Friday, June 1, 2012

Aquino not keen on signing waiver

..MANILA -- There is no need for President Benigno Aquino III to sign a waiver to open his bank accounts for public scrutiny, said Malacanang on Thursday. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that like any other government officials, the President's statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) already has a waiver that authorizes the Ombudsman to look into it. Valte echoed the description of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on the challenge and waiver of Chief Justice Renato Corona as mere "theatrics." "The SALN of the President from 1998 onward have all been available publicly. No one reported that his disclosure was incomplete and deceitful. There is no need for court proceeding to disclose the President's SALN to public," she said. She admitted Aquino's campaign promise of waiving bank secrecy rights when elected as President, but said it is a different situation as Corona. "Let's go back to the context of this. The one accused posed this challenge …to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who would like to take him up on the challenge. Is it fair to put the President who has not been accused of graft, who has not been accused of dishonesty to put him in the same category as the man who was just removed from his post, from being the highest magistrate of the land?" she said. She also confirmed that Aquino has no foreign currency deposits. Calls for the President, his allies and his Cabinet to sign the waiver have been snowballing following the result of the impeachment trial of Corona. Corona, during his trial, signed a waiver allowing banks to open his accounts. He was proven guilty by the impeachment court of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for not truthfully disclosing his assets in his SALN. Senators Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano said it is high time that all government officials open their bank accounts for public scrutiny. Escudero is pushing for a bill that would automatically allow the release of the SALNs of all 23 senators. Asked if the President would support Escudero's bill, Valte said she still needs to get the view of Aquino about it. On the part of Cabinet members and allies of Aquino, she said it would be their personal decision whether to sign a waiver or not. Closed chapter Malacanang, meanwhile, welcomed the decision of Corona to not anymore appeal the guilty verdict of the Senate impeachment court. "That is properly the period that ends the chapter of the Corona impeachment," Valte said. She noted, however, that there are still pending cases filed against Corona before the Office of the Ombudsman. Corona's lawyers had mulled filing an appeal before the Supreme Court. The deposed Chief Justice is still undergoing medical treatment at The Medical City in Pasig City. Enrile earlier said the impeachment court ruling is immediately executory and could not be reversed. Defending Carpio Malacañang also defended the assumption of senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of Corona's post in an acting capacity. Carpio is a known rival of Corona. "That's by operation of law. The most senior justice becomes acting Chief Justice in cases where the Chief Justice is unavailable, is indisposed, is sick, removed or has resigned," said Valte. "We don't see that it is out of the norm and, from what we understand, that has always been the procedure of the Supreme Court," she added. Several lawmakers earlier warned Aquino against appointing Carpio as the next Chief Justice, saying it is not a good move since Carpio has been accused by Corona as one of those who planned his ouster. But Valte believed it is an unfair perception that Carpio would not be impartial on the Aquino administration. She also said it is automatic that the three most senior justices in the Supreme Court will be up for screening for the Chief Justice post. Other two most senior Supreme Court magistrates are Diosdado Peralta and Arturo Brion, both appointees of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Valte said the President can nominate his choice since it is an open nomination process and anybody can make an opposition to the list of nominees also. The Judicial and Bar Council is set to convene on Monday to receive applications, she added. She confirmed that the President is also considering appointing an outsider for the post. Senator Franklin Drilon, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares and Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza are among those rumored the President is eyeing to replace Corona. Drilon, however, immediately dismissed the rumor, saying he is not interested in the post and would rather complete his term as a senator.