MANILA, Philippines (Feb 17, 2012) - In response to President Aquino's most recent swipe at Chief Justice Renato Corona, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) urged the public yesterday to withhold judgment until the the on-going impeachment trial of the chief magistrate is completed.
In a statement, Dennis Habawel, IBP spokesman, said the public must await Corona’s turn to present evidence before making any conclusion.
“To correctly appreciate the impeachment process, the public should realize that the procedure calls for the prosecution to prove its charges before the Chief Justice is called upon to present his defense,” read the statement.
Habawel said the statement of President Aquino that Corona had lied in declaring his income was premature.
“It is premature to claim now that the prosecution has already proven that the Chief Justice lied when he indicated in his SALN only P3.5 million cash when the disclosure of his several bank accounts shows that he has much more cash,” he said.
Habawel said the defense had argued during cross- examination that Corona’s wife had received more than P30 million as proceeds of expropriation of her family’s property.
“A possible legal scenario is that the CJ co-mingled his cash and his wife’s family’s cash in several bank accounts, making him a beneficial owner of only P3.5 million and trustee or agent or manager of the balance,” he said.
“If CJ proves that, his SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) is not false.”
Habawel questioned the basis of prosecutors in presenting documents on Corona’s alleged dollar deposits in Philippine Savings Bank during the trial.
“Despite the absence of an exclusionary provision in RA 6426 (Foreign Currency Deposit Act), the prosecution, the impeachment court and any person for that matter are nonetheless prohibited from inquiring or looking into any information regarding a foreign currency account that was obtained in violation of the law,” he added.
“It is not the exclusionary rule of the doctrine of fruit of the poisonous tree that applies. It is the threat or risk of incurring criminal liability that should deter any inquiry or looking into the foreign currency account without the permission of the depositor.”
Habawel said RA 6426 punishes with imprisonment and fine any person who inquires or looks into a dollar account without the depositor’s permission.
“In a sense, the threat of a criminal prosecution for violation of criminal prosecution for the threat of criminal prosecution for violation of the law renders an exclusionary provision superfluous,” he said.
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal warned that PSBank president Pascual Garcia III may have already violated the law when he “admitted” the existence of Corona’s dollar account.
“By such admission the PSBank president had already violated the confidentiality of dollar accounts which cannot be disclosed without consent of the depositor as provided under RA 6426,” he said.
“Even if the item pertaining to dollar account is covered, the same could still be deciphered or exposed since all the senators have to do is compare such ‘covered documents’ with their own document claimed by the bank as ‘fake’ or ‘falsified,’” he said. (From Philstar.com)