Chief Justice Renato C. Corona took the stand at the impeachment trial. In full fighting form, in full bravado he stepped into the witness stand. All it lacked was Michael Buffer saying “Let’s get ready to rrruummmbbbllleee!”
Then Renato C. Corona was sworn in, and it was slow, and ever boring, playing to the television cameras and reaching out to the public eagerly watching his testimony, which could be best described as a rant. He struck against the prosecution. He struck a blow on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, and of course the President. Yet none of his jab would connect.
The Senate indulged the Chief Justice. After all the man was the chief magistrate and the Senate President was magnanimous.
People on twitter remarked that after months, perhaps we could give the Chief Justice his moment to speak. But does he have to be so boring?
The Chief Justice had to pause, in tears. The trial had to be suspended as the Chief composed himself. And after the break, launched to wash his wife’s family’s dirty laundry in public.
At one point in the trial, the Senate President warned the Chief Justice that he was treading on discussion matters, of which the Senate itself did not wish to discuss, which was the matter of ill-gotten wealth. The prosecution hinged the case on Corona’s Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. By discussing ill-gotten wealth, the Chief Justice opened himself up to cross-examination in that vein.
Then it was a battle of presentations. The Chief Justice prepared a deck to disprove the testimony of Ombudsman Carpio-Morales. He tried to debunk that he did not have 82 bank accounts. Citing bank account numbers he deducted from the Ombudsman’s pie chart.
The Chief Justice did not debunk the Anti-Money Laundering Council report, nor the Ombudsman’s report. The Chief Justice did not present evidence to support his claim that the accounts the ombudsman mentioned did not exist. No certification from the banks saying those accounts did not exist. The Chief Justice simply wished to be taken on his word.
Furthermore, the Chief Justice did not discuss the size of his accounts. Renato C. Corona argued that he did not steal from the people. That whatever dollar accounts he had It was from hard work That he and his wife were frugal and saved well.
The stem of Renato C. Corona’s testimony hinged on bank secrecy law. He argued that he did not include his dollar accounts under immunity granted by the foreign deposit law. That no impropriety happened simply because he is protected by that law. He did not need to include his dollar accounts because of that law. And that what the Ombudsman did was in violation of that law.
Then it happened. A moment where the Chief Justice was about to turn the tide. He took out a document— a waiver, he read out loud allowing for his banks and the land registration agencies to allow the government to look into the records. And challenged the 188 members of congress who impeached him, and senator Drillon to do the same. It was a bold move that earned him points. Suddenly, it was a game changer. But it was only for a brief moment. That was a moment that Renato C. Corona was on the verge of winning. Renato C. Corona then took it all back. He was only going to release the waiver if Members of Congress and Senator Drilon signed a similar document as well.
Rappler says as its headline, “Corona Walks Out”. And others on twitter remarked to the same effect. The Chief Justice tried to walk out. The Senate President ordered the Sargent of Arms to lockdown the Senate. Next thing we knew, he was in the clinic, sick, and he walked back into the session hall, frail and sick looking, with the defense spinning his sickness. Chief Justice Renato C. Corona looked defeated.
Senator-Judge Pia Cayetano on twitter wrote, “Our Sargent-at-arms reported to us that they had to prevent him from leaving the premises upon order of our senate pres.”
Defense Counsel Karen Jimeno told reporters that Chief Justice Renato Corona was brought to the Medical City. This sets the stage for an excuse not to be cross-examined by the prosecution. The Senate President warned that his testimony will be stricken from the record if he does not return to the Senate on Wednesday 23 May 2012.
The Chief Justice walked out of the Impeachment Court sealed his fate. That glimmer of hope that he was telling the truth— that his bank records were in order, and that everything thrown against him was a lie suddenly vanished. Looking back at the day’s events, the Chief Justice seemed to have self-destructed, and his plan was to take as many people with him. It was scorched earth with all the rage and bitterness he could muster.
The Chief Justice had hope to take everyone with him going down. And all this, all the delaying tactics, all the rage and anger thrown at his detractors and the instance at the trial himself the past five months? It was scorch earth. The entirely of his testimony before the Senate was about self-destruction. It was about washing dirty laundry in public. It was about taking everyone who accused him, and threw whatever he could to dirty them. He raised baseless accusations against people who weren’t part of the trial. And boom, he just blew. Renato C. Corona simply wanted to take everyone with him.
The trial is essentially over. Chief Justice Renato C. Corona is finished. What now remains is for the Senate to decide if Renato C. Corona is guilty of not filing a complete Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. Everything else is gravy.