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Choice is between ‘fit’ or ‘unfit’

Source unknown, a cryptic text message reached me on Easter Sunday. “We pray that GMA’s Strong Republic will be realized under Binay’s Strong Leadership. Time to unite. Patawarin ang nagsisisi! Binay sa 2016!” Hours later, another text message rang with the same line. Those Easter greetings may be making the rounds of the country now.

“Moist eyes” for this or that position was a favorite phrase of former Sen. Rene Saguisag. Well, his compatriot Binay in the heady, halcyon days of Mabini has, by admission, not only “moist eyes” but also “music to [his] ears” (Inquirer, 4/13/12) for the “Strong Leadership.” The text message reveals a GMA alliance and the newspapers bare an Estrada coalition. That’s quite a triumvirate—not really strange bedfellows. The Inquirer headline (4/11/12) hints: Can Corona be far behind? “Same old, same old” laments the day’s editorial.

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And that is one reason the Corona impeachment trial, now on recess, must turn out right. Of course it must continue to be televised and of course surveys must go on, as Rep. Sonny Angara writes (Inquirer, 4/8/12). This does not mean it’s being reduced to a popularity contest. It’s simply that reputable surveys and TV are valuable aids for the people to know. Lest anyone forget, we the people are judges, too, and how can we be locked out of the trial?

All know that the defense has been mightily trying and at times seemingly succeeding in collapsing every argument presented by the prosecution with a dazzling stream of legalities and technicalities, impressing and confusing us with hair-splitters like “the poisonous tree” and “the fruit of the poisonous tree,” the “impeachable offense,” “‘in’ or ‘out’ of the article being discussed,” and “high crime” for men at the top (and by implication, “low crimes” for “low lives”). The concealment or confusion seems almost sewed up.

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But the sweet irony of it all is that this trial has turned out to be a “conceal-more, reveal-more” enterprise. The concealment has managed to spring more leaks than the Dutch dikes. For at the very same time that the defense plugs leaks on dubious deals, dollars, declarations and discounts, behold, it has also succeeded in unfolding and displaying a devious character, piece by piece and step by step, that could implode by its very own weight.

The inadvertent revelation of character by the defense is wondrous. And it is doubly wondrous because the very man whom they are defending is also revealing himself by evasion and equivocation: He will appear in court, he will not; he will explain his dollar accounts, he won’t; they own no house in the United States, his daughter does; he reportedly signed twice in a land case in Quezon City for him and for an on-leave justice, or he did not. He loves me, he loves me not.

It need not have come this low. By 2000, Estrada was an open book. He was a Star. Everyone knew what kind of man and president he was. But as late as Day 1 of the trial, Corona was a closed book with a fairly good cover design. As far as most people knew, all he was guilty of was one original sin—he was bestowed an unconstitutional midnight appointment that he accepted with “moist eyes.” (Binay, hinay.) His personal life was unknown, his flaws hidden. But the trial has opened the book of his life, page by page and now chapter by chapter.

What does the whole picture reveal? Is Corona’s integral character fit or unfit to be Chief Justice? Be boggled by the loftiness and power of that position, over more than 90 million people in our country, over all the courts in the land! This one man’s character is the question, the focus—that and mainly that.

The defense may contend: If he attributed scholastic honors to himself from grade school to law school at Ateneo de Manila and the bar exams and got a privileged PhD from the University of Santo Tomas, is that an impeachable offense? If he had errors in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, is that impeachable? Or if he treated his wife’s family badly, or if he underpaid the Bureau of Internal Revenue, etc.? Maybe “no” to all that. But defending him “crime” by “crime” and as if he is being threatened with loss of life, liberty and property won’t hold because, first, pundits say that some of these single offenses are already grievous enough to impeach, and second, that only means that both singly and cumulatively, everything dovetails to a man whose questionable character should remain the beacon before the eyes of the public and the guiding light of our proxies, the senator-judges.

The verdict should not be worded “guilty” or “not guilty.” That distracts. It should simply be “fit” or “unfit.” That keeps the focus.

Asuncion David Maramba is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist. Comments to marda_ph @yahoo.com, fax 8284454

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TAGS: character, featured column, impeachment, opinion, Renato corona
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