After the prosecution and defense teams delivered their closing arguments on Monday, Senate Juan Ponce Enrile quizzed both parties about a Latin law term which may decide the fate of the impeachment case.
“What is culpa?” Enrile asked the two parties.
Lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas, who seemed unsure of his answer, said, “Maybe I was absent when it was discussed in school.”
“That's your bad luck,” Enrile replied.
Prosecutor Ilocos Norte Rep. Rudy Farinas stepped in and answered that culpa is a “willful and intentional violation” of the law.
The senate president sitting as presiding officer pointed out that “culpa” is material in considering the Constitutional provision requiring the truthful disclosure of statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
“If complete SALN declaration is a command, does disobedience to it constitute a culpable violation?
“It does not call for any intent. Where in that provision do you find intent?” Enrile added.
The defense team has insisted that Chief Justice Renato Corona, who is accused of untruthful disclosure of his SALNs, acted on “good faith” when he did not declare his dollar accounts.
The defense said Corona merely relied on the absolute confidentiality guaranteed by laws on banking secrecy and foreign currency deposit units, and was not trying to hide his assets.
Enrile, however, said depositors can voluntarily disclose their dollar accounts without suffering from penalty.
“What injury will be caused if a public officer with foreign currency deposits would declare that deposit in his SALN?
“We are forgetting that the law allows exposure of foreign currency deposits if the depositor himself would do it,” he said.
Enrile added that third parties, such as banking institutions, are the ones prohibited to reveal foreign currency deposits and not the depositors.
But Cuevas said declaring dollar deposits may put government official at risk of kidnapping or extortion.
If convicted, no more appeal?
Meanwhile, Enrile asserted the sole authority of the Senate over impeachment cases amid reports that the defense team may appeal to the Supreme Court in case Chief Justice Renato Corona is convicted by the impeachment court.
“I understand that there was an interview done where you are involved, and that you indicated your resolve to elevate the results of these proceedings to the Supreme Court, is this correct?” Enrile clarified with lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas.
Reading from the transcript of Cuevas’ radio interview, Enrile quoted him as saying, “We have no other alternative but to resort to certiorari. I’ll ask for a petition for review questioning the validity of the actuations of the proceedings with the impeachment court and necessarily with a motion to nullify the entirety of the proceedings that took place therein.
“What was written in the Constitution is that the moment the Senate convenes as the impeachment court, it shall continue the trial. There is nothing there that says that the decision shall be final and non-appealable.”
Enrile, however, maintained that the SC cannot intervene with the impeachment court’s decision.
“We respect your decision but we'd like to remind you that Senate has sole power to try and decide all impeachment cases,” he said.
The Constitution provides that penalty in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any public office.
Before the impeachment court will render its decision tomorrow, senator-judges will first discuss in a caucus the penalty to be imposed if the court rules against the chief justice.