Defense: Details of bank accounts need not be in SALN

by Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Mar 19 2012 08:18 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2012 06:18 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The defense said there is no requirement in the law that requires listing of bank accounts in a public official's Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN).

During the 31st day of trial, Senator-judge Miriam Defensor Santiago said Chief Justice Renato Corona himself had already admitted to owning bank accounts in Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) and Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI). She said there were no disclosures and “thus, your client should be guilty.”

She, nonetheless, stressed the defense should prove good faith on the part of Corona. “And if the deposits were not declared, why not [good faith]?”

Senator-judge Pia Cayetano seconded the manifestation.

In response, defense lawyer Joel Bodegon said: “Essentially, we seem to agree with the manifestation of [Santiago]. In fact, the direction we’re taking is towards that. We just want to state that under the SALN form, there is no requirement that should indicate the bank deposits or accounts and the chief justice has yet to make a pronouncement on that.”

Cayetano said, however, that bank accounts are also assets, which means they should be in the SALN.

Bodegon explained: “My reading is that it does not require the listing of the bank accounts.”

Cayetano stressed: “The assets, whether they’re in a baul or in a bank, must be declared.”

Santiago later interjected and cited the Ombudsman versus Racho case. There, the high court found the latter guilty of dishonesty for non-disclosure of his bank deposits.

She explained, however, that the same decision noted that Racho also failed to explain the accumulation and the sources of his wealth.

She said it is now the burden of the defense to prove that failure to disclose the bank deposits “is not necessarily an indication of bad faith.”

In her earlier manifestation, she explained that the Racho decision also provides that “Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which requires the accomplishing and filing of a true, detailed and sworn SALN “should be understood …to curtail ‘acquisition of unexplained wealth.’ Where the source of the undisclosed wealth can be properly accounted, then it is ‘explained wealth’ which the law does not penalize.”

Good faith, bad faith

She also challenged the prosecution to prove if there was intention on the part of Corona to falsely declare his wealth in his SALN.

She challenged the prosecution: “Was there an element of intent to commit wrong?” She also cited a Supreme Court decision that found a Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) official guilty only of negligence because there was intent on his part to declare satisfactorily his properties.

The 2 parties were ordered to provide a manifestation before the end of the trial.

Senator-judge Francis Pangilinan also said the parties should also answer whether standards are the same for justices and government officials to follow.

Senator-judge Joker Arroyo also said: “Is a correctible offense an impeachable offense? Offhand, that’s what I’m thinking. We don’t have the precedence.”