Akbayan Rep. Kaka Bag-ao’s Speech on the Occasion of Akbayan Party’s 14th Year Anniversary Celebration, 23 January 2012, Pugad Lawin Hall, Quezon City Sports Club, Quezon City
Distinguished and honored guests, friends of Akbayan, my party-mates in Akbayan Kung Hei Fat Choi!
I welcome this invitation to speak before you today as a refreshing break from the intense preparation sessions of our team of lawyers for the prosecution of Articles 3 and 4 of the Articles of Impeachment. Sa totoo lang po ako’y medyo kinakabahan sa bigat ng hamon sa akin at sa laki ng expectations ng mga mamamayan sa aming mga prosecutors sa impeachment trial ni Chief Justice Renato Corona. But since I do not see the now-familiar faces of the Defense Panel – Former Justice Serafin Cuevas, my former teacher Atty. Jack Jimenez in the hall, I do not expect to be interrupted by any objection, technical or otherwise.
Also, before I begin to discuss some serious stuff, I would like to take this opportunity to correct the misimpression being peddled by a certain Professional Heckler. Ang suot ko noong opening ng Impeachment trial ay hindi galling sa alin man branch ng SM. Yan ay isang kasinungalingan. At kung kailangan kong ipa-subpoena sa witness stand si Manay Gina de Venecia at ang iba pang miyembro ng Association of Lady Legislators upang patunayan ito ay gagawin ko. At bago pa man makapag-object si Congressman Walden Bello, na hindi nabigyan ng terno, ay itutuloy ko na po ang aking speech.
The year 2011 will be remembered as the year of reckoning against the corrupt past of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. “Taon ng pagsingil ng mga mamamayan sa siyam na taong pandarambong at katiwalian ng mga Arroyo.”
We began the year 2011 with a full-court press to dismantle the first line of defense cleverly and maliciously put in place by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, by impeaching her appointed Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Merci and her cabal single-handedly frustrated all attempts to make GMA accountable to the various graft and corruption charges against her. It took almost half a year, thanks to the TRO issued by the Supreme Court, for us in the House of Representatives to overwhelmingly impeach her.
Without us firing a single shot in the halls of the Senate, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez succumbed to the tremendous pressure both from the public and from the strength of the Articles of Impeachment against her. Thus GMA’s first line of defense crumbled. And because of this historic victory in our mission to make GMA accountable for her crimes against the Filipino people, she is now facing charges for the anomalies that she and her administration committed in the NBN-ZTE scandal and PCSO fund scam. These are just the first gains that we are reaping from Merci’s impeachment. More are still to come.
At this point let me share to you a personal anecdote, one that is close to Akbayan’s heart. When the Articles of Impeachment against Ombudsman Meceditas were being drafted, one article was considered by many as the weakest – the case of Ensign Phillip Pestaño. In fact, nobody was willing to prosecute the article except for the Akbayan team who insisted on its inclusion. We prepared long and hard to prosecute it in the Senate trial but because of Merci’s resignation, we were denied the opportunity to prove its relevance to the impeachment case. The recent filing of murder charges against the 10 suspects in the murder of Ensign Philip Pestaño by the Office Ombudsman led by Conchita Carpio Morales is a vindication, not only for us in Akbayan but more importantly for his parents, Ka Pepe and Tita Nene and Philip’s siblings and friends. After more than a decade and a half of constant and unwavering push to make the wheels of justice turn, they will have their day in court and the first step towards achieving justice has been taken.
Akbayan’s critical role in the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez cannot be denied. Risa Hontiveros, together with Gen. Danny Lim and Ka Pepe and Nene Pestaño filed the impeachment complaint. Rep. Walden Bello and myself endorsed the complaint and successfully advocated for it in the House Committee on Justice. Akbayan, likewise, took the leadership in the public campaign for Merci’s ouster together with our allies in the Oust Merci Gutierrez Movement (OMG).
With all candor and humility, I claim with pride that we, in Akbayan, were in the frontlines of that battle against the corrupt and inept pawn of GMA and we prevailed.
We have won a battle, we still have a war to win. The next battle has begun and Akbayan’s banner is still waving in the frontlines. In this battle, we stand face-to-face with GMA’s last line of defense, the strongest, brightest and the most loyal among her generals, GMA’s former Chief-of-Staff and now her acting “Secretary of Defense”: Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Much as I want to share with you my thoughts on the merits of the Articles of Impeachment against Chief Justice Renato Corona, I am gagged. Kaya nga po chubby ang cheeks ko.
Let me share with you my thoughts and reflections on the impeachment of the Chief Justice without dealing and arguing on the merits. Kung nakikita nyo po sina Speaker Belmonte, Cong. Jun Abaya, Atty. Ayo Bautista at iba pang miyembro ng prosecution team, paki-distract na lang po sila para di nila marinig ito. Yun pong mga nakikinig nito sa kanilang mga TV at radyo pakihinaan na lang po ang volume dahil secret po ito.
Last January 16 in the morning, a few hours before the impeachment trial in the Senate began, Chief Justice Corona delivered a fiery speech commenting on various points of the Articles of Impeachment and even discussed at length each of the 45 land titles listed and released by the Land Registration Authority. He admitted owning some and denied the others. Nagulat nga ako na inisa-isa nya yun e samantalang may gag din sya. Di ba chubby din ang cheeks nya?
To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by his show of resolve to argue his own case that I thought he was willing to testify on his own behalf. But this was proven wrong, when his defense objected to the prosecution’s request for the issuance of subpoena for the Chief Justice and his family to testify before the Impeachment Court. Their objection was sustained. I am tempted to present arguments against the ruling here but I am constrained by my cheeks are chubby.
But if the Chief Justice is really serious about defending himself and personally challenge the accusations against him, I challenge him to take the witness stand when the turn of the defense to present evidence comes. It will give him the opportunity to do what he is doing outside the Impeachment Court – rebutting the pieces of evidence and testimony one by one. The witness stand will also give him a bonus. It will also give him the pleasure and opportunity to personally show how inept and inexperienced we, in the prosecution, are.
Let me go to another highlight of his defiant January 16 speech.
In his January 16 speech, Chief Justice Renato Corona bared what is now called “The Conspiracy of 3”. He said it is a conspiracy of three persons: one wants to prevent the distribution of Hda. Luisita, the other one is in a hurry to become vice-president but lost in the election and finally the third, has the ambition to become Chief Justice.
CJ Corona is right. He is right about the existence of a conspiracy but he got his numbers wrongs. It is not a conspiracy of three, neither is it a conspiracy of 188. I daresay it is a “Conspiracy of Millions” – a conspiracy of Filipinos conspiring to remove him from the post which he abused.
It is not a conspiracy to force the Supreme Court to its knees and follow the will of a dictatorship but rather a conspiracy of millions of people who are desperate to restore the independence of the Supreme Court and free it from any undue influence. It is a conspiracy of Filipinos who are reclaiming the Supreme Court from the clasps of the claws of Corona’s sovereign, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This is a conspiracy of the Filipino people intent on reclaiming the Supreme Court from the Coronarroyo Conspiracy.
Chief Justice Corona claims that his impeachment is all about Hda. Luisita. Perhaps, Chief Justice Corona has forgotten that we in Akbayan have been working with the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita and the Department of Agrarian Reform precisely to make its distribution a reality. Perhaps the Chief Justice does not know that among the ranks of the private prosecutors in his impeachment trials are several lawyers of the Hda. Luisita farmers and farmworkers. In trying to sell his theory, the Chief Justice has conveniently forgotten that the Hda. Luisita case was argued and won by the farmers together with the Department of Agrarian Reform. Masyado pong pilit ang iyong teorya CJ Corona.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in my experience all trials can become dull and boring with very few dramatic and explosive moments that are too far in between. In the absence of drama and explosive action, it is very easy to lose focus on the reasons why there is an Impeachment Trial. In this age of reality shows, I cannot blame the public watching the impeachment trial live on national television to shift their focus and take notice of the different realities happening in the Senate floor. In the eyes of the very critical public it is not only the accussed, the impeached Chief Justice who is on trial, but the prosecutors and the senator-judges, as well.
In the first week of the impeachment trial, the contrast between the defense team, composed mainly of high-caliber and experienced veteran litigation lawyers, and the prosecution team composed mainly of politicians who have spent most of their time in elective public offices and outside the court room gained the attention of the public. We, in the prosecution, became objects of criticism and the harsh Filipino sense of humor especially in cyberspace. I shall offer neither denials nor explanations.
I admit, that in terms of litigation experience, we in the prosecution, especially the public prosecutors are the underdog. In fact most of us in the prosecution team were once students of those in the defense panel. In that respect alone we are oceans apart. Moreover, prosecuting a case with millions of viewers watching your every move and listening to every word you utter is really intimidating.
The defense panel is indeed a Dream Team and their strength lies in their more than 300 years of combined litigation experience. E hindi pa po ako pinanganak Atty. Cuevas na si Justice Cuevas.
However, no amount of trial experience can compensate for the defense’s greatest disadvantage: their client Chief Justice Corona.
Dear friends and comrades, this battle must not only be fought by the prosecutors in the Impeachment Court. The battlefield is not just the plenary hall of the Senate where we have to win hearts and minds of the senator-judges. We also have to wage battle in the public sphere to win the hearts and minds of the people. We need your help in breaking the barriers of legalese and technicalities in the Senate floor and help ordinary people understand the proceedings.
The impeachment process is but a battle that we need to wage to win the war against corruption. For us in Akbayan, our mission goes way beyond this. The present conjuncture provides us with a fertile and favorable political environment to push for the changes that we have been fighting for.
A wave of change is coming. Those who cling to the ways of the past and of the GMA administration, be forewarned. Do not stand in the way.
Kapag Akbayan ang Lumaban, Panalo ang Mamamayan.
Maraming salamat po.