All things came to a close on Day 44 of the Impeachment trial.
The Senators gave their votes in alphabetical order, with the Presiding Officer giving the last vote. The Senators also voted in the proper sequence of the articles of impeachment. The time limit to explain the votes was removed given that this was a historical vote.
Of the eight Articles of Impeachment, the Senators only had to vote for the remaining three, namely articles II, III and VII. Of the three remaining articles, it all came down to Article II, regarding the proper declaration of the Chief Justice’s SALNs.
It was obviously a difficult decision to make. Even those who voted guilty expressed how painful and difficult it was to render such a decision. Sen. Villar even said how he felt pity for Corona for having to undergo the process and how he thought Corona was a good man.
In the end, the majority voted a guilty verdict. Only 3 voted to acquit while 20 voted guilty.
“Failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth as required under the constitution. The violation is a betrayal of public trust and/or culpable violation of the constitution.”
It came down to a debate between whether Article II constituted an impeachable offense or not. Those who voted guilty based it on the amount of money that was undisclosed, an analysis of the intent of the law, as well as the suitability of the Chief Justice to remain in office.
Sen. Angara, who voted guilty, questioned whether the non-disclosure of his $2.4 million accounts and three accounts of P80 million is indeed an impeachable offense. For him, it is a “culpable offense” given that amount of the accounts and that he is the Chief Justice and should therefore know better. RA 6426 is meant to protect foreign investors and is not meant to be used by public officials to hide their wealth.
Violation of the spirit of the law
Sen. Peter Cayetano said our country is suffering from a cancer of corruption, wherein the standards are different for the rich and powerful from the poor. Corona should have protected the constitution instead of himself, and his interpretation was unacceptable. He summed it up as, “If you are not fit, you cannot sit.” He voted guilty with penalty to remove from office. However, he respects that Corona signed the waiver for transparency in government, which affects 1.3 million public officials.
Sen. Pia Cayetano stood by RA 6713 saying that it is not an exception to RA 6713, which is the code of conduct for public officials. The failure to declare millions in peso and dollars in cash is not a minor offense. Sen. Recto noted the incredible amounts not declared on the SALN. Sen. Enrile even reiterated that the use of the Foreign Currency law was grossly misapplied in the case of the Chief Justice.
Loss of moral credibility
Sen. Drilon voted guilty because in not declaring his assets properly in his SALN, Corona lost his moral credibility. For Sen. Escudero, there was no contradiction in the law while Sen. Guigona discussed the sacredness of the Constitution. Sen. Estrada felt Corona knew the law and the omission is impeachable.
Sen. Honasan asked the Chief Justice to step down since there is already doubt on his credibility. Sen. Lacson, Sen. Lapid, Sen. Legarda, Sen. Osmena, Sen. Pimentel, Sen. Revilla, Sen. Sotto, Sen. Trillanes all voted guilty. Sen. Pangilinan said there was a disturbing pattern of concealment in over a decade.
For Sen. Arroyo, who voted to acquit, this particular impeachment proceeding “is not the law.” It is not enough to impeach a Chief Justice over a mistake in the SALN.
Once again, Sen. Defensor said her piece in the most vehement manner possible. For her, the “preponderance of evidence was not overwhelming.” She said that misdeclaration of the SALN is not an impeachable offense. She once again took the time to criticize the handling by the Prosecution of the case. “Strike me dead!” she screamed because in at least three instances, the Prosecution presented evidence from “anonymous sources.”
Sen. Marcos criticized the evidence and its manner of acquisition in the case. At the same time, he wanted to err on the side of being conservative. It should be taken that Corona acted in good faith and his misdeclaration is not an impeachable offense.
Accept the verdict
Corona has had his day in the Impeachment Court and we went through the process as mandated by our Constitution.
Filipinos must therefore accept and respect the verdict handed down by the senate. After all, we are the ones who voted for the Senators who happened to sit on the Impeachment Court.
Pulse Asia’s survey results show that six out of ten Filipinos will agree with the judgment of the Senators regardless of what their decision may be. The remaining four will only be satisfied with the verdict if it is the same as their own personal vote.
It’s over, but there’s still work to be done
After 44 days of trial, and now that the verdict has finally been handed down, we can only hope that the country will have some measure of peace. Sen. Escudero hopes that we can now all finally get down to business and work on the problems of the country.
After close to five months of trial, more than two hundred hours of trial, several testimonies, reams of documents presented, it is finally over. Sen. Escudero filed a bill to require all public officials to sign waivers and Sen. Alan Cayetano encouraged the highest officials of the land to sign their waivers now as a call for transparency.
Let’s all be glad that due process still works in the country. Sen. Trillanes said that “the system of checks and balances still works.” Regardless if the public agrees with the way the Senators voted, it is over and done with. However, it is very likely that the people agree with the overwhelming majority vote of the Senator Judges.
Perhaps now, we can once again focus on the laws needed in our country to address our many problems.