Entering the fourth week of the impeachment trial, Filipinos can’t help but wonder how much worse things can get. This applies not only for Chief Justice Renato Corona, but also the Senate, the prosecutors and the entire country.
Since the beginning of the trial, all kinds of tactics have been employed to bring shame and dishonor to the Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court. At the same time, this entire exercise has brought into question the true separation of the powers of state.
A yellow campaign
President Noynoy Aquino has made no secret of his desire to remove Renato Corona as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He wants to put his own man to lead the Supreme Court, to make any legal proceedings brought against corrupt government officials that much easier.
Seems that the President perceives that CJ Corona is a major impediment to bringing former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to justice for her alleged transgressions while sitting in office. Who can forget just how upset Malacanang was when the Supreme Court voted to remove any temporary restraining order against the former president so she could leave the country to seek medical treatment?
However, in the President’s desire to set the straight path and walk the “matuwid na daan,” he may inadvertently find himself on the wrong side of the road.
Do we really want truth and justice at any cost?
We Filipinos should ask ourselves this question and seriously ponder on the answer. This is because the way things are going, it’s only going to get uglier and dirtier.
At the very least, there is no way the Chief Justice can survive this dirty trial by publicity. The media has already been accused of being biased since story after story is all about the evidence (admissible or otherwise) that the prosecution has lined up.
Even if the Senators do not convict or impeach him, his name is forever sullied by these allegations and accusations that he doesn’t seem to have an opportunity to defend himself. By the time the defense presents its side, the public will no longer be paying attention because they have been inundated by everything the prosecution has already said.
Every week, the prosecution comes out to the media with more titillating headlines regarding the trial. Even before the trial started, they made headlines announcing that Corona had 45 properties, when during the presentation of evidence, only about half really only existed (and these included parking slots). Also, from the 100 big name witnesses, the prosecution has already said they won’t put everyone on the stand.
We should be alarmed at how the very forces of government are being used to run after enemies of the state. Senator Joker Arroyo himself has warned that the public may perceive this to be the case, especially since aside from the impeachment proceedings there will also be a BIR investigation not only on Corona, but on the members of his family as well. What’s next? Corona’s driver’s license won’t be renewed by the LTO?
Violations on so many levels
In some cases, basic human and civil rights are being violated. The man’s right to privacy, his right to a fair trial, the sanctity of the secrecy of the SALNs of all the Supreme Court Justices are all being tested.
Senator Franklin Drilon has been asked to inhibit from the case. This is because he was able to successfully get the SALN of the Chief justice admitted in court, even after the witness said she first needed the permission of the Supreme Court.
The very separation of powers of the three branches of government is slowly being eroded. During the trial, at one point, Lead Defense Counsel asked a witness whether it was true that the witness was asked “na durugin si Corona”.
Thanks to intense backing by Malacanang, a hastily written impeachment complaint sailed through the Lower House, which is now why the Senators are dealing with the impeachment proceedings. This is all with the goal of taking control of the Supreme Court, which is the Judiciary.
“I can no longer count how many of my constitutional rights have been blatantly and grossly violated,” the Chief Justice has lamented.
The secrecy of bank records
No one in their right mind would want the public to know what is in their bank account, whether it’s millions of pesos or always falling below maintaining balance. It sets you up for ridicule, misunderstandings, wrong assumptions, not to mention vast security issues.
It’s not a crime in the country to have dollar or peso bank accounts.
However, the impeachment proceedings have allowed Corona’s financial statements out in the open. So far, only the peso accounts have been revealed.
President Aquino even made an inane statement about the dollar accounts of Chief Justice Corona. He made it appear as if there was something wrong or illegal with Corona in having a dollar account. President Aquino even said if Corona had nothing to hide, then he should allow his accounts to be presented to the public.
This is the height if idiocy and hypocrisy. It goes against the constitutional rights of any person, and especially against banking privacy laws to do so. If you want Corona to open his dollar bank account, then perhaps you should do it first Mr. President. After all, if you have nothing to hide, then there should be no reason to avoid doing so, is there?
In the end, the Senate ruled to respect the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court to prevent the opening of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s foreign currency accounts with Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank).
We should be vigilant things don’t go too far
The impeachment trial, the trial by publicity and the ways being utilized to remove Corona from office are getting quite scary. If we allow this to happen now, it will set forth a precedent of unimaginable magnitude.
No one will be safe. Bank records will no longer be secret. Just because you are accused of something, it seems like it’s now alright for the public to believe you are guilty without the benefit of a fair legal trial and for your constitutional rights to be violated.
Defense putting on an offense
At this point, Chief Justice Renato Corona, the man at the center of the maelstrom, has already declared that he has “nothing to gain but everything to lose”.
He had reiterated that Aquino is after him because of the Supreme Court’s decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita. Short of naming names, Corona’s camp has also come up with the allegations that the Senators are being offered PHP 100 million each to ensure victory for the prosecution.
Whatever way the trial goes, no one is going to come out of this clean. There has been so much mud slinging done, it will be hard to clean up the mess after the dust settles. There’s no need to destroy the house that we have so carefully built, just because you’re trying to clean it up.
It may come to a point that Malacanang should get off its perceived moral high horse as it tries to go after the crooks and cronies, because along the way, they themselves are turning into the enemy.