Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why Corona should be impeached

From Dean Tony La Viña of the Ateneo School of Government article in Rappler

...because he made the assumption that he did not need to declare his dollar assets in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) due to bank confidentiality laws. Those laws have a purpose but they were not intended to shield wrongdoing or be an excuse for not doing one’s positive duty as a public official.

Even considering his assertion that he didn’t have the 82 accounts alleged in Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales’ testimony, his 4 accounts should still have been fully disclosed. This admission, in turn, he made worse by making his waiver conditional, thus making it appear like he were trying to deflect attention from himself.

No public official, especially in high office, can make that assumption which Corona claimed. To accept his argument is to negate our laws on the accountability of public officials. For me, the mere failure of the Chief Justice to disclose any of his assets in his SALNs is sufficient grounds for conviction under Article II of the impeachment complaint – not just because it violates the Constitution, but also because his high position demands equally high responsibility.

The Constitution’s intentions were to require public officials to be transparent and accountable by example, not merely on demand or by convenience. It is not about whether a public official’s wealth was ill-gotten or not; it’s not about the presumption of innocence; it is about setting a good example and demonstrating good faith to the Filipino people.

Chief Justice Corona’s assumption that foreign currency accounts should not be disclosed sets a bad example and precedent to all other public officials. His excuse defeats the purpose of the SALN, if some assets can remain undisclosed in the name of privacy. This assumption, this attitude, is arrogant and condescending, at the very least. It also sets one’s self above the law, and demeans the Constitution’s intentions for accountability.

We cannot afford such assumptions and such attitudes – and the men who carry them – in high office. As fellow lawyer Joan de Venecia posted on Facebook: “CJ says he didn't declare his dollars in his SALN because they are, by law, absolutely confidential. I’m sorry, but this is, in my opinion, a disingenuous misreading of the law. That kind of interpretation subverts the very essence of the sacrosanct Constitutional principle that a public office is a public trust.” For this interpretation to come from the Chief Justice of the Philippines is simply unacceptable.

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