Congressmen target another SC justice

by RG Cruz,

Posted at May 30 2012 09:21 AM | Updated as of May 31 2012 12:50 AM

MANILA, Philippines - After the Senate removed Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona from office, the House of Representatives has set its sights on its next target, Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo.

House Speaker Sonny Belmonte reminded everyone that Del Castillo's impeachment case has hurdled the House Justice Committee and is now up for plenary vote.

Belmonte said they plan to put it to a vote before the end of their current term, which ends June 30 next year.

Del Castillo's case was filed a year before Corona’s impeachment but it got sidelined and stuck at the committee level following Corona's trial.

Del Castillo is accused of betrayal of public trust for allegedly plagiarizing a Supreme Court ruling he penned.

SALNs and waivers

As this developed, Belmonte said they will also set into motion the publication of the actual statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of congressmen.

The House of Representatives in recent years only published a summary and ranking of congressmen's net worth, but never their actual SALNs.

Belmonte and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales said they will do it after the impeachment.

It may possibly include waivers on the privacy of congressmen's bank accounts, they added.

The House had indicted Corona for failure to properly declare his SALN.

Belmonte acknowledged that the standard set bu Corona's case will affect public officials for a very long time.

"There is a standard, a certain standard by which every public official has to live by, number 1. Itong batas ay parepareho ang trato sa malaki at sa maliit. Makikita rin natin na ang epekto nito ay message sa lahat ng mga nasa gobyerno, na napakataas ng expectation sa kanila ng bayan, at message din sa ating mga Pilipino na these institutions, they do work," he said.

No celebration

Chief prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas ruled out a celebration for the House, instead saying they will celebrate by initiating further reforms.

"Sabi namin, walang mangyayaring celebration on the part of the prosecution of the House of the Representatives. Walang celebration, ang celebration na mangyayari would be, it will come later on, in the form of reforms, hindi lamang sa hudikatura but with the entire country. Sa amin, sa pag-uusap namin sa prosecution, part of us malungkot din today, dahil nakita naman nating lahat kung gaano kahirap itong proseso, kung gaano karami ang nasaktan," he said.

Tupas said they gained nothing personal from Corona's impeachment trial.

As this developed, more congressmen signified their intent to waive the confidentiality of their bank deposits, as well as their SALNs.

Rep. Emmeline Aglipay said, "My SALN is already submitted and of public record. I am reday and willing to sign a waiver on my assets."

Rep. Joel Duavit said, "Yes I will. Please quote me on that tomorrow. I will forward your email to my accountant tomorrow. But if I don’t read or hear about my pledge then I will wait for the others."

Rep. Walden Bello said his SALN has been available online for more than a month now. He said his SALN is published on his Facebook account and on the Akbayan website. "I am more than willing to sign waiver on what little assets I have."

Rep. Imelda Calixto Rubiano said, "Our SALN is a public document. You can ask it form the [House] secretary general anytime."

Rep. Simeon Datumanong issued a similar statement.

Rep. Amado Bagatsing said, "talaga naman i-release SALN ko. Ipa-publish nila yan or sa website ng Congress."

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez also said "okay" when asked if he was willing to lift the condifentiality of his records.

Rep. Tupay Loong said, "my SALN is public document open for anybody who is interested to know."

Rep. Emmy de Jesus also said she will sign a waiver.

Rep. Winnie Castelo said, "I guess it has become a matter of course for all members of Congress. It behooves upon all members of Congress to follow strictly the law on saln and adhere to principles of accountability and transparency."

Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said she has always released her SALN and she feels "okay to sign a waiver."

Rep. Joey Zubiri said he already released his SALN to media a month ago.

Rep. JV Ejercito said he is willing to sign a waiver on foreign currency deposits.

Rep. Emil Ong said he agrees with Senator Francis Escudero on his stand supporting the disclosure of public officials' dollar accounts.

Rep. Neri Colmenares said he will sign a waiver "baka bukas or the next day."

Earlier, Representatives Abigail Ferriol, Antonio Tinio, Carmen Cojuangco, Gabriel Quisumbing, Rachel del Mar, Benhur Salimbaongon and Teddy Baguilat expressed willingness to lift the secrecy of their bank deposits.

Ferriol and Baguilat have already signed waivers.