The defense played a game of chicken with chess pieces to get Chief Justice Renato C. Corona off the hook. So on Day 37 of the Impeachment Trial, they called Ombudsman Morales to the stand. It hoped to do two things. First, it meant to discredit the Ombudsman, a former justice of the Supreme Court, by painting her as incompetent and on a fishing expedition. It was meant to paint the Ombudsman, and by virtue the Administration on a witch hunt. Second, prove that Renato C. Corona did not have ill-gotten wealth. If the prosecution did not have proof— no access to the accounts, then there is no proof to convict.
The plan was a stretch of course. It was like playing chicken with headlights. Put it another way, they rolled the dice thinking Morales was a dud.
First, painting the government is on a witch hunt only works with people who have already been drinking Corona’s cool aid, and by extension the Opposition’s cool aid.
Second, the lawyers are blindsided by, well, being lawyers. The lawyers and the law groups have kept on insisting that the trial progress based on the rules of court.
Yes, there has to be some basis for conviction. We are not barbarians. And that civilization is governed by rules, and laws.
What was established by Ombudsman Morales’ testimony? At the very least there is evidence to suggest impropriety by the Chief Justice. 82 dollar accounts in nearly a decade, with money flowing in an out of those accounts and figures large enough that it triggered the Anti-Money Laundering Council Law. And at the most? Damaging evidence that the Chief Justice is guilty of the charges against him.
A layman would suppose that in a normal case— such evidence would be substantial enough that investigators could petition a court of law for those particular bank accounts, and bank records. And when those records are accessible, and proven to be true then investigators could build a case to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Corona had substantial, unexplained wealth.
On Day 38 of the Impeachment Trial, the Senators were asking questions that seem to suggest that they have questions on whether or not the Ombudsman’s testimony is admissible.
If logic would be followed then they would ask the Anti-Money Laundering Council to take the stand. And followed suit by asking the Banks to release those records— or at the very least inquire as to whether the accounts are true. If the records are false then it is AMLC that is at fault.
But this is not an ordinary trial. It isn’t even an ordinary trial in the sense that there has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. If the Impeachment Court does not take the Ombudsman’s testimony into evidence— at the very least the public has already accepted it as evidence.
It could be argued that the public is not the judge of these proceedings. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. The public is the sole judge of an Impeachment Trial. When the envelope wasn’t opened, it caused a Coup d’tat. And not to mention the Senators who voted to keep the enveloped closed lost their jobs. That was ten years ago.
And we are entering an election year. We have senators trying to keep their jobs. And survey after survey revealed that the people will abide by the Senate’s decision. Meaning there will not be a revolution in the streets if Corona is convicted or not convicted.
It doesn’t mean that Senator-Judges will not be judged by their actions.
So the court of public opinion plays a lot in this trial.
That is why this is a political exercise.
The sentence, “This is a political exercise” often rubs those who are pro-Corona the wrong way. It is why they insist in the strictest sense that “The Rule of Law”, be followed. It is not the impeachment court’s job to convict Renato C. Corona on criminal or administrative charges.
Chief Justice Renato C. Corona calls this, a lantern of lies. On December 15, 2011, Ombudsman Morales said that Chief Justice Renato C. Corona withdrew US$769,681.71. Physically that amounts to 1,193 iPhones, priced at US$645 per phone. It translates to PHP 33,936,583.33 Million at an exchange rate of 1 Philippine Peso in US Dollars is 0.02268 for 12/15/2011. Which means it could buy 216,156 Big Macs medium sized meal (PHP157 per meal).
The only way out for Chief Justice Renato C. Corona is simply this. Waive his right on bank secrecy, and allow the banks in question to release the information. It silences his critics, and proves the government of falsifying evidence. He doesn’t even have to take the stand, he just needs the banks to tell the Court that the AMLC report is false.
If the impeachment court should find him not guilty of the charges— in spite of proof he has 82 dollar bank accounts, or if that evidence is suppressed, he would forever be branded as a crook in the eyes of our people. Chief Justice Corona would rant all he likes, but in the back of people’s minds it would always be “Yeah, right”. AMLC’s report is that damaging.
This is why it is a political exercise.
This is how a cynic would argue. “By accepting AMLC as evidence, is that simply opening Pandora’s box— opening countless politician and government official and employee to attack?” How much is that worth to a politician?
This is why the impeachment trial is a political exercise.
A cynic would argue that the most important argument is simply this. “What’s in it for Senator-Judges?” So how much is this verdict worth—- if they convict— would a Senator-Judge win re-election? If they do not convict, would they lose re-election? The last impeachment trial proved fatal for Senators-Judges then.
This is why it is a political exercise. It is a step to righting our ship of state— towards a more equitable society. A conviction will not allow the government to seize Renato C. Corona’s accounts, or take away his assets. That is the job of the courts post impeachment trial. It would seem that the Bureau of Internal Revenue for example would have a case against Renato C. Corona. The Impeachment Court will simply strip away his title, and kick him out of government. 82 dollar accounts is reason enough to kick him out of government—- where is that in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth? This is why the Senate must convict Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.