Day 44 and the last day of the Corona Impeachment Trial : Judgment day

by Wilfred Avila

Why did it take me so long to write this? Simple, I just found it too painful to do so. I still do. But even this series of reports on the Impeachment Trial has to have a closure, painful though it may be.

Since Day One, all were prepared for this moment. It had to come inevitably and it did. In all of the 44 days of hearings, posturings, screaming, scolding, intimidating, pleading, impressing and arguing, it was all designed to come to this penultimate moment ….. Judement Day!

It was a day of tears, pain, ecstasy, joy, doom and new beginnings. It was also a day no one expected. From both sides of the Senate Hall, no one could predict how this day would end. Yet, in all of these, everyone trooped to the Senate Hall knowing how they wanted it to end. They did not speak of it but were armed to the teeth to defend their own cause, no matter what it was.

There was a hopeful sense that all would turn out well and some were even prayerful that God be there to shed light on everyone who was to be the final arbiter of this trial on the final day — the Senator-Judges!

Everyone was present, no one thought of being absent on this all important date with destiny. Each Senator-Judge arrived in the Senate grounds without a trace of their already made up decision. All of them felt his decision alone would make a difference. They all did.

With his pompous voice, the Sergeant-at-Arms told everyone to keep silent or be preremptorily kicked out of the Senate Hall. A “certain kind of hush” fell and everyone could hear the Senate clock tick by. It was 2:10 pm. Led by the Presiding Judge, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the Senator-Judges filed out to take their seats. The roll was called and they were all there, all 23 of them!

Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III, announced that the Senator-Judges were ready to cast their votes but before it could even begin, Presiding Officer Enrile announced that the Chair would like to remind members of the court, parties to this case, that last March 12, 2012 – this court ruled that no evidence from both prosecution and defense and no verdict will be rendered on Articles I, IV, V, VI, and VIII. In accordance with earlier ruling, votes will only be taken on Articles II, III, and VII.”


The moment had arrived and the voting started. Everyone had a piece of paper to write down their decisions. Some groaned in reaction while other still grinned from ear-to ear. No one knew how it would turn out. The bets were on. Lotto died a natural death that day as all the bets were on whether it was going to be acquittal or conviction and this is how it went:

Those who voted for Acquittal: 3

1. Arroyo, Joker
2. Defensor-Santiago, Miriam
3. Marcos, Ferdinand, Jr.

Those who voted for Conviction: 20

01. Angara, Edgardo
02. Cayetano, Peter Allan
03. Cayetano, Pilar Juliana
04. Drilon, Franklin
05. Escudero, Chiz
06. Estrada, Jinggoy
07. Guingona III, Teofisto
08. Honasan, Gregorio
09. Lacson, Panfilo
10. Lapid, Lito
11. Legarda, Loren
12. Osmena, Sergio
13. Pangilinan, Francis
14. Pimentel III, Aquilino
15. Recto, Ralph
16. Revilla, Ramon Jr.
17. Sotto III, Vicente
18. Trillanes IV, Antonio
19. Villar, Manuel
20. Enrile, Juan Ponce

The explanations were all given. Some were scathing and others very personal and insensitive to the respondent. Case in point was the one of Senator-Judge Francis Pangilinan who even ventured into the Basa-Corona feud which had all but ended in the Prosecution yestreday’s hearing. Others were funny such as the one of Senator-Judge Lito Lapid. Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago stayed true to form calling both and her co-jurors short of being stupid.

As the scores were being tallied, groans, whispers and wails were being heard around the hall. Yet, to the very end (even when there was already a trend to convict) the hall remained deathly silent. Both sides of the hall did not miss the import of what was unfolding before their eyes. That this was a historical and momentous event, evryone accepted. That they were all part of it, no one thought of until it hit them after the entire process finished.

With emphasis and finality, the Presiding Judge banged the gavel loudly three times marking the end of this long and painful drama. The Teleserye ng Bayan ended. The life of the Chief Magistrate of the land was practically snuffed out. Bed-ridden at the hospital, he watched with pain and tears as the verdict was called out.

It cannot be denied by one and all that this was not a fair and just trial. It was a political exercise and not a judicial one. If it were, in fact, a judicial hearing, there would have been no case at all. There was never any evidence presented by the prosecution that would warrant even having the case at all.

What surprised this writer was that all the Senator-Judges (except for the three of Arroyo, Santiago and Marcos) were so eloquent in explaining their individual votes without ever touching on the source of the evidences presented by the Prosecution. The Small Lady, the envelopes in the garage, the presentation of the AMLC report and the unfair and unjustified questiong of the Senator-Judges who were biased againt the respondent, the Chief Justice from Day One, notably Senator Franklin Drilon and others.

Visiting Corona at the Medical City

Immediately after the trial, Bel Cunanan, Maria Fatima Nebrida, Camille Zamora, Carmen Pedrosa, Gov. Sally and a few other friends and I ate a humble dinner together commiserating with the loss and the pain we all commonly felt.

After the dinner, Baby Nebrida, her husband Gene, Camille Zamora and myself together with our children trooped to Medical City in the hope that we could lift the spirits of the Chief Justice.

We found old friends there. The entire Defense Panel and the close supporters of the Cj was there. Justice Midas Marquez was all there together with Carla (his daugther) and his son-in-law, Jojo Castillo who entertained us first since the Chief Justice was closeted with his attorneys. . We were all shocked to learn that Francis (his eldest son) was also hospitalized for very high blood pressure levels. Francis is also confined at Medical City at an adjacent room to the CJ. We all felt a little hesitant because we did not know how to begin a conversation to lift one’s dead spirit. I simply suggested that we say why we were there and that would be that.

We didn’t have to say anything. As soon as the Chief Justice saw me, he immediately approached me and hugged me so tight. We both started shedding soft but painful tears. Without a word, we told each other what we both felt. Everyone looked on and started to cry as well. Hugs followed for Camille and Baby Nebrida. No eye was dry.

Yet, in all of that, I realized I was in front of a truly strong and principled man. He may have lost in the trial but he was not a beaten man. He was truly far from that. We gathered in the waiting room where he addressed us. Yes, he said, we accept the verdict but this is not the end of our fight. This is only the beginning. Cristina Corona joined us and gave everyone a strong and kind smile. I guess she must have realized that we were all hurting like her.

For a while, I felt like I was in a courtroom listening to the argument of the accused. He reviewed the case for us and told us that the decision was all based on the wrong premise. He began waxing poetic and romantic lines when he started to speak of the support of Cristina and his family.

Suffice it to say that I underlined that his friends and ALL OF US continue to support him. That it has turned into a personal level for most us cannot be denied.

Corona’s press statement

Earlier in the evening, the Chief Justice issued a press statement snippets of which I quote in full here:

Saying he was sad but ready to offer his life for his country, Chief Justice Renato Corona, ousted on a 20-3 vote by the Senate on Tuesday, said he was leaving his fate to God and the Filipino people and hoped the “hatred” that had fuelled his impeachment would ease.

Corona reminded the people that he submitted himself to the impeachment process, even though he said he knew that the President would use government agencies in order to pin him down – the House of Representatives, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Land Registration Authority, the Ombudsman; and resort to feeding dubious documents to the media.

He said the leak of unverified, undocumented documents to the media, and not to the court, made him wonder, “If their case was strong, why did they have to invent documents?” The statement, issued from his hospital room at the Medical City, was mostly in Filipino.

He said the impeachment trial that began January 16 and ended on Day 44 with the promulgation, has burdened the nation for a long time. “Let’s stop the politics, personal attacks. Let’s quell the poison of unabated anger and hatred,” Corona said.

He said it was time to focus on the serious challenges to “our life as a nation.”

The statement is seen as a signal that he would not resort to an appeal to the Supreme Court, as his chief counsel, former Justice Serafin Cuevas, had earlier indicated. This tack was seen to create a constitutional crisis.

“Ipinapaubaya ko na po sa ating Poong Maykapal at sa taong bayan na higit na makapangyarihan sa ating demokrasya ang aking kinabukasan at ang kinabukasan ng ating Hudikatura (I am leaving my future and the future of our Judiciary to God and the people, who are the supreme authority in our democracy),” Corona said.

“I am innocent,” he added. “There is no truth to the charges against me in the Articles of Impeachment. My conscience is clear.”

At the same time, Corona also called for reconciliation, urging people to “turn our backs” on the past five months to “rebuild the torn fabric and focus our attention once more on all the challenges and promises the Philippines faces in the next century.”

He thanked the three senators who voted to acquit him — Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

He also sought the forgiveness of his wife, children and grandchildren “sapagkat sa aking pagtatanggol sa kasarinlan ng Hudikatura ay nailagay ko sila sa kalbaryong hindi naman nila kinailangang maranasan (because in my defense of the independence of the judiciary I placed them in a Calvary that they did not need to suffer).”

Respecting the verdict

Yes, the Chief Justice continue to believe in his (OUR) fight. This travesty cannot be allowed to go on. 2013 is not far away in the horizon and, already, the magicians of PCOS is strengthening their position to take all the positions available in this country.

Thank you Chief Justice for giving us a reason to be proud of our country once again! And, YES, we are proud of you!Hi everyone! I meant to send this message earlier. Thank you so much for all the support you have given for the cause of the Rule of Law & Judicial Independence. We were strangers brought together by a common cause but now I consider each and every one of you my personal friend 🙂 Thank you! Things may not have turned out the way we wanted in this instance, but I hope we continue to fight for causes that will be good for our country. Kung pwede ko lang kayo kamayan at i-hug isa-isa gagawin ko. Unfortunately we are constrained by time and physical distance (to the relief of my husband… hahaha just kidding). Thank you for a job well done and thank you for giving us your unsolicited, sincere and loving support. I am overwhelmed and truly inspired by all of you. Love you guys!

Meanwhile the Defense Panel of Chief Justice Renato Corona said that they respect the verdict of conviction meted out by the impeachment court on Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Lawyer Tranquil Salvador III said members of the defense panel have yet to discuss their next option as to whether or not they will seek remedy before the Supreme Court. “We respect the separate decisions of the senator-judges,” he said. “Walang naging kasong ganito sa (There has not been a case like this in the) Supreme Court. This has never been tested. Hindi natin alam (We don’t know). I don’t want to make statements at this time. We are relieved that we can now all go back to our personal lives,” he said.

Attorney Karen Jimeno meanwhile sent the ever effective Cyber Groups a message that said, “Hi everyone! I meant to send this message earlier. Thank you so much for all the support you have given for the cause of the Rule of Law & Judicial Independence. We were strangers brought together by a common cause but now I consider each and every one of you my personal friend 🙂 Thank you! Things may not have turned out the way we wanted in this instance, but I hope we continue to fight for causes that will be good for our country. Kung pwede ko lang kayo kamayan at i-hug isa-isa gagawin ko. Unfortunately we are constrained by time and physical distance (to the relief of my husband… hahaha just kidding). Thank you for a job well done and thank you for giving us your unsolicited, sincere and loving support. I am overwhelmed and truly inspired by all of you. Love you guys!

Release of SALN

The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday approved the release in full of the 2011 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) of all justices and judges in the Philippines.

In a press conference, Acting Supreme Court Spokesperson Attorney Gleo Guerra said that the High Court should formulate a guideline on the release of the SALN, which will be taken up in its special en banc session on June 13, 2012.

“The release of the SALN was a collective decision of the Court,” Guerra said. The Philippines has some 2,000 justices and judges.

The special en banc session was called on Wednesday by Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio. Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Lucas Bersamin were absent during the special en banc session. Guerra said that both Justices Peralta and Bersamin were now in Baguio City for a lecture.

Guerra said that the High Court’s decision, in effect, overruled the 1989 Supreme Court ruling in the Alejandrino case, where the High Court unanimously voted to deny the request for SALN which are directly or indirectly traced to a litigant, lawyer or any party with a pending case before the Court.

The 1989, the Supreme Court ruling stated that there had to be a “legitimate reason” for such a request as well as good faith and not fish for information that can be used to influence a court’s decision.

The 1989 the Supreme ruling was reiterated in 1992, when, in a resolution, the High Court said that the disclosure of SALNs not only of High Court justices but justices from the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals, lower court Court judges and court personnel, have been restricted to shield them from acts that may “endanger, diminish or destroy their independence and objectivity in the performance of their judicial functions.”

“In effect [overruling the Alejandrino case] is the net effect,” Guerra said. However, Guerra clarified that it is a SALN but not waiver.

Signing the waiver

Impeached Chief Justice Renato C. Corona signed an unconditional waiver allowing the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to look into his bank accounts and business interests.

Corona’s act was hailed as a good start to show transparency in the government with some members of Congress and Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero signing similar waiver and challenged the other government officials to do the same.

Meanwhile, the head of the prosecution team that worked to oust Chief Justice Renato Corona on Wednesday said he “will not dignify” challenges for him and other congressmen to sign waivers to make their bank deposits more transparent.

Representative Niel Tupas Jr. said those calling for such a gesture are merely “grandstanding” – or, in the vernacular he used, “pa-pogi”. What say you, Senator Chiz Escudero.

Tupas said the Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) that he submitted already contained a waiver authorizing the Ombudsman to look into his bank accounts, local and foreign.

“I think what was stated in the SALN was sufficient. Hindi ako nagdi-dignify ng pahapyaw na challenge, hindi naman ito talaga ang heart ng pinaglaban natin, iyong parinig siguro papogi. I won’t dignify that as a public servant,” Tupas said.

For his part, Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, who is one of the Prosecution’s spokespersons, said he no longer wished to dignify the “grandstanding” remark of Tupas. “I don’t want to add fuel to the fire,” he said in an interview..

Earlier in the day, seven militant lawmakers signed a waiver allowing the Ombudsman to look into their assets and bank accounts for investigation purposes. “As signatories to the Corona impeachment complaint and representatives of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors in Congress, we feel it is our duty and moral obligation to set an example in complying with the Constitutional mandate on public office as a public trust,” said Representatives Teddy Casino and Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna, Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers and Raymond Palatino of Kabataan partylist after signing the waiver Wednesday.

All of them said they had no foreign currency deposits and are among the poorest House members based on their 2011 SALN. The partylist lawmakers challenged President Benigno Aquino III, members of the Cabinet, senators and their colleagues in the House of Representatives to do the same.

Corona trial was ‘bigger than publicity.’ Tupas said the prosecution team’s efforts to convict the Chief Magistrate was “bigger than publicity, bigger than media mileage.”

In their explanation of vote, Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Francis Escudero, two of 20 who voted to convict, also dared all public officials to sign a waiver to open to the public their bank accounts. At the House of Representatives, several lawmakers also made the same challenge, saying it was necessary in the name of transparency.

Triumphantly, Justice Antonio Carpio is now the acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, amid immediate speculations and questions over who President Aquino might ultimately appoint to replace former high magistrate Renato Corona. Late Wednesday, the President said in a statement he will not be rushed into choosing the next chief justice, to avoid making the mistake of naming an undesirable one.

Carpio’s designation followed a special en banc session of the high court Wednesday, a day after former Chief Justice Renato Corona was convicted of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution by the Senate impeachment court.

President Benigno Aquino III said Wednesday night he will not be rushed into choosing a new Chief Justice so as not to make the same mistake as appointing someone like the impeached chief magistrate Renato Corona. Aquino said in a statement that the next Chief Justice “must have integrity and must be independent in decision-making.”

The Senate President, who cast Tuesday’s last vote, said the verdict on Corona was final and cannot be reversed by the Supreme Court. he said this in reaction to statements that the Chief Justice might raise the issue to the Supreme Court and ask for a TRO. Attorney Rico Quicho announced that the Chief Justice would not raise it to the Supreme Court and accepted the decision of the Impeachment Court! The full transcript of the explanations of the Senator-Judges will follow shortly.

What next?

What is there left to say after all of these. NOTHING! With a heavy heart, I will close this series. I have kept this journal alive to share with you the events of the trial and my thoughts on the proceedings. There wer times when I would laugh, cry and just wax along to share my thoughts. I pray that I have not inflicted pain on anyone as I rambled along.

The fact that we shared the same vision and ideals and made a common stand was more than enough recompense. To my readers around the nation and around the globe, thank you for being there with me. To those who even took the trouble of re-posting the series daily, salamat po. Ang dami po ninyo para isa-isahin.

I have once said that the fight doesn’t end here. It marks the beginning of a bigger and more dangerous fight, the forthcoming 2013 elections. The HOCUS-PCOS machines are being prepared to count the non-existent votes once more. We must remain alert and watchful. All our enrgies and efforts must be geared towards preventing another group of charlatans and know-it-alls with vested interest to “represent the people!”

Once again, my deepest gratitude to all.