The impeachment proceedings this week had some key issues which made me reflect more deeply than usual.
First, I heard Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago so passionately articulate her personal view about a document presented by the Prosecution. This document was properly admitted as un-authenticated Philippine Savings Bank (PSB) but deemed important enough for the Prosecution to share it with the Senate sitting as an impeachment court. The information in the document contained account numbers of peso and foreign currency deposits allegedly belong to Chief Justice Rene Corona. The Prosecution then requested that the accounts be subpoenaed, and their request was granted.
The same document was certified by the PSB bank manager at a later date as “fake.” However, the account numbers were, indeed, accurate and did belong to Chief Justice Corona. In fact, balances of the peso accounts were already revealed by no less than the bank president himself while Corona ran to the Supreme Court to stop the contents of the dollar accounts from being revealed. In other words, the document detailing the account numbers of Rene Corona in PSB Bank was not an official bank document and, thus, fake. But its contents or information were true.
Senator Miriam said that the document should have been authenticated by the Prosecution before presenting it to the impeachment court. All the more, it should have been authenticated before asking the court to issue a subpoena based on the document.
I believe that the position of Senator Miriam is legally correct. It is crazy to imagine a court of law admitting unauthenticated documents as basis for any action except to throw such documents into the waste basket. There should be no more further discussion on this subject matter, but there is. And for one simple reason – the contents of the fake document were true. They were so true that the Defense panel accepted them as true and the owner of the peso and dollar accounts, rene Corona, asked the Supreme Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against opening his dollar accounts. The Supreme Court, by accommodating the request for a TRO, accepted the fact that their Chief Justice, indeed, owns the dollar accounts.
I have heard it said in the impeachment trial proceedings that the whole set of information, true as they were, can be stricken out of the records and that final judgment of the case must not be based on any information, even if such is true, of inadmissible documents. This is where it gets bizarre – an unauthenticated document detailing bank counts authenticated as true, true enough for the Supreme Court to issue a TRO against the opening of Corona’s dollar accounts.
This is what we have confronting us – a law standing as obstacle in the pursuit of truth and justice, a law protecting even thieves who only have to hide money by converting and depositing the same to foreign currencies.
When the dishonest have a law that allows them to hide their loot, how can a Prosecution ever get authenticated documents showing what they are hiding? I can understand the validity of Senator Miriam’s position but I can also see the unfairness of it all.
While much has been said about the unauthenticated document which is turning out to be fake but whose contents are real and accurate, more accurate than the Statement of Assets & Liabilities and New Worth filed by Chief Justice Corona, little has been said of the source of the controversial document except that she is a small lady. I do not wish to be distracted by her gender or her size. What is clear is that the information came from someone who works in PSBank with enough access, or is close to someone who works in the bank with enough access. In other words, someone in the bank committed a violation against internal bank rules and bank secrecy laws. In other words, too, the Filipino people may have a patriot who could not, in conscience, allow the people to wallow in darkness about the character of a Chief Justice who can keep several bank deposits, both in pesos and in US dollars, just in one bank.
The Defense has tried to keep a brave face when under-declared and undeclared assets of their client have surfaced.
They do so even as their client turns to his colleagues in the Supreme Court to keep more information about his dollar deposits from becoming public. For someone whose morals and ethics demand him to be whiter than snow and purer than a Cesar’s wife, Chief Justice Corona has a strange way of showing his commitment to transparency. “In due time” is time too late. His defenders in the law profession may find their morals and ethics ahead of him.
Are there more patriots in the PSBank? Are there any who would facilitate the purging and cleansing of the Judiciary, starting with the top who cannot initiate the needed reform in their institution, by coming out with more real and accurate information about undeclared assets or cash which, without any legal source, can only be ill-gotten? Who will step up not only to conscience but to a patriot’s duty to people and country?
If there are, there will be many like me who will keep the patriots safe in our hearts and warm bodies, who will be their defenders before the bar of public conscience, before the challenge of heroism. For in the end, if the letter and form of the law become the very cause for protecting the culpable who are smarter than others, the the only recourse is the people themselves from who all power of the State emanate.
People Power. How timely. How apt. How utterly beautiful a sword against injustice.
“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” — Albert Camus