The trial’s most important document

MANILA, Philippines – To be a journalist covering the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona is to eat subpoenas for breakfast. Sometimes it’s a motion, legal memorandum, opposition, and other impeachment documents. On really busy days, this turns into a dizzying buffet.

But of all the documents that came out in the trial, one stands out. It is the Chief Justice’s Statements of Asets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

Corona’s SALNs turned out to be the trial’s most important document. The previously secret documents set the direction of the entire proceedings.

Article 2 of the impeachment complaint accuses Corona of failing to disclose his SALNs. The prosecution was so confident with its evidence for Article 2 it seriously considered suggestions to drop the rest of the 7 articles of impeachment. In the end, the prosecution decided to present evidence for 2 more articles.

Lawyers of the Chief Justice insist that “inadvertent omissions” in the SALN are not impeachable offenses, however.

Would the senator-judges, who themselves have to file their own SALNs, accept this explanation?

No matter the outcome, the disclosure of the Corona’s SALNs is already a victory for transparency.

January 18, 2012 marks the day when the assets and liabilities of the Chief Justice were revealed for the first time in recent history. It defies a 1989 ruling by the Supreme Court itself, exempting the wealth of the justices from public scrutiny.

The document, after all, is not just a scrap of paper and the trial reminds public officials of this as they try to beat the April 30 deadline for the annual filing of their own SALN.

Will our lawmakers honestly declare what they have, in the midst of a trial anchored on allegations the Chief Justice did not do the same? –



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