Published in Manila Standard Today on 17 March 2012
By Elizabeth Angsioco
I HAVE said numerous times that on the impeachment issue, the people need to see a credible process that will not result in the weakening of our democracy. In short, no matter what the verdict is, justice should prevail.
A lot has already been said about the person at the center of this issue — impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona. He is scrutinized both as a public official and a private person. Most comments I have encountered are negative, some, even downright rude.
I do not personally know the CJ. His office and its occupant were, before the trial, the least talked and heard about among the three government branches. The Judiciary usually works with the least fanfare and thus, appears almost “mysterious”.
The CJ intrigues me.
Blogwatch, a bloggers’ group, facilitated a meeting between some social media people and the CJ. It was a discussion that touched on various issues most of which have already been covered by media.
Finding a fresh and interesting angle was difficult.
Luckily, I ran into former Department of Health (DoH) Secretary and co-RH advocate Esperanza Cabral. As we do when we see each other, we sat down to chat and in passing I mentioned that I met with the chief justice. She asked what I thought of him and in all honesty, I said that he seemed too good to be true. To my surprise, Secretary Cabral said that she has a soft spot for the CJ. Curious, I requested for her story.
Former President Corazon Aquino appointed Cabral as Director of the Philippine Heart Center. She was then a 40-year-old medical doctor, alien to political maneuverings.
Unfortunately for the young Cabral, in 1994 there were those who wanted her removed from the NHC. She was informed that she was going to be investigated because of complaints against her for removing personnel who were hired on a temporary basis.
She was told that it would be better for her to resign. Cabral decided to fight because she knew that she did nothing wrong. The investigation went on.
The investigating team was headed by then-Deputy Executive Secretary Renato Corona who was not personally known to Cabral. After numerous hearings often held at night, Cabral was acquitted of any wrongdoing and vindicated.
Sometime later, she had the chance to speak with Corona and the latter said that he really found her innocent and he was ready to lose his position over the case.
Secretary Cabral said that she has since made peace with everyone involved in this case and has only met and talked with the former deputy Executive Secretary once, and way before this impeachment trial.
Cabral added that she can only imagine what the CJ is going through now. She wants people to see a different side of the much-vilified Corona.
During our meeting, the chief justice was asked about what he wants to be his legacy. He answered that he wants to be remembered as someone who fought for judicial independence, checks and balances, and the rule of law. He wants people to know that he risked his life, career, and family for the institution he loved. He added that even if he loses, it means he fought.
Chief Justice Corona was also asked for his comments in light of the fact that he is going against a popular President who seems to have control of not only the Executive branch but also of the House of Representatives. The CJ said that he would not have decided to go through the impeachment trial if he did not believe in the process. He stressed that this will be good for our democracy whether he wins or loses.
Throughout the meeting, I was asking myself if the chief justice was for real. Secretary Cabral’s story told me that there is much more to this man than how he is portrayed by various interest groups.
Whether the chief justice is guilty of committing impeachable offenses or not is for the Senate impeachment court to decide.
My only hope is for the senator-judges to vote NOT on the basis of party lines but on evidence as how Senator Ralph Recto said he would.
Then, justice will be served.
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