There’s a downside to it.
At the very least, trying Renato Corona for betraying the public trust distracts from trying Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for thwarting the public will. For the next several months, the focus of public attention will not be on the second, it will be on the first. Unfortunately, the government has no choice. Corona is a huge roadblock in the daang matuwid, one that government has to remove first before getting to Arroyo.
Impeachments drag on, as the case against Joseph Estrada showed, particularly where the senators-turned-judges like to showboat, which they are likely to do with 2013 being election year. Indeed, particularly in this case where Corona will be defended by the best shysters ill-gotten wealth can buy. Estelito Mendoza may not be there—he has been too high-profile of late turning law into lokohan—but his clones will be. They can always make the impeachment last indefinitely. Erap’s own trial ended abruptly only because the people ruled to rule on it themselves.
At the very most, if Corona’s impeachment turns out to be anything like Erap’s, Arroyo’s trial is bound to be anticlimactic. Erap’s impeachment was so popular it ground the country to a halt every time it was shown on TV, and replaced basketball and the telenovelas as the top draw of its time. We haven’t had this kind of entertainment (yes, it’s that too) in a long time. We are going to lap it up.
When that happens, Arroyo will be shoved to the back burner. You can’t have two blockbusters in quick succession, assuming that the Corona trial will get to be quick in the first place. By the time the government gets to Arroyo, a great deal of public interest in that saga would have waned.
I could be wrong, of course, and the trials might have the shelf life of “The Ten Commandments,” which showed in Galaxy for more than a year. But that’s another story.
But the upside outweighs the downside.
At the very least, Corona’s and Arroyo’s fates are intricately linked. Corona’s impeachment will be Arroyo’s trial in proxy form. That is so because Corona is the mere extension of Arroyo. He is a carryover of Arroyo during P-Noy’s time, the one person to assure she would not be prosecuted, the one person to open a crack for a possible comeback, the one person to assure that, as in her time, the law can exist independently of justice and be used to enforce the culture of impunity.
It is so moreover because more than the extension of Arroyo, Corona is the alter ego of Arroyo. He shares the same trajectory as Arroyo, he shares the same propensities as Arroyo. Arroyo was a fake president, he is a fake chief justice. Arroyo came to power by the grace of Garci, he came to power by the grace of Arroyo. Arroyo’s swearing-in was such a source of disappointment rather than of celebration it had to be done in the midnight hour, his swearing-in was such a source of shame rather than jubilation it had to be done in the midnight hour. Arroyo clung shamelessly to power after being deemed to have no mandate from the people, he clings to power after being deemed to have no mandate from the people.
Corona’s fate, which the people will decree if the Senate fails to do its job, won’t just open the door to Arroyo’s fate, it will assure it. Corona falls, Arroyo falls. Which will bring to a full circle, or poetic closure Arroyo’s rise and fall. Her rise to power began with an impeachment, her fall from grace will end with an impeachment.
At the very most, what’s at stake in Corona’s impeachment is just as important as, if not more so than, Arroyo’s trial. Corona’s impeachment should particularly highlight a monumental bane that has plagued this country, one that has taken exceptionally virulent form during Marcos’ and Arroyo’s times. That is the use of law to dodge the law, escape the law, or pervert the law. During Marcos’ and Arroyo’s times—and by extension Corona’s time—it has taken the even more grotesque form of wronging rights, making black white and white black, and punishing the good and rewarding the wicked.
If Corona’s impeachment goes the way of Erap’s, then it will be an eye-opener in the true power of the law. The people are not fools, a fact they proved beyond a shadow of doubt during Erap’s trial. It mattered little to them that Erap was armed with the best lawyers loot could buy. They saw through their subterfuge and pretenses. Certainly they saw through their legal razzle-dazzle. They were more impressed with Hilario Davide and Joker Arroyo (ah, but that he should fall so steeply). Overnight the kids wanted to become lawyers again. Overnight the law took on a chivalric air again, home to the quixotic and idealistic. Overnight the law became majestic again, the right hand of justice and not the boot heel of oppression.
Alas, all that was frittered away by the coming to power of someone who, after benefiting undeservedly from People Power, repaid it by doing everything in her power to denigrate it. Someone who would show the world how the law dealt with crooks by becoming a bigger crook and escaping punishment—till now. Someone who would use the law to stamp out every shred of decency in this country.
History has given us a second chance. Corona’s impeachment won’t just unlock the true power of law once again, showing us what a wondrous thing it is when it is used right, when it is laid at the feet of the people, it will give us a chance to keep that power. The impeachment and its aftermath will be taking place under the auspices of someone who benefited deservedly from People Power, someone who has shown the world how the law deals with crooks by having the right to do so, someone who means to use the law to restore decency to this country.
No impeachment could be more rife with possibility.
I look forward to it.
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