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As I See It

Will Corona resign after the trial?

/ 08:41 PM February 07, 2012

It looks like most lawyers have given up on saving impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona. At the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday, all the four guests unanimously agreed that Corona can no longer stay in the Supreme Court even if he is acquitted. In the words of former Sen. Rene Saguisag, Corona is “very badly damaged goods.”

“He is merely floating on the waters of the law,” Saguisag added. “We cannot have a perjurer, a falsifier in the Supreme Court.”

Lawyer Rudy Salalima said win or lose, Corona would no longer have the moral ascendancy to lead the judiciary, considering all the negative evidence coming out against him.

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Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said that Corona can no longer serve effectively as Chief Justice even if he is acquitted. “He would not have the moral ascendancy to continue to serve,” he added.

Former Rep. and now Tesda chief Joel Villanueva said practically the same thing. “A chief justice must have the complete trust and confidence of the people to be effective,” he said. “After what we have heard at the Senate impeachment trial about his assets and income, I don’t think he still has that trust and confidence.”

Saguisag said there is a rumor that once Corona is acquitted, he would probably resign anyway. That is the honorable thing to do. But what would be more honorable is for him to resign before the trial is completed “to spare the nation the travails of the impeachment trial.”

The trial is dividing the nation into pro-Corona and anti-Corona camps, and the longer the trial drags on, the more the people would be driven apart. Wouldn’t it be very statesmanly of Corona to sacrifice himself and resign now to spare the nation such division?

Besides, if the present impeachment complaint does not succeed in ousting him, the House can file another complaint next year. And the next year and the next until they succeed. All of Corona’s time, efforts and money will be used to defend himself.

In the course of the forum, Corona’s high-caliber legal defense team who were allegedly serving in the team “pro bono” (for free) was mentioned.

Saguisag said that is not allowed under Rule 504 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Under that rule, a judge (or justice) or any member of his family is barred from accepting any gift or favor. The free services of Corona’s lawyers are a form of gift or favor, the former senator said.

“And here (Corona) is not the only one complicit, but also all his lawyers serving pro bono,” Saguisag added.

“During President Clinton’s impeachment trial,” Saguisag continued, “the Clinton couple paid for their legal bills from the proceeds of their respective autobiographies. They really had high-powered lawyers who were not serving for nothing, unlike Corona who is being defended by a battery of high-powered lawyers who were serving for nothing, and therefore were violating with Corona Rule 504 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas of the prosecution team said much the same thing last Monday at the Senate impeachment trial. Corona and his lawyers defending him for free could be liable for graft and possibly for conflict of interest, Fariñas, a bar topnotcher, warned.

That is prohibited under Republic Act No. 6713 and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Fariñas said, adding that it was possible that prominent lawyers on the defense team have pending cases in the Supreme Court. Thus, their presence in the defense panel may be construed a certain way “because they are giving their gift, their services for free, to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and they come from big law firms and have pending cases in the Supreme Court.”

“Corona cannot accept discounted penthouses, discounted diplomas and free legal services. They are prohibited under Rule 504,” Saguisag said at the Kapihan sa Diamond.

Salalima said the Chief Justice must be respected by the people for him to be effective in resolving conflicts among people. They must have complete confidence and trust in him. Without them, the Chief Justice would have no moral ascendancy and he would not be effective.

*   *   *

President Aquino is understandably fed up with the corruption in the Bureau of Customs. He is not alone. The people are fed up, too.

But delivering speeches and changing the top customs officials won’t change the morality in the bureau. Corruption is so entrenched in that den of iniquity that changing customs chiefs won’t do any good if most of its officials and employees remain the same. These people will only run circles around their chiefs.

What is needed is a top-to-bottom reorganization of the bureau, change the old employees (their habits are already too ingrained in their characters), hire new, young, well-trained, ethical men and women to run the bureau. In fact, I think the government should set up a school for customs and internal revenue employees with ethics drummed into their consciousness every second.

What is also needed there is common sense for the top customs officials. Haven’t they wondered why there are too many “reporters” covering the Bureau of Customs? There are more reporters, almost all of them coming from tabloids, covering customs than all the reporters covering Congress and Malacañang put together. What are they all doing there when there is not much news coming out of there. A lot of graft is going on but why are they not coming out in the tabloids?

Commissioner Ruffy Biazon and Deputy Customs Commissioner Danny Lim, open your eyes. The culprits are right there before your eyes. Ban all the alleged reporters from the customs zone and you will have half of the corruption solved.

TAGS: corona impeachment, featured column, opinion, resignation
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