Consequences of conviction

In its written “Judgment” dated May 29, 2012, the Senate convicted Chief Justice Renato C. Corona and imposed “the penalty of removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines.”

Further prosecution. Consequently, he cannot be elected or appointed to or work in any public office. Further, the Constitution adds, “[T]he party convicted shall … be liable and subject to prosecution, trial and punishment according to law.” Thus, he can be sued criminally, civilly and administratively.

Criminally, he can be prosecuted for any violation of our penal laws, including the Anti-Graft Law (Republic Act 3019), the Code of Conduct for Public Officers (RA 6713) and the Revised Penal Code. Civilly, for forfeiture proceedings for alleged ill-gotten wealth, under RA 1379. And administratively, for disbarment under the Code of Professional Responsibility of lawyers.

The evidence obtained or learned during the impeachment trial can be used in these proceedings, provided that the right to due process is observed at all times. Much of this evidence can be obtained via the written waiver of his “right to confidentiality and secrecy of bank deposits” and his authorizing “all banking institutions to disclose to the public any and all bank documents pertaining to all peso and foreign currency accounts under my name.”

Corona’s sworn pledge contained in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth authorized the Office of the Ombudsman to secure “such documents that show my assets, liabilities, net worth, business interests and financial connections, including those of my spouse and unmarried children below 18 years of age…”

Forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth. Under RA 1379, “resignation, dismissal or separation from office” shall not be a bar to a petition for the forfeiture of properties or assets manifestly disproportionate to the known lawful income of a public official. These “disproportionate” assets are presumed by law to be ill-gotten.

During the pendency of the impeachment trial, Ombudsman (OMB) Conchita Carpio Morales already took cognizance of and started initial inquiry into three complaints filed in her office against Corona. However, even if the OMB finds probable cause to institute forfeiture proceedings, she is barred by RA 1379 from filing them in court “within one year from any general election.”

Thus, while the OMB may continue her investigations, she cannot file in court any forfeiture suit till after the senatorial elections on May 13, 2013. Nonetheless, there appears to be no time limit to the filing of criminal cases. Prior, however, to filing criminal cases, the OMB needs to conduct preliminary investigations.

Using Corona’s waiver on his dollar deposits, Commissioner Kim Henares of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) asked banks for the former Chief Justice’s deposit records in connection with her inquiry into possible tax liabilities and criminal violations of tax laws. She stressed that her investigation was not related directly to the impeachment case because, whether convicted or not, Corona could be held liable for nonpayment or underpayment of taxes.

Three granite-knuckled ladies—Ombudsman Morales, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and BIR Commissioner Henares—have the duty to assess the evidence obtained and determine whether to file and prosecute the cases. Eventually, the courts, mainly the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court, will adjudge the cases filed.

Retirement benefits and honors. Would Corona be entitled to retirement benefits and honors? Retirement benefits include the equivalent of one-month salary and allowance for every year of government service. In addition, retiring justices are usually entitled to monetize their accumulated vacation and sick leaves. Benefits can be doubled if the retirement is due to a disability.

The total sum representing the first five years of benefits are normally paid in advance in one lump sum. Thereafter, starting on the sixth year, retirees are paid the monthly salary and allowance of an incumbent. Moreover, should a qualified retiree predecease the spouse, the latter will receive during his or her lifetime the monthly benefits of the retiree.

Several laws provide for these retirement benefits. Whether these can be granted to those convicted after being impeached is subject to the high court’s discretion. However, Delsa Flores, the judiciary employee who was ousted for her failure to disclose her market stall in her SALN, was stripped of all retirement benefits and accrued leaves.

Normally, two ceremonies are held to honor Supreme Court retirees, one at the Court’s Session Hall where the retiree is toasted by his colleagues and given souvenirs (like a fountain pen, the Supreme Court flag, pictures, etc.), and another at a formal dinner where the retiree’s family, relatives and friends are invited.

Entitlement to these two fringe benefits is not automatic. On one occasion, the Supreme Court refused to grant them to a justice who chaired the committee that administered the bar examination but was penalized for not disclosing his close family relation to a bar examinee. On another, most of the justices snubbed the dinner for a member of the high court who was “held liable for grave misconduct for leaking a confidential internal document of the Court and fined P500,000,” the highest ever imposed in the history of the judiciary. After he retired, he was “indefinitely suspended from the practice of law.”

At bottom, the Supreme Court determines the grant of retirement benefits and honors.

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