IN PCIJ’s analysis, the biggest obstacles to achieving full transparency in the high court seem to be its top two officials: Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P. A. Sereno and Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio.

The two were among the seven who did not respond to PCIJ’s clarificatory letters but whose SALNs invite the biggest questions of all.

In Sereno’s case, what happened seems to be either indifference or diffidence to PCIJ’s request for asset records she had filed in previous years that only she can actually decide on now. The matter has been awaiting Sereno’s action since last month.

It all started with PCIJ submitting a request last September with the University of the Philippines for copies of SALNs that Sereno had filed as a professor with the UP College of Law form 1996 to 2002. The documents are on file with the UP Human Resources Development Office.

But instead of releasing Sereno’s SALNs, the premiere state university, which is usually jealous of its academic freedom and avowedly as zealous about good governance, rushed to the Court en banc for an opinion.

According to UP President Alfredo Pascual, it was the advice of UP’s lawyers to get clearance from the high court before releasing Sereno’s SALNs in light of the high court’s Guidelines on the release of the justices’ SALNs.

Here’s the thing: the Guidelines, which clearly refer to SALNs of justices and judges, were issued in 2012, or 10 years after Sereno had filed her last SALN with UP as a law professor.

Last month, the en banc tossed the issue to the Office of the Chief Justice so Sereno herself could decide on it. So far, she has yet to take action in favor of transparency.

Carpio’s refusal to deal with what PCIJ found were apparent disparities in his SALNs, meanwhile, is totally inconsistent with his declaration that a new era of transparency had come upon the high court, when he became acting chief justice.

PCIJ’s clarificatory letter to Carpio raised the following concerns:

* His 2011 SALN lists the total amount of personal properties at P54,241,220.00, but PCIJ’s computation of the 23 properties that he declared he owns amounted to P58,425,914.00. There seems to be a difference of P4,184,694.00, which should make his total net worth P84,079,719.57 and not P79,895,025.57 as he said in his 2011 SALN.

* Carpio’s latest SALN enrolled assets worth P4,184,694.00, P552,500.00, and P10,000,000.00 representing “insurance” policies. He did not say whether or not these are the face value of his policies or just the premiums he had paid.

According to a tax lawyer, however, it is not exactly correct to say that the face value of one’s insurance policies are one’s assets. These do become assets of the filer’s beneficiaries after the filer would have passed on, says the expert. Interestingly, the amount of one of the policies – P4,184,694.00 – matches the discrepancy between his stated total net worth and PCIJ’s computation.

* The real nature and extent of operations of what Carpio disclosed was his family’s holding firm, Megatron Holdings, Inc. beg more explanation. This became apparent after PCIJ reviewed the corporate records of Megatron at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Megatron had filed certificates of non-operation for several years, yet still it continues to hold office at the offices, before and today, of Carpio’s former law firm, CVC Law, which is also known as “The Firm”. Carpio had reported in his 1992, 1993, 1994 and 2011 SALNs that Megatron’s address was 138 Bunga Extension, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa, Metro Manila. This is what Carpio has listed to be his residential address as well.

* Megatron’s corporate records, and the CVCLaw’s official website, enroll a different address for the Carpio family’s holding company.?In its 2006 General Information Sheet (GIS), Megatron said it holds office at the “5th Floor, LTA Building, 118 Perea St. Legaspi Village, Makati City, Metro Manila.” This building is owned by the family of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

CVC Law had held office there for a long period of time, or until they moved to the CVC Law Center at the swanky Global City in 2009.

* In its 2010, 2011, and 2012 GIS, Megatron, listed its business address at: “11th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Triangle, Global City 1634, Metro Manila.” This is exactly where the five-story CVC Law Center now stands.

To be sure, the amended articles of incorporation in 2001 and other records at the SEC of CVC Law reflected a divestment by Carpio from the law firm that he co-founded, within days after he was appointed associate justice by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. – PCIJ, December 2012

NOTE: This story was the sidebar to the last part of PCIJ’s special report on “The Wealth of the ‘Gods of Faura.’”

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