No malice in Corona's SALN omissions, says Cuevas

Posted at 03/01/2012 7:06 PM | Updated as of 03/01/2012 7:06 PM

'CJ case different from other sacked officials'

MANILA, Philippines - Defense lawyer Serafin Cuevas on Thursday said the impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato Corona should not be compared to the cases of government officials and employees who were dismissed because of omissions in their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALNs).

In an interview on ANC's "Headstart," Cuevas said Corona's impeachment case is different from that of a court interpreter (Rabe v Flores) who was sacked because she failed to declare ownership of a market stall, or that of a BIR director (Flores v Montemayor) who was sacked because of failing to declare ownership of 2 expensive cars.

In both cases, the Supreme Court dismissed the respondents for misdeclarations in their SALNs.

"No analogy because in impeachment, the grounds are definite and particular. Not like in administrative cases. Dishonesty, a little misdemeanor may be ground for administrative cases but in impeachment, it is very clear. Culpable violation of the Constitution. Treason. Bribery. Violation of the Ant-Graft Law. The last one is betrayal of public trust. Whatever acts may be imputed to an impeachable officer, it must be grounded on any of these things unlike in administrative cases where the law requires lesser requirements," Cuevas said.

Corona is accused of failing to truthfully declare some of his assets in his SALNs. His bank records have showed he had P31.7 million in 2 local banks in December 2010 while declaring only P3.5 million in his SALN for that year.

Impeachment prosecutors also point out Corona failed to declare ownership of a P3.5 million condo unit at The Columns, Ayala Avenue for 5 consecutive years in his SALNs.

In the interview, Cuevas said omissions of properties or bank accounts in the SALNs of public officials do not necessarily mean betrayal of public trust unless there is malice.

"The answer is no unless it is malicious. The law grants the filer to correct and the period within which it might be corrected is not stated definitely and categorically by any law. Good faith is presumed at every act," he said.

Asked to define malice, he said: "There must be acts that will show that it was intention and the party making it, knowing it to be wrong continues to do so."

He insisted if there is no malice, a government official can still remedy his SALN under Section 10 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.