Lucky at that
Before Miriam Defensor-Santiago interrupted him for not really answering her question, Renato Corona waxed emotional. Santiago had asked him how he saw the impact of his impeachment on the separation of powers, as leading a question as you could get.
But Corona decided to wring some sympathy from it first by talking about a deeply painful personal experience. It was bad enough, he said, that the name he had taken scrupulous care to build over a lifetime had been tarnished probably beyond repair. But it was worse that the shadow of shame had fallen over his loved ones, and particularly over his grandchildren. One of them was especially overwrought for feeling the stigma in school. But the kid was not awed, he was angry. He was angry at the injustice of it all. That was what emboldened him, the Chief Justice, to fight back.
Before he could go on to wax heroic, however, Santiago cut him short and redirected his attention to her question, which was pretty much a rhetorical one. And which Corona answered rhetorically, indeed almost robotically going by rote through well-rehearsed lines, saying it wrecked the separation of powers by sending a chill down the spine of the justices. All because he had taken a stand against Hacienda Luisita. And all because he went up against a President who craved complete control over the three branches of government.
Of course your heart goes out to the kid. In a perfect world, the blameless shouldn’t have to inherit the shame of the blameful. But you have to ask too who in God’s name has put them through the hell they’re now in in the first place. The grandchildren of Ferdinand Marcos are also pitiful in that respect. The grandchildren of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are also pitiful in that respect. All of them also believe their forebears are innocent. All of them are also angry that their forebears have suffered injustice in the hands of those who have punished them. All very fine, except for one thing:
They’re not. And they have not.
The real hell in fact is not the hell your grandchildren are currently going through. The real hell is the more hellish one your grandchildren will go through when they grow up from all the lessons you have taught them by your words and example. No, more than that, the real hell is the even more hellish one your grandchildren are going to inflict on others from all the values you have imparted to them in life by your words and example.
What kind of things are you teaching your children, never mind your grandchildren, by accepting a midnight appointment? By becoming the font of legal wisdom through the most illegal and unwise means? By sneaking into your position in the dead of night, beyond the gaze of public attention (though it didn’t escape the gaze of the newly elected president who complained bitterly about it), the way your patron snuck into her position under cover of darkness? By clinging to your position with a tenacity that rivals your patron’s, despite the revulsion of your public, despite the derision of your peers, despite the scorn of your betters? That it’s all right to crave power, seek power, cling to power at all costs? Including the cost of the wellbeing, physical, emotional and spiritual, of your loved ones?
What kinds of things are you teaching the future generations, never mind your children and grandchildren, by insisting as chief justice that it’s all right not to declare the bulk of your properties and pay taxes on them? Presumably because your dollars are protected by confidentiality and your pesos are adulterated? That the point of law is miss the spirit of the law for its letter, or since even the letter of the law does not say dollars are exempt from taxes, it’s all right to use the law to make palusot, it’s all right to use the law to make lokohan?
What kind of things are you teaching your unloved ones around you, never mind your loved ones, when you portray yourself as being the victim of petty vindictiveness because your heart bleeds for the tenants of Hacienda Luisita? When you have just served and continue to serve someone who was petty enough to hound Acsa Ramirez, the whistleblower she wrongly and wrongfully accused of being party to the crime she blew the whistle on, OK na rin, kasuhan na rin, kasubuan na? When you have just served and continue to serve someone who always thought the separation of powers was something you ordered from a fancy restaurant, if not flushed into the bowl after wiping it in the ass? That it’s all right to brazen out a lie, laugh out a lie, lie, live out—and die with—a lie?
And you complain that your loved ones are feeling the pain and humiliation of your fall from your shaky perch? And you complain that your grandchildren are taking the fallout from your shame? Whose freaking fault is that?
The Bible puts it well: What does it profit a man if he gains the Supreme Court and loses his soul—along with those of his grandchildren?
Corona should be thankful this is a country that finds it so easy to forgive and forget. Corona should be thankful this is a country that has a culture of awa, that looks at people who have fallen from power and, however vicious they had been in their time, however devious they had been in their time, imagines they have been punished enough. Corona should be thankful this is a country that makes Angelo Reyes an exception rather than a rule, that doesn’t bring enough opprobrium, enough derision, enough contempt to befall the wrongdoer such that he is compelled to confront himself and make sure his shame does not live on after him. He is a victim of oppression?
He should be so lucky.
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