BY DUCKY PAREDES
‘There are at least three other ultra-expensive properties owned by the Coronas that the impeachment prosecution panel has documented.’
SENATOR Jinggoy said it. When the Senate received the impeachment complaint against Renato Corona, the son of Erap advised the Chief Justice: “Prepare to be embarrassed.”
Apparently, two weeks before the start of the impeachment proper, the “embarrassment” has begun in earnest.
Two days ago, on the front page of another newspaper was a half page photo of a 300.5 square-meter penthouse in in the Bellagio, a four-building complex in The Fort in Taguig City.
The model penthouse unit looks huge, with a panoramic view overlooking the back nine of Makati Golf and Country Club. According to documents unearthed by the House prosecution panel, the penthouse was bought at a huge discount — at only P14.5 million, still a princely sum for, at that time, an Associate Justice coming from 17 years of government service from the time he was appointed in 1992 by President Fidel Ramos.
(The highest-paid civil servant — the President — was making only P300,000 annually in 2009, when the unit was bought. An Associate Justice took home P19,500 monthly!)
Corona has not denied that he bought the penthouse unit, and says that he is still paying a monthly amortization. Really? So where did the Certificate of Ownership to the unit in the name of a Corona come from? No one issues that unless a unit has been fully paid!
According to the impeachment prosecution panel, composed of congressmen, there are at least three other ultra-expensive properties owned by the Coronas that they have documented!
Corona staunchly denies any wrongdoing. But if you’re obviously living it up on a Justice’s salary, then, eventually, the truth will out — sadly for him, in this case on the front page in full color!
Then, there is the Ph. D. from the University of Santo Tomas, the oldest university in Asia and more than 400 years old. UST gave Corona, already Chief Justice then, an honorary degree and more after the CJ studied for Ph. D. in Civil Law, a two-year course, that Corona took over a period of ten years, did not finish a dissertation (substituted for by a speech before law students and professors) and actually still lacked units, when the UST, during its 400th year celebration gave the CJ his Ph. D. summa cum laude, citing the CJ’s vast law experience as the equivalent of unfinished units.
Former Senator Rene Saguisag says: “PNoy and the people have won and know it; Rene refuses to acknowledge that he and his family have lost and would rather have all their dirty linen exhibited for all the world to see.”
But, what if Corona survives and is not impeached?
Corona should heed the advice of former Senator Rene Saguisag, who said something to the effect that Corona has already lost half the battle with his impeachment by the House; the impeachment trial, Saguisag said, would only open a can of worms that could further destroy his reputation and impair his credibility as Chief Justice even if he is acquitted.
Of course, there are still six cases filed with the Supreme Court asking that the impeachment be scrapped. Among those who filed to stop the impeachment was Alan Paguia whose practice of law was stopped by the Davide Court and brought back to life by the Corona Court.
Yet, in May 2010, Alan argued against the oft-repeated argument by other lawyers and by the justices of the SC itself that because the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) submitted at least 3 nominees for the position of Chief Justice from which Gloria chose Corona, the appointment was exempted from the prohibition on outgoing presidents making “midnight appointments” just before ending their terms.
What the JBC, in fact, recommends are, said Paguia, lists of candidates to become “members” who would fill vacancies in the court. Thus, the JBC list that included members of the Court was invalid since only one not three could be part of a list coming from the JBC.
Thus, Paguia wrote: “Dura lex sed lex. The law may be harsh to some, but that is the law.
“Mr. Justice Corona’s appointment as Chief Justice is, therefore, INVALID.”
Perhaps, this could be the prosecution panel in arguing that the CJ was, in truth and in fact, a “midnight appointee.”
Katrina Legarda, another lawyer, writes: “What can the Court do? A lot. They can dismiss the petition; or require the Lower House to comment (thereby gaining a little time to continue arguing among themselves); or issue an injunction and prohibit the Senate from proceeding until all issues have been threshed out; or maybe even opine that the impeachment complaint is defective or without basis; or any other action it deems wise.”
No matter what happens next, even at this very early stage, there seems no way for Renato Corona to regain stature enough to be able to function as an effective Chief Justice. As Jinggoy warned, the seat of the impeachee can only become hotter by the day as the time for the impeachment proper approaches and as the impeachment trial itself progresses.
Although the proper advice for Corona would probably be for him to resign, it would also probably be improper to suggest this since it would deprive the people of a circus which they have been looking to for entertainment, in the way that the impeachment of President Erap turned out to be, running as it did as a daily noon-time and evening telenovela.
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