BY DUCKY PAREDES
‘In the end, the 20 senators, four more over the minimum 16 needed to convict, had no choice.’
SENATE President Juan Ponce Enrile says that his ruling of “guilty” on ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona was partly due to the latter’s infamous walkout and inconsistent testimonies, as well as the damning disclosure by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales of Corona’s dollar deposits.
To Enrile, as Senate President, belonged the final vote on Corona. Three, namely Sens. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Joker Arroyo, may have committed political suicide by voting to acquit. Manong Ernie and the rest of the 20 remaining senators found Corona guilty as charged.
Three factors were the keys to Corona’s becoming the first impeachable public official to be successfully removed from power through impeachment.
First, the strong and very palpable public perception of Corona’s guilt greatly influenced the overwhelming majority of the senators to heed the people’s cry to deny Corona’s claim that that the judiciary’s independence was in any danger from what Corona claimed was a looming Noynoy Aquino dictatorship.
In the end, the 20 senators, four more over the minimum 16 needed to convict, had no choice. Having been elected by the people as their representatives, the 20 listened to the people and their vote reflected the emphatic guilty verdict.
Here media played a big role. Corona complained of a media campaign against him. Not true, but media also left no stone unturned as evidence oozed out of the Court even as it dutifully reported rallies for and against Coronas and the results of surveys that found Corona the least-trusted person in government and the people’s judgment that he ought to be convicted.
Was there a media campaign to bring out the injustices foisted by the Coronas on the Basas or the undeclared luxury condos and fat bank deposits of Corona, then we should even be thankful for those whomounted the campaign to shine a light on Corona’s dark secrets.
No, Corona was not a victim of black propaganda; it just so happened that the pieces of evidence against him exposed through media were so damning that even his battery of high-priced (but pro-bono for the Chief Justice) lawyers could do nothing for their client.
The second factor that played a big role in ousting Corona had to do with the complaints filed before the Ombudsman by, among other people, Akbayan spokesperson Risa Hontiveros and Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello.
Hontiveros moved for the Ombudsman’s investigation of Corona’s assets as exposed during the trial, while Bello went a step further by asking Morales to initiate the move for the forfeiture of Corona’s hidden wealth. The genesis of Morales’ appearance at the Senate can be traced to the cases filed before her office by Hontiveros, Bello and the others.
Again, we go back to Enrile’s post-judgment interview that Morales’ testimony damned Corona when she pulled out a 17-page report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) detailing Corona’s numerous dollar transactions. Enrile said that even an Einstein would not have been able to fake such a detailed report.
In his melodramatic appearance at the Senate, Corona slammed the “maximum impact” created by the publication by the media of Ombudsman Morales’ letter asking him to explain his $10 million in bank deposits. Corona saw this as part of the conspiracy against him.
There was no such thing. In fact, that piece of information may have come from the Supreme Court itself. The Ombudsman says that, contrary to Corona’s claim that the Ombudsman’s letter to him was, it was not — because it had to be received when delivered to the Court and a copy of the letter was so received.
The third factor was, according to Enrile, Corona’s inconsistencies and his many palusot – blaming everyone, blaming President Aquino, blaming Presidential Political Adviser Ronald Llamas and everyone else, except himself – nailed Corona’s figurative coffin shut!
There is a fourth factor. One notes that if this was a sporting event, instead of a serious impeachment trial, on Day 35, the score might have been even. It looked to me like 0-0.
On Day 36, the Defense had the ball and were expected to begin scoring. They started with Sheriff Joseph Bisnar of Quezon City as their witness. The idea was to prove that part of the Corona treasure trove came from the Basa-Guidote firm that had been acquired by a Corona daughter at an auction.
This only proved to the enraged public that Corona and wife were operators who had no respect for legal niceties.
On Day 37, the Defense called in the Ombudsman who read from the AMLC report that listed transactions on Corona’s dollar accounts, too many to be enumerated. Corona’s goose seemed about to be cooked,
On Day 39, Chief Justice Renato Corona himself took the stand. After speaking uninterruptedly for three hours, the impeached excused himself and stood up saying: “The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court wishes to be excused.” He, then, stood up and walked towards the exits, shaking hands with everyone on his way out.
The presiding officer — everyone’s Manong Johnny by then — ordered the building locked down to prevent the impeached from leaving the Senate building. Corona eventually returned in a wheelchair claiming a sudden hypoglycemia attack.
On Day 42, Corona was finally well enough to get back to the Senate for the final day of his impeachment, where he answered questions from the Senator-Judges. As Maritess Vitug who wrote an interesting book on our Supreme Court notes: “Basically, he (Corona) admitted owning $2.4 M and P80-M which were not at all declared in is SALN.”
That – the equivalent to a goal one kicks into one’s own home goal – left no more doubt about the final results that came when the senator judges voted 20-3 on Day 44!
There is an ancient saying: “God draws straight with crooked lines” that comes from the Spanish: “ Dios escribe derecho sobre renglones torcidos.”
Was God also part of this impeachment?
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