Good Governance in the Balance

The trial of Chief Justice Corona hangs in the balance. Its fate could be a boon or a bane for good governance.

If we rule out a mistrial (highly unlikely at this point), then there are only two possible outcomes of the Corona impeachment trial: acquittal or conviction. Either way, the Filipino people have indicated their willingness to accept the Senate’s verdict. The problem is that the Palace and its adherents are only willing to accept one: his conviction.

What should happen if Corona is acquitted? Well, it seems that both the Ombudsman and the Palace are intent on filing a fresh complaint when the one year ban expires in December. The current trial hinges on whether or not his omissions of dollar denominated assets (the existence of which he testified to yesterday) in his SALN constitute enough grounds for impeachment. Next time around, the complaint will focus squarely on questions of ill-gotten wealth.

The difficulties of a second impeachment trial have not dawned on the faithful yet. First of all, next year is an election year. December of this year will be when the candidates for the Senate begin their election campaigns. Congress will then go on recess to allow incumbents seeking re-election to focus on winning a fresh mandate. This will mean postponing until after the May elections any impeachment proceedings, when in all probability the UNA coalition will increase its numbers in the upper chamber.

That means at the halfway point of the second Aquino presidency, the government will be hobbled by an unnecessary distraction as it seeks to press home its agenda for inclusive and sustainable growth through good governance. Of course by then, Corona would have corrected his SALN to include all his assets, and if his story of how he acquired his riches adds up, ill-gotten wealth might be a lot harder to prove than the omission of certain items in the first instance.

The one positive thing that might come out of an acquittal is greater resolve on the part of reform-minded senators and congressmen to push for greater powers for the Ombudsman, the BIR and other relevant government agencies to investigate public officials for corruption.

On the other hand, what should happen if Corona gets convicted? After being removed from office, he could face criminal prosecution in the graft court. This time around the question of amassing ill-gotten wealth could be the issue. There are again two possibilities. He could either be acquitted or convicted.

The question of admissibility of evidence presented at the Senate impeachment trial will resurface. The legality of obtaining the bank and AMLC documents will be central. If Corona is acquitted on legal technicalities, it would reflect badly on the government’s ability to gather good credible evidence to build a case. It would reinforce the dismal conviction record of our anti-graft bodies. This again might prompt new rules that would arm them appropriately in pursuing their mandate in a more orderly and effective manner.

If on the other hand he is convicted of corruption on the basis of the evidence gathered by the Ombudsman and presented at the impeachment trial, it could lead to a backlash by Congressmen who are already proposing to curb the powers of that office (not that those powers have helped in convicting corrupt officials in the past, as the Sandiganbayan’s report for the first quarter of 2012 has shown: a mere 10 per cent of cases filed by the Ombudsman or 8 out of 78 resulted in a conviction).

In fact, the biggest damage to be inflicted by the impeachment of the Chief Justice could be this: a weakening of already weak and toothless agencies based on perceptions of institutional over-reach by them.

So either way, it seems good governance will still hang in the balance.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy (www.thecusponline.org) and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • The tone of the discussion has started taking a very sharp tone. This is I believe a reflection of the vitriol that has infected our national discourse on the issue. It’s lamentable that the proceedings have so divided the nation. I hope that we can maintain a civil exchange at least here in this space.

  • UPnnGrd

    The prosecution team saikd it when it explained why they had much much less than what they had earlier promised to bring as witnesses.  Maybe in the end Chief Justice gets “NOT GUILTY” because many Pilipinos are very scared of the Chief Justice.

    Then again, maybe Corona gets “GUI:TY” because many Pilipinas are very scared of Noynoy Aquino.  Or maybe it is because Corona is not Jesus Christ (deQuiros words)

    Or maybe Corona gets “NOT GUILTY” because a few senators believe in rules of evidence.   Or maybe it is that Pilipinas senators are guardians of corruption  (ManuBuen’s words).   Or that they are a KKK or a BFF of Corona. or a Merceditas KKK or BFF. or GuLLOOO’s.

    Since the senators will not put to ink their top 3 reasons for rendering a decision,  then things fall back to “…. IMPEACHMENT is a political process”.

  • Manuelbuencamino

    There are senators out to acquit Corona. They will vote to acquit regardless of the evidence. Corona has nothing to fear. The guardians of corruption are legion.

    • GabbyD

      whats their reasoning? do they like the hypocrisy argument? are they fearfull about their own impeachment later on on the same charge?

    • MB, you would know
      better than me, for sure. But I fear those who would vote for acquittal have
      sold their conscience  and passion for a
      modern, reputable Philippines down the river.

  • I rather think the Senators will hold that the SALNs were incomplete and misleading, and the “stonewalling” done by the Chief Justice demonstrates that he does not have an understanding of the importance of transparency. But that is the legal horse the Senate will ride. The background is that this is not the temperament of a Chief Justice, to be so lacking courtesy and calm, rational perspective, and to use the graciousness of the senate to make a blame-loaded, whiny, victimized political speech. It would take a supreme rationalist to justify acquittal, or a crook, and in my mind, the question is, will conviction be unanimous? But you know, that is just JoeAm viewing things through his western glasses. Which, I might add, is similar to what ratings agencies and corruption specialists use. Acquittal would be huge blow to the image and well-being of the Philippines. But strange things happen here. As we saw on Tuesday.

    • UPnnGrd

       The “Western glasses” that you mention view four or 5 objects at the same time.  Guilty-not-guilty is one.  Guilty-of-what? is there, too  (thus, there are felonies).  Delikadeza… even “western glasses” understand that.

      You also throw in  vigilantism  ( no different than Palparan-troops being charged with… well… taking liberties with and going beyond the boundaries defined by law).”Rules-of-evidence” also considered.   And this “For-the-greater-good!!!” is in there, too.

      • Guilty of representing the Philippines, and justice, poorly. Or doing a job poorly.

      • He’s guilty of just one thing—and that is that he’s the Chief Justice of just one person, his benefactor Gloria, and not the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the land, that’s all.

        • UPnnGrd

          Justice Corona also is memorable with regards this Hacienda Luisita item and how much pesos-per-hectare to pay Kris Aquino and other H/L stockholders.   Justice corona also was a vote against  guLLOO  on Mindanao partitioning –>> MOA-Ad.

          • Manuelbuencamino

            Yupi,

            The impeachment came one week BEFORE the Hacienda Luisita decision was promulgated. Please explain how Pres. Aquino was taking revenge for something that had not happened yet?

          • Manuelbuencamino

            Yupi,

            My mistake. The final SC decision on the Luisita valuation came in April, 24 2012 not one week after the impeachment.  Do you think the SC decision, that Corona keeps claiming credit for, was a retaliation for the impeachment complaint filed 4 months earlier, Dec. 12, 2011? 

          • UPnnGrd

            why would you want to ask questions from one you had labeled “forked[tongue”?   You must be a big NUTS-in-the-brains… or you need CELEXA!!!

          • UPnnGrd

             use your own brain-cells, manuBuen.   You have to think for yourself,  you really should.

  • Bert

    Asa pa si Doy ng acquittal pagkatapos ng nangyari sa Impeachment trial kahapon, :).

    A derange man raving for hours, ranting statements without probative value, acccusing a dead man who can’t defend himself of wrongdoing, calling the ombudsman a liar, hurling personal attack on the president and some others, signing a waiver with incredible condition attached, insulting the impeachment judges, declaring he has no 82 dollar accounts but closed already except 4, and finally declaring that he’s the chief justice and therefore has the inherent prerogative to be excused by his own personal will, then walkout of the court without permission from the court, all in the name of proving himself clean of the charges against him,

    Is this the kind of man we want to sit as chief justice of the Supreme Court?

  • UPnnGrd

    Corona remaining as CJ does another thing.   This will energize the Supreme Court to put to paper the issue of boundaries (the need to get court orders) on Malakanyang..

    Remember that it — Malakanyang overstepping its constitutional boundaries — has already been mentioned a few times. Senator JP Enrile has mentioned it — “that Executive has to implement and adhere to the law”. And then, de Lima. For those who have forgotten,  another of PersiNoynoy’s female hirelings — de Lima — has been taken to task about bypassing and not getting a court order when she stopped guLLOO from boarding her plane to Singapore, and de Lima saying that Yeah!!! We don’t need to if we are to be an effective pollice authority!!!.

    Then, there is this Hacienda Luisita thing.  PersiNoynoy  (as far as I know)  has not committed the Executive Branch to implementing Supreme Court decision on the Aquino-Cojuangco landarea.  Persi Noynoy (as far as I know) still mouths this “…  but fairness is giving more money to my sister and all other Hacienda Luisita stockholders”.

    Amidst election season….   there will be more fireworks… there is a continuation to the tug-of-war between the Supreme Court and Malakanyang — Supreme Court with its understanding of Constitution versus PersiNoynoy’s implementation based on his interpretation of the Constitution.   Abangan!!!!

    • Manuelbuencamino

      Yupi,

       “PersiNoynoy  (as far as I know)  has not committed the Executive Branch to implementing Supreme Court decision…”

      Do not hide your lie inside a parenthesis. The president has ordered the concerned government agencies to implement the decision. The processing of the farmers’ claims started sometime ago. All that information is available with a click of the mouse. 

      You are lowdown and dirty, resorting to cheap tactics like “(as far as I know)” to spread blatant falsehoods. Your parents should have used contraceptives. 

      • UPnnGrd

         is  -putting a phrase inside parentheses –   the equal of writing  SAHH-tahhYYRRR???

        • UPnnGrd

           to manuBuen….  have you seen any Inquirer-dot  or ManilaTimes-dot  where  PersiNoynoy has said that he will ensure that the Gobyerno-per-hectare payment to his sister and other H/l stockholders  will be what corona and other Supremo Korte justices have penned?     Huh??? Huh??? Huh????  Have you?

          • GabbyD

            links? copy the headline pls.

          • Manuelbuencamino

            Yes.

            1. 6 days after promulgation of decision 
            Palace to implement Supreme Court ruling on Hacienda Luisita

            By Christine O. Avendaño, Kristine L. Alave
            Philippine Daily Inquirer http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/184789/palace-to-implement-supreme-court-ruling-on-hacienda-luisita

            2. One month after the SC decision… . DAR now sorting out Hacienda Luisita beneficiaries’ listBy Kristine L. AlavePhilippine Daily Inquirer http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/199413/dar-now-sorting-out-hacienda-luisita-beneficiaries%E2%80%99-list

          • UPnnGrd

            peso-per-hectare,  manuBuen…  peso-per-hectare.

            Did I say peso-per-hectare, manuBuen?

          • Manuelbuencamino

            Inimplement na nga yun order ng SC! Ano ka ba?

        • Manuelbuencamino

          Yupi,

          No my forked-tongue friend. Satire is not the same as lying. And as a propaganda method, lying is weak because a lie can be easily debunked by facts. 

           “(As far as I know)” Hahahaha, what a fucking wimpy, cowardly excuse. Man up Yupi. Don’t use a parenthesis like you do your mother’s skirt. 

          • UPnnGrd

            … your parents should have used contraceptives…

            Really???  You are this much and this often in bed with persiNoynoy you’d be quite vociferous with your well-wishes?   ManuBuen… I wouldn’t have guessed you are this much in love with the guy!!!   But then again…  who’s to know what secrets others have. Very endearing side-angle, how sweet.

          • GabbyD

            the truth is you DID lie. bakit? what do u get of it?

          • UPnnGrd

             I’ve posted it before…. directed to ManuB and I can direct the words at you, too.    I am not somebody’s driver or some chimoy…   When invited, then with gusto and with ferocity,  I will slash back. I will not hold back from upping the ante.

            Cocoy has the option of editing or shutting down my posts to protect his BFF’s..

          • GabbyD

            who said you are driver and chimoy? the question is, you keep saying things that have no basis in media reports, etc. either you have inside knowledge or you dont, in which case, you are making stuff up.

            so which is it? to be clear, you are FREE to say whatever you want. i just want to know if you have some FACTUAL BASIS to any of it.

  • GabbyD

    “The problem is that the Palace and its adherents are only willing to accept one: his conviction.”

    what do you mean here? what do u expect the admin will do?

    • I explained the next step, which was to file a fresh complaint. I think the People Power option is off the table (although earlier pronouncement suggested it was being considered). In other words, they will persist in pursuing him until they get the outcome that they want.

      • GabbyD

        ah, sorry, i didnt read that part. ok. i agree with you that its unlikely to happen next year (second complaint)

  • cocoy

    Ombudsman using Amlc is legal as per constitution.

    • It’s a question of law that is debatable and might have to be settled by the Supreme Court itself. But assuming it was legal, you can be assured that safeguards will be introduced by the next Congress to prevent the Ombudsman’s powers from being applied in the same way again. Plans are already afoot to that effect.

      • cocoy

        Ombudsman’s powers is derived from Constitution so an amendment maybe required. Con-Con framers also specific they wanted Ombudsman to have overreaching powers. When asked what check and balance— Con-Con framers said: impeachment. Ombudsman’s people on the other hand are not so protected. 

        • UPnnGrd

          “It is merely an assertion that “Ombudsman’s people on the other hand are not so protected”“.  To be more precise —  this is another case before Pilipinas Supremo Korte.   A deputy ombudsman has charged PersiNoynoy  with overstepping the boundaries when PersiNoynoy fired a deputy Ombudsman.

        • The Con-Con option for me is overkill. There is an Ombudsman law and an AML Law. Those two laws either need amending, or the Supreme Court could rule on the issue.

          • GabbyD

            the powers of the ombudsman are outlined in the constitution, esp the contentious one brought out by this trial:

            Section 13. The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the following powers, functions, and duties:

            (5) Request any government agency for assistance and information necessary in the discharge of its responsibilities, and to examine, if necessary, pertinent records and documents.

          • I know, but the problem is not the Ombudsman’s ability to request assistance (notice the word request, not compel). It is the AMLC that supposedly needed a court order to release the report to the Ombudsman under the Bank Secrecy Law. So either we amend these laws to give greater clarity to the matter or we ask the SC to interpret existing laws.

          • GabbyD

            thats a funny interpretation of the work request. if it means what you say, then the addition of this para is superflulous — after all, if you are right, ANYONE can for help and be denied it. 

            i’d agree if it had included the phrase “and the manner of granting the request will be specified by congress”. the consti is full of sections that contain that phrase, precisely to constrain its interpretation via congress.

            but no.

          • Why then is there an enabling law, the Ombudsman Act?

          • Manuelbuencamino

            Section 33. Duty to Render Assistance to the Office of the Ombudsman. — Any officer or employee of any department, bureau or office, subdivision, agency or instrumentality of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations and local governments, when required by the Ombudsman, his Deputy or the Special Prosecutor shall render assistance to the Office of the Ombudsman.
            Section 36. Penalties for Obstruction. — Any person who willfully obstructs or hinders the proper exercise of the functions of the Office of the Ombudsman or who willfully misleads or attempts to mislead the Ombudsman, his Deputies and the Special Prosecutor in replying to their inquiries shall be punished by a fine of not exceeding Five thousand pesos (P5,000.00).

          • The fine is a mere pittance where millions are concerned and even then still does not compel a person to produce evidence.

            Obstructing justice is a serious offence. The penalty here is not commensurate. This proves my point actually.

          • GabbyD

            I’m with you that NO DOUBT the penalty is small. i can get behind more sanctions for non-cooperation.

            i’m saying that there is a penalty, and the word “request” means something.

            also, its important to know, to judge whether the penalty is not enough, is to check how many obstruction cases are filed, and how many “requests” remain unheeded. 

            i dont think there has been a problem there, is there?

          • Of course, there was never any doubt that the word request meant something.

          • GabbyD

            really? so what does : “I know, but the problem is not the Ombudsman’s ability to request assistance (notice the word request, not compel)” mean?

            in this case request= compel. to elicit action thru either threat of punishment or giving out of benefits.

            to say that that request is a “weaker” concept than compel (or any other similar word) makes the paragraph meaningless. 

            a power that can never be used is not a power. 

            as i just said. but it cannot be meaningless; if it were, just strike it out of the law.

            moreover there can be no other meaning, unless you believe in mind control. you cannot “compel” action without incentives. right?

            in other words, we are all “requested” to follow the law, means the same as: we are all “compeled” to follow the law. right?

          • It carries some weight but not nearly enough as what is needed.

          • GabbyD

            thanks MB for doing the copy/pasting… yes, its enforceable by penalty, WEAK ones, but they exist.

            which makes perfect sense — the Ombudsman Act COPIES for word for word the consti provisions RE the ombudsman.