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MANILA, Philippines - After Renato Corona's testimony on Tuesday, the basis on deciding whether or not the chief justice betrayed public trust has now become a "legal issue," according to a legal expert from the University of Sto. Tomas (UST).
Dean Nilo Divina of the UST Faculty of Civil Law said senator-judges would have to determine whether Corona's non-declaration of his four dollar accounts in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) constitutes betrayal of public trust.
"Does the non-diclosure of the dollar deposits in his SALN constitute betrayal of public trust? Does the SALN Law, which took effect in 2001, superseded Republic Act 6426, which took effect in 1980?" Divina said on Tuesday on ANC.
During his testimony, Corona admitted that he has four and not 82 dollar accounts, as claimed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
However, Corona did not declare the four accounts in his SALN because R.A. 6426 or the Foreign Currency Deposit Act of the Philippines "guarantees the confidentiality of dollar deposits." The impeached chief justice also did not say how much was deposited in the four accounts.
Divina said that if the Senate court rules that dollar deposits should also be declared in the SALN, this might prompt Corona to seek help from the high court in deciding on the legality of the issue.
"So these are legal issues which the Senate can pass upon. The problem is what if the impeachment court rules that despite the fact that the deposits are in dollars, they have to be disclosed? Then that now gives the chief justice the ground to go to the Supreme Court and question the decision of the Senate impeachment court," said Divina.
The UST dean said that "it behooves the chief justice to go back to the witness stand for his own interest."
Divina said that if Corona would not have himself cross-examined by the prosecution, the testimony he made on Tuesday would be stricken off the record and that the ruling, as what Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile said, would be based on the evidence presented.
He said that he had remembered that during one of the hearings, Enrile asked lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas if there was prima facie evidence to impeach Corona and when Cuevas answered yes, Enrile "said that if that's your position, you have a problem." - Annie Ruth C. Sabangan, InterAksyon.com