By Raïssa Robles
Chief Justice Renato Corona was required by the SALN law to disclose starting 2003 that his wife sat on the board of a state-owned corporation, former Civil Service Commission chair Karina David told me in an interview.
David was chair of the Civil Service Commission when Cristina Corona first joined the board of John Hay Management Corporation in 2001 and then assumed the top post in 2007.
David’s credentials are impeccable. In 2008, David received a Jit Gill Memorial Award from the World Bank for “innovative public sector reforms” and for having “battled against formidable obstacles to defend meritocracy and improve civil service pay as Chair of the Civil Service Commission of the Philippines until February of this year.” She teaches at the University of the Philippines Institute of Social Work and Community Development.
Chief Justice Corona, in his Statement of Assets,Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the years 2003 to 2006, made no mention whatsoever that his wife Cristina sat on the John Hay board. He only disclosed this starting 2007.
His wife should also have affixed her signature on CJ Corona’s SALNs, David confirmed. Cristina Corona never did that.
I decided to interview David after some commenters posted on my website that I was wrong in saying Corona should have declared his wife was working for the government in his SALNs. See my story CJ Corona’s SALNs only declared his wife was in government post in 2007
The commenters pointed out that the Bases Conversation Development Authority (BCDA)- the mother company of John Hay – was created under a special law, Republic Act No. 7227.
And this law stipulated that subsidiaries that would eventually be created like John Hay “shall be exempt from the coverage of the Civil Service Laws, rules and regulations.” John Hay was later created through an Executive Order issued by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In the interview, Prof. David mentioned RA 6713, the mother law which stipulates the proper disclosure of SALNs.
Here below is my interview with Prof. David:
RR: Were you the CSC chair at anytime between 2002 and 2007 when Mrs Corona sat on the board of John Hay but was not yet its President and CEO?
DAVID: YES. I was the CSC Chair from March 2001 to February 2008. Cristina Corona was first elected as member of JHMC Board on May 19, 2001. She was elected as Chairman/president/COO on July 16, 2007.
RR: Are you saying that as member of the board between 2002 and 2007, Mrs Corona should have been filing her SALN jointly or separately with her husband?
DAVID: As a Member of the Board of JHMC since 2001, she should have been regularly/annually filing her SALNs. RA 6713 defines public officials as follows: “includes elective and appointive officials and employees permanent or temporary, whether in the career or non-career service…whether or not they receive compensation, regardless of amount”. RA 6713 requires all public officials and employees, except those who serve in an honorary capacity to file their SALNs. Under the Rules issued by CSC, all other central officials and employees of GOCCs and their subsidiaries shall file their SALNs with the CSC.
Heads of GOCCs and their subsidiaries are required to file SALN with the OP. She cannot deny that she was the HEAD of JHMC starting 2007.
It goes without saying that she would have to declare the assets, liabilities and net worth of her spouse as required by RA 6713.
RR: Please explain the RA which created JHMC but exempted its officers from CSC rules. What exactly did this mean – that they were being exempted form CSC rules? Did this only pertain to their qualifications, such as they should have taken the government exam to qualify them for civil service?
DAVID: JHMC is a subsidiary of BCDA. It is not created by law but rather, created pursuant to an EO (EO 62, EO 132). An EO cannot exempt Corona from filing her SALNs. As stated above, officials and employees of GOCC subsidiaries are required to file their SALNs. The exemption from coverage of Civil service law and rules pertains to qualifications such as eligibility.
RR: And why would this mean that they still have to file their SALN between 2002 and 2007? Because some of my commenters have told me that the RA which created JHMC exempted them from CSC rules, and therefore they were also exempted from filing their SALNs.
DAVID: Again we go back to the fact that a mere EO cannot take precedence over categorical provisions of the law (RA 6713).
RR: Which government agency would be receiving their SALNs, if any?
DAVID: As a member of the Board, it (the SALN of Mrs Corona) should be filed with the CSC. As the Chair/Pres. of JHMC it should be filed with the Office of the President.
RR: So if Cristina Corona had to file her SALN, she was therefore a government employee in the eyes of the law?
DAVID: If you read RA 6713, nandoon naman yung definition. Members of the board are parang alanganin. They’re not employees, they’re not quite ofificals but they’re still required.
RR: Does this then mean that her husband, then Associate Justice Renato Corona, should have disclosed in his own SALNs from 2003 to 2006 that his own wife was in govenrment employ?
DAVID: Yes. In fact at the back of the SALN in the form there are some disclosures there of relatives up to the fourth degree who work in government. Since I haven’t see the SALNs of the chief jusice, I don’t know whether he declared his wife.
RR: Do yhou know if Crisitna Corona ever filed her SALN at the CSC?
DAVID: You have to check that. I think they (board members) are appointed by the president. Sa GOCCs (government-owned and controlled corporations like John Hay) you are either appointed or nominated by the president, then you are elected by the board.
RR: CJ Corona’s lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, told me in an interview that Corona’s SALN was actually a joint filing by the husband and the wife. A husband and wife working in government can file jointly or separately? What would indicate that it’s a joint filing?
DAVID: It’s fairly easy. I and my husband (UP sociologist Professor and Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Randolph David) are both government employees. When we file SALNs they are exactly the same. It’s just the signatory that changes. Puwede yung joint filing.
The only reason you will have separate filings is if a spouse would not declare the income of his or her spouse because the spouse is filing also.
RR: Just to clarify, are you saying that CJ Corona should have disclosed in his SALNs from 2003 to 2006 that his wife was working in government?
DAVID: That’s very clear in the SALN form. It’s in the SALN form if your spouse is a government employee you declare that as well.
RR: In my interview with CJ Corona’s counsel Esguerra, he said Mrs Corona’s signature on CJ Coronas SALNs were not necessary although I pointed out to him that there was a line where the spouse was supposed to sign.
DAVID: Technically speaking, the SALN is the declaration for th entire family. Even if your spouse does not work in government, your spouse is supposed to acknowledge that that is correct. It (the signature) means the spouse agrees (to the correctness of the declarations).
To me, as a former chair of CSC, that kind of a response (from Esguerra that Mrs Corona’s signature was unnecessary) is like saying you know you shouldn’t have bothered to put it (the signature requirement) there (int he SALN) if it didn’t need to be filled up. Every form in government is studied and everything that is put in there has a reason.
RR: Has anybody gone to jail for improper disclosures in the SALN?
DAVID: The SALN is used for administrative cases. It’s similar to the impeachment trial but at a lower level. I say that because everybody in government is subject to administrative cases, except the impeachable officials. If you look at the charges levelled against people – the non-filing of SALN, falsification of public documents, the cases that you file don’t have to be criminal or civil. You just want to get people out (of government) because they don’t deserve to be in government. Those are through administrative cases.
When Sonny Marcleo was the Ombudssman we had an agreement so that they can concentrate on big-ticket items. Those at lower level can be charged for non-filing and falsification of SALN.
As administrative cases these are appealable to the CSC. We are the appeals body kasi.
When I first entered CSC the SALN was an unimportant imposition. But between Ombudsman Marcelo and myself we felt if we wanted to fight against corruption the SALN was a critical tool.
We felt it was an important tool to ensure that government officials and employees as per the law would stick to ethical values. And while you cannot be convicted based simply on the SALN, in many of the anti-graft cases the SALN is your primary lead.
For instance, if the employee is driving around in a brand new car. But in SALN hindi niya dinedeclare yung car, magdududa ka na. You can check on the (car) registration. If the registration is in the name of that employee you start suspecting it’s ill-gotten wealth. Yun ang nagiging lead. Oops. Merong tinatago ito. Saka ka mag-didig.
Yun ang use ng SALN. Kaya nga hinahanap mo either honest naman yung SALN o hindi. Tapos pag biglang nag-spike yung property niya. Biglang nagkaroon ng napakaraming properties. Hindi naman nagbabago suweldo niya. The SALN will show that.
Yung kay Chief Justice Corona, kung joint filing yan, dapat nakadeclare din ang assets ni Mrs Corona.
Personally, after interviewing Prof. David, I realized that not all of Mrs Corona’s assets were included in CJ Corona’s SALN – if that was really a joint filing as Atty Esguerra said. I made this conclusion because of one notable thing in his SALNs – the entry disclosing “Jewelry” never changed in amount. It was constant at P1 million from 2003 to 2010.
Can you imagine the wife of a man of “no ordinary means” (as Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez described his boss) not buying any piece of jewelry for SEVEN YEARS?
You can view CJ Corona’s SALNs here.
For more discussions on the Philippine civil service, I would recommend that you read my hubby Alan’s article entitled Whose service? that appeared in the German development magazine D+C. Just click on this link.