Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/May/29 by Elizabeth Angsioco
THIS PIECE was written before I heard the closing arguments of both the prosecution and defense.
So should the impeachment court convict or acquit Chief Justice Renato Corona?
I expected a heavy anti-Corona sentiment. However, at least on Twitter where people are most vocal and critical, it seems that the “acquit” side is not that small after all. Many are people I personally know who have no connections whatsoever with the chief justice. They have keenly followed the impeachment case with an open mind.
The “convict” side is bigger but mainly composed of those who have consistently been anti-Corona from the beginning of the case. A change in their positions would have been surprising.
As pointed out by Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago, her reading of the Constitution is such that the Senate impeachment court’s decision may not be limited to removal from office or acquit. Between the two extremes, the court may also opt to convict without unseating Corona.
Sixteen votes are needed to remove the chief justice. Abstaining, an option open to senator-judges, will be a big blow to the “convict” side.
Repeatedly, it’s been said that the impeachment trial is a quasi-judicial, quasi- political process and political considerations will come into play in senator-judges’ decisions. These considerations, observers think, favor the call for conviction.
Repeatedly, I have said that I stand for a credible process and for justice to be meted out whatever the judgment may be.
For its entire duration, this trial has been my religion. I watched almost all the sessions, intently listened to everything said, and read whatever I could put my hands on from all sides of the issue.
So, as far as I am concerned, what has the prosecution proven?
Not the alleged 45 properties, which were revealed to be pure propaganda.
Not the “evidence” from the “small lady” and the “magic gate” which, at most showed that the prosecution was willing enough to bend laws to get a conviction.
Not the 82 bank accounts and $10 million – $18 million owned by the chief justice as alleged by the Ombudsman. The prosecution’s refusal to use the waiver issued by Corona, after months of demanding for it over the media is puzzling. Opening his accounts would have established unassailable facts.
The prosecution said that the waiver has become unnecessary because they already have a strong case. Even granting them this, why completely disregard the chance to prove your case beyond doubt?
BUT, what works for the prosecution is Corona’s admission that he did NOT declare in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth his dollar accounts.
Is this impeachable? Is this enough to remove him from office?
Is the chief justice’s explanation on how he managed to own $2.4 million of commingled funds and his interpretation of the law on foreign currency deposits’ absolute confidentiality provision acceptable to and enough for the court to acquit him?
Is Corona as “clean” as claimed?
I think that the chief justice is NOT a saint. Neither is he a pushover, or a fool.
Corona should have declared his dollars, converted into pesos, in his SALN. That is what a truly accountable and transparent official would have done. I expect this from one in his position. That such is not done by others should not be an excuse.
That he issued the “unconditional” waiver even if prosecution ignored it is a big point in his favor. As previously said by his detractors, issue the waiver if you have nothing to hide!
And the chief justice is quite smart in pointing out an important loophole/conflict in our laws and used this to the hilt.
The “absolute confidentiality” provision of the law on foreign currency deposits is in conflict with the SALN law. Really, the “fault” lies in Congress that enacts our laws. Should the chief justice be removed from office over the shortcoming of his accusers and judges?
Beyond political considerations, Senator-Judge Chiz Escudero clearly said, and I agree with him, that this has now become a legal question. It is now up to the 23 senator-judges.
Convict or acquit? As a citizen, I posit that the chief justice cannot be acquitted. He should be convicted but not removed from office. A strong censure should be meted out also to send a stern message to other officials.
Having said this, I—and all of us —should respect whatever verdict is handed down by the impeachment court.
Let us continue to build our nation.
firstname.lastname@example.org and @bethangsioco on Twitter