Explanation of vote in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona

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.



Commencement speech before the U.P. College of Medicine graduates on 20 May  2012 at the U.P. Theater in Diliman campus.

Allow me to introduce myself.  I am the UP graduate who has, in a modest way, focused national attention on the political malady known as logopaedics, the branch of medicine that deals with speech disabilities and their treatment.  Kasi ang ibang tao sa impeachment trial, hindi marunong magsabi ng totoo, kaya binibigyan ko sila ng speech therapy.

For politicians like me, commencement speeches are a regular feature of the calendar year.  But when the invitation comes from U.P. graduates, I consider the invitation to be more powerful than a subpoena, above any “Objection!”  It is not only a professional honor; it is an invitation to return to the sublime cradle of the most intellectual and the most idealistic leaders of the professions in our country.  I love this school which has the highest standard of academic excellence and the most unforgiving standard of moral excellence – the great University of the Philippines.

Today, you stand at the cusp of your medical career.  You bid goodbye to the distant past – when your parents struggled, emotionally and perhaps financially, to send you to the best medical school in the country.  You also bid goodbye to the recent past – when your professors audaciously took the clay of your undergraduate studies and molded you into the 159 youth I see before me now – each one of you a young, godlike person, trembling on the edge of an entirely new and dazzling universe, or perhaps of many universes.  Whatever astrophysics may conclude, each one of you stands as a master of the universe.

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Manifestation before the impeachment court by Sen. Santiago – 15 May 2012

Yesterday (14 May 2012), the Ombudsman’s power-point presentation indicated that defendant has 82 dollar accounts in the following bank branches (with the accompanying number of accounts per bank):

  •             BPI Acropolis Branch – 8
  •             BPI Tandang Sora – 18
  •             BPI Del Monte, Quezon City – 34
  •             BPI Investment Corp. -1
  •             PSB Cainta – 8
  •             PSB Katipunan – 6
  •             Allied Bank – 4
  •             Deutsche Bank – 2
  •             City Bank – 1

Because of hi-tech banking practices today, any information about a bank account will depend upon the system adopted by a particular bank.  For example, the bank could follow the customer transaction system or the bank transaction system. Hence, it could be possible that a single sum of money could be represented as a double entry.  One entry would be made in the credit column and another entry would be made in the debit column, although both entries could deal with one and the same amount of money.

A client could deposit and withdraw the same amount within a single day or within a few days of each other, if he engages in dollar trading.  A client who maintains a foreign currency deposit is not required to acquire a license for this purpose.  However, to engage in dollar trading, two or three accounts are sufficient.  It would be unnecessary to maintain all of 82 accounts.

The standard practice in the banking community is to raise the bells and whistles when one client seeks to keep more than two or three accounts.  To allege that the defendant had, for example, 34 accounts in BPI Del Monte taxes the credulity of bankers.

Therefore, I humbly propose, if there is no objection from our colleagues, that the Senate President should subpoena the manager of all nine bank branches that I have just enumerated.  The most knowledgeable official about a person’s bank account is the branch manager.  The branch manager is required by law and by standard banking policy to seek and record details about the client.#


Point No. 1:  May this Court order the parties to end the trial on or before June 7, the scheduled end of the Congress session?

Under the Rules of Court, Rule 133, Sec. 6, the court has power to stop further evidence on a particular point, “when the evidence is already so full that some witnesses to the same point cannot be reasonably expected to be additionally persuasive.  But this power should be exercised with caution.”

Further, under Rule 119 Sec. 11 para. (c):  “The prosecution and the defense may, in that order, present rebuttal and sur-rebuttal evidence unless the court, in furtherance of justice, permits them to present additional evidence bearing upon the main issue.”  In People v. Tan, 315 SCRA 375 (1999), the Supreme Court ruled: “It is within the sound discretion of a trial judge to allow a party that has rested its case to introduce rebuttal evidence.”

Under the Rules of Court, Rule 135, Section 1: “Justice shall be impartially administered without unnecessary delay.”  Under Sec. 5, entitled Inherent Powers of Courts, “every court shall have power: (d) To control, in furtherance of justice, the conduct of its ministerial officers, and of all other persons in any manner connected with a case before it, in every manner appertaining thereto.”

In the Pres. Clinton impeachment case, the House of Representatives impeached him for perjury and obstruction of justice on 19 December 1998.  Senate trial began on 7 January 1999.  He was acquitted on 12 February 1999 – or a little over a month later.

Therefore, I humbly submit that this impeachment court, after nearly five months of trial, possesses authority to order the conclusion of trial on or before June 7, so as to allow judgment to be promulgated before Congress ends this session. 

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