By Tony Antonio
Philippine Chief Justice Renato Corona should resign.
Resignation is not an honorable way out for him, but it would avoid a lot of troubles not only for himself and his family but for the entire country as well.
Even in the remote possibility that he wins in the impeachment battle, his victory would be Pyrrhic – a triumph obtained with so much sacrifice and cost that it is tantamount to a defeat.
The impeachment trial would expose his dirty linen in public — so dirty that it would blacken not only his reputation and that of his family but also of the entire judiciary. This would come as a result of allegations of irregularities and abuse of authority.
Although the trial has yet to start, cases of abuses allegedly committed by himself, his wife and son are now seeing the light of day. If these allegations are true, it would indicate that the Chief Justice, his wife Cristina and son Francis took liberty with the funds of John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC), a government-owned company.
In a sworn affidavit, Rafael L. Daytec Jr., JHMC operations group manager, stated that the Corona couple – and in one instance, the son – spent 117,388.99 pesos in what appears to be unauthorized expenses incurred in their stay at the Baguio Country Club (BCC).
The couple stayed in the BCC even if they could have avoided doing so for two reasons. First, Justice Corona, as well as all members of the Supreme Court, has a cottage in Baguio provided by the government.
Second, as chairperson of the JHMC, Mrs. Corona could have stayed in the Manor Hotel, owned by the corporation she was running in her capacity as the top executive.
Daytec said that spouses Renato and Cristina Corona availed themselves of the “holiday package” offered by BCC. The cost of their stay was paid by JHMC.
The affidavit said the corporation did not pass a resolution authorizing the couple to stay in the prestigious BCC clubhouse.
His affidavit which, he said, is based on records, also stated that for three months – February, March and April of 2010 — Mrs. Corona stayed at BCC nine times — three times in April and twice in May.
The bill for her stay in a few instances together with her husband, the Chief Justice, was paid by JHMC.
On March 23, 2010, Francis Corona, son of the spouses, was accommodated at BCC. Daytec stated that the billing instruction, obviously issued by JHMC, told BCC “charges to be forwarded to John Hay Management Corp.”
Daytec said, “These (including those of the parents of Francis) were personal expenses which Francis Corona or Mrs. Corona should have paid with their own funds. Other billings forwarded by the BCC to JHMC reflect expenses for messages, salon/parlor and spa services and driver’s accommodation and a whole lot of cafeteria concessions and still more driver’s quarters under the guest card name of the Chief Justice.”
“In the last few days of June, sensing the inevitable end of her stint at JHMC, the chairperson (Mrs. Corona) sent to the finance department a set of receipts amounting to 93,578.58 pesos with a verbal instruction of expeditious processing of her reimbursables,” Daytec’s affidavit also stated.
Daytec is just one of the witnesses lined up against the Chief Justice. More damaging allegations are expected to come out during the impeachment trial.
And Corona’s record as magistrate will be scrutinized by the prosecutors in an effort to show his allegedly manifest partiality to former President Gloria Arroyo, his former boss.
In her book “A Shadow of Doubt,” veteran journalist Marites Vitug reported that she had looked into Supreme Court’s records on the cases filed against the administration of Arroyo and had found out that most of the time (80 percent), the decisions were in favor of the former President.
Vitug also examined Supreme Court’s records on second motions for reconsideration filed with the High Court and found out that in many instances, several of the justices had reversed themselves. This could mean that the justices did not study well the cases before they decided on them or that money changed hands.
She likewise looked into the criteria used by Arroyo in appointing SC justices. She concluded that “personal relationship” was the dominant criterion instead of the time-honored criteria of probity, legal philosophy and unquestionable impartiality. It is no wonder that the post of Chief Justice was given to Corona who, at one time, was Arroyo’s chief of staff.
These charges and allegations tarnish the reputation of the highest court of the land and erode its credibility and that of the entire judicial system.
I shudder to imagine a Supreme Court without credibility. Such a dark scenario would boost the leftists’ argument that there’s no justice for the poor and the powerless in a society controlled by the elite and the rich. This could lure more student activists and rural men and women into joining the rebels in the boondocks.
This could also spark violent demonstrations in the cities, especially Manila. And it’s not paranoid to fear that such a volatile situation might explode into a bloody revolution.
Chief Justice Corona should resign before it’s too late.