Corona in a no-win situation
Chief Justice Renato Corona’s secret bank deposits did it. The defense team of the impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice, as well as Corona himself and the management of the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) where Corona has numerous peso and dollar deposits, finally sought help from his colleagues in the high tribunal itself to prevent the Senate impeachment court from finding out the truth about these bank deposits.
Why are they afraid to disclose the truth about these deposits?
If the money in these deposits were legally obtained and can be explained satisfactorily, why would anyone be ashamed to disclose them? On the contrary, he should be proud of them. After all, such huge amounts in numerous big bank accounts are proof of his success, ability and talent. According to the president of PSBank itself, Corona has at least P24.6 million in five peso accounts in the bank between 2007 and 2010. If I had only a fraction of those deposits, why, I would readily disclose it to the public.
Corona also has five dollar accounts with PSBank, but its president refused to divulge the total ending balances, although I have a copy of the initial deposit in one account, which showed that the initial deposit alone was $700,000. Wow! Get your calculators out and compute how much that is in pesos. Remember, that is only the first deposit. How much more are there in the other deposits? And how many other deposits are there, at the PSBank, at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and, who knows, many other banks as well?
Why would anybody want to keep his money in so many separate bank accounts? One suspicion would be that he is trying to hide them. Why would anybody want to hide such big proofs of his success and ability if they were legitimately acquired? Your guess is as good as mine.
The prosecution in the impeachment trial said one reason is that he did not include them in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), which is not only a violation of the law but an indication of his lack of honesty. And yet the first qualification required of the chief of the highest court of the land is integrity and honesty.
An indication that Corona’s defense team is afraid of the truth is that it is asking the tribunal not only to stop the issuance by the Senate impeachment court of subpoenas for bank records, but also to stop the impeachment trial altogether. An innocent man would want his trial to proceed quickly so he can prove himself innocent. So why is Corona’s behavior contrary to logic? If the trial is stopped, then he would not be able to prove his innocence.
From the very beginning, the tactic of Corona’s defense is not to present evidence in his defense but to stop the trial from proceeding at all. Why, because Corona and his defense team are afraid of the truth? Have they not heard of the saying that “the truth shall set you free”? Would the truth set Corona free? His defense lawyers seemingly don’t think it would, and so the present tactic of obfuscation and prevention.
In the present conflict on the bank deposits, Sen. Joker Arroyo warned of a possible “constitutional crisis” brought about by the defense’s petitions to the Supreme Court. Sen. Miriam Defense-Santiago warned of a possible bank run because depositors would be afraid that their deposits would be made public.
Of course, that will not happen. The summonses to the banks to reveal Corona’s bank deposits refer only to Corona’s bank deposits. They do not include other banks and other deposits.
And Senator Santiago herself replied with a loud “No” when asked whether the petitions to the Supreme Court would create a constitutional crisis. There would be a crisis only if the Supreme Court goes out of bounds and issues a TRO against the impeachment court.
But can the Supreme Court stop the impeachment court from doing its duty? The Constitution is very clear on this: the Senate shall have the sole power to try impeachment cases without stopping. No one can interfere, not even the Supreme Court.
Besides, the impeachment court is not under the jurisdiction of the tribunal. It is not under the jurisdiction of any other branch of the government. It is not part of the Judiciary. It exists on its own, it is special and independent.
Under such conditions, can the Supreme Court ethically entertain those petitions? Wouldn’t it be highly unethical for the magistrates to meddle in an impeachment case where the accused is one of their own, in fact, their chief, who, like most of them, were appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is now under detention for electoral sabotage and graft?
Suppose the Supreme Court issues a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the impeachment court and the latter refuses to obey it because the impeachment court is not under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court? How will the latter enforce its TRO against the impeachment court? Cite all the senators for contempt? How will the Supreme Court enforce that?
And suppose Corona, with the TRO as excuse, refuses to participate in his trial so that the truth will not come out, what will happen to him?
The impeachment court can declare him in default and continue to receive evidence from the prosecution. With no contrary evidence, Corona would surely be convicted and ousted from office. He is in a no-win situation.
The sensible thing for him to do is to quit now while the quitting is good. If he wants to save the nation from a constitutional crisis and from dividing into two opposing camps, he should resign and ride into the sunset. What a statesmanly statement that would make. Then he would be remembered more kindly by the nation and the history books will even praise him.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.