The statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of public officials should never be wielded as a “weapon for political vendetta,” the Supreme Court has declared as it granted the full retirement benefits of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona despite his impeachment in 2012.

The tribunal’s Jan. 12 decision also unanimously approved the request of Corona’s widow, Ma. Cristina Corona, to let her receive the monthly pension and other financial gratuities accorded to the survivors of deceased justices and judges of the courts.

The resolution, which was made public only on Feb. 5, was a stark contrast to the high court’s May 11, 2018, ruling that booted out Corona’s successor, then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, through a quo warranto petition initiated by Solicitor General Jose Calida and President Duterte’s allies.

In a close vote of 8-6, the magistrates held that Sereno was unfit to head the judiciary for her failure to submit some of her SALNs when she was still a law professor at the University of the Philippines several years before she was appointed by then President Benigno Aquino III in August 2012.

Political vendetta

Sereno landed in Mr. Duterte’s crosshairs just months after he was sworn into power in June 2016 when she invoked her judicial authority over the so-called “narcojudges” that the President had publicly named.

In its latest decision favoring Corona’s widow, the Supreme Court expressed concern that SALNs had been used for politically motivated purposes.

Corona, the first chief justice impeached by Congress, was removed from the country’s highest judicial office for his failure to declare some $2.4 million in bank deposits and some P80.7 million in commingled funds in his SALNs from 2002 to 2010.

Aquino had openly pushed for Corona’s impeachment.

“For the future’s worth, it is herein stressed that the SALN is a tool for public transparency, never a weapon for political vendetta,” the tribunal said in a ruling penned by Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando. INQ


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