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MANILA, Philippines – Giving in to the impeachment court’s orders, the Clerk of Court on Wednesday finally submitted to the Senate the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The impeachment court ordered Enriquetta Esguerra-Vidal to surrender all the copies of Corona’s SALN from 2002-2011.
Vidal initially refused to submit Corona’s SALN, which she brought with her to the Senate, saying she needed clearance from the en banc.
Invoking a 1989 Supreme Court ruling, Vidal insisted that she was “restricted” from making public the SALN of Corona.
It took Sen. Franklin Drilon to ask Vidal for copies of the SALN. Previous to this, private prosecutor Mario Bautista grilled Vidal on the process of accepting copies of the SALN, but never asked her to submit copies of Corona’s SALN to the impeachment court.
Sen. Joker Arroyo cautioned the senators against forcing Vidal to submit the SALN, saying they ran the risk of a showdown with the High Tribunal.
Earlier in the trial, Vidal refused to disclose the SALN, invoking a Court ruling that bars its release to the public.
She told the impeachment court that she was “restricted” from making public the SALN of Corona. “It is not within my competence to decide” on its release, Vidal told the Senate upon cross-examination by lead private prosecutor Mario Bautista. “I don’t have any discretion to decide for myself.”
Vidal was subpoenad by the Senate to appear on Wednesday, upon the request of prosecutors who plan to ask her to disclose copies of the SALN of Corona from 2002, when he was first appointed to the Court as associate justice, to 2010.
SC spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez told a press conference on Tuesday, January 17, that if Vidal was indeed asked to appear, she might need to first seek permission from the SC en banc.
“I would like to think the Clerk of Court would ask directions from the en banc,” he said, adding the same rule would apply to the two other justices who would likely be summoned by the prosecution as well. The two are Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco and Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Lawyers familiar with the workings of the SC told Rappler that Vidal, on her own, may request clearance from the SC to release Corona’s SALN. But they believe that, contrary to Marquez’s statement, a Court clearance is not needed.
In 1989, the SC issued a resolution barring the disclosure of the justices’s SALN to the public, saying litigants may use it to harass them. Various media and non-governement organizations have requested copies of the magistrates’ SALN, however.
Marquez said the SC has already asked judges and justices from the Sandiganbayan, Court of Appeals and Court of Tax Appeals to submit their respective comments on the re-evaluation of the resolution against disclosure.
The SALN of Corona is crucial in establishing whether he had illegally acquired his wealth.
The prosecution said they intend to present on Wednesday documents showing that Corona and his family own at least 45 properties. Among those called to testify on Wednesday, aside from Vidal, are the register of deeds of the local governments of Makati, Marikina, Taguig, Quezon City, Pasay, and Parañaque.
The Chief Justice has insisted that he has only 5 real estate properties and that all are declared in his SALN.
The prosecution said that the disclosure of Corona’s SALN is vital in proving their point that Corona could not have acquired the 45 properties given his salary as a chief justice, which is less than a million a year. – Rappler.com