The Sandiganbayan’s Special Third Division upheld its ruling finding probable cause to try the perjury and breach of conduct charges filed against former Chief Justice Renato Corona in connection with allegedly inaccurate declarations in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) in 2003 to 2010.
Corona’s arraignment will proceed on January 26 as scheduled.
“The court finds the accused’s motion for reconsideration devoid of merit,” the Sandiganbayan said in a 28-page ruling promulgated on January 20.
In its ruling, the court said in part that the issues raised by Corona in his motion for reconsideration were also raised in his motion for judicial determination of probable cause and “were thoroughly considered and passed upon by the court in its assailed resolution.”
Third Division Chairman Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, concurrently Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice, penned the ruling, which was concurred in by Associate Justices Jose Hernandez, Alex Quiroz and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.
Associate Justice Samuel Martires dissented from the majority ruling as he did in August 2015, when the court voted 4-1 for the denial of Corona’s motion for judicial determination of probable cause.
Among others, the court held in its August 2015 ruling that separate charges for perjury and breach of conduct may be validly instituted against Corona.
But the defense, citing Section 11(a) of Republic Act 6713, maintained in their motion for reconsideration that he cannot be simultaneously charged for perjury and for violation of Section 8 of RA 6713.
RA 6713 is the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Section 11(a) of this law states that if the violation is punishable by a heavier penalty under another law, then the defendant shall be prosecuted under the latter.
Under the Revised Penal Code, perjury is punishable by up to two years in prison.
Meanwhile, the penalty for violation of Section 8 of RA 6713 is up to five years’ imprisonment or a P5,000 fine or both and in the court’s discretion, disqualification to hold public office.
The court, however, stood pat in its ruling denying Corona’s motion for reconsideration and said “separate prosecutions for perjury and violation of Section 8 of RA 6713 may be validly instituted against the accused since the same are clearly founded on separate facts.”
It pointed out that although the charges both stem from the act of filing his SALN, his indictment for perjury was based on his allegedly “untruthful statements under oath, upon a material matter, before a competent person authorized to administer oaths,” while his indictment for breach of conduct was based on his alleged misdeclaration or failure to declare his assets in his SALN.
“At any rate, whether the accused deliberately and willfully made any assertion of falsehood and whether he acted in good faith are matters of defense which are best left for the court to resolve after a full-blown trial,” the court said.
Corona is out on bail.