After Tuesday | Inquirer Opinion

After Tuesday

Did Chief Justice Renato Corona “hoist himself on his own petard” by having the unflappable Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales subpoenaed?

Hamlet spoke of the “petard”—a 2- to 3-kilogram bomb—in  Shakespeare’s 1599 play. Being hoisted on one’s own petard meant blowing oneself up. Today’s version is shooting yourself in the foot.


On Tuesday, Corona ends defense by press release or text. He’ll testify at the impeachment trial to shred “a lantern of lies” about P677 million in unexplained wealth.

“It ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” the old saw goes. People will sit on their hands until Corona winds up at the Senate. No more petards of technical quibbling, please. Citizens want uncluttered answers to the Anti-Money Laundering Council report and Morales’ testimony.


Is there a “discrepancy” of P36.7 million between what Capo earned and his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth? Did he shuttle P242 million from April 2003 to February 2012? Where did the greenbacks tumble from? Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares claims?

Senator-judges had no jurisdiction over its man, the defense always insisted. Corona’s appearance should “petard” hints that the defense will trot to the Supreme Court if clobbered in the Senate.

“It was Corona’s ‘call’ to have the Ombudsman testify,” defense lawyer Jose Roy III told the Inquirer. The defense was startled by “very huge” amounts squirreled into those accounts.

So was the country. The Bangko Sentral reports that eight out of 10 households do not have a bank account. Did his lawyers work in half-light from a “lantern of lies”?

“When Morales mentioned 82 dollar accounts, … Justice Serafin Cuevas was taken aback,” Cebu Daily News columnist Malou Guanzon Apalisok noted. “[It was] as if he was hearing things for the first time.” Journalists Domini Suarez and Maritess Vitug make the same point that counsels are out of the loop.

When curtains rise on Tuesday, those 82 dollar accounts may have been whittled down, maybe to three, says a trial balloon lofted by spokesperson Ramon Esguerra. We understand. Hush-hush bank accounts have a sleazy history.

Replay the March 2011 Senate blue ribbon committee hearings. The Commission on Audit’s Heidi Mendoza documented the plunder of Armed Forces funds for the Balikatan, Filipino UN peacekeepers, etc.


Former Lieutenant General and AFP comptroller Jacinto Ligot stonewalled questions about 42 bank accounts where P740 million was stashed between 2001 and 2005. He invoked the right against self-incrimination and secrecy of bank deposits.

The US Senate money laundering investigation found that Chile’s Gen. Augusto Pinochet and cronies secretly moved $27 million through 125 bank accounts at Riggs Bank and other financial agencies. Pinochet, family and cronies used aliases, offshore accounts, etc. and were indicted.

Africans call it la valise or “the suitcase” system, Duke University’s 2011 debate on secret bank accounts found. Cash was passed on to wring special treatment. The presidents of five African countries were involved: Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, the Congo and Gabon.

Secret bank accounts helped trigger People Power I and II. Papers found in Malacañang showed that Marcos opened his first bank account abroad on July 7, 1967. He deposited $215,000 in Chase Manhattan Bank New York.

Marcos opened his first Swiss account a year later. He picked the pseudonym “William Saunders.” Imelda signed as “Jane Ryan.” They put $950,000 in four bank accounts. Multiple foundations thereafter mushroomed in Lichtenstein: Xandy, Trinidad, Azio, Rosalys, Charis, Rayby—and so on. On New Year’s Day 1970, he announced “giving up all [his] worldly wealth—which came from General Yamashita’s treasure.” Now, Ferdinand Jr. is a senator-judge. Guess how Junior will vote.

In a February 2002  ABS-CBN interview, Joseph Estrada admitted he was “Jose Velarde”—until then a mystery figure in an Equitable Bank trust agreement. Erap authorized the bank to invest P500 million drawn from a Jose Velarde account that held P3 billion. Equitable’s Clarissa Ocampo refused to validate the signature of Velarde. She rejected pressure to sign a document certifying that the owner of the boodle was Jaime Dichaves—who scrammed.

People Power II erupted after the “Craven 11” senators sealed “the second envelope.” Today’s senator-judges know this historical overhang… Erap became the first president to be convicted—and pardoned.

Corona must demolish the AMLC and COA data on Tuesday. It’s a daunting task. The latest Social Weather Stations survey reports that 63 percent of Filipinos believe Corona hid wealth. Only 12 percent disagree.

There’s the “petard” factor. “The Ombudsman did not come here voluntarily to testify,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile observed. The defense had her subpoenaed. “Whoever produces a witness is bound by [the witness’] testimony, whether favorable or adverse.”

In his 1947 play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Tennessee Williams wrote of Blanche Dubois who tried to create a lantern of light, Sun Star’s Pachico Seares recalls. Blanche covered a bare light bulb with a paper lantern. It was her desire for “illusion over reality”: She’d travel instead of check into a mental hospital. “She was on vacation, not a teacher fired for seducing a student.”

Corona’s defense could “be a lantern to which he clung to the fantasy of being sinless,” Seares writes. “Remove that cover and bring on the harsh honest light.” After Tuesday, we may know.

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TAGS: Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), chief justice renato corona, Conchita Carpio-Morales, dollar accounts, impeachment trial, Juan L. Mercado, opinion, Viewpoint
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