Clamor growing for lawmakers to sign confidentiality waivers

Jonathan de Santos, Shielo Mendoza
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

An online petition urging lawmakers to waive bank secrecy on their accounts has been gaining support less than a week after impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona issued the challenge in open court.

In his testimony Tuesday, Corona signed a waiver on the confidentiality of his bank accounts, tax records, and properties. He said, however, that his accusers must also waive confidentiality on their own assets.

The petition, started by a certain Charissa Ronque on Wednesday, says "We want the truth! We want these 'Honorable' Congressmen and Senator to prove they have nothing to hide from the Filipino people."

She was referring to the 188 members of the House of Representatives who signed the impeachment complaint against Corona in December last year, and Senator Franklin Drilon, whom Corona singled out when he issued the challenge on Tuesday.

As of this post, more than 400 netizens had indicated support.

"We elected you. Your salaries come from us, coming from our hard-earned money, and it's no joke earning that! It's just right that we insist you also sign," Bing Torres-delos Santos, who signed the petition, said.

Bhabes Ortiz said she signed the petition "to see if the accusers have the right to accuse their fellow government official."

Drilon, whom the defense tried and failed to get to inhibit from the trial, has already said he will not sign the waiver. "We are not the ones on trial. We are not the ones being tried at the impeachment court," he said Tuesday.

Drilon is the senior member of the administration Liberal Party at the Senate and has been criticized--particularly by former senator Francisco Tatad--of acting like a prosecutor.

Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., lead prosecutor, has also refused to sign the waiver.

Some members of the House accepted Corona's challenge, however.

"I signed the impeachment complaint. I'll sign the waiver," ACT Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio declared on his Twitter account Tuesday.

Cebu Representatives Rachel Marguerite del Mar, Benhur Salimbangon and Gabriel Luis Quisumbing have also said they are willing to sign waivers.

Drilon, on Thursday, said Corona is waging a personal vendetta against him because he is responsible for disclosing Corona’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

"I suspect he singled me out because I was the one who was able to draw out the SALN from that Clerk of Court. That started everything," Drilon told reporters, explaining why he was the lone senator-judge challenged by Corona to sign the waiver allowing the disclosure of dollar accounts.

Drilon pointed out that it was upon his questioning that the Clerk of Court surrendered Corona’s SALN which he said built the prosecution team’s case for Article II of the impeachment complaint.

“I would say that was the reason why he singled me out, because of that episode. I would say pinersonal niya ako,” he added.

The senator has insisted he will not sign the waiver since it would on divert the issue from the embattled chief justice.

He further claimed that he has been truthful in disclosing all his assets in his SALN.

“First, there is nothing illegal in maintaining a dollar account. Second, I report all my assets in my SALN. Third, my SALN contains a waiver. Fourth, my SALN is open to the public,” Drilon said.

The senator also said foreign currency deposit units (FCDU) and banking secrecy laws cannot justify Corona’s non-inclusion of dollar accounts in his SALN.

“Kapag hindi mo nireport, what you violate is the law that requires you to report all your assets even dollar accounts. You report the equivalent peso amount in your SALN.  That is precisely the issue in the impeachment proceedings – failure to report an asset. A dollar account is an asset,” he said.

Drilon noted that the chief justice’s interpretation of the FCDU law is that it can be used as a haven to hide proceeds of criminal acts.

“A corrupt official will commit corruption, the fruits of the corruption will be converted into foreign exchange and the foreign exchange will be deposited in a foreign currency deposit unit. Under that theory, you cannot inquire anymore into the proceeds of the corrupt act,” he said.

Nevertheless, Drilon said the senator-judges will vote according to the evidence on record and the court will still wait for Corona to appear tomorrow.