The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division has acquitted former Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary Hernando “Nani” Perez of falsifying his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), in connection with a $2-million extortion complaint by former Manila representative Mark Jimenez.
Perez was accused in 2008 of falsifying his SALN ending December 2001 while he was DOJ secretary for allegedly failing to disclose his and/or his wife Rosario’s bank deposits worth $1.7 million.
“There is merit in the claim of the accused that the prosecution failed to present competent or sufficient evidence against him to sustain the indictment or support a verdict of guilt,” the court said.
The 20-page decision, penned by Associate Justice Roland Jurado, also lifted the hold departure order against Perez and ordered the return of his bail bond.
Perez’ demurrer said the prosecution had presented inadequate proof and had “admitted that procedural requirements in the accrual of his case have not been followed.”
The Court, granting the demurrer and dismissing the case, ruled that Jimenez’ complaint was inadmissible because the prosecution failed to present him in the witness stand thus making the testimonies on documentary evidence hearsay.
It was because the witnesses had no personal knowledge and were only able to testify on the existence of the documents and not their veracity, the court said.
Also, the bank documents presented to the Court are not public though obtained from foreign countries through Swiss and Hong Kong mutual legal assistance treaties, it added.
This referred to documents from Hong Kong containing businessman Ernest Escaler’s bank records and Swiss bank records belonging to Mrs. Perez and her brother Ramon Arceo.
It was alleged that the $1.7 million was deposited to the Swiss account but Perez said the money did not come to his possession or ownership because it was escrowed by Escaler to his wife and brother-in-law out of a purely civil transaction.
He said the documents showed the account had been closed by the time he filed his SALN.
The prosecution opposed Perez’ claims, saying he did not deny the existence of $1.7 million as his asset and that he only refuted the source of the amount by citing a procedural requirement in the Code of Conduct and the closure of the account.
It maintained that it was able to prove all the elements of the falsification of public document.
But the Court ruled that it was not able to prove the third element which was that the facts stated in the SALN were false.
Perez was appointed justice secretary when former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001.