Saturday, June 02, 2012

Noy: Law applies to all


Manila, Philippines - After being booted out of office, former chief justice Renato Corona cannot count on the government for special treatment to escape possible criminal prosecution for offenses such as tax evasion and amassing wealth illegally.

President Aquino made this clear yesterday as he brushed aside suggestions from some senators that the ousted chief justice be spared from criminal prosecution.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Edgardo Angara earlier said Corona had suffered enough and should be left alone.

“We share the same rights, therefore we should share the same responsibilities. Everyone needs equal treatment. Lady Justice is blindfolded,” Aquino told reporters on the sidelines of the 1st Philippine International River Summit in Iloilo City.

Aquino pointed out that giving Corona special treatment would not be fair to former court interpreter Delsa Flores, who was dismissed in 1997 for her failure to report in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth her rented stall in a market in Davao City.

“Delsa Flores might say: I got punished for a lesser offense. Is it all right for a bigger offender to go unpunished?

“You know, it’s my promise to the nation that under our judicial system, there is certainty of justice,” he added. “If you are wrongly accused and made to face a court, you are sure of getting acquitted. But if you have really done wrong, then it’s time to prepare for the worst.”

Angara, one of the senator-judges who voted to convict Corona, said the chief magistrate should be spared from further anguish because he had suffered enough.

“I think the man is punished enough by being ousted from a very high position and being perpetually disqualified from holding any public office. I think we should end there,” Angara said.

“If there is some person who thinks he was aggrieved, like some of his family members, that is a separate matter. Using state power to prosecute and pursue him, I think that is over-stretching already,” the former Senate president added.

Enrile stressed he is leaving it up to the government to pursue charges against Corona but said he thinks the administration should “exercise compassion” as part of the “healing process.”

During the impeachment, Enrile noted the prosecution failed to prove that Corona had amassed ill-gotten wealth. “Anyway, the prosecution failed to prove any ill-gotten wealth against Corona that could prove corruption. There was none,” he said.

Enrile said the impeachment court merely decided on the issue that Corona failed to declare in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth his $2.4 million and some P80 million in bank accounts.

On the issue of possible tax evasion, Angara and Enrile conceded that Corona might have to face tax charges since it is the obligation of every citizen to pay taxes.

“But pursuing criminal cases to send him to jail as such, I think, the Filipino people would draw the line already,” Angara said.


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