May 28, 2012 · Posted in: General
DOES THE FOREIGN CURRENCY DEPOSITS ACT, the law that defense lawyers insist prevented Chief Justice Renato Corona from disclosing his dollar accounts in his statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth, really prevent a government official from listing his foreign deposits in his SALN?
Presiding Officer Juan Ponce Enrile thinks it does not.
At the end of the oral arguments by both defense and prosecution panels before the senate impeachment court, Enrile asked defense lawyer Serafin Cuevas if he thought that Corona would have been liable under Republic Act 6426 or the Foreign Currency Deposits Act if he had disclosed his dollar deposits in his SALN.
Corona and his lawyers had insisted that he did not include $2.4 million in dollar accounts in his SALNs because they were covered by absolute confidentiality under the Foreign Currency Deposits Act.
Enrile said that RA 6426 applies the confidentiality rule to third parties, and not to the depositor himslef.
“We are forgetting that the law allows the exposure of foreign currency deposit by express provision of 6426 if the depositor himself would do it.” Enrile said.
“There is no secrecy law in the country that prohibits or inhibits or proscribes the depositor to reflect (the amount in his SALN),” Enrile added. “What is prohibited is for third parties to reveal it. The depositor is not (prohibited from disclosing.)”
Enrile referred Cuevas to Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees, which requires government employees to disclose all their assets and net worth.
“Do you consider it a command of the people or something that can be disregarded,” Enrile asked Cuevas.
Cuevas responded that the law must be obeyed. However Cuevas added that “when there are rights that arise from a different law, I do not see any reason why it cannot be availed of by the depositor.”
At this point, Enrile asked Cuevas if he was aware of the difference between the concepts of Culpa and Dolus. Both are Latin words used in law, the latter referring to evil intent, embracing both malice and fraud; and the former referring to a fault, sin, or guilt.
After some prodding, Cuevas said that dolus refers to an intentional act, while culpa refers to negligence. A more comprehensive discussion of these legal concepts may be found here.
“This is material in considering this provision of the Constitution,” Enrile said, apparently referring to the idea of whether Corona had intentionally tried to hide his assets or if he had, as his defense panel insists, merely acted on good faith.
Enrile stressed that the law makes no mention of the intent of the alleged violator. “It does not call for any intent,” Enrile said. “Where in that provision do you find intent?”
With that, the senate impeachment court adjourned its 43rd day of hearing and closed the oral arguments on the impeachment case of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 29, the Senate sitting as an impeachment body will vote on whether to find Corona guilty or innocent of the charges of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of the public trust, largely for his alleged failure to publicly disclose his assets and net worth as required by law.
A vote of two-thirds of the Senate, or 16 votes, would be required for a conviction.
This would be the first impeachment trial to be concluded by the Philippine Senate. The first impeachment trial, against former President Joseph Estrada, was stopped short by the second EDSA People Power revolt.