Speech of Senator Sergio Osmeña III explaining his verdict on Chief Justice Renato Corona, May 29, 2012

Speech of Senator Sergio Osmeña III:
Explaining his verdict on Chief Justice Renato Corona

[Delivered on May 29, 2012]

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, honorable members of the House of Representatives, distinguished members of both the prosecution and the defense panels, my countrymen.

In arriving at our decision today, we narrowed our concerns into four:

  1. Did Chief Justice Renato Corona violate the Constitution?
  2. Did he do it knowingly and willingly?
  3. Was the violation of such gravity as to warrant his impeachment?
  4. Has Justice Corona betrayed the public trust?

Ironically, the answers to the first two questions were supplied by the defendant himself when Justice Corona admitted that he did not disclose in his yearly Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) over PI80 million in cash and near-cash assets.

While not in consonance with the SALN law, Justice Corona gave as his excuse the FCDU law. Yet, nowhere in that FCDU law is the depositor not allowed to disclose his own deposits. All the FCDU law prohibits is the depository banks and third parties from disclosing the account and the amount of deposits.

Searching for the answer to the third question took a little longer. Is the violation of the SALN law of such gravity as to merit impeachment?

Not surprisingly, the answers were again supplied by Justice Corona and the High Court.

Numerous decisions on cases involving SALN law violations have been handed down by the Supreme Court. Among others: Rabe v. Flores; Concerned Taxpayer v. Doblada; Carabeo v. Court of Appeals; Office of the Court Administrator v. Usman; Flores v. Montemayor and several others.

In Rabe v. Flores, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that a simple, humble court interpreter in Davao del Norte in Mindanao had to be dismissed from service because she had failed to disclose in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth that she rented a market stall in the Panabo market. The High Court further ruled that Ms. Flores was perpetually disqualified from holding office.

I went a bit further and posed a hypothetical question to myself. If the Court had been supplied with a bank passbook belonging to Ms. Flores which showed a deposit of $10,000 which had not been reported in her SALN, would the Court’s ruling have been the same? Dismissal and perpetual disqualification from office?

My plain, ordinary, legally untrained but reasonable mind tells me “yes” the Supreme Court would have ruled similarly.

If these public officers had been dismissed from office for failing to declare far less remarkable, far less valuable assets in their SALNs, despite and regardless of their excuses, then there is more reason to apply the law when the assets in question amount to over PI 80 million.

We should not penalize the poor man for stealing a bicycle but rule that the rich man must first steal a Mercedes before he is subjected to a similar penalty.

My fourth and last question was: Did Justice Corona betray the public trust?

Again, ironically, the answer was supplied by Justice Corona and the Supreme Court.

For contained in the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary under Canon 2 which covers integrity are two sections:

  1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer.
  2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the people’s faith in the integrity of the Judiciary. Justice must not merely be done, but must also be seen to be done.

Mr. President, we all must face the Ms. Floreses of our country, whether in Mindanao, the Visayas, or Luzon. We must be able to tell them that justice is, to the best of our ability, being applied equally to the rich and to the poor, to the powerful and to the powerless.

The Senate Impeachment Court must restore the people’s faith in the judicial system. The Senate must bring about a higher level of moral standards in governance.

I therefore find for the people, guilty on Article II.