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VIDEO: How Sens. Arroyo, Defensor-Santiago and Marcos Voted “Not Guilty”

May 29, 2012

Here’s how three senator-judges, namely, Sen. Joker Arroyo, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and Sen. Marcos cast their “not guilty” verdict in favor of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago:

The Constitution provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent, until the contrary is proved. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. How much proof is necessary? In other words, what is the standard of proof? I have adopted the very high standard of “overwhelming preponderance of evidence.” My standard is very high, because removal by conviction on impeachment is a stunning penalty, the ruin of a life.

The defendant admitted that he did not declare his dollar accounts and certain commingled peso accounts in his SALN. Did this omission amount to an impeachable offense? No.

Under the rule of ejusdem generis, when a general word occurs after a number of specific words, the meaning of the general word should be limited to the kind or class of thing within which the specific words fall. The Constitution provides that the impeachable offenses are: “culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.” An omission in good faith in the SALN carries a light penalty, and is even allowed to be corrected. Thus, it is not impeachable.

The Constitution simply provides that a public officer shall submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth. That is all. There are no details. The Constitution is a brief declaration of fundamental principles. Many constitutional provisions are only commands to the Congress to enact laws to carry out the purpose of the charter.

As a general rule, constitutional provisions are not self-executory. The usual exceptions are the Bill of Rights, and constitutional prohibitions. All other constitutional provisions, such as the SALN provision, need implementing laws to provide the details. Hence, Congress, to implement this constitutional provision, has passed a number of laws, including the Foreign Currency Act, which confers absolute confidentiality on dollar deposits.

There is no conflict between the Constitution and the Foreign Currency Act. The perceived conflict is so simplistic that it is seriously laughable. If there is any conflict, it is between the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards, which provides for a waiver of confidentiality; and the Foreign Currency Act, which provides for absolute confidentiality.

It is for Congress to balance on the one hand, the need for public accountability from public officers; with, on the other hand, the desperate need for foreign investment, which entails confidentiality, on pain of driving away investors from our country. The argument that a dollar deposit protected from inquiry would nullify the principle of transparency is for Congress to resolve. We could retain the absolute confidentiality clause, with the amendment that Filipino public officers are not protected.

The prosecution mistakes admission for confession. In a confession, the defendant admits guilt. In an admission, the defendant merely states facts, which might tend to prove his guilt. In the instant case, the defendant did not make a confession, but merely an admission, with a legal defense.

As a former RTC judge, I find it reprehensible that the AMLA document was introduced in evidence, without authentication, as required by the Rules of Evidence. I am deeply disappointed that on at least three occasions, the prosecution claimed that its documents came from an anonymous source. Are you for real? Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. False in one thing, false in all things.

The defendant used his own name in all his questioned transactions. He could have done otherwise, if his purpose was invisibility. Why would a suspected criminal leave his calling cards at the scene of the crime?

Assuming for the sake of argument that there is a preponderance of evidence for the prosecution, the preponderance is not overwhelming.

Sen. Joker Arroyo:

“Today we are one step from violating the Constitution, no one can stop us if we do not stop ourselves,” Arroyo said.

“This is not justice. This is certainly not law. It is only naked power as it was in 1972. I had not thought I would see it again so brazenly shown. I vote to acquit.”

Sen. Bongbong Marcos Jr.:

THE lady justice wears a blindfold for a reason. She is to render judgment based on law and evidence, without regard to the circumstances and personalities of the parties involved — however controversial they may be. She is to dispense justice without fear or favor

We all took an oath to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws of the Philippines” and, like lady justice, we are bound to do so without fear or favor.

An impeachment trial is sui generis. Be that as it may, the Bill of Rights stands supreme over all the powers of government, including the power to impeach. And nowhere is this precept more apposite than in this case, where the government has mustered all the resources at its disposal, not only to secure evidence against the Chief Justice but, further, to ensure his conviction.

The crucial issues that have piqued the interest of the Senator-Judges as well as the public were outside the original ambit of the impeachment complaint and have been brought forth only after its filing.

Evidence on some of these issues came from “questionable” sources … beginning with the unidentified “little lady” to documents anonymously left on gates and in mailboxes.

At the expense of the sub judice rule, evidence had been presented to the public on several occasions, even before they were formally offered before this Court.

Worse, information was grossly exaggerated with the apparent intention to predispose the public mind against the Chief Justice. Notable examples would be the Land Registration Authority report with the discredited list of 45 properties and the unauthenticated AMLC report claiming that the Chief Justice allegedly owned 10 million US dollars.

Still, the Chief Justice sufficiently addressed the accusations against him with regard to the filing of his SALN, and the disclosure of his real properties and peso and dollar deposits.

Relative to his dollar deposits, the Chief Justice believed that he was under no legal duty to declare these deposits pursuant to RA 6426, which affords absolute confidentiality to all foreign currency depositors.

This interpretation of the law is now being publicly criticized as flawed. However, quite a number of public officials construe RA 6426 vis-a-vis RA 6713 in the same manner.

In view of the ambiguous situation created by the concurrent application of the 1987 Constitution, the SALN law, and the FCDU law, and absent a determinative judicial pronouncement that resolves the contrary positions on this legal issue, the Chief Justice must be presumed to have acted in good faith. Indeed, it has been held that not all omissions and misdeclarations in the SALN amount to dishonesty.

The framers of the Constitution intended “culpable violation of the Constitution” to mean a willful and intentional violation of the Constitution.

“Betrayal of public trust,” on the other hand, was meant to be a catch-all phrase to encompass all acts violative of the oath of office or which render the officer unfit to continue in service.

Both grounds, however, were contemplated to exclude unintentional or involuntary violations, errors made in good faith and honest mistakes in judgment.

Granting, therefore, that the Chief Justice violated the SALN law, this certainly does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
We may be faulted for erring on the side of conservatism. But what we are doing is redefining the relationship between branches of government, and when such great affairs of state are uncertain, the resulting instability puts every Filipino’s future in limbo. This is an important, delicate, momentous event and because of that we should tread very lightly.

We must be very, very careful and very, very fair in making this decision because what we do today will reverberate throughout our social and political history affecting generations beyond ours.

When the furor has died down and this political storm has subsided, I know – that like the lady Justice – we shall find solace in the fact that this decision, though maybe not popular, was fair, impartial and just.

On the arguments presented, and on the ground that the presumption of innocence has not been overcome, I vote to ACQUIT the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. d_hitman19@yahoo.com.ph permalink
    May 30, 2012 3:38

    THE 3 SENATORS MADE THE RIGHT DECISION. I SALUTE THEM.. KEEP FIGHTING FOR THE SAKE OF OUR COUNTRY..

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