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MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Thursday, January 26, that the Senate’s decision to strike out the ill-gotten issue against Chief Justice Renato Corona is not a setback for the prosecution as the burden of proof–that he acquired his wealth through legal means–now lies with him.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a news briefing that the impression from Wednesday’s impeachment trial was that the prosecution suffered a defeat, yet Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had allowed the introduction of evidence on Corona’s income tax returns, and the evidence on properties.
“We don’t have to prove ill-gotten wealth because, as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile mentioned, that is a conclusion,” he said.
Lacierda said that Corona himself had provided “a measure by which to assess ill-gotten wealth and also how to appraise the legal technicalities raised by the defense.”
“As ponente of the landmark Supreme Court ruling entitled Republic of the Philippines versus the Sandiganbayan and Ferdinand Marcos, as represented by his heirs, Mr. Corona said the burden lies with the defendant to prove his wealth was acquired through legal means,” he said.
Lacierda said that “if you are able to show the properties, if you are able to show that the ITRs, and if you look at both, if you see that the properties were acquired in excess of his reported income, what happens is that you don’t have to prove ill-gotten wealth; hat happens is that the legal presumption of ill-gotten wealth arises.”
He added, “The minute you presented the buildings, the properties acquired, and the minute that you showed that this income as reported is not commensurate to buy those properties, the presumption of law of ill-gotten wealth arises.”
Lacierda said that the consequence of this presumption “is that the burden is now shifted to the defense to prove that those properties were not acquired illegally.”
“And so, this is not a defeat for the prosecution but, rather, we were allowed to show to the senator-judges that there is a presumption of ill-gotten wealth. And that’s the reason why, also, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is saying that the Chief Justice is not yet off the hook,” he said.
On observations that some senators, such as Senators Franklin Drilon and Ralph Recto, have allegedly showed their bias for the prosecution by helping them through their line of questioning, Lacierda said that “the whole idea of looking at all these is really to search for the truth and this is the obligation of each senator.”
“Senator Recto was able to pave the way for the disclosure of the amount, incomes earned and certainly we welcome any senator, for that matter, in their questioning for the purpose of ferreting out the truth,” he said.
He said that based on the rules, “the senator-judges are allowed to ask any question” so “it’s the right of every senator-judge to comment and to ask whatever they feel is proper under the circumstances.”
“What the defense is trying to emphasize, is trying to make it appear is that these senators are in our favor. That’s not true. They’re out there to ferret out the truth and this is a practice that is commonplace in regular courts,” Lacierda said.
On criticisms about the lackluster performance of the prosecution team, Lacierda said that what is important is the disclosure of the evidence against Corona.
Lacierda said that so far, Corona has been “doing a good job in telling us, by the revelation of his SALN [Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth], that he obviously misrepresented and he obviously has failed to live up to his role as a Chief Justice.”
He said that the Palace is “still confident based on the evidence that we will be able to secure a conviction.” – Rappler.com