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In the grand manner

/ 10:20 PM January 02, 2012

Renato Corona has a ploy. He wants to question the “blitzkrieg” filing, signing and transmittal of the impeachment complaint in Congress. He would like the Senate to determine first if the 188 congressmen who signed it bothered to read it first.

At first blush, that seems like a reasonable request. I myself still remember the late Speaker Ramon Mitra saying his colleagues were the sort that wouldn’t mind signing a piece of toilet paper if you shoved it in their faces. Though Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s protégés were widely rejected by the electorate during the last elections, I don’t know that the quality of the congressmen’s discernment, or their ability to distinguish paper you write on from that you wipe your ass with, has improved dramatically.

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But what a wretched pass Corona has reached that he should be this desperate.

At the very least, it’s selective perception of epic proportions. I don’t recall him protesting the way Manny Villar sneaked through Erap’s impeachment in 2000. That was a blitzkrieg to end all blitzkriegs. “Seconds after the opening prayer, and skipping the traditional roll call, (Villar) immediately read a resolution sending the impeachment case to the Senate for trial, bypassing a full vote and ignoring attempts by Estrada allies to delay the proceedings.” (Wikipedia)

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Corona’s silence, or indeed enthusiastic endorsement of the blitzkrieg, was not surprising. He was chief of staff and spokesperson of then Vice President Arroyo at that time. He would go on to become presidential chief of staff after Arroyo took over from Erap. And thence chief justice. He would owe her for life.

Again I did not hear him protesting the way the congressmen blithely dismissed the impeachment complaints against Arroyo in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. I did not hear him ask if all the congressmen who voted to crush the impeachment—only a tiny minority did—bothered to read it before they hired speechwriters to write lofty speeches in defense of the mugging of the electorate.

In his case, whether or not the congressmen read the impeachment articles closely or at all, there is his record to show how biased his decisions have been—19-0 in favor of his patron. In Arroyo’s impeachment case, whether or not the congressmen read the impeachment articles closely or at all, there was the “Hello Garci” tape playing all over the place, courtesy of Arroyo’s own press secretary who sprung it before the public, to suggest monumental wrongdoing. Yet Corona finds Congress’ commendation of his impeachment objectionable and its rejection of Arroyo’s laudable.

But it’s more than this. It’s another case of using the letter of the law to thwart the spirit of the law. Or using the law to screw justice. The technicality is meant to delay the inevitable. Ben Evardone is right. If Corona gets his way, he would either be tried too late in the day or not at all. That’s so because it will take at least 188 days to verify the 188 signatures or more than half a year. By which time the power of the Senate to act as impeachment court would have lapsed or the senators would have gotten bored from the delay, whichever came first.

That alone should show the compelling urgency of impeaching Corona. He is the very antithesis of a chief justice. You wonder in the first place what law school he came from given Oliver Wendell Holmes’ brilliant insight: “The business of a law school is not sufficiently described when you merely say that it is to teach law, or to make lawyers. It is to teach law in the grand manner, and to make great lawyers.” He explained that in his book, “Common Law”: “The law embodies the story of a nation’s development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics. In order to know what it is, we must know what it has been, and what it tends to become. We must alternately consult history and existing theories of legislation.”

If that applies to ordinary lawyers, then that most certainly applies to chief justices. A chief justice is there to show that the law is not just some statute lurking in the yellowed pages of a book tucked in a corner of the Supreme Court library, he is there to show that the law is nothing if it is not validated by history, if it is not bolstered by experience, if it is not unleashed by a breadth of vision and interpretation.

The chief justice is there to make law noble. He is there to make law magnificent. He is there to practice law in the grand manner.

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He is not there to look for legal loopholes to survive.

I can only hope that the senators turned judges, even if they are not all lawyers, will possess what Corona clearly does not. I can only hope that they are capable of looking at things and interpreting things as much through the prism of historical insight as through the statute books. Or at least that they harbor in the heads or hearts an instinctive sense of right and wrong.

My desperation in that respect is lessened by the thought that the proceedings will be televised. Contrary to the senators who have been protesting that fact, saying that it will subvert the objectivity of the Senate, it is the only guarantee that objectivity will prevail over partisanship. It is the only guarantee that the law will not be turned, as it has been turned beyond the sight of God and man, in Corona’s courts, into an instrument of intimidation and oppression. It is the only guarantee that the law will become the flaming sword of justice. The last impeachment was so, no small thanks to the people themselves donning on the robes of chief justice. In that capacity, they practiced law in the grand manner.

In that capacity, they dispensed justice in the grand manner.

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