Sunday, 27 May 2012

Why the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines must be impeached “In response to a question from Senator Drilon, Corona reiterated that he did not report his dollar deposits in his SALN because he believes these are covered by the confidentiality clause in the Foreign Currency Deposits Act.” [GMA News, May 25]. This is what the Foreign Currency Deposits Act (FCDA) says about confidentiality: Section 8. Secrecy of foreign currency deposits. – All foreign currency deposits authorized under this Act, as amended by PD No. 1035, as well as foreign currency deposits authorized under PD No. 1034, are hereby declared as and considered of an absolutely confidential nature and, except upon the written permission of the depositor, in no instance shall foreign currency deposits be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office whether judicial or administrative or legislative, or any other entity whether public or private; Provided, however, That said foreign currency deposits shall be exempt from attachment, garnishment, or any other order or process of any court, legislative body, government agency or any administrative body whatsoever. (As amended by PD No. 1035, and further amended by PD No. 1246, prom. Nov. 21, 1977.) [] The Chief Justice has declared that foreign currency accounts are confidential and therefore do not need to be reported in SALN. As pointed out by Senator Santiago, “It’s only natural that a person will choose an interpretation most favorable to him.” [T.J.Burgonio in Philippine Daily Inquirer May 27, 2012] However, contrary to Santiago’s claims an “interpretation” has no basis in any contradiction between the FCDA and legislation on SALN. According to the Constitution, all assets must be declared in SALN. The law on confidentiality of foreign currency accounts does not say that the account-holder must not, should not or cannot declare those assets. In the light of the words and the spirits of the two laws, what Corona has delivered is not an interpretation of any ambiguity, but an enormously gross twisting of the meaning of the FCDA. The implication of this manipulation is: 1. Renato Corona did nothing wrong in not declaring his dollar accounts; 2. Any public official, who has something to hide, whether 100 pesos or a billion pesos may easily and legally hide it in a foreign currency account. If we are to trust the Chief Justice, officials may therefore with impunity circumvent the legal obligation to disclose his or her assets. Mr Corona has publicly declared that he himself is no fool, so anyone who does not follow his example would probably in Mr Corona’s opinion be considered foolish. If this “interpretation” had come from a junior congressman, one could perhaps allow him the benefit of doubt, considering that he might not understand what confidentiality means. But when a judge of the Supreme Court, to serve his own interest, issues a license to corruption in public, then he must be removed from his office, by legal means. If Renato Corona is impeached by the Senate, this may be the beginning of a clean-up of the judiciary, a process that will be painful and lengthy. It will not be the beginning of the end, not even the end of the beginning, but perhaps the beginning of the beginning. If he is not impeached, then God have mercy on this country.