In my column last Wednesday I mentioned a certain legal luminary who would join the House prosecution panel in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. I said that I could not come out with his name then as I had given my word not to until he gives me clearance.
Well, former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile yesterday gave me clearance to announce that he is joining the House prosecution panel in Sereno’s trial in the Senate. Enrile is remembered as the presiding judge in the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Using his deep knowledge of the law and court procedure, Enrile masterfully steered Corona’s impeachment trial which ultimately resulted in a guilty verdict that removed Corona from his post. With Enrile in the House prosecution panel are House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and House justice committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo Umali.
With the top three prosecutors—Enrile, Fariñas and Umali—it will be tough going for Sereno and her defense team. The charges against the chief magistrate include betrayal of public trust—she failed to submit a truthful Statement of Assets , Liabilities and Net Worth and also an income tax return when she taught law at the University of the Philippines.
Betrayal of public trust is encompassing. It is an element that an official could be culpable of for not serving the country well, with integrity and loyalty. The Philippine Constitution provides: “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency and with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”
Failure to meet these guidelines places the official on soft ground. We are not going say Sereno failed to meet these standards set by the Constitution. I will leave that to the lawyers in the Senate impeachment trial. The most serious legal issue against Sereno , it seems is the alleged discrepancy in the submission of her SALN. This was what dealt CJ Corona his fall from grace. His conviction on this ground has set a precedent.
One of the crucial questions that could be asked of CJ Sereno would probably be: Did you willfully and knowingly submit a false SALN ? The verdict of the case will surely depend on her yes or no answer.
The greed of some people knows no bounds. I refer to merchants who repackage National Food Authority stocks into commercial retail rice and sell them at higher prices. Thousands of sacks containing NFA rice were confiscated during a raid on a warehouse in General Santos City. This nefarious practice is without doubt going on in other parts of the country.
The rice imported by the government from Vietnam and Thailand was meant to augment the supply in the market at lower prices. But many merchants in their greed created an artificial shortage by hoarding supply.
The establishment owners in the island resort of Boracay are the same ilk as the rice merchants who are repackaging NFA rice into commercial variety for immoderate greed. Boracay hotel and restaurant owners are no different. They installed illegal connections to sewage system to turn Borcay into what President Duterte called a cesspool. Because of their greed for profit they didn’t pay for the legal sewage connection and instead clogged the pipeline to loosen garbage including human waste to pollute the once pristine waters of Boracay.
Some of the illegal establishments, however, were built by small businessmen who wanted a share of the revenues generated by the world-renowned island resort. But because of this wanton disposal of waste, Boracay was placed in a state of calamity. Its closure in the next three months now means zero income for every one earning from the bounty of Boracay.
Greed was also the driving force that attended the irregular procurement of the lethal Dengvaxia vaccine that took the lives of several children. The same appetite for money was the reason for the anomalous purchase of equipment and award of service maintenance contract in the Metro Rail Transit Line 3.