The Constitution provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent, until the contrary is proved. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. How much proof is necessary? In other words, what is the standard of proof? I have adopted the very high standard of “overwhelming preponderance of evidence.” My standard is very high, because removal by conviction on impeachment is a stunning penalty, the ruin of a life.
The defendant admitted that he did not declare his dollar accounts and certain commingled peso accounts in his SALN. Did this omission amount to an impeachable offense? No.
Under the rule of ejusdem generis, when a general word occurs after a number of specific words, the meaning of the general word should be limited to the kind or class of thing within which the specific words fall. The Constitution provides that the impeachable offenses are: “culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.” An omission in good faith in the SALN carries a light penalty, and is even allowed to be corrected. Thus, it is not impeachable.
The Constitution simply provides that a public officer shall submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth. That is all. There are no details. The Constitution is a brief declaration of fundamental principles. Many constitutional provisions are only commands to the Congress to enact laws to carry out the purpose of the charter.
As a general rule, constitutional provisions are not self-executory. The usual exceptions are the Bill of Rights, and constitutional prohibitions. All other constitutional provisions, such as the SALN provision, need implementing laws to provide the details. Hence, Congress, to implement this constitutional provision, has passed a number of laws, including the Foreign Currency Act, which confers absolute confidentiality on dollar deposits.
There is no conflict between the Constitution and the Foreign Currency Act. The perceived conflict is so simplistic that it is seriously laughable. If there is any conflict, it is between the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards, which provides for a waiver of confidentiality; and the Foreign Currency Act, which provides for absolute confidentiality.
It is for Congress to balance on the one hand, the need for public accountability from public officers; with, on the other hand, the desperate need for foreign investment, which entails confidentiality, on pain of driving away investors from our country. The argument that a dollar deposit protected from inquiry would nullify the principle of transparency is for Congress to resolve. We could retain the absolute confidentiality clause, with the amendment that Filipino public officers are not protected.
The prosecution mistakes admission for confession. In a confession, the defendant admits guilt. In an admission, the defendant merely states facts, which might tend to prove his guilt. In the instant case, the defendant did not make a confession, but merely an admission, with a legal defense.
As a former RTC judge, I find it reprehensible that the AMLA document was introduced in evidence, without authentication, as required by the Rules of Evidence. I am deeply disappointed that on at least three occasions, the prosecution claimed that its documents came from an anonymous source. Are you for real? Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. False in one thing, false in all things.
The defendant used his own name in all his questioned transactions. He could have done otherwise, if his purpose was invisibility. Why would a suspected criminal leave his calling cards at the scene of the crime?
Assuming for the sake of argument that there is a preponderance of evidence for the prosecution, the preponderance is not overwhelming.