DEFENSE LAWYERS of Chief Justice Renato Corona argued that Corona had filed his statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth in good faith, and any errors in the document should not be considered an impeachable offense.
Defense counsel Eduardo de los Angeles, in the oral argument presented by the defense panel, said that Republic Act 6246 or the Foreign Currency Deposits Act takes precedence over RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees in that the previous law imposes an absolute veil of confidentiality on foreign deposits that not even the Code of Conduct can force open.
“Even if 6713 requires public officials to file SALN under aoth, this does not amend the provision under the foreign currency deposits act which is a specific law,” de los Angeles said.
“We cannot hold the Chief Justice liable because he believes in good faith on the absolute confidentiality of foreign deposits,” he added. Moreover, de los Angeles argued that Corona could not be punished if the “gaps in the law” are not amended, thereby allowing public officials to hide their assets in foreign deposits.
“The Chief Justice cannot be made answerable to his interpretation of the law prior to a legislative amendment explicitly declaring this interpretation as erroneous,” he said.
De los Angeles also argued that even if Corona erred in not declaring his dollar accounts, this still would not be tantamount to an impeachable offense.
De los Angeles pointed out that Section 2 Article 11 of the Constitution laid the crimes for which Corona could be impeached. These would be for culpable violation of the constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.
“This enumeration indicates that the impeachment and conviction should be based on nothing less than high crimes,” de los Angeles said. “The Chief Justice is not charged with treason, bribery, graft and corruption, or even ill-gotten wealth.”