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MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Sunday affirmed the constitutional powers of the Ombudsman to investigate any public official, including impeachable ones like Chief Justice Renato Corona, who is now being asked to reply to a charge involving his SALN filing and alleged dollar deposits.
Enrile made this position clear as he also assured that the Senate will grant the public full access to its members’ Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) in the interest of transparency and accountability.
Enrile, who is presiding officer in the impeachment trial of Corona that resumes Monday (May 7), said there is nothing in the law that stops the Ombudsman from carrying out a parallel investigation of the chief justice even while the trial is ongoing.
He advised skeptics to “review their 1987 Constitution” which has an Article XI granting sweeping powers to the Office of the Ombudsman to go after grafters. Corona, he said, may be investigated and does not have to be impeached first before the Ombudsman can file charges against him if it so makes a prima facie finding of guilt. Only the Philippine President, among all impeachable offcers, enjoys immunity from suit during his incumbency.
“That is my interpretation of the Constitution,” Enrile told Radio dzBB in an interview, adding, the Ombudsman “has the power to conduct a parallel investigation.”
SALN of senators open
As for the SALN of senators, Enrile gave assurances that people interested in these can “go to the Senate and take a look at them.” Asked about access of journalists, he replied that by all means, journalists can get copies of the SALNs, which were filed April 30 as required by law.
While almost all required officials are known to have beat the deadline, disclosure -- rather than filing -- has become the issue, especially in light of the Corona trial. The chief justice had asserted the validity of a standing SC resolution barring the disclosure of SALNS of justices, which are, according to an impeachment witness, “kept in a vault.”
As for the Senate, Enrile said he himself had no problem disclosing what he filed, because he can stand by it. “I personally read everything before I signed it.”