Case against Corona collapses
Anyone who has actually watched and listened to the 34 impeachment trial sessions, and therefore spared himself from the yellow filters of a partisan press, can only but conclude: The impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato Corona has all but collapsed.
This has become obvious even as his defense has just warmed up. President Aquino would have to exhaust his resources to bribe or threaten senator-judges to undertake intellectual and ethical contortions to vote Corona guilty.
Consider the facts.
For starters: Recall that the House of Representatives in December forwarded with much bravado to the Senate eight articles of impeachment—or allegations of eight instances of wrongdoing by Corona. On the 25th trial day, the prosecution sheepishly declared they had nothing else to present, and were no longer pursuing five of the eight allegations (articles 1,4, 5,6, and 8), giving no reason why.
The reason had become obvious though: these had been hurled merely as a propaganda barrage, that there were so many issues against Corona that he was better off resigning. They thought they could take out Corona just as easily as they removed former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez who, after being demonized in the press, resigned a few days after the impeachment case was filed.
But the man fought back, and there were courageous people in the country rushing to his succor—the likes of the 83-year-old former associate justice Serafin Cuevas, veteran top-notch lawyers, and young, cultured defense spokespersons.
The prosecution had realized after two months of trial that Cuevas would be making mincemeat out of the five made-up charges, and therefore dropped them. Article 5 involved the Court decision for the creation of 16 cities and of Dinagat Island as a province, while 4 and 6 involved its resolutions, respectively, on Gutierrez’s impeachment and the plagiarism case against an associate justice. But all these Court actions—and others alleged in Article 1—were by the majority of the justices, and Corona’s votes weren’t even tiebreakers. Article 1 even claimed that Corona should be impeached because he accepted his appointment as chief justice!
Article 8—the most preposterous—alleged that Corona “failed to account for the Judiciary Development Fund,” the reporting systems for which have been unchanged since it was set up nearly three decades ago in 1984.
The trial now therefore involves only Articles 2, 3 and 7. Article 7 accuses Corona of protecting former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the Court ordered the justice department to allow her to travel abroad. But Corona in that case was just one of eight justices—against five—who voted in favor of Arroyo’s petition to travel.
The prosecution presented Article 3 only with respect to the Court’s rulings on the Philippine Airlines labor case, which however were also decisions agreed upon by the majority.
What the impeachers are in effect saying is that Corona should have always voted with the minority. If Corona had done that, he definitely should be removed—for being a nutcase.
The first part of Article 2 alleged that Corona “failed to disclose his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth.” But the Court issued a resolution two decades ago that justices—in order to shield them from harassment—must submit these documents only to the Court, and would have to get its permission to have these publicly disclosed.
The second part alleged that “tens of millions worth of assets and cash” were not declared in his SALNs.
The prosecution claimed that Corona had not disclosed 40 properties, with Land Registration Authority head Eulalio Diaz—Aquino’s long-time buddy—submitting copies of titles he claimed were registered either under the Chief Justice’s or his wife’s names.
That has been proven to be such a big lie that Sen. Loren Legarda demanded that the prosecution should apologize for trying to fool the Senate and the public. Some 17 of the titles with the Coronas’ names Diaz submitted already had the prominent “CANCELLED” marking, meaning they no longer were the owners. Another 12 were not even in the Coronas’ names but were in his in-laws’ namesakes’ and children’s who had the means to purchase the properties. Seven Marikina properties were sold in 1990 to one Demetrio Vicente who credibly testified to that effect in court. Three were parking lots attached to the condominiums. One title was part of a property Corona had declared. Undervalued? But Corona reported the valuation of his properties made by city assessors, which is used by most government officials, even by Mr. Aquino who reported his upscale Quezon City home at its assessor’s valuation of P3 million.
And the moneys Corona had in his bank accounts but was not reported in his SALN?
President Aquino’s minions obviously were able to illegally access his bank accounts, and probably jumped up and down in joy when they discovered that it had over P40 million or so—much more than what he reported in his SALNs. But last week, it was shown that Mrs. Cristina Corona had received—in trust for the corporate owner—P35 million for the payment of a land sold to the city of Manila, which she had deposited in her husband’s bank.
“So it turns out that it is not (Corona’s) money, but that of the company. So, it was only proper that he did not include it (in his SALN),” Sen. Miriam Santiago concluded.
Why did they ever undertake this vicious but foolhardy campaign to crush the Chief Justice?
“Truth overcomes deceit,” the Buddhist Dhammapada said more than 2,000 years ago. The deceit is that Corona should be taken out for corruption. The truth is that Mr. Aquino clan can get P10 billion for Hacienda Luisita only if Corona is removed.
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