One, frankly, I couldn’t understand why no one asked if only Renato Corona’s unit in Bellagio was damaged by the typhoon. Serge Osmeña asked about the severity of the damage, Jinggoy Estrada asked about the severity of the typhoon, and the prosecutors and some senator-judges asked if it was normal for Megaworld to sell damaged units.
Doubtless these were relevant questions. Osmeña had a point: If Megaworld sustained considerable damage to its property, why didn’t it report it to the insurance companies? Or did it? In which case the documents and photographs should reveal the truth. Estrada had a point as well: What was the typhoon that caused so huge a damage to one of its classiest units it was forced to slash P5 million from it? I know of “Milenyo” and I know of “Ondoy” but neither one took place in 2008. And the prosecutors had a point: Was Megaworld willing to risk its reputation as a seller of classy residences selling a prime unit (a penthouse) in one of its showcase projects (Bellagio) that wasn’t up to par to the highest judicial authority of the land?
But my own (literary) imagination went in the direction of whether only Corona’s choice unit bore the entire brunt of the typhoon’s fury. I’m trying to visualize it. For Megaworld, which did not prosper for being a fool, to cut off P5 million from its price for a penthouse, the disaster must have been dire. For that to have happened, the typhoon must have been correspondingly dire. Now, if the typhoon was so, how come only Corona’s unit from the entire building bore any serious damage? You’d imagine God had it in for him and sent a concentrated blast of wind and rain, in lieu of a thunderbolt, in his contemplated nesting place.
All of which made me wonder why no one asked: One, were the other units damaged as well, albeit in varying degrees? Two, did Megaworld offer to slash the prices to other buyers commensurate to the extent of damage? Three, since both Giovanni Ng and Noli Hernandez mentioned the global recession as one of the reasons for slashing the price of Corona’s penthouse, did it do the same for the other buyers on the same ground?
But having said all that, prosecution’s tack of putting Megaworld representatives to bolster its case of unethical conduct against Corona was epically uninspired. At the very least, what made it so was that it gave them all sorts of procedural problems, as Juan Ponce Enrile and some of the senator-judges kept pointing out. If prosecution had wanted to badger its witnesses to make them yield the truth against their will, then it should have registered them as hostile witnesses. It did not. Which put it in the ridiculous position, at least legal-wise, of doubting the testimony of its own witnesses. Enrile raised that point at several junctures in Joseph Joemer Perez’s questioning and during his re-direct. Was he cross-examining his own witness?
At the very most, the prosecutors were laying booby traps for themselves. As I said yesterday, what company will admit to effectively bribing a government official, least of all a chief justice? Naturally, Megaworld will justify in every possible way its selling of a penthouse to Corona at the bargain basement price it did. Who’s to say that the cost of repairing the unit wouldn’t come up to P5 million? The most that could happen is that Megaworld may be accused of being stupid, not with being devious. And who’s to say that a chief justice will not settle for a penthouse that has been much depreciated by a storm, which will require time and money to render reasonably habitable? The most that can happen is that he may be accused of being cheap, not with being a criminal.
If prosecutors want to continue trying to prove that Megaworld undertook a veiled bribe, they will need witnesses other than officials from Megaworld, hostile or friendly, to do it. The insurance companies might have something to say about it. The various agencies dealing with disaster assessments might have something to say about it. The other Bellagio tenants who did not get price reductions might have something to say about it. But not the officials of Megaworld.
Otherwise, prosecution’s best bet remains the discrepancy between Corona’s Spartan stated income and his ability to afford Roman-style habitats. And, well, his stipulation that the value of his Bellagio unit is less than P7 million. I’m tempted to borrow from a bank to buy it from him, but he can always say the thing has grown on him and has sentimental value. Corona’s the name, palusot’s the game.
Two, Joker Arroyo is alarmed that prosecution might be contemplating impeaching another justice, thereby wasting the Senate’s time. Which prosecution has denied. But even if so, what of it? What has the Senate got to do that’s so important? Well, of course the senators could be discussing the US proposal to field more troops here, which would be idiotic for us to agree to, but I don’t see them showing any signs of being headed in that direction.
More to the point, where’s the point of legislating if laws don’t get followed anyway? Where’s the sense of having laws if we get no justice anyway? Which has always been our bane. We have a Congress that keeps producing laws that no one particularly minds, which leads Congress to keep proposing to amend the Charter since it apparently doesn’t work. There is nothing wrong with the Charter, there is everything wrong with us. First let’s obey laws, then let’s change them if following them doesn’t work. That’s what the impeachment does: It compels us to obey laws. That’s what the impeachment does, it compels us to seek justice. That’s what the impeachment does: It compels us to connect means and ends.
What in God’s name could be more important?
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