The removal via a constitutionally structured impeachment process of Renato Corona as Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court gives heart to the many who hope and work for a “better tomorrow” for our country.
As discussed in a previous column he had no business occupying the position in the first place. His appointment very late in the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was very clearly a ploy to obtain for herself some “safeguards” in the event that her successor would make good on the promise to go after government officials responsible for the plunder of the Philippine treasury and their enrichment there from.
And sure enough Corona acted true to form. Among his first acts was to engineer a ruling against the owners of Hacienda Luisita, hoping perhaps that Benigno Aquino III would take steps to protect his family’s interest by making a deal with Corona and go easy on the Arroyos. To his credit, the President did not bite. He himself had divested his interests in the storied Hacienda and his behavior on the matter has been consistent with his vow to work for the betterment of the Republic, not his personal interests nor wealth. The Corona-Arroyo gambit did not work.
So now Corona is crying that his impeachment was the result of an Aquino III vendetta. His behavior is patently predictable and merely confirms what the entire country knew from the time his appointment was announced. Having lost a crucial battle he now wants to muddy the waters hoping to smear and discredit a president who rightly refused to recognize the validity and legality of his tenure.
His actions and statements throughout his trial gives me the impression of a man quite aggrieved that he has been exposed as a public official who seemingly acquired millions in dollars and pesos both and is being made to suffer the consequences by being forcibly, and legally, removed from office. “How unfair can this world be?’ he seems to ask? If the Marcoses can get away with looting billions of dollars and can be elected senator and governor and congresspersons why can’t this guy keep his few millions and his job? ( Senator Marcos Jr, by the way was one of three senators to vote him “not guilty”).
Perhaps a new day has dawned upon the Philippines and while there continue to be mountains of problems to address a small and flickering candle for justice has been lit.
And while we are on this subject of haciendas and hacienderos, sure the Cojuangcos who own Luisita must adhere to the tenets and objectives of the Land Reform Act, now the question is how many other haciendas that have a stranglehold on the economic neck of the country have been similarly treated? There are many haciendas and vast landholdings that continue to be held in the hands of families who have owned them ever since the Spaniards left. The difference is that many of these haciendas, through deft legal maneuvers and exploitation of loopholes, now operate as corporations or lands have been subdivided out to children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as individual parcels and did not get transferred to serfs and peons who have worked them for a pittance for their entire lifetimes. These landowners, the Marcoses and the Romualdezes ( Imelda’s clan) included, have been insulated from any real application of the provisions of the Land Reform Act because of their collaborators in government especially within congress.
Did Corona and the Arroyos, in the ten or so years they held power ever take steps to go after the other haciendas?
And the relevance of this conversation is further elevated because we now hear and read that some members of the Manila media sympathetic to Renato Corona for whatever reason are now dubbing him a “champion for agrarian reform”. If this is with his approval or acquiescence, it has to be a case of grand delusion. Or perhaps he is “crazy like a fox”, portraying himself a “fighter for the oppressed” so that he can preempt any efforts to further go after his allegedly ill gotten wealth as that would be evidence of “persecution”. Please, do not rub salt to wound!
Here’s the bottom line. He is no longer Chief Justice. President Aquino III can now search and appoint a respected legal luminary whose integrity and record can survive stringent scrutiny and who can lead a Supreme Court that is truly there to serve the ends of justice.
And for the remaining 14 or so other justices on the bench also appointed by Arroyo, there is an opportunity for them to prove and demonstrate that they are not leashed to the interests of their appointing master but are faithful to the sacred oath of office they vowed fidelity to.
Corona’s impeachment is a sublime instance and can be a watershed moment in the country’s history and it is the fervent hope that the leaders involved rise to the challenge. Surely, the country’s future depends on it.