Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile yesterday was emphatic with his declaration that the Senate Impeachment court is a trier of "facts". It is not convened for the purposes of interpreting or construing a law.
What Manong Enrile wanted to impress is, the Court merely wants to know if the accusations heaped against the Chief Justice have basis in fact and violations of law. These articles of impeachment, mind you, were used to justify the impeachment of the Chief Justice by the lower house. In the minds of 188 Congressmen, Atty. Renato Corona violated the law when he failed to fully disclose his assets and liabilities in his SALN. That explains why these articles were heard and were re-phrased to be fully concrete and exact in alleging certain acts committed by the Chief Justice.
Meaning, the Court is trying to know whether or not the Chief Justice committed an act which violated an existing law. The law in question here, is a special law. When someone committed a violation of a special law, he is being punished by his very act. For example, you beat a red light. There is a special law punishing you for doing that. The court's function is simply determine whether or not you did, indeed, beat the red light. The traffic enforcer's job is present evidence backing his accusations up. There is no more determination if you did it because someone bumped you from behind or you lost your brakes that caused the rule to be broken. These "reasons" or "alibis only affect the gravity of your case, but not your culpability or liability. The Court may mitigate your crime, or you may be justified due to extraneous circumstances but still, the Court will still find you guilty of the violation which you are accused of.
That's the law. The law, they say, may be harsh, but that is the law.
Totally different, when, say you are accused of a crime which is considered malum in se which is evil from the very onset. These are acts which have been considered evil or morally wrong from the very beginning of time. One such act is murder. Criminal intent to commit is essential in prosecuting you or establishing your culpability or guilt.
Going back to this case---establishing whether an act violated a special law, which is termed as mala prohibitum, does not need to be as tedious as to know the intention of the violator in violating the act of which he is being accused of. The mere establishment of facts supporting the cause of the action is sufficient to render a guilty verdict.
Think about this absurdity if the court finds the Chief Justice acquitted of these charges by merely stating that the law on SALN is silent on foreign bank deposits and therefore, non-disclosure is not a violation.
Likewise this--the Chief Justice reiterates that his bank deposits were made during the sixties which is before the passage of the AMLC law and other laws which prohibits the non-disclosure of foreign bank deposits.
Bare in mind that the act mentioned as his offense was allegedly undertaken in 2010, a period within the prohibitions stated by law. What the law intends to punish is the non-disclosure of these assets and liabilities last 2010, and not the existence of these foreign bank deposits since the 1960's. This fact is irrelevant in establishing innocence in breaking the disclosure requirements.
What I meant is--we are not concerned with the existence of these bank deposits. The issue at bar is why did the Chief Justice failed to fully disclose his assets and liabilities. The Chief Justice is not being accused of illicit wealth--he is being accused of simply breaking the law on SALN. The Chief Justice is not being accused of having dollar deposits. Opening a dollar deposit account is not a crime. Engaging in foreign currency trading is not a crime too. However, not disclosing these accounts by a government official is a violation of law, since every official is required by law to disclose these assets thru the SALN.
Irrelevant still are the following defenses:
1. Those local bank accounts were "co-mingled" with monies of Corona's wife and children, hence, not entirely his. In the eyes of the law, bank accounts are owned by the person whose name is stated in the records of the bank to be the owner of the account. The Chief Justice should have stated this account and made a qualification--that he merely owns 3 or 4 or 10 million pesos in those accounts. This is allowed by the SALN law.
2. The Chief Justice owns only 5 properties out of the 23 properties he is being accused of having. These three or five properties were not stated in his SALN, therefore violates the law.
3. The Chief Justice says his foreign bank deposits ballooned to US$ 2.4 million because he opened these accounts when it was just 2 pesos per 1 dollar. He also declared that he lived an austere life. Again, these defenses are irrelevant because the Impeachment Court is not interested in determining where he got those millions---it is only interested in establishing the fact that he failed to disclose such amounts in his SALN.
The Chief Justice himself admitted in open court that he did not declare his US$ 2.4 million in dollar deposits nor those millions in local bank deposits.
His non-disclosure itself is a violation of the law.
Again, let me reiterate--the Chief Justice is not being accused of acquiring illicit wealth, no. He is being accused of breaking the law himself when he failed to disclose these facts in his SALN.
Read the following entry on what the Cj should have made as a defense...