Truth hurts | Inquirer Opinion
There’s The Rub

Truth hurts

In theory, Renato Corona does not have to appear in court. In theory, he can always say the prosecution hasn’t really proven anything. It hasn’t proven corruption. It hasn’t proven hidden wealth. It hasn’t proven bias.

And true enough, it hasn’t, at least not straightforwardly. For reasons that owe only in part to the prosecutors’ lack of sterling abilities, though as the text messages keep pointing out, there’s that too. The preparation of the articles of impeachment was haphazard. Even given the urgency with which the indictment was made, even given the fact that it was prepared by congressmen—a group of people known to have a collective IQ that would put the weight of a famished dieter to shame—it could have been done better.

Just as well, the prosecution’s appeal to the impeachment court to cut it some slack and err on the side of liberalism could have been a little more eloquent, if not more precise. Everyone had been saying from the start that the trial should be about the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Prosecution and defense swore by it, the senator-judges swore by it, even Corona swore by it. Let not truth be a victim of technicality. Prosecution did propose it, but Niel Tupas might first have tried to learn the art of persuasion from “Julius Caesar.”


That brings us to the part where the prosecutors’ inability to prove anything owed to more than lack of talent. Truth in fact did become a victim of technicality, courtesy of the impeachment court itself which allowed the usual suspects to railroad it in that direction.


First, they stopped the prosecution from talking about corruption. Or Juan Ponce Enrile did, disallowing it from taking up 2.4, which dealt with it, because it wasn’t explicitly included in the articles of impeachment. You could talk about 2.3 and show how Corona egregiously undervalued his income relative to his fortune, but you could not go on to talk about corruption. What idiocy is that? The one implies the other, the one adumbrates the other.

Then they stopped the prosecution from opening Corona’s dollar accounts. A horrendous perfidy in every respect. First, the impeachment court surrendered its power to an implicitly acknowledged higher power. Second, the impeachment court surrendered its power to the one group of people who most wanted to see Corona acquitted. And third, the impeachment court added insult to injury, in an abject affirmation of “colonial mentality,” by agreeing that it’s perfectly OK to open peso accounts but not dollar ones.

And then they stopped the prosecution from presenting Ma. Lourdes Sereno. Hearsay, Serafin Cuevas cried out, when Leila de Lima testified to Corona’s tinkering with the Supreme Court TRO allowing Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave the country. Let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Of course, the horse wasn’t being allowed to stray from the stable—the Supreme Court had banned anyone from its ranks from appearing in the impeachment court—but that was not his fault.

In theory, Corona does not have to appear in court. His lawyers can always crow, after having gotten the court to agree to forbid the prosecution from showing corruption, ill-gotten wealth and bias, that the prosecution hasn’t proven corruption, ill-gotten wealth and bias. And the usual suspects among the senator-judges can nod sadly and say, Alas, that is only too true. Arroyo herself did it before: She banned all public officials from testifying she stole the vote and subsequently got Congress to quash the impeachment bids against her on the ground that no one could say she stole the vote.

But all that is only theory. In life, the plots of mice and men, beggars and kings, clowns and crowns, oft go astray. The defense has two huge problems facing it. The first has to do with the nature of an impeachment trial. It is not a trial to determine whether or not a person has committed rape or murder, it is a trial to determine whether or not a public official is fit for his post. At stake is not the freedom of the tried, at stake is the welfare of the people. The question is not whether someone who hasn’t been proven guilty of corruption, hidden wealth or bias deserves to continue to be Chief Justice, the question is whether someone whom the world is forbidden from raising questions about corruption, hidden wealth and bias deserves to continue to have anything to do with justice. In sum, the point is not just for the prosecution to show vice, it is for the defense to show virtue.

The second still has to do with the nature of an impeachment trial. Ultimately, it is not the senator-judges who judge it, it is the people who do. So it was in Erap’s trial, so it will be in Corona’s trial. And the people are not fools. And the people may not be prevented from rendering judgments about corruption, hidden wealth and bias. The objections of the defense notwithstanding, the rulings of Enrile notwithstanding, the abdications of the impeachment court notwithstanding, the prosecution has done enough to unravel someone, never mind if he’s the highest justice in the land, you will not trust anywhere near Lady Justice, or your daughter.


Defense must find itself in a bind. Corona doesn’t appear in court and he fans perceptions of his guilt; he does and he makes it certain. It’s as Mark Twain says: “Better to be silent and be thought of a fool, than to open your mouth and confirm the fact.”  Except that in this case the first is just as bad. Ramon Esguerra hit the nail on the head when he said that presenting Corona would not be a problem because “it is not difficult if you are telling the truth.” But that’s just the problem: Look at Corona’s face and see if he is. The truth doesn’t always set you free.

Sometimes it just hurts.

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TAGS: defense, featured column, impeachment trial, prosecution, Renato corona, truth

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