by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News | 02/17/2012 7:17 PM
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Chief Justice Renato Corona has fought back at Pres. Aquino's latest tirades.
In a statement released to the media a day after Mr. Aquino lashed at him anew at a public forum at La Consolacion College in Manila, Corona reminded the President that he should not be meddling in the impeachment trial nor influence the Senate Impeachment Court, an independent body from the Executive branch.
Aquino accused Corona of not truthfully declaring his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) in 2010 where his declared cash deposits only totalled P3.5 million while bank records presented in the impeachment trial showed he had P31.5 million at that time.
The Chief Justice said the President should refrain from issuing statements about the ongoing trial and accord due respect to the Impeachment Court.
The Prosecution is presenting its evidence in the trial, while the Defense will only be able to present Corona's side once the Prosecution is through with all 8 Articles of Impeachment.
"Ako po ay nananawagan sa ating pangulo na huwag pakialaman, pangunahan at impluwensiyahan ang Senate Impeachment Court. Mayroon pong proseso ang impeachment proceedings, at iyan po ay nakasaad sa ating Saligang Batas at sa mga alituntunin at kalakaran sa Senado... Kung kayo po ay nababagalan na sa pag-usad ng kasong isinampa ninyo laban sa akin, ang solusyon ay nasa kamay ng inyong mga taga-usig," Corona said.
"Hindi po ba’t kayo ang pumili ng hakbang na ito at nagdulog nito sa Senado? Huwag po natin ilayo ang usapin sa proseso ng Impeachment Court at idaan sa media ang paghusga sa akin. Pabayaan po nating umusad ang kaso nang ayon sa batas at sa proseso nito. Gaya po ng una ninyong nasabi, higit na makabubuti kung kayo po ay 'magmasid at manahimik muna,'" he added.
Corona said if there was anybody to blame for the seeming confusion caused by several issues tackled in the trial, it should be the prosecution, which, he said, is backed by no less than Mr. Aquino, himself.
Corona pointed out that it was, after all, the prosecution, which introduced reported falsified documents as evidence against him.
"[W]ala po tayong dapat sisihin diyan kung hindi ang inyong mga taga-usig na siyang naglabas ng huwad na listahan ng aking mga ari-arian, naglathala ng aking sahod upang ipakita na wala akong kakayahang bumili, nguni’t hindi naman isinama ang pangkalahatang sitwasyon, at nitong huli, nagharap ng mga palsipikadong dokumento ng bangko. Sino po ba ang talagang nanlilinlang ng taong bayan?" Corona said.
"Ginagamit na po ninyo ang buong puwersa ng gobyerno upang ako at ang aking buong pamilya ay apihin at pagmalupitan. Ito po ba ang patas na laban? At matuwid na daan?" he added.
The Chief Justice accused Malacañan of using the full force of government and its resources to pin him down.
"188 congressmen at humigit kumulang na 60 private prosecutors, lahat sumasahod sa kaban ng bayan. Ito po ba ay tama? Idagdag pa po natin diyan ang BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) at LTO (Land Transportation Office) Commissioners, LRA (Land Registration Authority) Administrator, Registers of Deeds, BID (Bureau of Immigration) Commissioner, at marami pang ibang opisyal at kawani ng pamahalaan na inuutusan upang hanapan ako at ang aking buong pamilya ng mga kamalian.
"Ginagamit na po ninyo ang buong puwersa ng gobyerno upang ako at ang aking buong pamilya ay apihin at pagmalupitan. Ito po ba ang patas na laban? At matuwid na daan?" he said.
In comparison, Corona said he only has 20 private lawyers who are all defending him for free.
Malacañan should address pressing problems
The Chief Justice stressed it is not the President's job to provide "clarity" in the ongoing trial. Instead, he said, Mr. Aquino should just focus on solving the country's problems such as poverty, hunger, and the rising prices of goods and commodities.
This, he said, is the function of the Executive Department.
"Bilang pangulo ng bayan, hindi po ninyo kailangang 'liwanagin ang dapat liwanagin, at ituwid ang isyung pilit dinidiskaril ng ilan.' Tungkulin po iyan ng Senate Impeachment Court. Ang tungkulin po ninyo ay hanapan ng lunas ang lumalalang kahirapan at pagkagutom ng marami nating mamamayan, walang humpay na pagtaas ng presyo ng gasolina at ng ibang pangunahing bilihin, patuloy na demolisyon ng tirahan ng mga maralita, at mabagal na tugon sa mga nasalanta ng kalamidad dala ng kapabayaan sa kalikasan. Itong mga ito po ang dapat ninyong pagtuunan ng pansin," Corona said.
Challenge to Aquino: release your SALNs, bank accounts, and psychological records
Corona reiterated that the "non-disclosure" of his SALNs was in compliance with a long-running policy at the Supreme Court that began way before he became associate justice.
Based on a Resolution on May 2, 1989, Justices and Judges are barred from disclosing their SALNs to the public, except when reasons for such requests are valid and not for any fishing expedition or harassment.
The non-disclosure of Corona's SALN served as basis for Article 2 in the Impeachment Complaint.
"Ako po ay naglabas na ng aking SALN. Hindi ko po ito itinatago. Ang hindi po paglathala nito ay ayon sa nabuong patakaran ng Korte Suprema dalawang dekada na ang nakalipas, hindi pa po ako mahistrado. Ang SALN ko po ay aking ipaliliwanag pagdating ng aking oras o pagkakataon, ayon sa proseso ng impeachment proceedings," he said.
In his speech Thursday, Mr. Aquino reminded Corona of a case decided by the High Court where a court employee was removed from service for not disclosing a property in the SALN.
In Rabe vs. Flores, the dismissed employee was a court interpreter.
"Tungkol po ito sa court interpreter mula sa Davao RTC (Regional Trial Court) na hindi idineklara ang pagmamay-ari niyang puwesto sa palengke, kung saan nakakatanggap siya ng renta... Sa isang Court interpreter, iyan po ang batayan. Magkano po kaya ang upa sa isang puwesto sa palengke? Sa Punong Mahistrado po ba, dapat naiiba? Kung si Gng. Flores po ay sinisante, ano po kaya ang dapat na hatol kay G. Corona? Kailangan pa po bang tanungin kung impeachable offense ang ginawa niya?" Aquino said.
Corona, however, pointed out to the President that the subject court employee was dismissed from service not only because of non-disclosure of a property in the SALN, but also because of another offense.
"[D]apat po sigurong maipaliwanag sa inyong mabuti ng inyong mga magagaling na abogado na si Bb. Flores ay natanggal sa serbisyo hindi lamang dahil sa hindi niya dineklara sa kanyang SALN ang kanyang paupahan. Si Bb. Flores po ay natanggal dahil sa pangunahing dahilan na tumanggap po siya ng 'double compensation' o sahod ng dalawang beses, isa galing sa bayan ng Panabo, Davao, at yung isa mula sa korte," Corona said.
Corona also challenged Mr. Aquino to release his own SALN, bank accounts, and even his psychological records.
"Marahil, higit na makabubuti kung ilabas na rin ninyo, Ginoong Pangulo, ang inyong SALN, at ipaliwanag ito sa taong-bayan. Siguro, isama ninyo na rin ang inyong bank accounts at psychological records na matagal ng isyu. Mayroon po tayong obligasyon na ipakita sa taong-bayan na maayos ang ating pagiisip," he said.
'Teach the youth what is right'
Corona accused the President of teaching the youth to prejudge his case.
The Chief Justice said the youth should be taught to honor due process, the Rule of Law, and an accused's right to be heard.
He stressed that it is still the Prosecution's turn to present its evidence in the trial, and when his turn comes, Corona said, he will answer every single one of the allegations.
Corona called on the public to remain vigilant against what he called are attempts by Mr. Aquino to influence the Impeachment Court.
"Bakit po ninyo tinuturuan ang kabataan na maghusga na hindi alam ang buong katotohanan, na iisang panig pa lang ang nadidinig? Ganito po bang 'hustisya' at 'fair play' ang tinuturo ninyo sa kabataan? Bigyan ninyo po ako ng pagkakataon na magbigay ng aking panig, magharap ng aking ebidensiya, sagutin ang inyong mga walang basehang paratang, at ilahad ang katotohanan. Ito po ang tunay na katarungan at ang naaayon sa ating Saligang Batas.
"Nananawagan din po ako sa taong-bayan. Kontrolado po ng ating pangulo ang buong Executive Department. Kontrolado rin po niya ang House of Representatives. Huwag po nating payagan na mahawakan pa niya ang Senado. Huwag po tayong pumayag na posasan niya ang Korte Suprema at buong hudikatura. Ito po ay para sa ating demokrasya. Ito po ay para sa ating lahat," he said.
Palace to Corona: Explain SALN, wealth discrepancies
Malacañang fired back in response to Corona's statement and asked him to explain discrepancies regarding his SALN and his wealth and properties.
Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, in a press statement, said Corona "remains deaf" to the issue regarding his SALN.
"More of this wealth is being revealed with every day that passes," she said.
"Instead of insulting the branches of our government and its agencies; instead of agitating the masses to attend his rallies-it would have been a simple matter to explain where all the money in his accounts came from," Valte added.
"He has said that he will respond to every allegation; and yet he himself filed a self-serving petition at the Supreme Court to halt the impeachment trial," she said.
She did not answer Corona's demand for Aquino to disclose his SALNs, bank accounts, and psychological records, and instead accused the chief justice of trying to deflect public attention from the real issues behind his impeachment trial.
"We repeat: This is not personal; it is a fight for our justice system," she said.
She added that Corona is using "the same lines" used by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
"If he had only used this statement to clear his name, then public discourse about this issue would not have been diminished. Has anything good come out of Mr. Corona's statement? No," she said.
"We have complete confidence in the Senate, which, as the representatives of the Filipino people, will determine whether Mr. Corona deserves to retain his position. We leave it to the Filipino people to judge if Mr. Corona's statement displays the dignity expected from an Honorable Chief Justice," Valte said.