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MANILA, Philippines (Updated 6:32 p.m.) – The head of the prosecution team that worked to oust Chief Justice Renato Corona on Wednesday said he "will not dignify" challenges for him and other congressmen to sign waivers to make their bank deposits more transparent.
Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. said those calling for such a gesture are merely "grandstanding" - or, in the vernacular he used, "pa-pogi".
Tupas said the Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) that he submitted already contained a waiver authorizing the Ombudsman to look into his bank accounts, local and foreign.
“I think what was stated in the SALN was sufficient. . . . Hindi ako nagdi-dignify ng pahapyaw na challenge, hindi naman ito talaga ang heart ng pinaglaban natin, iyong parinig siguro papogi. I won’t dignify that as a public servant,” Tupas said.
For his part, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, who is one of the prosecution's spokespersons, said he no longer wished to dignify the "grandstanding" remark of Tupas.
"I don't want to add fuel to the fire," he said in an interview at the InterAksyon offices in Novaliches, Quezon City.
Earlier in the day, seven militant lawmakers signed a waiver allowing the Ombudsman to look into their assets and bank accounts for investigation purposes.
“As signatories to the Corona impeachment complaint and representatives of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors in Congress, we feel it is our duty and moral obligation to set an example in complying with the Constitutional mandate on public office as a public trust,” said Representatives Teddy Casino and Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna, Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers and Raymond Palatino of Kabataan partylist after signing the waiver Wednesday.
All of them said they had no foreign currency deposits and are among the poorest House members based on their 2011 SALN.
The partylist lawmakers challenged President Benigno Aquino III, members of the Cabinet, senators and their colleagues in the House of Representatives to do the same.
Corona trial was 'bigger than publicity'
Tupas said the prosecution team’s efforts to convict the chief magistrate was “bigger than publicity, bigger than media mileage.”
In their explanation of vote, Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Francis Escudero, two 0f 20 who voted to convict, also dared all public officials to sign a waiver to open to the public their bank accounts.
At the House of Representatives, several lawmakers also made the same challenge, saying it was necessary in the name of transparency.
Corona was convicted with a 20-3 vote for failing to disclose huge chinks of his assets in his SALN, including his dollar deposits. Taking the witness stand on May 25, Corona admitted that he kept $2.4 million in four separate accounts, and P180 million in three peso deposits.
For his part, Tupas said he filled out his SALN “accurately, completely and honestly” when he submitted it last year.
“I was very sincere, truthful and honest when I did it,” he said.
He noted that the waiver signed by Corona to allow the disclosure of his assets was a mere “afterthought,” made only when the evidence came out that he had various accounts.