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MANILA, Philippines – Barring hitches, the prosecution will tackle the undisclosed statements of assets of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona on Tuesday, January 17, the second day of his impeachment trial, and relate them to accusations of unexplained wealth.
Article 2 of the 8 Articles of Impeachment states: “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 Sec. 17, Art. XI of the 1987 Constitution.” (Read all the charges against Chief Justice Renato Corona here.)
The prosecution panel believes that Corona did not declare some of his recently purchased properties in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).
What Rappler has are Corona’s SALNs that he submitted from 1992-1996, when he worked under the Office of the President under the Ramos administration, and in February and April 2002, when Corona was chief of staff and presidential adviser of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In the last few days, the prosecution has gone to town with documents purporting to at least 45 properties under the names of Corona and his family, an accusation branded by the Chief Justice as a work of fiction. (Our own investigation traced only 5 properties under his name. Read our story here.)
The issue on SALN is not related to fresh revelations about Corona’s alleged properties, according to lead defense counsel Eduardo de los Angeles.
In his opening statement on Monday, January 16, De los Angeles noted that the Articles of Impeachment do not include ill-gotten wealth as a charge. What Article 2 merely states is that Corona’s failure to disclose his SALN violates the principle of accountability, he added.
Court’s final say?
De los Angeles explained: “We shall show that the Clerk of Court is restricted from disclosing the SALNs by resolutions first issued during the term of Chief Justice Marcelo Fernand way back in 1989. In light of current developments, the Chief Justice has already caused these resolutions to be included in the agenda of the Supreme Court for re-evaluation.”
Does this mean the Clerk of Court, Enriqueta Vidal, will have to seek the clearance of the en banc before she could testify on any documents to be presented at the trial?
Today’s hearing, however, would be mostly “documentary,” according to sources in the prosecution. Witnesses will be called to testify on the veracity of the documents they have issued to the panel pertaining to Corona’s properties and his SALNs.
The defense team on Monday said they were considering their options, including asking the Supreme Court to stop to temporarily stop the trial.
The prosecutors assigned to this particular case on Corona’s assets are Pangasinan Rep. Marlyn Agabas and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr.
Invoking resolutions previously issued by the High Tribunal, Corona has refused to disclose his SALNs to the public.
In his reply to the Articles of Impeachment, his lawyers said he has been regularly submitting his SALNs to the Clerk of Court but that he is not obliged to disclose this to the public.
In December, Rappler sent a letter to the Clerk of Court and the 15 Justices requesting for a copy of each of the justice’s SALNs.
Only two responded to our request: Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Maria Lourdes Sereno — with only a summary of their wealth. – Rappler.com