MANILA — Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has filed a bill to make public officials liable for crimes allegedly committed during past terms of office, to reject the view that reelection of an official is tantamount to condonation of his past crimes.
Santiago, a laureate of the Magsaysay award for anti-corruption, seeks to amend Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, by making an elective official liable for any violation of the Anti-Graft Act although the violation was committed during a prior term and although the official was reelected.
Senate Bill No. 2716 follows the claim by the camp of embattled Makati mayor Junjun Binay that he should not be prosecuted over the alleged overpricing of the Makati parking building, because the alleged anomalies occurred during his previous term of office.
“That is a cross-eyed simplification of the problem. The first qualification for a public office should be honesty or integrity. It is wrong to equate the reelection of a public official to condonation of his past criminal offenses,” Santiago said.
Binay’s lawyers cited the 1959 Supreme Court decision in Pascual v. Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija, which prohibited the court from disciplining an elective official for a wrongful act committed during his immediately preceding term of office.
Santiago said it is “very disturbing that the Pascual ruling was reiterated in the 2010 case of Salumbides v. Ombudsman. The two cases were cited as bases for the so-called principle of condonation.”
“The result would be ludicrous. Any public official will feel free to commit any crime, including plunder, and thus winning reelection, if it automatically means that his previous crimes are condoned,” she said.