Convict him already

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Corona cannot accept discounted penthouses, discounted diplomas and free legal services. They are prohibited under Rule 504. – Rene Saguisag

    Last December, impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona said he would answer the charges against him point by point. Bring it on, right? But so far, instead of answering the charges, his lawyers have objected to practically every land title and mis-declared SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) the prosecution has tried to present.

    The defense strategy has been to prevent battled-tested private prosecutors from arguing points of law and limiting them to direct examination of witnesses; convincing senator-judges that the headings of the articles of impeachment are the substance of the charge; and that the bar of impeachment should be raised above and beyond anyone’s reach.

    Free legal services are gifts prohibited under Rule 504 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Republic Act No. 6713, and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and so the man’s pro bono lawyers are crystal clear proof that he lacks the quality to sit even as a judge at the lowest levels of the judiciary.

    Of course, pro bono lawyers are not included in the articles of impeachment. How could they be? The articles were written before Corona accepted free services from high-priced lawyers who, if they do not have any cases pending before his court now, will surely have one or more in the foreseeable future.

    However, I hope the senator-judges take note of the pro bono lawyers because the real issue in this entire messy affair is the integrity of the Court and whether keeping Corona helps the institution and the country as well.

    Corona can be convicted on the basis of his mis-declared SALNs but pro bono defense counsel Cuevas argues, “if there may have been discrepancies, inaccuracies, incompleteness…(in his SALNs) these can be remedied after a review of the SALN is made. If it’s not intentional your honor, no criminal liability nor administrative liability is incurred by the filing official. The law of the matter is very clear.”

    Year after year after year? Any remedy after all those years of discrepancies, inaccuracies, incompleteness already qualifies as “doctoring” one’s SALN and as everybody knows correcting and doctoring do not mean the same thing. One is perfectly legal while the latter is reason enough to remove a justice from the Court.

    Maybe that’s why stealth defense counsel Joker Arroyo wanted to know if mis-declared SALNs rise to the level of an impeachable complaint. However, I think the more honest question would be, is it okay for a Chief Justice to continue to hold office despite the fact that he lied about his assets and liabilities?

    Once upon a time I thought rather naively that “Kung bad ka lagot ka (If you’re bad, you’re finished)” was Joker’s slogan. Now I know it is “Kung bad ka, sagot kita (If you’re bad, I’ve got you covered).”

    Why are Corona’s pro bono lawyers opposing the subpoena for his bank accounts? Corona did say he can explain everything, didn’t he? There is no need to play hide and seek. Volunteer to open all bank accounts for examination.

    And what’s this bugaboo about bank runs if the absolute secrecy of foreign currency deposits is breached? That spin is a confession that the Philippines has adopted a policy of selling the country as a haven for dirty money.

    Then there is the supposed problem about the separation of powers if justices and other court employees are asked to testify on Corona’s role in certain decisions. How will the Senate judge the allegations about Corona’s partiality if Corona will prevent testimony and documentary evidence? There is no dangerous precedent being set with a subpoena other than that testimony in an impeachment trial should be permitted if such testimony is necessary for the truth to come out. Is that such a bad precedent? Since when did the search for truth undermine democracy?

    There is one other defense line that I do not understand. Corona keeps citing the collegial nature of Supreme Court decisions. If that is the case then why did he boast about his role in the Hacienda Luisita decision? “Malaki akong hadlang sa mga nagnanais na hindi maipamahagi ang lupain sa Hacienda Luisita (I am a big obstacle to those who desire to prevent the distribution of Hacienda Luisita).” How can one lonely inconsequential vote become a big obstacle? That boast about Hacienda Luisita contradicts the collegiality defense.

    Corona’s entire defense, including the pro bono lawyers and saying one thing before the trial and doing the opposite at the trial, are proof enough that he is not fit to sit in the Supreme Court, more so as Chief Justice. What more does the Senate need to remove him?

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • J_ag

    The events of the last two weeks in the impeachment trial and the crude attempt for the CJ to rally support for him and for him to finally petition the SC to try and stop the impeachment is a sterling testament to the process itself to build the institutions necessary as building blocks for an effective state. 

    There he was on balcony receiving the cheers of the adoring crowd.  

    We actually have three separate kingdoms battling each other. The Congress, the executive and the judiciary. The executive has been able to muster enough support among the members of Congress to put the sovereign of the SC on trial. He naturally has insinuated that his entire kingdom is under attack and is fighting back. 

    If his Kingdom rules that Congress does not have exclusive extraordinary power over the judiciary on matters of impeachment who knows what may happen.  

  • Joe America

    If this guy is considered honorable Chief Justice material then the Philippines is one hopeless, hapless case. Imagine him being the top jurist in the nation. I mean, imagine. What atrocious lowball standards.

    • GabbyD

      indeed. this impeachment should be easier. but the prosecution isnt playing it smart. the dollar accounts are a waste of time. they have made their point about SALn. 

  • GabbyD

    yeah, much of your complaints ought to be directed to the prosecution. they are making a straightforward case difficult.

    now, re collegiality… you are kidding right? this can’t be a serious argument. in his pep speech, he is using a rhetorical device of “confirming” the allegations, but turning them around as an argument against the accussers. none of that can be construed as him trully agreeing with his critics. 

    • Manuelbuencamino

      Re collegiality.

      Corona’s words speak for themselves. You can interpret his pep speech as a rhetorical device if you want but I take it at face value so I called him on it. 

      BTW I saw the speech and I did not see him making any air quotes when he said malaki akong hadlang. So he meant what he said. Maybe because he was making a case that he was being persecuted for standing up for the Luisita farmers against the landowners who are related to the president. Unfortunately by presenting himself as a superhero justice he undermined his defense that he is just another justice whose vote counts only as one.

      • Anonymous

        That one — Hacienda Luisita — really IS the reason, isn’t it?  That is why very rapidly 188 congressmen were rushed into signing  and why PresiNoynoy and his clan are rushing to find a replacement for CJ Corona before the P40,000-per-hectare becomes reality when H/L ownership changes hands.

        PresiNoynoy should just double-the-price — P80K-per-hecatre instead of P40K per hectare would be acceptable among friends, especially when done off-books so Mong Palatino doesn’t call for media coverage. Now to ask for P250K per hectare? That will be sobra-naman, even Sereno will choke on that price..

        • Manuelbuencamino

          No UP Hacienda Luisita has nothing to do with it. It was the TRO on the watch-list order that made Corona’s impeachment urgent. If Corona was not impeached he would have overturned the arrest warrant for election fraud on Gloria. Forget the HL argument hindi bumebenta yan. It’s the TRO.

          • Anonymous

            The Inquirer had put it in ink so it must be true….   the arrest (because it had a judge-signature to make it legal) has taken precedence over TRO. The arrest was legal — PERIOD.

            But  deLima preventing guLO from traveling toSingapore without going to a regional or any level court was out-of-bounds.  Even Sereno has said this is Malakanyang arrogating power it does not have.  deLima may get disbarred before she gets to become a senator.

            But I repeat… PresiNoy should just double the payment to H/L stockholders. Or double the double, — sige, ten times na!!! Just feed stockholders more money and bayaran na lang para tapos na.

          • Manuelbuencamino

            UP

            De Lima did not receive the TRO. Was she supposed to take as true whatever Midas Marquez says on TV? 

            And if you are going to cite Sereno then recall that sge called Midas a liar in her dissenting opinion to the second decision upholding the faulty TRO.

            But I repeat. The HL angle does not sell. It’s useless to double its repetition or double the double repetition of it. 

            Cuchintang di mabenta yang nilalako. Tinikman ng publiko at lasang tae kaya ibasura mo na para tapos na. At maghugas ka ng kamay bago ka kumain para hindi ka tamaan ng e.coli

          • Anonymous

            Don’t know, ManuB.  Your opinion differs from mine.

            And I made an unofficial survey — I asked and every other person (that’s about 50%!!!) who responded said they “smell” a connection between rush-to-impeach and the Corona court putting a price tag on how much stockholders get.

            So how much again are the stockholders asking for?

          • cocoy

            Well what you did was to poll people you know, and quite possibly friends— and more likely they share your opinion about the matter.  That’s hardly scientific. 

            The Luisita connection doesn’t jibe because timeline of events doesn’t fit it.  Since before he was elected, the President has already stressed that Corona’s appointment— or anyone appointed by GMA would be siding with “the enemy”, so to speak.  In fact we had Bernas coming out in the paper saying so, and if I’m not mistaken was even mentioned in this blog.

            The Aquino camp made its distaste known as early as January 2010. And so the Supreme Court had to rule that it was OK for GMA to appoint a CJ.  

            If it wasn’t clear then, Aquino didn’t ask the Chief Justice to swear him in. In fact, recall it was a big deal at the time that someone other than the Chief Justice was going to swear the President into office. 

            Three, the Truth Commission didn’t pass muster.  The Aquino government saw it, and continues to see it as evidence of blocking the President’s reform agenda.  

            So the President and his Men went by a different approach. It went after the Ombudsman— who was smart enough to resign and keep her affairs private.  Corona on the other hand was all fighting. Hence, all his dirty laundry is now out in the field. 

            To add it all— The President has no rights over Luisita. He also made a big deal about selling his shares.  

            Also, if you’ve read the CARP law, giving shares to farmers is part of the law. it is perfectly legal.  

            The President’s opponents would like the world to believe he is against due process, but quite obviously, he is for due process.  

            At the end of the day this is about GMA. This is about righting decades of corrupt practice.  That it is OK to have a budget for the boys.  This is about making sure the money the government has goes to the right hand— the people.  

          • Anonymous

            Hah hah hah hah!!!! It was evident in your other posts that you are a closet satirist, maybe next you’ll name what brand dental floss I use. Cool!!!

            So how many times higher than the P40K-per-hectare are the H/L stockholders expecting should Corona get snuffed before the land gets distributed?

          • Manuelbuencamino

            they “smell” a connection”

            You were sniffed out a long time ago, Rosy.

      • baycas

        MB, I subscribe to your interpretation.

        • You both are good.  Let’s channel all this to help convict Corona.

      • GabbyD

        really? his speech is a standard rhetorical device that turns the accusation against the accuser. corona said the following:

        Aquino accused me of X (an accusation which may or may not be true, or even an actual accusation by aquino).
        Ok. he’s right about X, but it was really Y, where Y is an insult to the accuser.

        you  have probably used this device yourself. an illustration may be useful:
        Ann and bob are roomates. bob feels that ann has been hogging the betamax player. so bob says “ann accuses me of keeping the betamax for myself. tama sya! she wants the betamax all to herself”

        note that we dont really know who is really hogging the betamax. but we do know tthat bob’s reply IS NOT about him… its about his (negative) opinion of anne!

        finally, i dont know what making air quotes means.  someone literally makes finger air-quotes as he speaks? no one does that, except in a sitcom.

        • Manuelbuencamino

          Nah. Corona said malaking hadlang ako that’s why BSA went after me. He did not admit to admit to anything.

          • GabbyD

            ok. here’s another argument. if this doesnt convince you that it is all rhetoric, tell me why:

            he also said ” Malaki din akong hadlang sa nagmamadaling maging bise-presidente ngunit talo noong 2010. ”

            what did he mean? how did he (literally) prevent mar roxas from winning? does he have (gasp!) influence over voters? comelec?

            he also said: “malaki din akong hadlang sa matagal nang nagaambisyong maging Chief Justice. ”

            what does that mean? does he also have influence (gasp!) over JBC’s choices? 

            —————–
            the only reasonable way to think about his 3 “claims” is that its all for show. these are strawmen claims that he concocted for rhetorical purposes.

            strangely, you are elevating this to the level of actual testimony. why?

          • Manuelbuencamino

            The only reasonable way of look at his claims is to take them at face value. 

            Answer to question #1. Mar Roxas has an electoral protest before the Court. 

            Answer to No.2 . After Puno retired, Carpio thought he would be the next SC Chief based on seniority. Corona got it based on favoritism.

            My point remains. Why claim before one audience that you are bigger and powerful than you are and then claim in another venue the exact opposite?

            I am not vouching for the veracity of his claims. I am criticizing the fact that he is talking from both sides of his mouth.

          • GabbyD

            if all you are doing is criticizing his for his bravado in a pep speech, then by all means, more power to you.

             but if you are using this as some sort of evidence that he has this widespread influence, even you have to stop short of that, right?if you want a literal reading, then not only do you have to believe he has influence over other justices’ voting, but you ALSO have to believe:1) you have to believe that this impeachment is about hacienda luisita. do you believe that?2) that this is about roxas protest, which btw nothing has happened yet.3) this is about carpio, and that corona has the power to influence the JBC’s list (the jbc is also part of this right?), and that carpio is also moving to push for this impeachment.

            IF all of that is true, then this man is officially the most powerful man in philippines. that is insanely powerful.

            is he really that powerful? if you say YES, i’ll believe you, but from my POV, this has the makings of a grisham novel.

            now, IF you dont believe the truth of all that, then you cannot also believe that he has influence over his SC colleagues. 

            di ba? how can you say “i dont believe the veracity…” at the same time as saying “we should believe it literally”?

            stated differently: why believe something that isnt true?

          • Manuelbuencamino

            Hay naku. Last na ito hah?

            Talking out of one side of his mouth, Corona claimed power. Out of the other side of his mouth, Corona disclaimed power. That is what I pointed out. Hence “how can one lonely inconsequential vote become a big obstacle?”

            You can read my question as a rhetorical device or you can take it at face value. I don’t care.  

            As to what Corona claimed, I took both claims at face value and pointed out the contradiction. 

            And I don’t have to vouch for the veracity of either of his claims to point out that he is contradicting himself, I am not doing any contradicting. He is. 

            “I can move mountains. I cannot move mountains.”   I don’t have to believe either claim to point out that they contradict. Okey?