Chief Justice Renato Corona gave the green light for the clerk of the Supreme Court to release to the Senate impeachment court his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth or SALNs for the past years. Will he also give his written permission for the release of documents regarding his reported dollar accounts in Philippine Savings Bank? That’s the lone exception, under Republic Act 6426 or the Foreign Currency Deposit Act of the Philippines, for the “absolutely confidential nature” of foreign currency deposits in the country’s banks to be lifted.
The president of PSBank argued that violating the law not only could land him in prison but also result in sanctions on his bank, including the withdrawal of its authority to engage in foreign currency transactions. PSBank turned to the SC, which issued a temporary restraining order the other day, stopping the probe into Corona’s dollar accounts.
That much could be gleaned from the Senate proceedings: the Chief Justice has dollar accounts with the bank, details of which the bank’s president, Pascual Garcia III, could not release to the public. Garcia said he held on to five documents subpoenaed by the impeachment court because these involved dollar deposits. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada mentioned “$700K” – with “K” usually interpreted to mean “thousand” – in one purported account. The nation will not know the truth unless the account is bared to the public. Was the amount declared in Corona’s SALN?
The court that he heads will still make a final ruling on whether the secrecy rule can be lifted in this particular case, as the SC once did in a case involving the foreign currency deposit of a nonresident. But Corona can issue a written permission any time to open his deposits. When reports came out that the House prosecution team would bare details of over 40 properties that he did not declare in his SALN, he was quoted as saying that if the prosecutors could produce the properties, “I will sign a deed of donation.”
So far he has said nothing about donating dollar deposits. Instead he has asked the SC to stop his impeachment trial altogether. This trial is supposed to bring transparency and accountability to the most opaque branch of government, in the process improving the administration of justice. The Chief Justice may want to help show the way.