Tuesday, February 28, 2012

AURA: CJ Corona Impeachment Trial

Analyzing, Understanding, Reading and Appreciating (AURA) the CJ Corona Impeachment Trial is a practical and intellectual exercise of common sense and wisdom.

Senate As An Impeachment Court

The Philippine Constitution grants to the Senate the SOLE and EXCLUSIVE power to try and decide all impeachment cases.

It is now public knowledge that the Senate as an impeachment court is both quasi-judicial and quasi-political. The Senator-Judges as expected are mostly non-lawyers who represent the thoughts and will of the people who elected them. They are not expected to know the letters and nuances of the law. It is sufficient that they are able to ferret out the facts, and analyze, understand and appreciate their application to obtain and render justice. The dominant requirement is just plain “common sense”.

Impeachment History

Our law on impeachment has its roots from both the U.S. and British legal jurisprudence.

Research shows that the U.S. Senate as an impeachment court treated the admissibility of testimony with following guidelines:

“Considering the character of this proceeding, that it is a trial of impeachment before the Senate of the United States, and not a proceeding by indictment in an inferior court;

Considering that Senators are, from beginning to end, judges of law as well as fact, and that they are judges from whom there is no appeal;

Considering that the reasons for the exclusion of evidence on an ordinary trial where the judge responds to the law and the jury to the fact are not applicable to such a proceeding;

Considering that, according to parliamentary usage, which is the guide in all such cases, there is, on trials of impeachment, a certain latitude of inquiry and a freedom from technicality;

And considering, finally, that already in the course of this trial there have been differences of opinion as to the admissibility of evidence;

Therefore, in order to remove all such differences and to hasten the dispatch of business, it is deemed advisable that all evidence offered on either side not trivial or obviously irrelevant in nature shall be received without objection, it being understood that the same when admitted shall be open to question and comparison at the bar in order to determine its competency and value, and shall be carefully sifted and weighted by Senators in the final judgment.”

In the British Parliament, the Rules of Evidence were treated this way:

“It was contended before that tribunal, that instead of the strict and iron rules of a law court, the field was broad and liberal, and to be controlled by no rule but the Lex et consuetudo Parliamenti. (The law and custom of the Parliament)

“They are not to be trammeled and hemmed in by the rigid rules of evidence..…. the strictness which prevails in the ordinary criminal courts does not apply here, nor is it required that the article of impeachment should be drawn up with all the rigid precision of an indictment. The proceedings in this highest court are to be more liberal and free, and nearer substantially to the course pursued by courts conversant with the civil than the criminal law.”

Enrile Ruling

This is why I was not surprised when Senate President and Presiding Judge Enrile finally held “that the hearsay evidence rule does not apply fully because the impeachment trial is not a criminal case.”

This further means that the required proof would not be that in a criminal case which is “proof beyond reasonable doubt.”

The ruling came about because the prosecution presented Justice Secretary de Lima as a witness to prove the Article 7 charge that Corona allegedly “engineered” the issuance of the temporary restraining order (TRO) that would have allowed Arroyo and her husband to escape punishment in corruption and election fraud investigations against her. She testified on the following:

1.   That she had issued three watch-list orders to ensure that the Arroyos remained within Philippine jurisdiction while under investigation;
2.   That the Supreme Court issued a TRO lifting the watch-list orders but imposed three conditions: the posting of a P2-million bond, assignment of an agent to receive court orders in Arroyo’s behalf, and notice to local consulates each time they land in a country abroad;
3.   That Arroyo was blocked at the NAIA because she had not fulfilled all those conditions;
4.   That CJ Corona had allegedly maneuvered things so that it would appear that the conditional TRO was already in effect; and
5.   That she relied on such allegation based on the internal deliberations of the Supreme Court narrated in the dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

On this testimony, Enrile stated:

"It is the ruling of the chair that to the extent of the facts narrated by the witness on the basis of the dissenting opinion, let them remain as part of testimony, as record. But to the extent of the truth/falsity of what the dissenting opinion of Justice Sereno contain, to the extent of those facts whether they are true or not, that the CJ influenced this, or CJ did that, then to that extent it is hearsay because the witness was not present when those things were being done/said,"

The ruling correctly admitted into the record as evidence numbers 1, 2 and 3 but ruled that numbers 4 and 5 are considered hearsay.

There is no doubt that because Secretary de Lima was not present at the internal deliberations, she had no personal knowledge of what transpired. It was therefore hearsay.

Is it inadmissible then?

Public Records

Not necessarily! Supreme Court decisions, concurring, dissenting and separate opinions are Public Records that are promulgated and published. They are recorded in the course of official business and made available and accessible to legal researchers, members of the judiciary, lawyers and all interested parties.

The impeachment court could treat them as Entries in the course of business and Entries in official records as provided for in Sections 43 and 44 of Rule 130 in the Rules of Court respectively, as exceptions to the hearsay evidence rule.

The separate opinions of Associate Justices Abad and Velasco as well as the dissenting opinions of Associate Justices Sereno and Carpio on the same issue are kept and incorporated in the same records. They have been promulgated and published and are accessible to the public.

Why not admit all the opinions as evidence when offered and let them be “carefully sifted and weighted by the Senators in the final judgment"?

Judicial Notice

Also as provided for in Rule 129, the impeachment court could take Judicial notice under Section 1 because the said opinions are official acts of the judiciary, or under Section 2 because the said official judicial acts have become public knowledge. Section 1 is mandatory while Section 2 is discretionary.

Electronic Evidence

In this digital age wherein the Philippines has become a leading exponent, and having been named Text, Facebook, Twitter and Call Center Capital of the world, using electronic data as evidence to seek the truth for justice should draw significant attention.

Government websites have become reliable sources of information, news, laws, jurisprudence and the like of Filipino citizens residing in the country and abroad. Official public documents, forms, publications and other records are digitally replicated and uploaded in official government websites run by web masters required to obtain security clearances.

Under U.S. rules, the contents of some these government websites are self-authenticating and are admitted as electronic evidence not unlike computer records.

This is E-Gov working for, of, and by the people.

I gain access to the Supreme Court decisions, opinions, laws and other judicial matters from the website of the Supreme Court and the judiciary. Similar contents are replicated or linked by the websites of the Official Gazette (www.gov.ph), the Arellano Law University, Chan, Robles Law offices and others.

In search of truth and dealing with questions of fact and law, there is no reason why the impeachment court could not make use of what the Supreme Court itself had promulgated, published and uploaded in its own website.

They can start with the opinions of Associate Justices Sereno and Carpio as well as those of Associate Justices Abad and Velasco regarding the temporary restraining order (TRO) issue.

The published opinions would be in place of the Justices who are unavailable - their physical presence having been barred by order of the Supreme Court and by the Senate’s refusal to require their presence.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Corona’s Revised Story: D in D, D-to-D and D of D, D and by D

Corona’s Revised Story: Discrepancies in Declarations Due to Discovery and Disclosure of Deposits, Documents and by Deduction.

In my previous article on the subject, I constructed a story based on the numbers and declarations of Chief Justice Renato Corona in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth (SALNs).

Since then, as witnesses testified, and deposits and documents discovered and disclosed, I am revising the Corona story not only using his own numbers but also those that have been revealed and correspondingly deduced from them.

Party-list Representative Walden Bello prior to becoming a legislator, I personally know to be a good economist and author who used to reside in the Metropolitan Washington, D. C. area. As an economist/author, he always supports his reports and conclusions with research, facts and figures. He obviously knows how to read Balance Sheets, which are identical to SALNs and the distinction between a real estate property’s “fair market value” and acquisition cost.

As reported, Rep. Walden Bello focused on CJ Corona’s SALN for the period ending December 31, 2010 as filed on April 29, 2011. He concluded, “CJ Corona declared a Net Worth of P22,936,980 but his undeclared Net Worth was a least P78,800,355.”

That’s a discrepancy of more than P55,800,000 just for 2010.

Jarius Bondoc is one of the more noted columnist/journalist in the Philippines. As such, he always writes and supports his assertions with proofs, historical facts, and figures. He mentioned me once in his column in relation to my role and that of the late Ninoy Aquino in witnessing testimonial evidence proving the Marcos fake medals.

Columnist Bondoc looked at CJ Corona’s Cash on Hand and in Bank as declared versus the disclosed deposits at PSBANK and BPI in 2007, 2009, and 2010. He found discrepancies of P7,587,966.94 in 2007; P6,678,501.83 in 2009; and P28,252,621.80 in 2010.

He also checked the valuation of CJ Corona’s properties.  He found the following discrepancies: P13,000,000 for the La Vista property in Quezon City; P7,700,000 for the Bellagio Condo in The Fort, Taguig; P6,700,000 for the Ridge Condo in The Fort, Taguig; P1,579,000 for Burgundy Pl. Condo in Loyola Heights, Q.C.; and P2,300,000 for the Columns Condo in Makati.

Marites Daquilan Vitug is the author of the best selling book, “Our Rights Our Victories: Landmark Cases in the Supreme Court”. I bought the eBook version from Amazon.com. From my point of view, she and Raissa Robles redefined “investigative reporting” in the Philippines in this digital age both in print and electronic media. They always support their reports after extensive investigation and research all accompanied by indisputable facts.

Both are my Facebook friends. I remember meeting Marites in Makati through old friend Ma-an Hontiveros years ago when I suggested to them to get into electronic publishing for “Newsbreak”.

Marites Vitug says, “The best guides in this truth seeking journey are the hard facts. They serve as our luminous street signs. When we seem to go off-course, these pull us back. When darkness descends, they are the stars that lit up our way.”

She then compared Corona’s declared cash assets in his SALNs to the deposits testified to:

2007 – P2.5 M  (P10 M in BPI and PSB)
2009 - P2.5 M  (P8.5 M in PSB)
2010 – P3.5 M (P31.6 M in BPI and PSB)

Indeed, numbers tell the story. I also revisited the numbers and went back further as I did in my previous analysis.

After the revisions and careful analysis, I made the following observations:

  1. The law requires the declaration of the acquisition costs of all real properties. CJ Corona FAILED to report the said costs.
  2. The law requires the declaration of ALL Cash on Hand and in Bank. It does not exclude foreign currency accounts. Bank testimonies prove the existence of a dollar account owned by CJ Corona. Even if the dollar account only has $1 or $700,000, he should have declared it. CJ Corona FAILED to do it.
  3. He purchased a land in 1992 and a condo in 1997 both by installment. CJ Corona FAILED to declare them in his 2002 SALN as property-owned and if still not fully paid, as loan/mortgage payable.
  4. For 2003, I computed: a Total Asset (Fixed and Current Asset) Discrepancy of P20837720; a Total Liability Discrepancy of P16758800; and a Net Worth Discrepancy of P4078920.
  5. For 2004, I computed: a Total Asset Discrepancy of P24426651.82; a Total Liability Discrepancy of P16758800; and a Net Worth Discrepancy of P24426651.82.
  6. For 2005, I computed: a Total Asset Discrepancy of P32526651.82; a Total Liability Discrepancy of P25858800; and a Net Worth Discrepancy of P32526651.82.
  7. For 2006, I computed: a Total Asset Discrepancy of P30526651.82; a Total Liability Discrepancy of P25858800; and a Net Worth Discrepancy of P30526651.82.
  8. For 2007, I computed: a Total Asset Discrepancy of P39635782.35; a Total Liability Discrepancy of P25858800; and a Net Worth Discrepancy of P39635782.35.
  9. For 2008, I computed: a Total Asset Discrepancy of P33626651.82; a Total Liability Discrepancy of P23768800; and a Net Worth Discrepancy of P33626651.82.
10.  For 2009, I computed: a Total Asset Discrepancy of P55305153.65; a Total Liability Discrepancy of P23768800; and a Net Worth Discrepancy of P55305153.65.
11.  For 2010, I computed: a Total Asset Discrepancy of P70299374.92; a Total Liability Discrepancy of P0.00; and a Net Worth Discrepancy of P70299374.92.
12.   In 2003, CJ Corona took a Cash Advance of P11000000 from his wife’s family realty company. While he correctly declared it as a liability, he failed to add the proceeds to his Cash on Hand or in Bank.
13.  Two properties that he declared in 2009 valued at P3M each were not declared in 2010. If they were sold, at least P6M or the actual proceeds should have been included in the Cash at Hand or in Bank.
14.  The value of Motor Vehicles declared in 2002, were not declared in subsequent years (2003-2010). If they were sold, the proceeds should have been included in the Cash at Hand or in Bank.
15.  There were real properties declared only in 2010 but were actually purchased by installment in previous years. These properties should have been reflected as properties owned in those years and correspondingly included as loan/mortgage payable since bought by installment.

We can be very specific on these. I have the working documents to support my figures.

I do not envy the defense lawyers. They have to figure out how to explain and justify the proven discrepancies. They have indicated one way to explain them – that these discovered deposits and undeclared properties are actually owned by his wife’s family business, the BGEI. They have the P34.7 M proceeds of the sale of property expropriated by the City of Manila to work with. Their business interests in said company were never declared except as a lender of P11 M to him.

The problem is that the deposits and the undeclared properties are way much more than the said amount. And why the former and latter are in his name is a mystery. If in trust, he could have registered it as such and the Board of BGEI should have appointed him as a Trustee.

There was wealth hidden. Right now it is still unexplained. It could have been hidden from the public, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, other agencies of the Government or from the other members of his wife’s family.

CJ Renato Corona and his lawyers or even his supporters could explain the discrepancies before the court of public opinion now or wait for his turn in the impeachment court.

I can’t wait!

Monday, February 13, 2012




One product that caught my attention during the MACWORLD Conference was the “RUNNUR”.  It is a “strap worn across the body from shoulder to hip. It carries all the essential items you need to get you through your day.”

As can be seen in the picture, there is a pocket for each of your essentials:  ID, sunglasses, cash, credit cards and other valuables, phone, MP3 player, camera, snacks.  It has a Bottle Pouch and a Carabineer to hold keys.

It is quite useful for Hiking, Travel, Cycling, Sporting Events, Fitness, Dog-Walking, Festivals; for the Beach Goers and the Urban Dweller alike. I got one and I love it!



Among the earphones that I possess, the one I bring to the gym is AFTERSHOCKZ. It does not cover my ears. It is a Sport headphone that enables joggers, bike riders, skiers, skateboarders, hikers and other athletes to safely use their portable music players while staying connected to their surroundings.

Since AfterShokz headphones rest outside the ear, users are able to also hear ambient noises such as oncoming traffic, car horns, ambulances or other warning noises, potentially preventing accidents. Headphones that cover the ear and ear buds that nest inside the ear significantly restrict a user’s ability to hear these important sounds.


I listen to Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Michael Buble, Harry Belafonte and the like. My favorite interpretation of the U.S. National Anthem is Marvin Gaye’s. These people have such beautiful voices that you do not want to miss any sound. You want to listen not just to the singer but to the sound of every instrument as well.

Clarity One has given me this pleasure beyond compare as I listen to my music. I understand that it is because of its Pure Sound Processor.  It is one sound technology that retains all the harmonics in music and voice that passes through it.

From my iPhone, iPod or iPad, the technology definitely produces “pure, clean and undistorted sound.” It is extremely good. I highly recommend this product. I cannot leave home without it!


AF78 Series

Although this product was launched, it is not yet available for distribution.  I listened through it, but not long enough to make a definite judgment to compare to others. But it sounded great.

This is Audiofly’s premium hybrid in-ear headphone offering. It features a rare combination of a balanced armature device normally found in professional earpieces, as well as a 9mm custom dynamic driver.

The sample I was provided with was a less expensive version, AF33.  This version that a couple of friends and I tried is actually good. This should be an indication that the premier AF78 should be a superior version.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

SENATE’s Duty: Ignore SC TRO

A couple of days ago, the Supreme Court by a vote of 8-5 issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Senate as an impeachment court from compelling bank officials to open the foreign currency deposits of Chief Justice Renato Corona who is being tried for impeachment.

The Senate action was to aid in its quasi-judicial and quasi-political function and duty to unearth the truth regarding CJ Corona’s undeclared and unexplained wealth. This duty flows from the Senate’s Constitutional mandate to hear, try and decide impeachment cases SOLELY and EXCLUSIVELY – meaning, free from interference and RESTRAINT from any party either temporarily or permanently.  The only possible exception is an intervention by the people directly in the exercise of their sovereign power.

Eight Justices with no mandates from the sovereign people cannot and should not be allowed to intervene in the exercise of the nationally-elected Senators’ political will and wisdom representing millions, and those of the Congressmen representing 75% of the populace. It would be self-serving by any standard.

Heeding and honoring the SC TRO would not just be surrendering its SOLE and EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY, but the Senate would also be evading and avoiding a solemn duty to obtain evidence from all sources in trying high public officials accused of betraying public trust.

Allowing the TRO would be looked at as aiding and abetting the likes of CJ Corona to avoid the discovery of undeclared, unexplained and hidden wealth to the disappointment of the Senators’ constituencies who granted them the power, the duty, the prerogative and discretion. This would be an unnecessary non-use of Constitutional sovereign power.

Corollary to this power, the legislative body is also given the prerogative to grant immunity to witnesses that assist them in attaining the goals and policies that promote the people’s interests and welfare.  This means that witnesses, who fear that they could be prosecuted for violating certain laws, could be granted immunity from prosecution because they have been called upon to attain a greater goal. In fact, in certain cases, the witnesses were even granted rewards for performing a patriotic citizens’ duty.

This prerogative is a settled law.

“The power to grant immunity from prosecution is essentially a legislative prerogative. (Doyle v. Hofstader, 257 NY 244).

“The exclusive power of Congress to define crimes and their nature and to provide for their punishment concomitantly carries the power to immunize certain persons from prosecution to facilitate the attainment of state interests, among them, the solution and prosecution of crimes with high political, social and economic impact.” (Mapa Jr. v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No 100295, April 26, 1994, 231 SCRA 783.

“In the exercise of this power, Congress possesses broad discretion and can lay down conditions and the extent of the immunity granted.” Tanchanco v. Sandiganbayan (Second Division), 512 Phil. 590 (2005).

This prerogative and discretion is reflected in Presidential Decree 1732, Republic Act 1379, and Presidential Decree 749 as willed by the sovereign people through Congress.

There is nothing that can prevent them from doing it in the exercise of their solemn and sovereign duty in impeachment cases.

There is nothing that can prevent the Senate from working with the House to pass a Congressional resolution asking the President to grant pardons to the brave and patriotic citizens who aid in exposing public officials who commit graft and corruption and hide the material effects of their crime.

Of course, there is nothing that can prevent both Houses to pass a law that clearly and specifically allow, without doubt, impeachment cases as exception to the absolute confidentiality of foreign currency deposits,

There is wisdom to what the non-lawyer Senator Judge Antonio Trillanes said, “there is absolutely no basis for the claims of some quarters that the subpoena issued by the Senate ordering the opening of the dollar accounts allegedly owned by Chief Justice Corona with the PSBank will result in loss of privacy of bank deposits and will adversely affect the country’s banking system.

“First of all, the exception from the bank and foreign currency deposit secrecy laws which will result from the implementation of the subpoena will apply to a handful of impeachable officials only and specifically in impeachment cases only,”

Under the Constitution, only the President, the Vice President, members of the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman and Chairmen and Commissioners of the Constitutional Commissions can be the subjects of impeachment.

It is very clear that investors, corporations, private businesses and private individuals and even ordinary officials and rank-and-file government employees will not be affected since they are not impeachable officers and can never be respondents in any impeachment case,”

He added that at the end of the day, the precedent created by the impeachment court’s ruling can potentially affect only corrupt, high-ranking government officials. This should in fact be a welcome development because of the law. It should never be a refuge for those engaged in corruption and other criminal activities,” Trillanes said.

Senator Judge “Sonny” Trillanes gets it right. The others should get it too!

Battleground for Justice and Truth

Obtaining justice by seeking the truth.  Such is the objective of both the Prosecution and the Defense in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona.

Reading the complaint and the answer, I thought that the issues having been joined, the battle lines drawn, and the Senate having acquired jurisdiction, the process of seeking the truth would proceed in the interest of the sovereign people.  The best offense is Truth as charged and the best defense is Truth as claimed.

The Prosecution started with the charge of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. To support the charge, the Prosecution claims that CJ Corona failed to fully disclose his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) as mandated by the Constitution and statute. There was a special mention of several properties evidenced by Deeds of Sale and Certificates of Title that CJ Corona failed to declare. The media reported initially that there were 45 properties owned by CJ Corona. It turned out that the Prosecution could only show 24.

Despite the objection of the Defense, the impeachment court decided to allow the disclosure of CJ Corona’s SALN in the interest of truth and hopefully, justice.

Based on his SALN, CJ Corona declared a total of 8 properties, thus failing to declare 16 properties, which the Prosecution asserts they could show with documentary and testimonial evidences.

The Prosecution also questioned the declaration of Cash on Hand and in the Bank. So, the prosecutors asked to subpoena the Philippine peso and dollar bank accounts of CJ Corona to prove that the latter failed to disclose the true amounts.

The best way to belie an alleged truth as claimed by the Prosecution would have been to show the real truth by showing that CJ Corona’s declared Cash on Hand and/or in Bank are the same as those in his bank accounts.

Alleged truth vs. real truth would have simply resolved the matter. The Defense instead vehemently objected to the showing of CJ Corona’s peso and dollar bank accounts, thus seeking to hide the truth and waiving its best defense.

The impeachment court wisely allowed the showing of CJ Corona’s peso bank accounts but delayed compelling the disclosure of the dollar account pending the petition of the bank for a TRO (temporary restraining order).

The disclosure of the peso bank accounts were actually more than enough to show that CJ Corona misdeclared his Cash on Hand and/or in Bank in his SALN. Further disclosure would show that the truth as alleged by the Prosecution would prove to be the right and real one. To avoid further damage, he and his lawyers must act.

As my father used to say, “choose your battles – the ones you can win”.

Chief Justice Renato Corona, acting through his defense lawyers, decided to change course and the battleground.  They would go to where they could have the home court advantage and where they would be allowed, ironically, to hide the truth. That is, the Supreme Court, CJ Corona’s Court.

First, was to stop the disclosure of the dollar bank accounts; and second, was to stop the impeachment trial itself.

The Supreme Court in an 8-5 vote issued a TRO (temporary restraining order) to stop the opening of CJ Corona’s dollar bank account.

We still do not know how the Senate or impeachment court would react to the TRO. The body “will take it up in due time.”

The Supreme Court has not acted on the petition to stop the impeachment trial. But earlier, Senate President Enrile said, “Nobody except the military could stop us from conducting the impeachment trial.”

The Philippines has a democratic and a republican government. Democratic because “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” Republican because it is representative and that the people’s will is acted upon directly, through their elected representatives locally and nationally; and indirectly, through appointive officials. Such will is expressed in the form of the fundamental law - the Constitution, laws, implementing rules, Executive orders, Presidential orders, Department orders, provincial board resolutions, municipal ordinances, court decisions and the like.

In disciplining high government officials such as those enumerated in the Constitution as impeachable, the people designated the House of Representatives by a vote of at least 1/3 to have the power to impeach and the Senate to hear and decide the impeachment case. Such powers are exclusive. The Senators and Congressmen are answerable only to the people that they represent. That is why issues relating to such powers would be political questions that the other branches of government, Executive or the Supreme Court are advised not to touch.

Should the Supreme Court interfere in the impeachment proceedings especially if it involves one of their associates, or worse, their Chief?

The ready answer and my take is, NO. The power to hear and decide impeachment cases is one solely and exclusively vested upon the Senate free from interference from any other branch of government. Any action or petition before any other court would be a political question. The actions of the Senate are considered dictates of the sovereign people that they represent. On political questions, the Justices who are appointive officials have no such mandates.

Some legal experts, however, opine that the Supreme Court may interfere in cases where the Senate is found to have committed grave abuse of discretion.

Did the Senate/impeachment court commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing a subpoena for the peso and dollar accounts of CJ Corona? Is forcing a bank official to violate the law on the secrecy of foreign currency deposits considered grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Senate?

What happens if the Senate refuses to comply with the TRO and insists on compelling the bank to open the accounts? How will the Supreme Court enforce its ruling?

The Senate as an impeachment court has the discretion or power to compel anybody to produce any evidence to aid its quasi-judicial and quasi-political function especially in seeking the truth.

Knowing the contents of CJ Corona’s dollar bank accounts would help in determining whether or not he truthfully and accurately declared SALNs as contemplated under the law.

The Senate therefore, did not gravely abuse its discretion. On the contrary, it is being true to its mandate. About 75% (188/250) of the sovereign people are represented in wanting to impeach the Chief Justice and had formally asked the Senate who were all elected nationally to hear and decide the impeachment case. Any action to seek the truth by the Senate as an impeachment court is beyond review.

Its decision might seemingly contradict the secrecy of foreign currency deposits law because the latter provided only one exception. That is, the written permission of the depositor to open.  But it could also be interpreted as an added exception or a virtual amendment by judicial legislation on the part of the impeachment court or virtual legislation having obtained the nod of the majority of both the House and the Senate and without Presidential objection.

There is a reason and wisdom for vesting the impeachment powers solely and exclusively to the House and the Senate.  Supreme Court Justices and other impeachable high public officials enumerated in the Constitution should respect it and should in no way influence or interfere in the exercise of such powers or in the fulfillment of its sovereign obligation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cleansing the CORONAry Path to Justice

My barber asked me, “What is your take on the impeachment trial of Philippine Chief Justice Renato Corona?”

I told him that I should really withhold judgment until both sides are presented and heard. However, there are certain issues that I could deal with without appearing to be biased. Besides, now that I am a credentialed member of the Press, there are responsibilities that I have to meet in the dissemination of information relating to the trial.


In a representative (republican), democratic (sovereignty resides in the people) and constitutional government, impeachment is both a quasi-political and a quasi-judicial process.

The House of Representatives is empowered by the Constitution to impeach by a vote or by signatures of 1/3 of its members. Upon transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment as endorsed by the required numbers to the Senate, the latter shall conduct the trial as provided by the Constitution.

The assumption is that it is the will of the people that the signatories in the House represent and that of the Senate who will hear and judge.

Under this process, the House is like the Fiscal or Prosecutor while the Senate is like a Judge and Jury. Their corresponding powers are exclusive and could only be overruled by the people who gave them such authority.

As argued by some, theoretically, if the Senate abuses its power or authority, its actions are appealable to the Supreme Court.  Who determines what is abusive or not? Each Senator is a Judge and Juror.  One has to prove each and collectively such abuse which is next to impossible to do. My take is that only the sovereign people could determine whether their representatives in the Senate abused the powers vested upon them.


Another issue is the burden of proof. There is no specific provision defining the required evidence in an impeachment proceeding.  If perceived as a criminal case, then, “proof beyond reasonable doubt” is required.  This means “that degree of proof produced in an unprejudiced mind” which arises from moral certainty that the person to be convicted is guilty of the crime.

It could also be looked at as an ordinary administrative proceeding; administrative proceedings in quasi-judicial bodies; or as a case that is between civil and criminal. The evidence required is: Substantial evidence; Preponderance of evidence; and Clear and convincing proof or overwhelming preponderance, respevtively.

Substantial evidence refers to “such amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.” As expected, the prosecution asserts that the required burden on their part is this one.

Section 1 of Rule 133 of the Rules of Court shows how to determine preponderance of evidence: “the court may consider all the facts and circumstances of the case, the witnesses’ manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony, their interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon trial.”

Clear and convincing proof is a more stringent standard than preponderance of evidence but less than proof beyond reasonable doubt. A couple of Senators who are lawyers are inclined to use this standard but call it the same way as Yale Professor Charles Black, Jr. as “overwhelming preponderance of evidence.”

My barber interrupted: “The maximum penalty for impeachment is removal from office. It could even be less, such as reprimand. This is like an ordinary worker or employee getting fired for cause where it only requires substantial evidence. Why should the required evidence to sanction an errant Chief Justice be any different?”

He has a point but this has to be relayed to each of the Senators. I proceeded.

Prior to judgment, the Judge gives instructions to each member of the Jury regarding the standard of proof and other matters. Since each Senator is a Judge and Juror, he actually instructs himself. In short, he could follow any standard and judge for himself either objectively or subjectively. The law gives him that much leeway as a chosen Judge/Juror/Representative of the sovereign people.


The Constitution enumerates the following offenses as impeachable: culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.

Let me touch briefly on only two offenses, as we still have to hear the rest of evidence to be presented. One is culpable violation of the Constitution and the other, betrayal of public trust.

The prosecution charges CJ Corona with “culpable violation of the Constitution for non-disclosure of the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).”

CJ Corona actually filed his SALN. It was eventually disclosed at the Senate for all the Senators and the public to see. Does this constitute compliance regardless of the accuracy or falsity of the contents?

The law requires full disclosure of facts.  In fact, to do otherwise would be considered “Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts” under Article 171-Falsification by public officer, employee, etc. It is a Crime Against Public Interest.

As stated in the law, “by legal obligation is meant that the law requires a full disclosure of facts such as in a public official’s STATEMENT OF ASSETS and LIABILITIES…”

This could also be interpreted as betrayal of public trust on the part of Chief Justice Corona if his SALN as submitted proved to be false. Waiting for the defense.

My favorite top-notch investigative reporter Raissa Robles in a brilliant research, reporting and analysis had this to say about the relevance of SALN in CJ Corona’s case:

To the prosecutors: “they have a document they can refer to when they present Income Tax Returns (ITRs) and Statements of Assets Liabilities and Net worth (SALNs) as evidence. It’s a document written by someone who happens to be named Renato C. Corona.

In that document, CJ Corona made some interesting points:
■He said the burden of proof lies with the person being accused of having amassed such wealth. ■He also said the court should disregard technicalities thrown by the defendant’s side. ■And he said it was enough to compare a respondent’s SALNs (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) and ITRs (Income Tax Return) with the wealth in question to determine the latter’s illegal origin. If disclosed income and assets were far less than the questioned wealth, then the latter is ill-gotten. CJ Corona showed how to connect the dots using the SALN and the ITR in his ruling entitled Republic of the Philippines vs. the Sandiganbayan and Ferdinand Marcos, as represented by his heirs: his wife Imelda and their children Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., Governor Imee Marcos, and Irene Marcos-Araneta.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona wrote how to compute for corruption in his landmark decision on the Marcoses' ill gotten wealth case. In this 2011 photo, CJ Corona sits beside Senator Bongbong Marcos In his very exhaustive ruling on this civil forfeiture case, CJ Corona concretely showed: 
■How to use SALNs and ITRs to compute for the total assets of the respondent ■Then how to determine the amount of alleged ill-gotten wealth in comparison to the defendant’s total assets.”

By definition, ill-gotten wealth is graft and corruption, which is also a ground for impeachment.