The President’s speech at La Consolacion College (Pilipino and English version)

Talumpati
ng
Kagalang-galang Benigno S. Aquino III
Pangulo ng Pilipinas
Sa Pulong Bayan ng Pangulo at paggunita ng Tagumpay ng Bayan

[Burador ng talumpating inihayag sa La Consolacion College, Lungsod ng Maynila noong ika-16 ng Pebrero 2012]

Dalawampu’t anim na taon po ang nakakalipas mula nang nagtipon ang mahigit isang milyong Pilipino sa Luneta upang ipagdiwang ang Tagumpay ng Bayan. Idineklara nila ang pagwawagi ng aking yumaong ina laban kay Ginoong Marcos sa Snap Elections. Nagpatupad sila ng civil disobedience campaign, at nag-boycott laban sa mga kumpanyang sumipsip sa diktaturya. Ipinaramdam nila na ang kapangyarihan ay nasa kamay ng karaniwang tao. Ito po ang naging unang hakbang ng taumbayan tungo sa rebolusyon ng EDSA.

Narito po tayo ngayon: nagbabalik-tanaw sa nakaraan, hinahamon ng kasalukuyan, at muling tinatawag upang ipaglaban ang atin pong kinabukasan. Huhubugin ba natin ang kinabukasang ito, o magpapakaladkad na lang tayo sa tadhana?

Ikalabing anim po ng Enero nang magsimula ang paglilitis kay Ginoong Corona sa Senado. Pinili ko pong magmasid at manahimik muna ukol sa isyung ito, at buo pa rin po ang tiwala ko sa proseso. Ngunit ano po ba ang nangyayari sa ngayon? Napakarami pong nagpapalit-palit ng kuro-kuro, na tila sadya tayong hinihilo o inililigaw para mawalan ng interes. Magpapa-etsa-puwera na lang po ba si Juan at Juana de la Cruz sa prosesong ito? Hahayaan na lang po ba natin na iilan ang magdesisyon para sa atin pong lahat?

Iyan naman po ang sadya ko sa araw na ito: Liwanagin ang dapat liwanagin, at ituwid ang isyung pilit dinidiskaril ng ilan, upang ang karaniwang tao ay malinawan at makilahok sa usapan. Simple lang naman po ang tanong na nais sagutin ng paglilitis na ito: Dapat pa ba tayong magtiwala kay Ginoong Corona? Masasagot po natin iyan kung titingnan ang mga katotohanang lumalabas na sa paglilitis.

Pag-usapan po natin ang tinatawag na Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth o SALN. Hindi scratch paper po ang SALN: ito po ay sinusumpaan ng bawat pampublikong opisyal. Nakasaad po sa Saligang Batas, sa Article 11, Section 17: Ang isang pinuno o kawaning pambayan, sa pag-upo niya sa katungkulan at sa limitasyon ng panahong maaaring itadhana ng batas, ay dapat magsumite ng pinanumpaang deklarasyon ng kanyang mga ari-arian, pananagutan, at aktwal na kabuuang ari-arian.  Sa kalagayan ng Pangulo, Pangalawang Pangulo, mga Kagawad ng Gabinete, ng Kongreso, ng Kataas-taasang Hukuman, ng mga Komisyong Konstitusyonal at ng iba pang katungkulang Konstitusyonal, at ng mga pinuno ng Sandatahang Lakas na may ranggong heneral o pamandila, ang deklarasyon ay dapat isiwalat sa madla—ulitin ko po—ay dapat isiwalat sa paraang itinatadhana ng batas.

Paano po ba tinupad ni Ginoong Corona ang batas na ito? Ayon sa mismong testimonya ng kanyang Clerk of Court na si Ms. Vidal: sabi po, galing sa isang Binibining Acia, ipapasa ito kay Binibining Vidal, na ibibigay naman sa isang Binibining Albano. Ilalagay po ito sa isang locked—uulitin ko po—isang locked filing cabinet, at huling lalanding sa isang nakakandadong vault.

Tanong naman po: Kailan pa po ba naging bahagi ng publiko ang isang locked filing cabinet? Paano mabubusisi ang laman ng SALN na ito kung nakasilid sa isang vault? Habang lumalabas ang katotohanan, lumilinaw naman ang dahilan ng pagkukubli ni Ginoong Corona sa kanyang SALN. Isang halimbawa po: noong 2010, nagdeklara siya ng cash na 3.5 million pesos. Ayon sa mga testimonya ng Pangulo ng PS Bank at branch manager ng BPI Ayala, sa tatlong account pa lang na naisiwalat sa impeachment, si Ginoong Corona ay may nakatagong 31.5 million pesos na hindi po idineklara.

‘Di ho ba tayong lahat ay mapapasabing: naman. Maliwanag pa po sa sikat ng araw: Ginoong Corona, ang sinumpaan mong salaysay ay hindi tugma sa natuklas na pag-aari mo. Maski saang paaralan po hindi lang sa Pilipinas kundi sa buong mundo, 3.5 million pesos does not equal 31.5 million. Alin po ba ang totoo, Ginoong Corona?

Bago po kayo naitalaga sa Supreme Court, may isang kaso noong 1997 na ang ngalan ay  Rabe versus Flores. Tungkol ito sa Court interpreter mula sa Davao Regional Trial Court na hindi idineklara ang pagmamay-ari niyang puwesto sa palengke—uulitin ko po—hindi idineklara ang pagmamay-ari niyang puwesto sa palengke, kung saan nakakatanggap siya ng renta. Dahil daw sa paglabag niya sa RA 6713 o ang Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, inirekomenda ng Office of the Court Administrator na sisantehin si Delsa Flores. Nawala sa kanya ang kabuhayang pinagkukunan ng suweldo at benepisyo.

Sa isang court interpreter, iyan po ang batayan. Magkano po kaya ang upa sa isang puwesto sa palengke? Sa Punong Mahistrado po ba, dapat naiiba? Kung si Ginang Flores po ay sinisante, ano pa kaya ang dapat hatol kay Ginoong Corona? Kailangan pa po bang tanungin kung impeachable offense ang ginawa niya?

Kung wala kang ginawang mali, wala kang dapat itago. Kayo nga po ang tanungin ko: Ganito ba umasta ang isang taong walang dapat katakutan? Pahirapan ang paghagilap sa kanyang SALN, at hanggang ngayon, pilit niyang inililihim ang kanyang mga accounts tulad ng mga dollar accounts. Sabi niya, in due time ilalabas niya ang mga dokumento. Mawalang-galang na po, Ginoong Corona, marami pang naunang taon na nagpasa kayo ng SALN na puno ng katanungan. Kailan po ba ang due time? Mukha po yatang overdue ka na.

Nagpapasalamat ako at nagpapasalamat tayong lahat kina Ginoong Corona at Justice Cuevas, dahil sila ang naging susi sa lalong paglabas ng katotohanan. Dahil sa mga discrepancy sa SALN ni Ginoong Corona, napagtuonang-pansin ang kanyang di pa naipapaliwanag o maipaliwanag na yaman. At noong nanghingi po ng year-end balance ang Senado, si Justice Cuevas pa ang umapela na gawing monthly ito. Sana nga po hindi lamang aksidente ito at tuloy-tuloy na nilang makita ang liwanag. Ngunit sa tinatakbo ng mga pahayag ni Ginoong Corona, mukhang malayu-layo pa bago siya matauhan.

Kayo nga po ang sumagot: sa tingin po ba ninyo, ang Chief Justice ay exempted sa mga batas na kailangan nating lahat sundin? Kapag ba nasa poder na ay bawal nang tanungin, bawal nang usisain, at bawal nang batikusin?

Ginoong Corona, sana naman po ay huwag n’yo na kaming paikutan. Alam naman namin kung bakit ka isiniksik ni Ginang Arroyo sa Korte Suprema: iyan po ay para pagtakpan ang katiwalian niya. ‘Di ba nagsimula lang naman ang lahat ng ito, nang muntik ka nang magtagumpay na patakasin si Ginang Arroyo?

Tandaan lang po natin: Punong Mahistrado mismo ang nagpilit na puwedeng umalis ng bansa si Ginang Arroyo. Ang isinampang kaso ng electoral sabotage, 2007 diumano naganap. Ayon sa batas, mapapaso ito kung hindi makapagsampa ng kaso sa loob ng limang taon. Ibig pong sabihin, sa pagpataw ng TRO sa watch list order natin, binigyan ng pagkakataong magtago si Ginang Arroyo; sakaling natuloy siya sa pagtakas at bumalik ng hindi mas maaga sa Mayo ng 2012, hindi na po natin siya mapapanagot sa diumano’y mga sala niya.

Lilinawin ko lang po: Walang personalan dito; sistemang pangkatarungan ang ipinaglalaban dito. At dahil malaki ang pagbabagong ating hinahangad, malaki rin po ang kinakabangga natin. Tingnan na nga lang po natin ang Defense at Prosecution: maraming batikos ang inabot ng ating prosecution panel; parehas ba ang laban? Alam naman po natin ang napakalakas na impluwensya ng hukom sa ating sistemang pangkatarungan. Nasa kanila ang pasya sa bawat kaso.

Kung nasa Defense ka, ‘di ba’t ngiti ang isasalubong sa iyo ng mga tiwaling hukom, dahil ipinagtanggol mo ang isa sa kanilang uri? Manalo, matalo, panalo ka parati. Kung nasa Prosecution ka naman, simangot ang pambungad sa iyo dahil sa pangangahas mong kalabanin ang Punong Mahistrado. Ipagpapasa-Diyos mo na lahat ng kasong hahawakan mo. ‘Di kaya’t babalot iyan sa isip mo habang naglalatag ng argumento, na itinataya mo ngayon ang pinagmumulan ng kakainin ng iyong pamilya’t anak?

Ang katarungan ay sinasagisag ng isang babaeng nakapiring at may hawak na timbangan. Bulag ang hustisya upang hindi masilaw ng kapangyarihan; patas ang timbangan dahil pantay ang hustisya para sa lahat. Kung ikaw si Delsa Flores, ano kaya ang mararamdaman mo ngayong may isang taong may mas malaking halagang itinago sa kaniyang SALN?

Simple lang naman po ang kailangan nating pagpasyahan ngayon. Papayag ba tayo na magpatuloy ang sistema kung saan may nanlalamang at nilalamangan? Hahayaan ba nating magkatotoo ang sinasabing dalawang mukha ng katarungan sa Pilipinas—isa para sa makapangyarihan, at iba para sa mga nasa laylayan? Kuntento ka bang hindi patas ang laban? Hindi ba sulit na ituwid ang ganitong klaseng kalakaran? ‘Di po ba’t malinaw ang mga alituntuning kailangang sundin ng lahat?

Ang tungkulin natin ngayon ay ibalik ang piring ng katarungan, at gawing balanse ang timbangan. Huwag na po sana nating hintayin na tayo mismo ang maagrabyado. Manindigan na po tayo ngayon.

Maraming salamat po.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Good morning. Let us all take our seats.

Honorable Vice President Jejomar Binay; Secretaries Sonny Coloma, Leila de Lima, Linda Baldoz, Mar Roxas, Edwin Lacierda, Ed de Mesa, Manuel Mamba, Joel Villanueva; members of the EDSA People Power Commission; Mister Cesar Sariño; Mister Ogie Alcasid; Miss Millie Kilayko; Chairman Francis Tolentino; Governor Boy Umali of the League of Provinces of the Philippines; of course, our very generous Sister Imelda Mora; youth leaders from Pilipinas Natin member schools; fellow workers in government; honored guests; beloved countrymen:
Good morning.

It has been twenty-six years since more than a million Filipinos gathered at Luneta to celebrate the nation’s triumph. There, they declared the victory of my late mother over Mr. Marcos in the Snap Elections. They launched a civil disobedience campaign, involving a boycott against companies that fawned over the dictatorship in the hopes of gaining its favor. They made it known that true power lies in the hands of the common citizen. It was there that the Filipino people took their first steps towards the EDSA revolution.
Today we are here, looking back on the events of the past, facing the challenges of the present, and called upon to fight for our future. Are we ready to shape this future, or are we content to leave ourselves to the whims of destiny?

The impeachment trial of Mr. Corona in the Senate began on the 16th of January. I chose to observe the proceedings and to keep my silence; my faith in due process remains steadfast. But what has been happening now? Speculation and commentary have muddled the true issues; it is as if we are purposely being confused and misled so our interest in the proceedings would fade. Will Juan and Juana de la Cruz allow themselves to be shut out of this process? Will we allow a select few to decide the fate of all?

This is why I am here today: to shed light on matters that have intentionally been obscured, and to set straight the issues that have been distorted by a few, so that the common Filipino will be enlightened and will be able to take part in the discussion. After all, the question that this trial seeks to answer is simple: can we still trust Mr. Corona? We can answer this question by looking at the truths that have so far been revealed in the trial.

Let us talk about the SALN. This is not mere scratch paper: every public official swears an oath and stakes his honor on this document. Article 11, Section 17 of our Constitution says: A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth. In the case of the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law.

Just how did Mr. Corona obey this law? The testimony of his Clerk of Court, Ms. Vidal, speaks for itself: from a Ms. Acia, his SALN was given to Ms. Vidal, who would in turn pass it on to a certain Ms. Albano. The document would then be placed inside a locked filing cabinet, and its final resting place would be inside a vault.
Since when has a locked filing cabinet been part of the general public? How are we to scrutinize the contents of this SALN if it is locked in a vault? As the truth is coming out, the reason behind Mr. Corona’s desire to keep his SALNs hidden has become clear. Let me give you one example: in 2010, he declared cash in the amount of 3.5 million pesos. According to the testimonies of the President of PS Bank and the bank manager of BPI Ayala, in the three accounts alone that have been uncovered, Mr. Corona has concealed 31.5 million pesos, which he did not declare.

Oh, come on. It is clearer than the light of day: Mr. Corona, the account you have sworn to be true does not correspond to the assets that have been discovered. In any school in the world, 3.5 million does not equal 31.5 million. Which is the truth, Mr. Corona?

Before you were appointed to the Supreme Court, in 1997, a case called Rabe v. Flores came about. A court interpreter from the Davao RTC failed to declare the stall she owned in a wet market, from which she received rent payments. Because she violated RA 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, the Office of the Court Administrator recommended that Delsa Flores be fired. She lost her source of livelihood, the position from which she received salaries and benefits.

This was the basis for firing a court interpreter. How much is a stall in the wet market anyway? Are we supposed to treat our Chief Justice any differently? If Mrs. Flores was fired for what she did, then what is a rightful verdict for Mr. Corona? Is there still any question if his actions constitute impeachable offenses?
Those who have done no wrong have nothing to hide. If I may pose a question to all of you: Is this how a person who has nothing to fear acts? Getting him to reveal his SALN was a long, arduous affair; and until now, he has insisted on keeping his dollar accounts secret. Mr. Corona has said that he will reveal these documents in due time. With due respect, Mr. Corona, you have been submitting questionable SALNs for a number of years now. When exactly is this “due time” you speak of? That time is long overdue.

But I suppose I have Mr. Corona and Justice Cuevas to thank for being the keys to further uncovering the truth. The discrepancies in Mr. Corona’s SALN has put into focus his unexplained wealth. And when the Senate asked for the year-end balances, it was Justice Cuevas himself who asked, instead, for monthly balances. I hope these aren’t mere accidents, and that both of them continue to see the light. But judging from Mr. Corona’s statements, it will be a long time yet before he comes to his senses.

Answer this question yourselves: do you think that the Chief Justice should be exempted from the laws all of us must follow? Are those in power immune to questions, to investigations, and to criticism?

Mr. Corona, please don’t give us the runaround. We all know why Mrs. Arroyo placed you in the Supreme Court: to cover up for her corruption. Didn’t all of this start when you almost succeeded in aiding Mrs. Arroyo in her escape?

Let us remember: it was the Chief Justice who insisted on allowing Mrs. Arroyo to leave the country. The electoral sabotage case filed against Mrs. Arroyo allegedly happened in 2007. According to the law, if a case had not been filed within five years, then the prescribed period for filing would have expired. What this means is, by issuing a TRO on our watch list order, Mrs. Arroyo was given a chance to hide. If she had successfully escaped, and if she had returned no earlier than May of 2012, we wouldn’t have had a chance to hold her accountable for her alleged crimes.

Let me make it clear: this is not personal; we are fighting to preserve the integrity of our justice system. The change we are attempting to achieve is huge, and because of that, we have had to come up against very powerful people. Let us look at the Defense and the Prosecution; the prosecution team has been the focus of much criticism. But is this really a fair fight? We all know of the tremendous power judges possess in our justice system. They are the ones who decide each and every case.

If you are part of the Defense, wouldn’t corrupt judges welcome your efforts to protect their kind? Whatever happens in the trial, you can’t lose. For those in the prosecution, these same judges will view you with hostility, because you went against the Chief Justice. And because of this, you put at risk all your other cases. Will the fact that you are putting your livelihood on the line, the one from which you get money to feed your family, not occupy your mind as you articulate your arguments?

Justice is symbolized by a blindfolded woman holding a balanced scale. Justice is blind, because she must not be bedazzled by power. The scale is balanced because justice must be balanced for all. Put yourself in the shoes of Delsa Flores: What must you be feeling now, seeing someone in a higher position who has hidden a much higher amount from his SALN?

The question before us now is simple. Do we allow this system to continue? A system in which people take advantage and are taken advantage of? Do we just settle with the idea of a two-faced justice system in our country—one face for the powerful, and another for those in the margins? Are you content with a playing field that is not level? Is it not worth it to fix this transactional way of doing things? Is it not clear that our laws must be followed by all?

Our responsibility now is to replace Lady Justice’s blindfold, and to rebalance the tipped scales. Let us not wait before we’re all victimized. Let us take a stand now.

Let us remember that the majority of those in this hall are in the age bracket of Ogie Alcasid and I. What, you don’t want to consider me one of you? In my life—I am 52 years old—I have more or less 30 years left. Isn’t that right? And I’m guessing that most of you are 21 and below. You have 60 years left, in which you will either be happy with the future we are shaping today, or dissatisfied with having to endure the broken system we failed to fix. I hope that the direction we must take is clear to all. We are creating the future today. We all need to act now.

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado is a Content Strategist with over 12 years experience in blogging, content management, citizen advocacy and media literacy and over 22 years in web development. Otherwise known as @MomBlogger on social media, she believes in making a difference in the lives of her children by advocating social change for social good.

She is a co-founder and a member of the editorial board of Blog Watch . She is a resource speaker on media literacy, social media , blogging, digital citizenship, good governance, transparency, parenting, women’s rights and wellness, and cyber safety.

Her personal blogs such as aboutmyrecovery.com (parenting) , pinoyfoodblog.com (recipes), techiegadgets.com (gadgets) and beautyoverfifty.net (lifestyle), benguetarabica.coffee keep her busy outside of Blog Watch.

Disclosure:

I am an advocate. I am NOT neutral. I will NOT give social media mileage to members of political clans, epal, a previous candidate for the same position and those I believe are a waste of taxpayers’ money.

I do not support or belong to any political party but I am a volunteer for senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares. I am also voting for #OtsoDiretso plus two :Neri Colmenares and Leody de Guzman

She was a Senior Consultant for ALL media engagements for the PCOO-led Committee on Media Affairs & Strategic Communications (CMASC) under the ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council from January 4 -July 5, 2017. Having been an ASEAN advocate since 2011, she has written extensively about the benefits of the ASEAN community and as a region of opportunities on Blog Watch and aboutmyrecovery.com.

Organization affiliation includes Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation

Updated April 20, 2019

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