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MANILA -- The 2013 elections was a major factor in how most of the senator-judges voted in the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Sunday.
"The 2013 elections was definitely a factor in the voting. It cannot be as an RTC case where the law is the only consideration. Politics, next year's election, whether for their re-election or the election of their relatives or their appointment to executive offices, was a big influence, whether they admit it or not," Santiago said in her interview over dzBB.
Among those who are expected to run for re-election in next year’s elections are Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, and Aquilino Pimentel III. Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile’s son Jack and Senator Edgardo Angara’s son and namesake Juan Edgardo “Sonny” are also expected to run for a Senate seat next year. At the same time, Senator Francis Pangilinan, who will end his second consecutive Senate term next year, is expected to be appointed to a Cabinet position.
'Bakla na kasalanan'
Santiago again explained her vote to acquit Corona, by describing his offense as "bakla na kasalanan (an uncertain sin)."
Unlike murder or arson or rape, Corona’s crime is unclear, she said.
"We don't know if what he did (not declaring his dollar accounts in his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth) is an offense because we have two laws that contradict each other," she explained.
If a general law like the Ethical Conduct of Public Servants which provides that he declares all his assets contradicts a special law like the Foreign Currency Deposits Act which provides for absolute confidentiality, the law rules in favor of the special law, the senator said.
At the same time, Santiago explained that if there is doubt between a constitutional provision and a statutory construction, the ruling is normally for doubt in favor of the individual against the state.
But, she said, her vote also makes for common sense. "Why did Corona use his own name in these bank accounts if he had wanted to hide them in the first place? He could simply have faked his name and put the accounts under that fake name or some other person’s, like a relative or a friend, if he wanted to keep his accounts hidden," she explained.
She said that in her experience as trial judge, Filipinos lie even under oath ("mahilig magsinungaling"), and they fake documents ("lahat pinepeke pati death certificates").
She said that if the accused Corona wanted to be cleared, he could have easily faked his name or named his accounts after relatives and friends.
On Lapid's 'conscience vote'
Asked to comment on Senator Lito Lapid's explanation that his guilty vote was made purely out of conscience, Santiago said: "It should be an informed conscience, a disciplined conscience. Otherwise, conscience would simply be another word for lack of principles, or whim, or prejudice."