Chief Justice Renato C. Corona will take the stand today. The eyes of the nation are locked on the Impeachment Court. It is easy to joke that this is the penultimate episode of the Impeachment Trial. Last week’s testimony by the Ombudsman all but settled the issue. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ testimony was a damning one and can be summed up as: there is a lot that the Chief Justice failed to account for in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
Does it surprise people that 6 out of 10 Filipinos believe that Chief Justice Corona has unexplained wealth?
The Chief Justice displayed much bravado in the last few months. He led his own Public Relations war. And if the last few months is of indication, then that bravado was a lost cause. So an appeal to emotion is a tactic that wouldn’t work. And it hasn’t worked.
There is very little that the Chief Justice could do on the stand that might challenge the damning testimony of the Ombudsman. Except perhaps to prove that the Anti-Money Laundering Council report was a fabrication. And it must be shown with conviction and believability.
Already the Anti-Money Laundering Council replied that they standby the report furnished to the Ombudsman. It would have been nice to have the Anti-Money Laundering Council take the stand to prove the report’s authenticity or absence thereof.
Manny Villiar during the campaign of 2010 failed to press upon the people that there was no irregularity during the Daang Hari scandal. That lack of being authentic, and his inability to shrug off a sense of impropriety that was the beginning of the end of his campaign for the Presidency. And so the testimony of Renato C. Corona today is his last defense. Failure to shrug off that sense of impropriety, and that sense he is a traditional politician will damn him for all the ages.
The Opposition argues that the Impeachment Trial should be decided by law. During the Constitutional Convention of 1986, Commissioner Romulo remarked about the Impeachment Court, and an Impeachment Trial, “The procedure is analogous to a criminal trial but it is not a criminal prosecution per se.”
During the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention, Commissioner Maambong inquired about this.
“Last point, just to enrich our records. I would like the Committee to comment on this quotation from Philippine Constitution by Former Chief Justice Fernando, wherein he said:
In the United States Constitution, the term is high crime and misdemeanors. The Philippine Constitution speaks only of high crimes. There is support for the view that while there need not be a showing of the criminal character of the act imputed, it must be of sufficient seriousness as to justify the belief that there was a grave violation of the trust imposed on the official sought to be impeached. (pp. 460-461)
Mr. Maambong asked, “Would the Committee agree to this statement?
And Mr. Romulo replied, “Yes. Let me say that essentially, impeachment is a political act.”
The Senate has a schedule, and a legislative agenda, and the Impeachment Trial must come to a close. Also on the horizon is the mid-term election. So like a television series on the verge of cancelation, or ending, plot threads need to be tied, and some dropped for a believable ending.
Are we headed towards a believable ending?
The Ombudsman’s testimony was pretty damning. That’s a tall order to overcome for Renato C. Corona, and bravado will not do it alone.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine the ending. The end result will be either of these two things. First, we will either have a sitting Chief Justice acquitted with unexplained wealth. As @JojoMalig points out in a tweet, That in “Corona’s own ponencia: Unexplained wealth is presumed to be ill-gotten.” What do you think will that do to our people? The other ending is simple. There will be a new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
The Senate has only one constituency, which is the whole of the nation. Yes, right now, they fear the ombudsman. By tradition they are also independent, and can act independently of even the Palace or Public Opinion. The last impeachment trial proved that the people do not take kindly to their will being usurped. Aptly, Renato C. Corona’s fate will be decided by a jury of his own peers— accomplished men and women in public service. The endgame will be decided by the Senate. How do you think they vote? That is the Corona Defense.