Gov’t officials challenged to sign waiver on bank funds

By Matikas Santos, Tetch Torres

Senate minority floor leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday challenged all government officials to sign a waiver opening up their bank accounts.

Cayetano said that the waiver should be amended into the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) Law.

“I have appealed and I am appealing to [President Benigno Aquino III], ask your Cabinet members to start by signing a waiver opening up their bank accounts to the Ombudsman, for example,” Cayetano said.

Chief Justice Renato Corona, in his testimony Tuesday, signed a waiver allowing the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to probe his bank accounts and business interest. But he said he will only submit it if the 188 lawmakers who signed the impeachment complaint against him and Senator Franklin Drilon will sign a similar waiver.

Prosecutors and Drilon said Tuesday that they have no intention of signing a waiver because it was not related to the impeachment trial.
“I believe it’s a valid issue, but the timing was not right,” Cayetano said.

“Perhaps after [the impeachment court renders] a decision, all government officials should sign a waiver to show that it’s not true [the government] was only going after the enemies of [President Benigno Aquino III],” Cayetano added.

‘Tuwid na daan’

He said that the waiver for government officials to open all bank accounts was “the next logical step in the “tuwid na daan” (straight path) campaign of President Aquino, since there was already the Anti-Red Tape Law, the Freedom of Information bill, and the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice.

Cayetano agreed that the waiver would “muddle the issue” if it was done during the impeachment trial “but right after this impeachment case, if [government officials] are not hiding anything, what is wrong with signing a waiver?”

Cayetano said that when he challenged former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo to open up his bank accounts, he did it first and without condition, unlike Corona who would only sign his waiver with the condition that the 189 others would do it first.

Part of his proposed amendment to the SALN law was to include bank account records in the waiver of the SALN.

“The banking system will not be ruined if a small elite group, let’s say from the Office of the Ombudsman or it can be a composite group in [the Anti-Money Laundering Council], that will also look into these bank accounts,” Cayetano said.

Waiver challenge snow balls
Meanwhile, a Catholic school official and some bishops also supported the challenge to government officials to open up their bank account records.

Fr. Ranhilio C. Aquino, chair of Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) and Dean, Graduate School of law, San Beda College , said those who accused Corona of not disclosing bank records must also show that they are not guilty of committing the same offense, otherwise it is hypocritical, said.

“There is a condition, those who accused him (the Chief Justice) of not disclosing his bank records should come to court with clean hands,” Aquino said.

“That’s a principle of equity. He who comes into equity must come with clean hands. They have to make sure that they are not guilty of non-disclosure, otherwise it is hypocritical,” he added.

During Wednesday’s impeachment trial, lead prosecutor Niel Tupas said they will not sign the waiver. The prosecutors added that they have nothing to hide and their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth will be available after the impeachment trial.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said government officials should take Corona’s challenge and sign a waiver .

“Those accusing him should also set the example by disclosing their dollar accounts,” Pabillo told church-run Radio Veritas Wednesday. “That’s why the challenge of the Chief Justice is good for other lawmakers to show their assets.”

“There is really something wrong when they want a person to disclose his dollar accounts but his accusers refuse to do the same or don’t want to be transparent,” he said.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said government officials accepting Corona’s challenge would erase doubt on every public servant’s credibility.

“The nation will benefit a lot if they will sign a waiver,” Arguelles told the CBCP news.

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said Corona’s dare “is but a statement that those accusing him of dishonesty in making his SALN are dishonest themselves.”

“That’s why the basis of this is let us know who have no sin and throw the first stone. That’s the message,” Cruz said.

3 Lawmakers bite Corona ‘waiver’ challenge

Despite being brushed off as a publicity stunt by Senator Franklin Drilon and members of the House prosecution, three of the 188 lawmakers who signed the impeachment complaint are willing to take on Chief Justice Renato Corona’s dare to sign a waiver on their bank deposits.

Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco, ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, and Kalinga party-list Representative Abigail Faye Ferriol said that they were willing to take on Corona’s challenge, stressing that they have nothing to hide.

Even members of the minority bloc stepped up to the chief magistrate’s condition for signing his waiver.

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, however, said they were willing to open their bank accounts if the 188 lawmakers and Drilon would do so.

Drilon and the members of the House prosecution team have already told the impeachment court that they had no plans of signing their waivers.

The Nation On Trial

By Fransico S. Tatad
Opinion, Manila Standard Today

Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona came to the Senate impeachment court yesterday to speak in his own defense, but he unexpectedly turned the tables on Malacañang and his accusers by asking them what evil he has done to deserve not only the present trial but also the sustained vilification against him and his family the past five months.

The senator-judges listened in reverential silence as the chief justice gave his statement to the court.  The crowd, which had melted away after the first few days of the trial, had returned, filling the gallery to the rafters.  All eyes were on the chief justice.  As far as they could see, Corona was the only one who stood accused. But after listening to him, it became clear he had shifted the burden on the Aquino government.
Corona gave three reasons for Malacañang’s determined campaign to convict and destroy him.   He said President Benigno Aquino III could not forgive him for the Supreme Court decision awarding Hacienda Luisita to the farmers whose ancestors had owned it from the very beginning.  Second, the President wanted to gain full control of the three branches of government.  Third, Mr. Aquino appears to have fallen captive to the communist Left, whose designs on the government could only be facilitated if the Judiciary were destroyed.

Corona’s appearance brought the trial to its highest, or next highest point. But it was not yet “the moment of truth,” contrary to what one banner headline said.  The moment of truth is when the bullfighter and the bull face each other inside the bullring for the kill.  That will come when the senator judges finally decide: Guilty, or Not Guilty, or—in the words of Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter at the Clinton trial—“Not Proven.”  However, it may have turned the tide of public opinion, and that of the court.

Until yesterday, Corona seemed to be facing a terribly uphill fight.  That was partly because matters that had nothing to do with the Articles of Impeachment had been permitted to enter the domain of the court.  Malacañang has exerted no effort to make its intervention in the case discreet; the big stories attacking Corona were coming not necessarily from the prosecution but many times from Malacañang spokesmen, and from the President himself.  Corona could not even get legal relief from the Supreme Court.

After Corona was impeached by 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint at Malacañang’s bidding without reading the eight Articles of Impeachment, five petitions were filed with the Supreme Court seeking to restrain the Senate from hearing the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.  This became six when Corona’s lawyers added their own petition.
But led by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile,  the Senate said it was not answerable to the Supreme Court for its decisions, and warned the High Court against intervening. And the court apparently took the Senate’s word for it.

But hardly any trial day passed without the senator-judges lecturing the prosecution.  After 26  trial days, the prosecution rested its case after dropping five of the eight articles.  Of the remaining three, Article II appeared to be the strongest; it alleged Corona’s failure to disclose all his assets in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.  But the court could not say if violation of the SALN law  was an impeachable crime.   Article II also  failed to allege “ill-gotten wealth” or graft and corruption, so the  court enjoined the panel not to try to raise that charge or to dig into Corona’s alleged dollar bank accounts, whose secrecy is  absolute.

Still, on February 17, some party-list and civil society politicians asked the Ombudsman to investigate Corona for his alleged failure to include certain bank deposits in his SALN.  The Ombudsman readily obliged, even though the same charge was already being heard at the trial. Then on April 20, while the trial was on recess, the Ombudsman ordered Corona to explain “within 72 hours” alleged bank accounts in his name and dollar deposits purportedly amounting to $10 million.

Corona challenged his accusers and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to substantiate their accusations. Thereafter  he would take the stand himself, he said.  Thus, on May 7,  Morales astounded the trial with a Powerpoint presentation of Corona’s alleged dollar banking transactions from 82 accounts, admittedly obtained illegally from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, without a court order, as required by law, and without  verifying the information herself.

Yesterday was Corona’s turn to make his own Powerpoint presentation and to expose Morales’ presentation as deceptive and false.

Having heard both sides,  the senator-judges must now decide whether the charges against Corona are impeachable, and have been proven, and whether he is  to be judged on the basis of those charges, or on the basis of something else. Should he be acquitted because he has done no manifest harm to the nation, or should he be convicted because he has offended and continues to offend the President?

It is said that the mind is like a parachute, it only functions when it is open. But being open-minded still doesn't always guarantee fairness in how one sees things because the mind is also like a camera. And like a camera, the mind's appreciation is always limited only to what perspective it chooses to focus on. And just as buttons and controls on the camera are used to adjust the photo to desired result, similarly, personal biases tend to affect how things are appreciated to suit preference -- be it for or against the object or subject.


Let there be no double standard

“You have heard that it was said to them of old time, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall perform to the Lord your vows,’ but I tell you, don't swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shall you swear by your head, for you can't make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘no.’ Whatever is more than these is of the evil one." (Matthew 5:33-37)

"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every worthless word they have spoken." (Matthew 12:35-36)

See to it that truth is not lacking; lest anyone who hears and desires to turn away from evil will make himself a prey. It displeases the Lord to see no justice. (Ref.: Isiah 59:15)

Let there be no double standard; let justice be applied to everyone. As truth is demanded from one public official, let truth be demanded from everyone in public office.

Judgment for one is judgment for all. By the judgment we made through our representatives in the House of Congress acting as Judges for the people, we are judging ourselves as a nation. The Lord has put us in a rare situation to judge for ourselves our very own collective selves. Like the church, a nation is a body of people and each individual is a member of the body. One member's ailment or disfunction affects the entire body. Therefore it is foolish for other members of the body to condemn another ailing or disfunctioning member -- they should not forget that they only belong to the same body and it is only the same one blood that flows and circulates throughout all of the members.