The Supreme Court has cleared former justice secretary Hernani "Nani" Perez of falsification of documents charge that was rooted from the 2000s scandal of allegedly extorting $2 million in exchange for political favors during the transition from Joseph Estrada to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan had cleared Perez of all charges – including graft and extortion – in 2014, but Ombudsman prosecutors appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Court's First Division sustained the Sandiganbayan on the dismissal of the falsification charge, but only seven years later in a resolution dated January 12 but uploaded on the website only on June 4.
"The Sandiganbayan did not err in refusing to give probative value to these documentary and testimonial evidence presented by the prosecution," the unsigned First Division resolution said.
Perez, Arroyo's first justice secretary, was accused by at least two congressmen of extortion, with the price for both at $2 million. This earned him the notoriety of being the "Two-Million Dollar Man."
The case was filed by former Manila representative Mark Jimenez, who accused Perez of trying to extort from him $2 million in 2001 to approve a deal. Jimenez was an ally of Estrada, whom Perez also supposedly extorted to spare the former president from charges.
The prosecution's theory was that the $2 million was funneled to the foreign bank account of Perez's wife.
The falsification charge is based on the allegation that Perez willfully did not declare the monetary assets in his 2002 Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth or SALN. The charge was dismissed by the anti-graft court in 2014 because Jimenez withdrew the complaint and he could not be presented during trial.
All of the documents obtained from foreign banks that supposedly showed the transfer of funds from Jimenez's bank account in Cayman Islands to the Hong Kong bank account of Perez's "emissary" were ruled to be hearsay because the Philippine officials who stood as witnesses did not have personal knowledge of the documents.
Even documents from the Swiss bank of Perez's wife were ruled to be hearsay.
"The complaint-affidavit of Jimenez as well as the documents from the Hong Kong authorities and Swiss banks cannot be given probative weight because the affiant and the signatories therein were not presented as witnesses and they were not able to testify on the contents of the said documents," said the Supreme Court.