The mirror image of being thrifty with the truth is being lavish with lies. They are one and the same. At the impeachment trial at the Senate, unraveling from submitted Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN), both reveal frugal truths against preponderant falsehoods.
That the Chief Justice seems to have been snared by his SALN is an understatement. Three weeks into his trial, and still barely scratching the surface of two short paragraphs under Article II of the eight Articles of Impeachment, the gap between what were filed as truth and what now appears as glaring inconsistencies is getting wider by the day.
In baseball, three strikes and one’s bat is taken away. In the details of exhibits scheduled for acceptance as evidence, already there is preponderance beyond the three needed to separate His Honor from his gavel. Certainly there is more than the single necessary to convict.
In the virtual bleachers outside the trial where the public is neither constrained by niceties nor constricted by processes, let us go through an ever-growing list of inconsistencies from which explanations are demanded.
The first is a case where truth recorded under the SALN seems grossly inadequate.
Titled in 1993, a 460-square-meter lot purchased in Old Balara with a fair market value of P3 million appears in the Chief Justice’s 2002 SALN. Its values have remained consistent from his SALN in 1993 through to 1996 and then in 2002.
In 2003, however, the postings changed. The mode of acquisition consistently recorded as a “purchase” was changed to reflect installments. Such alteration is important. For the former, no liabilities are recorded. For the latter, net-to-close payables must appear.
Moreover, the assessed value of P30,000 consistently recorded from 1993 to 2002 changed to P172,500.00 in 2003. Curiously, the fair market value remained constant. This raises questions as fair market values dovetail assessed values, the latter changing only upon assessments. When updated as was obviously the case in 2003, fair market values should also have been updated.
By 2010, this property vanishes from the SALN. It was sold for P8 million or, based on its fair market value, an appreciation averaging over P715,000 a year from 2003 to 2010.
The second case involves property along Katipunan Avenue.
In 2003, the SALN reflected a condominium purchased in 1997. The 2004 SALN shows the title was transferred upon full payment in 2003. This means that between 1997 and 2003, installment liabilities were incurred. As in the Old Balara property, installments compel net-to-close payables prior to full payment. In 2002, with one year to go prior to full payment, no liabilities were recorded.
The SALN is basically a balance sheet recording what is owned against what is owed. It is a static portrait of net worth true only for a specific point in time. Without comparisons against other years it is merely indicative. Worse, the SALN remains sorely inadequate when it comes to revenues from which taxes are derived.
Documents at the Impeachment Court reveal the Chief Justice’s 2003 SALN reflected a P3-million fair market value 1,200-square-meter property purchased in La Vista correctly recorded at its acquisition price of P11 million. In 2010, it was transferred through a sale. The selling price was P18 million, or an appreciation of P15 million, from the fair market value in 2003, and P7 million from the acquisition cost.
It is interesting to note that the La Vista property had been correctly recorded at its acquisition cost. In 2010, this time in a purchase involving a 300-square-meter Bellagio penthouse in Taguig, the property was not recorded at its acquisition cost of P14.5 million but was rather recorded at P6.8 million, the proposed zonal valuation for pieces of property in the area, or P7.7 million less than its acquisition value.
The difference is recording bases impacts on applicable taxes.
Beyond the issue of taxes and consistency in accounting for assets, the values a SALN records must follow accepted accounting protocols where assets are recorded at its acquisition cost. Not even magistrates are allowed to record at acquisition cost in one SALN and then under zonal valuation in others.
The SALNs in question seem to have been frugal with the truth yet lavish with contradictions. While the impeachment trial plods through its first inning, already three strikes demand explanations from one invested with the nation’s most precious trust.
Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over until it’s over.” Last January 9, on the Bellagio purchase, a broadsheet quoted defense counsel as having said “Until now, that is not yet fully paid.” Last Tuesday the seller testified full payment was made within a year’s time.
Republished with permission from Dean dela Paz