PARANG humihila ng bayawak sa lungga. (It’s like pulling a monitor lizard out of a pit.)
This, according to former Senator Rene A.V. Saguisag, is how the Supreme Court has behaved in the last 23 years toward the law that he had chiefly authored, Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. In three words: The SALN Law.
The highest magistrates of the land are, by shape, color, or size, not one bit a spitting image of lizards. And the massive edifice, no matter how ancient, that is home to the highest court of the land on Padre Faura in Manila, is not a sliver close to being a pit.
EXACTLY A year ago today, on Dec. 12, 2011, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III marshaled votes from his Liberal Party and coalition allies in the House of Representatives to impeach then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.
The chief magistrate, it was alleged, had failed to declare the true and full details of his wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).
But by most indications, many strands of Corona’s story find parallels in the state of wealth of most of his former colleagues at the Supreme Court, as of 2011.
MANY PUBLIC officials like to say that accepting a government post is like taking a vow of poverty, given the supposedly paltry pay in government service.
What officials neglect to say, however, is that aside from their basic pay, many of them receive all sorts of allowances, bonuses, and other benefits that can jack up their income by as much as 300 percent.
WHEN Congress impeached then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona on December 12, 2011 because he had allegedly filed an intentionally flawed Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), it was a signal for public servants that the document they submitted each year was not to be trifled with.
And when Corona was found guilty by the Senate impeachment court of excluding a substantial portion of his assets in his sworn SALN, transparency in the details of their income and wealth became a clear obligation – and strong public expectation – of all public officials, but especially of the justices of the Supreme Court.
IF ANDAL AMPATUAN SR. and his sons ruled Maguindanao as if they owned the province, perhaps it was because they really owned a sizeable chunk of it — and parts of Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao City, and Makati City as well.
Andal Sr. and his sons Andal Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan, officials who hail from one of the poorest provinces in the country, own close to five million square meters of property scattered throughout Maguindanao, Cotabato, Davao, and even in ritzy Dasmariñas Village in Makati, according to records in the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 22, where there is a pending civil forfeiture case against the Ampatuan properties.
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