals; Office of the Court Administrator v. Usman; Flores v. Montemayor and several others. In Rabe v. Flores, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that a simple, humble court interpreter in Davao del Norte in Mindanao had to be dismissed from service because she had failed to disclose in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth that she rented a market stall in the Panabo market. The High Court further ruled that Ms. Flores was perpetually disqualified from holding office. I went a bit further and posed a hypothetical question to myself. If the Court had been supplied with a bank passbook belonging to Ms. Flores which showed a deposit of $10,000 which had not been reported in her SALN, would the Court’s ruling have been the same? Dismissal and perpetual disqualification from office? My plain, ordinary, legally untrained but reasonable mind tells me “yes,” the Supreme Court would have ruled similarly. If these public officers had been dismissed from office for failing to declare far less remarkable, far less valuable assets in their SALNs, despite and regardless of their excuses, then there is more reason to apply the law when the assets in question amount to over P180 million. We should not penalize the poor man for stealing a bicycle but rule that the rich man must first steal a Mercedes before he is subjected to a similar penalty. My fourth and last question was: Did Justice Corona betray the public trust? Again, ironically, the answer was supplied by Justice Corona and the Supreme Court. For contained in the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary under Canon 2 which covers integrity are two sections: 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer. 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the people’s faith in the integrity of the Judiciary. Justice must not merely be done, but must also be seen to be done. Mr. President, we all must face the Ms. Floreses of our country, whether in Mindanao, the Visayas or Luzon. We must be able to tell them that justice is, to the best of our ability, being applied equally to the rich and to the poor, to the powerful and to the powerless.
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The Senate Impeachment Court must restore the people’s faith in the judicial system. The Senate must bring about a higher level of moral standards in governance. I therefore find for the people, guilty on Article II. The Clerk of Court. The Honorable Senator-Judge Pangilinan. Senator Pangilinan. Kagalang-galang na mga kasamahan sa Impeachment Court, mga kababayan, magandang hapon po sa kanilang lahat. Hindi dineklara ni Ginoong Corona ang daang milyong piso at dolyar na mga account. Hindi niya idineklara taun-taon ang mga milyun-milyong pisong pag-aari na mga condo units. Ang hindi pag-deklara ng makatotohanang SALN taun-taon sa loob ng halos isang dekada ay dishonesty at isang culpable violation of the Constitution. Ano po ang ebidensya? Nariyan ang salaysay ng PSBank president, ng Ombudsman, at ni Ginoong Corona mismo. Twenty-two million pesos ang sinabi niya sa SALN niya ngunit halos P200 million cash ang hawak niya. Ito ba ay minor na kakulangan lamang? Dapat bang daang bilyon ang hindi idineklara para maging mabigat ang kaso? At kung sa malinis na paraan nakuha ang mga ito, ano ang masama na ideklara niya lahat dahil wala naman siyang itinatago? Di dapat ikaila kung walang tinatagong masama. Base sa ebidensya, maliwanag na nagkaroon ng sistematikong pagtatago ng ari-arian, sistematikong pagtatakip sa tunay na halaga ng mga ito. It pains me as a lawyer and an officer of the court to say that clearly, the Chief Justice displayed a disturbing pattern of dishonesty, willful concealment and evasion, and a blatant and wanton disregard of the provisions of the Constitution on the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. Sa paglilitis na ito, nakita rin natin ang pagkatao ni Chief Justice. Siya ba ay dapat pa nating pagkakatiwalaan? Kung hindi po natin i-convict si Ginoong Corona, sabi po ni Speaker Belmonte, anim na taon pa siyang uupo bilang Chief Justice. Kung kaya niyang ipagkait sa mismo niyang kamag-anakan ang kanilang ari-arian sa Basa-Guidote gayong daang milyon na pala ang kanyang cash, siya ba ay dapat pagkatiwalaan sa loob pa ng anim na taon? Kung kaya niyang ipakita ang kawalan ng respeto sa dalawampu’t-tatlong Senador noong siya ay nagtangkang mag walkout, na sa aking paniwala ay napigil lamang dahil sa mabilis na kilos ng ating mahal na Senate President—ginawa niya ito sa harap mismo ng lahat ng media at buong bansa—paano kaya ang pagtrato niya sa maliliit nating mga kababayan na hindi mga senador na dumudulog sa kanyang tanggapan? Siya ba ay mapagkakatiwalaan pa na rumespeto sa maliliit nating mga kababayan sa loob ng anim na taon? Dapat po siyang managot dahil siya po ay nagkasala. Tulad na lamang ng isang court interpreter sa Davao na sinibak mismo ng Korte Suprema dahil hindi niya inilagay sa kanyang SALN ang pag-aari niyang market stall sa palengke. Tama ba na ang pagsisinungaling ng maliliit at mahihirap ay paruhasan habang ang pagsisinungaling ng makapangyarihan ay absuwelto? Ang pagsisinungaling ba ay impeachable offense? Si Chief Justice na mismo ang nagsabi sa kanyang talumpati sa harap ng Manila Overseas Press Club noong June 24, 2010, kung ano ang nararapat sa mga huwes na hindi tapat sa tungkulin. Sabi po ni Chief Justice, and I quote: “I believe that a member of the Judiciary who is found guilty of dishonesty should not only be dismissed from the service, he should also be disbarred, no ‘ifs’
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or ‘buts’.” Siya na po ang nagsabi na kapag ang isang huwes ay nagsisinungaling, hindi lang ito dapat sibakin sa puwesto, dapat pa ho ito ma-disbar bilang abugado. Sa kanyang mga labi na mismo nanggaling na nararapat siyang ma-convict at masibak sa puwesto. The vote to convict is a vote to defeat abuses and excesses in government. Ang boto ng conviction ay boto upang wakasan, wakasan na ang pang-aabuso at pagmamalabis ng mga opisyal ng ating bansa. We all want a better, more progressive nation. We all want our nation to reach developed nation status in our lifetimes and yes, for our children. But critical to a modern state is an effective system of justice that has the trust and faith and confidence of our people. We all want to see the end of abuses in governance. We have heard of exposés after exposés of abuses in government. We have witnessed lawlessness, criminality, corruption, and disrespect for the rule of law. Respect for the rule of law will only be realized if punishment of the guilty is swift and in a fair trial. Unless we punish more and punish swiftly, lawlessness, abuse, and disregard of our laws will not be defeated. Those who wish to abuse their offices will continue to be emboldened to commit their nefarious activities. Only when we punish the guilty and punish them swiftly in a fair trial will respect for the rule of law be restored. No less than the Chief Justice has been accused of culpable violation of the Constitution. To convict him is to uphold the rule of law and will send the signal to the entire nation that the rule of law should be respected and it should strike fear in the hearts of all those who wish to violate our laws and disrespect our Constitution. For this reason, I find the Chief Justice Guilty. The Clerk of Court. Honorable Senator-Judge Pimentel. Senator Pimentel. Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat! Maayong hapon kaninyong tanan. Impeachment is a constitutional administrative proceeding. When there is sufficient credible evidence to prove a constitutionally recognized ground for impeachment, then the impeached high government official must be removed from office. There is evidence on record which shows that Respondent Corona did not declare in his SALNs for certain years real properties worth millions of pesos. There is also evidence on record as well as admissions that millions of pesos and millions of dollars were also not declared in the Respondent’s SALNs. The arguments of the Respondent do not persuade this Senator-Judge. 1. The ownership of real property is transferred upon delivery of the real property sold. When the contract of sale of the real property is embodied in a public instrument, the execution of the said instrument is equivalent to delivery of the things owned. 2. There is no law exempting commingled funds from disclosure in the SALN. Minarapat sana ng Punong Mahistrado na iwasan ang ganitong mga alanganing transaksyong pinansiyal. Hindi na nga iniwasan, ginagamit pang kasangkapan upang hindi tumupad sa kaniyang tungkuling ilahad ang tunay niyang yaman. 3. The duty of a public officer or employee to submit under oath a declaration of assets, liabilities and net worth is mandated by the Constitution. In case of conflict, the Constitution prevails over RA 6426.
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4. The SALN is required by RA 6713, a 1989 law. The Respondent relies on RA 6426, a 1974 law. In case of conflict, the later law prevails over the earlier law because the later law is the latest expression of the legislative will. 5. RA No. 6713 emphasizes the obligation of the public official and employee to file his SALN as well as the right of the public to know their assets, liabilities and net worth. The 1974 law, RA 6426, cannot be interpreted in such a way that it would nullify the main purpose of the Code of Conduct as a tool against graft and corruption. Hindi layunin ng RA 6426 ang magsilbing kanlungan ng mga tiwali sa gobyerno. An earlier law cannot be interpreted to nullify the purposes of a later law. The Respondent relies too much on the phrase “of an absolutely confidential nature.” This phrase is practically useless as the Secrecy of Bank Deposits Act itself provides four (4) exceptions. Jurisprudence and other laws add six (6) more exceptions. The Foreign Currency Deposit Act, the FCDA, provides one (1) exception and jurisprudence and other laws provide for a further two (2) more exceptions. How can something be of an absolutely confidential nature when there are so many exceptions to the rule of confidentiality? The 1974 Foreign Currency Deposit Act and the 1989 SALN Law do not have to exclude each other, they can be harmonized. This Senator-Judge respectfully submits that the two laws could be harmonized as follows: foreign currency deposit accounts continue to be protected from idle inquiry but the amounts of these deposits must be declared as assets in the SALN, converted to Philippine peso without need of disclosing details like the existence of the foreign currency accounts, the name of the bank, and account numbers. Furthermore, RA 6713, in requiring that the SALN shall contain information on all other assets, does not distinguish between peso and foreign currencies. When the law does not distinguish, neither should we distinguish. The Respondent has consistently misinterpreted all the laws as releasing him from his constitutional duty to disclose his entire assets in his SALN. The Respondent never corrected his SALNs to reflect his true net worth. These facts have convinced this Senator-Judge of the Respondent’s intent to avoid his constitutional duty to disclose his true net worth. Simple lang. Kung ayaw mong ilahad ang tunay mong yaman, huwag kang pumasok sa gobyerno. Under RA 6713, any violation is sufficient cause for removal or dismissal of an ordinary public employee. Ang patakarang ipinapatupad para sa pangkaraniwang empleyado ng gobyerno ay dapat ding ipatupad sa Punong Mahistrado sapagkat tayong lahat ay pantay-pantay sa ilalim ng batas. Ang batas para kay Juan ay batas din para kay Renato. Therefore, this Senator-Judge finds the Respondent Chief Justice Renato C. Corona guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust under Article II of the Articles of Impeachment. The Clerk of Court. Honorable Senator-Judge Recto. The Presiding Officer. Just a minute. Let us have a recess for a few minutes if there is no objection. [There was none.] The trail was suspended at 4:35 p.m. At 4:50 p.m., the trial was resumed. The Presiding Officer. The trial is resumed.
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The Deputy Secretary [Atty. Bellen]. The Honorable Senator-Judge Recto. Senator Recto. Thank you, Mr. President. 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 and 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. Having expressed the foundation of my decision, 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 and short in proof. Second, haste makes waste. The reason why the trial simmered in the Senate is that 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 catalog 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 the 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, P80 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’s political telenovela. With a sigh of relief, let us go back to our regular programming where hard unheralded work is done away from the camera lights. The end of the trial does not 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 follow this trial rated themselves poor. Eighty percent do not even 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.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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The Deputy Secretary [Atty. Bellen]. The Honorable Senator-Judge Revilla. The Presiding Officer. Thank you. Senator Revilla. Thank you, Mr. President. Mga kababayan, I stand here today in a historic moment when we render judgment not to one ordinary citizen but to the highest official of our coequal branch in government, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. As the late President Theodore Roosevelt said: “A nation must be judged in part by the character of its public men, not merely by their abilities, but their ideals and the measure in which they realized these ideals; by their attitude in real life, and much more by their attitude in public life, both as regards their conception of their duties toward their country and their conception of their duty embodied in its government towards its own people.” I have heard all the arguments, considered all pieces of evidence of the Prosecution and the Defense and heard directly from the Honorable Chief Justice himself. As much as the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines expects and demands, and he is worthy of all the respect and considerations due to his office and to his person, he, in return, has the responsibility to be the epitome of a public servant with the highest ethical standards. Bilang pinakamataas na Mahistrado ng bansang ito, ang kaniyang panunungkulan ay dapat walang bahid kahit katiting dahil sa mandato ng kaniyang katungkulan at kahalagahan ng kanyang posisyon. In the end, I arrived with the conclusion that through his own direct admission, the Chief Justice failed to properly disclose all of his assets in the SALN. This, therefore, has necessary consequences that attach to the position he holds in trust. I prayed hard for Divine Providence and guidance in this one great decision of my life, Mr. President. Napakahirap man, alang-alang sa pagkakaisa at paghilom ng ating bayan, alang-alang sa pagpapatibay ng mga institusyon ng ating pamahalaan, alang-alang sa mga darating pang henerasyon at ng ating kinabukasan, I find Chief Justice Renato C. Corona guilty. The Deputy Secretary [Atty. Bellen]. The Honorable Senator-Judge Sotto. Senator Sotto. Mr. President, Article II of the Articles of Impeachment states that Respondent committed culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayed the public trust when he failed to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. I have come across Supreme Court decisions whereby lower court judges have been dismissed and deprived of all their benefits for simple infractions of law or mis-steps in judicial conduct. Question: Should the same strict measures ought to be applied to the Members of the Supreme Court? The answer depends on who you ask. So, I put that aside. Let us put that aside. After 43 days, this Trial has been heard by the people. The Constitution mandates that the Senate try impeachment cases. Ang taumbayan ay naghahalal ng mga senador mula sa iba’tibang propesyon at estado ng lipunan upang sila ay katawanin at bumigkas ng kanilang saloobin.
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Ang tunay na hukom sa paglilitis na ito ay ang taumbayan. Nadinig nila ang dalawang panig. Tulad namin, hindi lahat sila abogado. Ngunit ang kapangyarihan ng demokrasya ay nasa kanilang mga kamay. In my conscience, Mr. President, I have heard their decision. And for them, I vote guilty. The Deputy Secretary [Atty. Bellen]. The honorable Senator-Judge Trillanes. Senator Trillanes. Thank you, Mr. President. My verdict is Guilty, and this is my explanation. Based on the evidence and admissions, Chief Justice Renato Corona had at least P80 million and $2.4 million which he did not disclose in his SALN. As an explanation, he said that he was bound by the absolute confidentiality clause of the Foreign Currency Deposit Law. As to the peso deposits, the Chief Justice claimed that they were commingled with other funds that were not his and, therefore, he could not disclose them. However, Article XI, Section 17, of the Constitution is very clear in its language, “A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth.” To interpret the confidentiality clause of RA 6426 as a proscription to the disclosure of dollar deposits is erroneous, self-serving, and an afterthought. As to the claim that the peso deposits were commingled, the AMLC documents, which showed a steady stream of deposits worth millions of pesos to the accounts of the Chief Justice, were given more weight and credence. Now, as to the matter of public policy, it is in the interest of the country to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona. A conviction signifies that transparency and accountability as principles in governance take precedence over legal technicalities. This effectively takes away any refuge for the corrupt public official. Moreover, the claim of commingled funds and the confidentiality of dollar deposits will never be accepted as alibis. A conviction also signifies that our system of checks and balances is working well and that impeachment can now be effectively used as a tool of the State to make high government officials accountable for their actions. From now on, no one is untouchable. Lastly, a conviction signifies that we have considerably raised the standards for a Chief Justice of our Supreme Court. He must not only possess vast legal knowledge and wisdom necessary to interpret the law according to its spirit and intent, but more importantly, he must have unquestionable moral integrity and strength of character to render him impervious to corruption and political pressure as he administers justice for our country and people. Thank you. The Clerk of Court. Honorable Senator-Judge Manny Villar. Senator Villar. Mr. President, my esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. My vote is for the conviction of the Chief Justice. Let me explain. Nahirapan po ako dito sa aking desisyon na ito. Pinapanood ko pong mabuti ang mga hearing natin. Nalulungkot po ako sa maraming mga bagay na nangyayari noon. Dito po sa
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properties, nababasa natin, 45, hindi ko po binilang iyan, lima lamang ang aking binilang. Doon sa walumput dalawang (82) accounts, hindi ko rin po binilang iyon, apat lamang po ang aking binilang. Doon sa $12 million, hindi ko rin po matanggap iyon, binilang ko lamang ay $2.4 million. Ang desisyon ko po ay base sa kaniyang inamin po na kaniyang pag-aari. Ito po ay iyong $2.4 million at iyong P80 million. Dito po ako medyo nahirapan dahil alam po naman natin na ang posisyon po ng Panguhaning Mahistrado ng ating Korte Suprema ay siyang mayroong pinakamataas na batayan ng integridad. Nabalitaan ko po iyong isang empleyado na nahatulan dahil hindi nagdeklara ng kaniyang tindahan. Nahirapan po ako riyan. Bagama’t mabigat po sa aking kalooban, talagang naniniwala kasi ako na dapat ideklara ang FCD account sapagkat iyon ay pag-aari pa rin. Noong dumating po si Chief Justice Corona, ako po ay naawa sa kaniya. Dahilan sa noon pa lamang sa mga hearing, talagang naaawa na po ako kay Chief Justice Corona dahilan sa talagang pagbukas ko ng diyaryo, headline na siya. Hindi pa man po siya guilty ay parang mayroon ng conclusion ang atin pong mga media at ang mga tao. Kaya naglabasan na po iyong kaniyang mga property—82 accounts, $12 million. Subalit nang mapatunayan naman po na hindi ganoon kadami ay mga nasa page 4 na lamang. Naalaala ko rin po kasi na nangyari rin po sa akin iyan. Noong ako po ay tumakbo sa pagka-pangulo, katakut-takot na kasinungalingan din ang aking inabot. Katakut-takot na bintang. Nariyang mayroon daw akong bahay sa Utah na napagkalaki-laking mansiyon. Ni hindi pa ako nakakarating sa Utah. Tanggi ako nang tanggi subalit wala namang nakikinig. Nandoong hindi raw ako mahirap. Eh, ako ba ay magtitinda ng hipon kung ako ay mayaman? Nililiwanag ko po na ako ay mahirap. At tingnan po ninyo ang buhay namin sa Tondo. Subalit napaniwala ko po ang marami sa ating mga mamamayan. Ito po naman ay sinasabi ko dahil wala po akong sama ng loob kaninuman. Naaalala ko lamang po tuwing tititigan ko si CJ Corona. Nandiyan na rin po iyong C-5, ang Daang Hari Road na ngayon po ay ginagamit ng milyun-milyong Pilipino, na nakikinabang po sila. Hindi po ako ang nakinabang diyan. Isinama ko pa lahat ng miyembro ng media diyan sa kalyeng iyan. Itinuro ko po lahat iyan. Hindi po ako ang nakinabang diyan, subalit ito po ay nagamit na issue. “Villarroyo” raw ako. Pinakamalaking kasinungalingan iyan. Alam po ng mga kasamahan natin sa House na bumoto ang aking asawa laban kay GMA sa Impeachment. Nagkampanya ang Nacionalista Party para ma-impeach si Pangulong Arroyo. Alam po naman natin na ako ang namuno ng imbestigasyon ng huweteng laban sa Pangulong Arroyo. Alam natin na Nacionalista Party member ang namuno ng imbestigasyon ng ZTE, si Alan Cayetano. Alam natin na Nacionalista Party member ang namuno ng pag-imbestiga sa “Hello Garci.” Iyan pong mga miyembrong iyan ay kinunsulta ako. Ang sabi ko: “Go ahead.” Napakaraming beses ko pong kinuwestiyon ang Pangulong Arroyo sa Supreme Court subalit sa kabila niyan, sinabi na ako ay “Villarroyo” at anumang tanggi ang gawin ko, alam naman na may kandidato po noon si Pangulong Arroyo na iba, eh wala pong mangyari dahilan po sa may conclusion na ang media. Inuulit ko po na wala na akong sama ng loob, nakalimutan ko na po iyan, dangan nga lamang at naaalaala ko tuwing maaalaala ko rin si CJ Corona noong huling araw. Marami pa ho iyan at ayoko na lamang banggitin ngayon. Hindi po siguro ito ang tamang panahon dahil, unang-una, nakalimutan ko na nga po iyang mga bagay na iyan. Kaya lamang,
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dapat din po tayong mag-ingat. Iyang pagwasak po ng pangalan ng isang tao ay isang bagay na dahan-dahan po tayo. Hindi naman po kailangan iyan. Dito naman, ang issue ay simple lamang. Ang issue po dito ay kung dapat idineklara sa SALN ang dollar deposits. Sa dami po ng sinabi, doon lamang nalimita ang issue at dito po kami halos lahat gumawa ng decision sapagkat hindi naman po namin matanggap na hindi kailangang ideklara ang FCDU account. Bagamat ako po ay bumoto ng “guilty,” naniniwala po akong mabuting tao si CJ Corona. Ito ay isang error in judgment. At inuulit ko po ito: Napakataas po ng antas ng integridad na kailangan sa posisyon ng Pangunahing Mahistrado ng ating Korte Suprema. Pabayaan po ninyong ibigay ko rin ang obserbasyon ko sa mga nangyari noon. Ako ay nalulungkot din at sana huwag na pong mangyari sa mga darating na panahon na ang iligal na pagkuha ng mga ebidensiya ay parang normal o binabalewala natin. Napakahalaga po niyan sa ating sistema ng hustisya. Napakahalaga na ang isang ebidensiya na hindi ligal ang pagkuha ay hindi puwedeng tanggapin. Sana po hindi na maulit iyong mga “little lady,” iyong mga “mail box.” iyong mga “Mr. Anonymous.” Iyan po ang sabi nga ni Congressman Fariñas ay mga “palusot”. Huwag na po sanang maulit iyan sa mga darating na panahon at huwag na rin po sanang maulit iyong mga walang pakundangang paggamit ng mga ahensiya ng gobyerno. Mahalaga din po na mahalin natin ang kalayaan ng ating mga institusyon. Iyan po ay magpapalakas ng ating demokrasya. Mahalaga po sa akin ang mga bagay na iyan at inuulit ko po na naniniwala akong mabuting tao si CJ Corona, subalit dito po sa issue ng FCDU account, nagkamali po siya dito. Naniniwala po ako na dapat ay pantay-pantay ang implementasyon ng batas na ito, mayaman man o mahirap, miyembro man ng Korte Suprema o pangkaraniwang mamamayan. Kaya po ako ay bumoto ng guilty. The Clerk of Court. The Honorable Presiding Officer, the Senate President. The Presiding Officer. Thank you. Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat. Unang-una, gusto kong pasalamatan ang aking mga Kasama sa Senado na ngayon ay ginagampanan ang katungkulan bilang Hukom dito sa paglilitis na ito sa Kataas-taasang Mahistrado ng Kataas-taasang Hukuman sa ating bansa, na siyang tinatawag na guardian ng ating Saligang Batas at ang kalayaan ng ating mamamayang Pilipino. Gusto ko ring pasalamatan ang mga abogado ng dalawang panig na nandito ngayon, the Prosecution Panel, as well as the Defense Panel, for their untiring effort in participating, in ferreting out the truth in this trial in order to arrive at a just resolution of the case before us. In the entire course of this Impeachment Trial, I have faced many difficult challenges to my own and the Court’s collective wisdom, our sense of justice and fairness, the delicate balancing act that we must perform to ensure that we do not stray from the strictures of the Constitution, the laws and our rules. This trial began and unfolded against the backdrop of a highly charged and emotional atmosphere, acrimonious debates in and out of the confines of this Court and a deep political fissure which threatened the stability of our democratic institutions. But the impact of the many events that transpired since December 12 last year to this very day, taken together, cannot compare to the sense of heaviness that I feel at this very moment.
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The culmination of this national drama is at hand. And the time has come for me to render judgment on the person before whom I took my oath of office as a Senator of this Republic, no less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Renato C. Corona. The Respondent Chief Justice and his family understandably feel deeply hurt, pained and aggrieved. As a lawyer, I must confess that I was personally frustrated, really frustrated by the loose and hasty crafting and preparation that characterized the presentation of the charges contained in the Articles of Impeachment. It seems that the case was being built up only after the charges were actually filed. The repeated recourse to this Court’s compulsory processes to obtain evidence which normally should have formed the factual basis of the charges in the first place further burdened and, at times, taxed the patience of this Court. We have witnessed with disdain the indiscriminate, deliberate and illegal machinations of some parties who have been less than forthright with this Court and its Members in presenting dubiously procured and misleading documents which were spread to the media obviously to influence this Court and the public’s opinion. The letter of the Land Registration Authority which contained, as an attachment, a list of 45 properties supposedly owned by the Respondent Chief Justice was fed to the media even before we could begin the actual trial of the case. Even before the Honorable Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales was called to testify before this Court, her letter to the Chief Justice requiring him to explain in 72 hours an alleged aggregate amount of $10 million in several dollar accounts was leaked to the media right before the resumption of this trial last May 7. We have sternly cautioned against any unethical and unprofessional conduct; the penchant to engage in trial by publicity; to use the media to disseminate and advance so-called information or evidence to provoke and disrespect this Court and its Members; and to irresponsibly hurl disparaging insinuations and accusations. We have tried to impress upon everyone who may be similarly motivated and inclined to test our will that this Court means serious business and would not succumb to or allow such underhanded tactics and gimmickry to deter this Court from our task. Prudence and justice dictate that in determining the guilt or innocence of the Chief Justice, we must try our best to confine ourselves to the pieces of testimonial and documentary evidence that have been presented to this Court to pass upon their relevance and to measure and weigh their value in the light of the charges before us. After all the accusations levelled against the Chief Justice, eight (8) charges in all, comprising the Articles of Impeachment, the Prosecution chose to present evidence only on three (3) articles, namely, Article II, Article III and Article VII, and then abruptly rested its case. I always believed that of these three, the case for the Prosecution and the Defense will rise or fall on Article II which is now the subject of our vote. This Court, at one point, had extensive discussions and differences of opinion, to be sure, regarding the charge contained in Paragraph 2.4 of Article II that the Chief Justice was “suspected and accused of having accumulated ill-gotten wealth, acquiring assets of high values and keeping bank accounts with huge deposits.” We ruled to disallow the introduction of evidence in support of Paragraph 2.4 which, to this day, I strongly maintain, as I am sure my colleagues in this Court strongly maintain, was an invalid charge, it being based on mere suspicion on so-called “reports” rather than on factual allegations.
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The Defense and the Chief Justice himself, unhappily, somehow revived this issue of the nature of his assets by introducing evidence to prove that his income and assets were legitimate and by testimony to show how he and his wife have saved and invested these savings in foreign currency over so many decades. At this moment, I wish to reiterate, for the record, that the Chief Justice does not stand accused of having amassed any illegal wealth before this Impeachment Court. Paragraph 2.2 of Article II of the Articles of Impeachment accuses the Respondent Chief Justice of failing to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth as required by the Constitution. I submit that the Chief Justice had justifiable and legal grounds to rely on the Supreme Court’s procedural and policy guidelines governing such disclosure as embodied in a resolution promulgated way back in 1989 when the Respondent was not yet a member of the Supreme Court. Under the said guidelines, the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court, who is the repository of the SALNs submitted by all the members of that High Court, may furnish copies of the SALNs in his or her custody to any person upon request and upon a showing that there is a legitimate reason for the same. The Constitution in Article XI, Section 17 states that, “In the case of the President, the VicePresident,…the Members of the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other Constitutional Offices, and officers of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law.” RA 6713, known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, recognizes the public’s right to information on the assets, liabilities and net worth, financial and business interests of public servants. But, it likewise declares it unlawful for any person—and I would like to quote the provision: “To obtain or use the same for purposes contrary to morals or public policy or for any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public.” Whether, the said guidelines violate the letter and spirit of Republic Act 6713 and the principle of public accountability is not, I repeat, is not for this Court to pass upon. I grant that the Chief Justice believed in good faith that after periodically filing his sworn Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court were sufficient to allow the Clerk of Court to comply with the Constitution and the law. We cannot ignore the fact that the failure or refusal, particularly of public officials in high government positions, to provide the public or the media with copies of the SALNs continues to be a raging issue to this day. In fact, some, if not most of the members of the Prosecution panel itself, the Members of the Supreme Court, Members of the Congress and other high officials of the government have been challenged by media organizations and others to make their SALNs available to the public and to the media. Paragraph 2.3 of Article II further accuses the Respondent Chief Justice, based on reports, of not including some properties in his declaration of his assets, liabilities and net worth in violation of the AntiGraft and Corrupt Practices Act. The Prosecution, based on the list it procured from the Land Registration Authority, claims that the Chief Justice owned and failed to fully disclose in his SALN 45 real estate assets. Based on the evidence, I am convinced that the Defense has presented credible evidence to refute this charge and to explain the exclusion in the Respondent Chief Justice’s SALN of certain properties which have either been sold or legally transferred; properties which are actually owned by his children and/or third parties; and properties which were never owned by the Respondent Chief Justice in the first place.
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I am likewise convinced that the Defense has sufficiently established that there was no ill-intention on the part of the Respondent Chief Justice to understate or misrepresent the value of his real properties. Proceeding now to the most significant charge involving the nondisclosure of the Respondent Chief Justice’s cash assets, the Ombudsman, at the instance of the Defense, testified with a presentation of a report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) showing 82 bank accounts allegedly belonging to the Respondent. She further testified that based on her analysis of the report aided by the Commission on Audit, the Chief Justice had cash assets in the examined bank accounts of anywhere from $10 million to $12 million. Even if we grant the existence of these 82 accounts, the amount of deposits corresponding to each of these could not just easily, fairly or logically be summed up to arrive at exactly how much cash assets or deposits in actuality and in totality the Respondent Chief Justice had or has at any given point of time. Hence, the Ombudsman’s reference to the transactional balance of about $12 million should not mislead this Court in its appreciation of the facts. Regrettably, both the Prosecution and the Defense panels decided not to present the concerned bank officers or the AMLC to ascertain the veracity of the data allegedly provided by the AMLC to the Office of the Ombudsman despite the Respondent’s submission to this Court of a written waiver to cause the opening of all his bank accounts. Laudable as this belated act on the part of the Respondent Chief Justice may be, it would have served him better if he had just presented bank documents as evidence to either confirm or refute the documents showing his bank transactions as presented by the Ombudsman. It has not escaped this Presiding Officer that initially, last May 22nd to be exact, before he walked out of this Court, the Chief Justice signed the said waiver in open court but made the release of the same conditional, that is, after all the 188 signatories to the Articles of Impeachment and Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon have signed a similar waiver. It was only during the hearing last May 25 that the Chief Justice decided finally to submit a waiver to this Court without any preconditions. Moreover, even as the Chief Justice had full access to his own bank accounts and all the opportunity to introduce evidence to disprove the data, findings and analyses presented by the Ombudsman or the report of the AMLC, the Defense did not introduce any such evidence. As it is, the Impeachment Court could only rely on the documents supplied by the Ombudsman which showed the Respondent’s bank transactions but which do not show the actual bank balances of Respondent’s bank accounts. Instead, the Defense presented the Chief Justice himself as its last witness and pleaded for the Court’s permission to allow the Respondent Chief Justice to deliver an opening statement. This Court out of courtesy to the Chief Justice, as the highest magistrate of the land, decided to extend that courtesy to him its understanding, and to exercise utmost liberality in granting the request for him to speak before us. The long narration where the Chief Justice touched on a wide range of issues, assertions of facts, accusations, opinions and personal sentiments where the Respondent said he found necessary to narrate in order to clear his and his family’s name, was later adopted by the Defense as the direct testimony of the Respondent Chief Justice. The Prosecution, on the other hand, waived its rights to cross-examine the Chief Justice provided the Defense would not conduct any further direct examination. Nevertheless, the Respondent Chief Justice testified and admitted, in answer to questions from a Member of this Court, that he had around P80 million in three (3) peso accounts and $2.4 million in four (4) US dollar accounts, but that he had purposely not declared these assets for two reasons:
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One, that his peso accounts represented commingled funds; and two, that he was not required to report or declare his foreign currency deposits in his SALN because they were, according to him, absolutely confidential under RA 6426. Ladies and gentlemen of this Court, aking mga kababayan, I disagree on both counts. If, indeed, any of the Respondent’s cash deposits were commingled with the funds belonging to other parties such as the Basa-Guidote Enterprise Inc. or his children, the Respondent was still dutybound under our laws to declare these deposits in his SALN, they being admittedly under his name by his own very declaration. The evidence is devoid of any indication that the Chief Justice was holding these funds in trust for or that they were actually beneficially owned by anyone other than himself or his wife. Assuming that any part of such deposits in truth belong to third parties, the Respondent could have indicated such third party funds as corresponding liabilities in his SALN. That would have reflected his true and real net worth. With all due respect, I believe that the Respondent Chief Justice’s reliance on the absolute confidentiality accorded to foreign currency deposits under Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6426 is grossly misplaced. The Constitution, in Article XI, Section 17, provides that, and I would like to quote it: “A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth.” The oath required him to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. So help him, God. Are we now to say that this constitutional command, mandatory as it is, is limited to public officials, assets or deposits in local currency? If so, would we not be saying, in effect, that the Constitution allows something less than a full, honest and complete disclosure under the first sentence of Section 17 of Article XI? It bears noting that the prescribed form of the SALN quite simply requires public officers and employees to declare their assets, real and personal, the latter to include cash and bank deposits, bonds and others. It does not require the public officer or employee to indicate whether or not he or she has foreign currency notes or deposits. Neither does it require details such as account numbers, account names, bank identities, nor any branch addresses. All that it requires is a declaration under oath of the total amount of funds deposited in any bank account or accounts maintained by the public official or employee concerned. Surely, the Chief Justice knows the equivalent value in local currency of his foreign currency deposits to be able to declare the same as part of his assets, especially since the aggregate amount of this foreign currency deposits by his own account under oath amounts to US$2.4 million. The nondisclosure of these deposits in both local and foreign currency would naturally result in a corresponding distortion of the Chief Justice’s real net worth. Consistent with the position taken by this Court in the case filed by the Philippine Savings Bank before the Supreme Court last February, pursuant to which the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order, I maintain that the constitutional principle of public accountability under Article XI of the Constitution overrides the absolute confidentiality of foreign currency deposits. The provision of RA 6426 cannot be interpreted as an exception to the unequivocal command and tenor of Article XI, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution. And I regret that the highest magistrate of the land no less would think otherwise.
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Section 8 of RA 6426 provides that, “except with the written permission of the depositor” —I would repeat—”except with the written permission of the depositor”—and I quote, “in no instance shall foreign currency deposits can be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office whether judicial or administrative or legislative or any other entity whether public or private.” Any other interpretation of this provision would be unwarranted and the term “any person” would not include the depositor. The so-called conflict of laws between RA Nos. 6713 and 6426 is more illusory than real to me. Section 8 of RA No. 6426 merely prohibits the examination, inquiry or looking into a foreign currency deposit account by an entity or person other than the depositor himself, because that depositor knows his deposit and he can reveal it, if he wants to, without any penalty or punitive sanction against him, unlike others who would reveal it. But there is nothing in RA No. 6426 which prohibits the depositor from making a declaration on his own of such foreign currency funds, especially in this case where the Constitution mandates the depositor who is a public officer to declare, under the Constitution itself, all assets owned by him or his family under oath. Some have raised the question: Why should the Chief Justice be held accountable for an offense which many, if not most others in government are guilty of, perhaps even more guilty than he is? They say that hardly anyone declares his true net worth anyway. Here lies what many have posited as a moral dilemma. I believe it is our duty to resolve this “dilemma” in favor of upholding the law and sound public policy in this country. If we were to agree with the Respondent Chief Justice of the Supreme Court that he was correct in not disclosing the value of his foreign currency deposits because they are absolutely confidential, can we ever expect any SALN to be filed by public officials, no matter how high and no matter how low, from hereon to be more accurate and true than they are today? I do not think so. I am not oblivious to the possible political repercussions of the final verdict we are called upon to render today. I am deeply concerned that the people may just so easily ignore, may forget, if not completely miss out, the hard lessons we all must learn from this episode, instead of grow and mature as citizens of a democratic nation. Those whose intentions and motivations may be farthest from the lofty ideals of truth and justice are wont to feast upon this man’s downfall should this Court render a guilty verdict, as I think it would. I am quite equally aware of the tremendous pressures weighing heavily upon each and all of the Members of this Court as we had to come to a decision on this case, one way or the other. But to render a just verdict according to my best lights and my own conscience is a sacred duty that I have taken on myself that I have sworn to perform. As one who has been through many personal upheavals through all of my 88 years, I, too, have been judged, often unfairly and harshly. But I have constantly held that those who face the judgment of imperfect and fallible mortals like us have recourse to the judgment of history, and, ultimately of God. And so, with full trust that the Almighty will see us through the aftermath of this chapter in our nation’s history, I vote to hold the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato C. Corona, guilty as charged under Article II, paragraph 2.3 and that his deliberate act of excluding substantial assets from his sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth constitutes in my humble view as a member of this Court, a culpable violation of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. Thank you.
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Senator Sotto. Mr. President, may we have the summary of the votes? The Presiding Officer. On Article II, 20 Senators find the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato C. Corona, guilty as charged, and three (3) Senators, not guilty. With at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate having pronounced the Respondent guilty, the Chair, pursuant to Rule XXI of the Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials, directs judgment to be entered in accordance with the judgment of the Senate as follows: The Senate, sitting as an Impeachment Court, having tried Renato C. Corona, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, upon three Articles of Impeachment charged against him by the House of Representatives, by a guilty vote of 20 Senators representing at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate, has found him guilty of the charge under Article II of the said Articles of Impeachment; Now, therefore, be it Adjudged, that Renato C. Corona be, and is hereby convicted of the charge against him in Article II of the Articles of Impeachment. SO ORDERED. The Secretary, as Clerk of Impeachment of Court, is directed to provide a certified copy of the judgment to the Respondent and his Counsel, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court En Banc, the Judicial and Bar Council and the President of the Republic of the Philippines. SO ORDERED. The Floor Leader. Senator Sotto. Mr. President, in view of the judgment against the Respondent, I move that the vote on Articles III and VII be dispensed with. The Presiding Officer. Is there any objection? [Silence] The Chair hears none, the motion is approved. Senator Sotto. Mr. President, I move that the Presiding Officer be authorized to approve the Journal of today’s proceedings. The Presiding Officer. Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none, the motion is approved. Senator Sotto. Mr. President. The Presiding Officer. The Floor Leader. Senator Sotto. I move that the Senate authorize the printing and distribution of copies of the Record and Journal of the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate. The Presiding Officer. Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none, the motion is approved. The Floor Leader. Senator Sotto. Mr. President, may we ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to make an announcement. The Presiding Officer. The Sergeant-at-Arms is directed to make the announcement.
The Sergeant-at-Arms. Please all rise.
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All persons are commanded to remain in their places until the Senate President and the Senators have left the Session Hall. Senator Sotto. Mr. President. The Presiding Officer. The Floor Leader. Senator Sotto. Thank you, Mr. President. The Impeachment Trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, having been concluded and judgment rendered by the Senate accordingly, I move that we terminate Case No. 002-2011 and that the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court adjourn sine die. The Presiding Officer. Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none.... Senator Sotto. Mr. President. The Presiding Officer. Yes. Senator Sotto. Before the adjournment, Senator Angara wishes to.... The Presiding Officer. The gentleman from Aurora is recognized. Senator Sotto. I withdraw the request, Mr. President, and continue with the motion. The Senate President calls for the previous question. The Presiding Officer. All right. Is there any objection? [Silence] The Chair hears none, the Senate having fulfilled its duty under the Constitution to try and decide this Impeachment Case, Case No. 002-2011 against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato C. Corona, is hereby terminated and the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court adjourns sine die. The trial was adjourned sine die at 6:02 p.m.
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