MANILA, Philippines – The defense counsels of Chief Justice Renato Corona admitted on Wednesday, January 18, that they themselves have not seen copies of their client’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
Defense counsel Serafin Cuevas told the impeachment court that he has not seen a copy of Corona’s SALN. He made this disclosure as he protested the senators’ order for the Clerk of Court to submit Corona’s SALN to the impeachment court.
“I have not seen it, your honor,” Cuevas told Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the court’s presiding officer.
Later during a break of the third day of the impeachment trial, the other defense counsels of Corona told reporters that they have not seen copies of his SALN.
Tranquil Salvador III, spokesperson of the defense panel, recalled that they asked Corona about the 5 properties that he supposedly owned and that the Chief Justice assured them that he declared these in his SALN. “But we haven’t seen his SALN,” Salvador said in Filipino.
Corona’s failure to make his SALN public is the subject of Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment filed against him, which accuses him of betraying public trust. The prosecution suspects Corona of not declaring some of his properties in his SALN, though they had not previously seen a copy of it.
Now that the copies of Corona’s SALN are with the impeachment court, the prosecution can check if the so-called Corona properties are all declared in his SALNs. They claim he has 45 under his and his family’s name; Corona has denied this.
This is the first time since he joined the SC in 2002 that Corona’s SALN has been made public. The copies that we have are Corona’s SALN when he worked as presidential adviser of former President Fidel Ramos and chief of staff of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The SALN is a public document to ensure transparency and accountability in government, according to existing laws. Inconsistencies in SALN have been used to charge public officials with ill-gotten wealth.
In 1989, the SC issued a resolution barring the justices from disclosing their SALNs for fear that this would be used by litigants to harass or extort from justices.
Clerk of Court Enriquetta Esguerra-Vidal told the impeachment court that her office has received about 10 requests for copies of the SALN of the SC Justices, including Corona. The High Tribunal, sitting en banc, rejected all those requests, she said.
In December 2011, Rappler asked Vidal and the 15 Justices for a copy of each of the justice’s SALN. Only 2 Justices replied to our request, Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Maria Lourdes Sereno, who both have a summary of their wealth.
Even up to the time that she faced the impeachment court on Wednesday, January 18, Vidal said she still needed authorization from the Court to submit Corona’s SALN. She said she was “restricted” from making the SALN public by the 1989 resolution.
Yet, after the Senate ordered Vidal to submit Corona’s SALN, SC spokesperson Midas Marquez held a press conference to announce that Corona had in fact authorized Vidal to submit his SALN. – Rappler.com