Specks and planks in our eyes

It’s up to Senate to let presentation of Aquino SALNs
By Karen Boncocan

Manila, Philippines—It is up to the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, if it would allow the defense to present the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of President Benigno Aquino III and other government officials during the proceedings.

This was how the spokesmen of the prosecution panel saw the issue on discussing other officials’ SALNs through the defense panel’s request for subpoena of testimonies from members of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), specifically for the purpose of baring documents used in three stories “SALN: Good law, bad results,” “Great filers, big barriers” and “House of Secrets”.

Marikina Representative Romero Quimbo said that if allowed, the Senate would fall into “the very trap that is being laid out by the defense” which sought to “divert the attention” of the public by trying to expose whether other government officials have failed to declare assets in their SALNs.

“I think what is important is that the Chief Justice is not just accused of omitting entries… [he] is accused of completely lying under oath.”

Quimbo pointed out that Corona, for years, skipped the declaration of his properties in his SALNs “which he is supposed to do under oath. This is a clear act on the part of the Chief Justice to completely violate the SALN law and actually lie under oath. That is the accusation as far as we are concerned.”

“I think the Senate has also mentioned that the SALNs of the different other public officials are irrelevant to this case,” Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III said, adding that should the impeachment court approve the request for subpoena, the prosecution “will just have to abide by whatever the impeachment court will decide.”

“We’ve always said that the SALNs of other public officials are not an issue here [but that of Corona].”

Prosecutors filed on Monday, an opposition on the said request for subpoena by Corona’s lawyers, and Quimbo said that they would continue to “oppose any diversionary tactic on the part of the defense.”

He said that it was irrelevant to the case whether other officials violated the SALN law since for them “there’s always a remedy. Bring them to the Ombudsman, file an ethics case.”

In Corona’s case, there was only the impeachment, explained the spokesman. “We are going through that today, let us not be distracted.”

He said that if the defense really wanted to bare SALNs of other public officials, “tingin ko pinakamaganda nilang ipakita ay iyong mga SALN na hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa natin nakikita. Iyong SALN ng iba pang mahistrado ng Korte Suprema.”

“Buksan ang SALN ng iba’t ibang opisyal. Simulan kaya natin doon sa SALN ng mga Supreme Court justices na up to today ay hindi pa rin nakikita.”

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A PCIJ report on the failure of members of the House of Representatives to live up to the same standards they are imposing on Chief Justice Renato Corona, whom they impeached for failure to make public his statement of assets liabilities and networth. PCIJ found out that only two congressmen have voluntarily made public their SALN; none of the House prosecutors have made their SALN public.

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Now that Corona’s controversial SALN has been made public and P-Noy has challenged him to justify the discrepancies there, it behooves P-Noy, too, to comment on his own net worth, based on his SALN. As shown in Corona's SALNs from 2002, when he entered the SC as associate justice, the CJ's net worth increased pretty steadily in small increments until 2010, when it increased by 57.5 % over his 2009 worth.

On the other hand, P-Noy should explain why his net worth maintained a small but very steady increase every year since 1998, when he became a member of the House for nine years and for three years as senator; but suddenly it registered a whopping 250% increase in 2010, when he became President with his government salary of P820,000 a year.

Read full story at: Tale of Two SALNs

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Government officials' SALNs. This is the real issue. When this impeachment trial is over, how can we Pinoys honestly say that we have rendered a fair judgement (guilty or otherwise) on one government official based on his SALN if we do not apply the same standard of judgement also to other officials of the government? The law concerning SALNs must be used fairly and must also be applied equally to every officials of the government starting from the highest position of the land to the lowest. What is achieved if CJ Corona is judged guilty of violating the law on SALN while other government officials are practicing the same violation and are equally guilty of the same mistake if put under the same scrutiny as the impeachment court?

If there is one thing good that this impeachment trial may bring, it is this: Real public accountability for all government officials, not just CJ Corona. The public trial has turned in such a way as to self-judge every participant of the trial, namely, the accused, the senator-judges, the prosecutors, the defense, the witnesses, and even the spectators.

In the Lord's way of justice, the essence of His judgement starts with giving every person the realization and opportunity for self-evaluation so that one could judge his neighbor as according to how he judge himself. If we are willing to judge a person according to one standard, then we must also be willing to submit ourselves to that same standard.

"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Mathew 7:3-5)