As I See It

Defense running out of options?

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The new tack of the defense in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona is to make everybody look as guilty as Corona. By presenting the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of other public officials to show that they, too, made mistakes, or were not very truthful, the defense wants to present Corona as innocent because everybody else is doing it. It is like saying: Don’t blame him for stealing because everybody else is also stealing. That’s the same kind of mentality that reigns at the Bureau of Customs. Everybody is shaking down or accepting bribes from the importers because everybody else, from their bosses to the lowly clerk or janitor, is doing it. That removes some of the feelings of guilt from their consciences.

As Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and other senators said: What is the relevance of the SALNs of other public officials? They are not on trial. It is Corona who is.

“Let’s not complicate things anymore,” Enrile said in a radio interview. “Go direct to the point. You just explain the charges against you, Then it’s done.”

But defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador III said it was important to show the “pattern” and the “existing practice” of government officials in filing their SALNs. In other words, if everybody is doing it, then it’s not wrong for the Chief Justice to do it.

Is this the kind of thinking of the wild bunch in the corner of Corona, or is it because they are running out of options to save their client as the noose draws tighter?

“Why is Corona the only one impeached, what about the others?” To which hardened criminals will answer: “Eh ikaw ang nahuli. G-go ka kasi, nagpahuli ka. Magdusa ka.” (But you got caught. You’re stupid, you allowed yourself to get caught. Suffer.)

But as for the others, don’t worry, their time will come, if not in this world, then in the next. “God sees the truth but waits.”

Another tack of the defense is asking the question for every crime that Corona is facing: “Is it an impeachable offense?” It is implying that each accusation, taken separately, is not serious enough, like a little white lie, for the No. 1 magistrate to be impeached.

But Corona is not accused of only one offense. He is accused of several offenses which, taken together, make him unfit to be chief justice.

Corona is no ordinary public official. He is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. He supervises the whole justice system of the country. What the Supreme Court says becomes the law of the land, even if it contradicts other laws.

A magistrate has the power of life and death in his hands. He can deprive any citizen of his life, freedom and property. Therefore a justice, especially the Chief Justice, should have the full trust of the people so that they will accept any punishment that the courts may mete out on them. Like Caesar’s wife, he must not only be clean and pure but also above suspicion.

Now I ask you: After hearing all the evidence against the Chief Justice during the trial, do you still have trust and confidence in him? Is he not only clean and pure but also above suspicion? Do we want a chief justice like him? Can we expect justice from the courts he supervises? Can we expect fairness from the courts he controls? Can we accept, without any reservation, decisions made by his courts?

You must realize that Corona is not on trial merely for his SALNs, his assets and his secret bank accounts, but on his fitness to be chief justice. After all that we have heard, is he still fit for the lofty position? The senator-judges will not judge him merely on his SALNs and assets, but on his moral fitness to lead the judiciary and to institute long-needed reforms in a judiciary that is notorious all over the world as the slowest in the whole universe.

* * *

Nagiging weng-weng na ba si Manny Pacquiao? Now God is talking to him in his sleep.

In a radio interview last Monday, God allegedly told Manny: “You have done enough in boxing. You have made yourself famous but this is harmful.”

Translation: He is afraid to face Floyd Mayweather and break his string of victories in boxing.

Some wags joked, however, that it was not God who talked to him but Aling Dionisia, his mother, who whispered in his ear while he was sleeping and told him to quit boxing.

But what will Pacquiao do when he is no longer famous? Pacquiao lives for the adulation of media and the people. His term as congressman will end in a few years, and if he is no longer boxing champion, the key to his popularity, it is not likely that he would be reelected. Pacquiao has not really done anything for his district in Sarangani. He is too busy with his other loves to pay any real attention to his district.

What about his career as a television host? They say he is losing a lot of money, but Manny likes the glare of publicity.

What about his career as a singer? Well, the people are not really beating a path to his concerts or to the record shops.

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