POSTSCRIPT / January 5, 2012 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Hate-Corona drive rages outside Senate process

HATE TSUNAMI: An impeachment complaint is already filed in the Senate against Chief Justice Renato Corona. The Senate, which is to hear the case, has given it due course and Corona responded to it after announcing that he will face the charges.

The Senate is set to start the trial proper on Jan. 16, although there could be a pre-trial as prayed for by Corona.

With that, why are partisans in the House of Representatives and elsewhere outside the Senate court still whipping up a tsunami of hate against the Chief Justice? Either to firm up a wobbly conviction or to instigate street protests if he is acquitted?

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OUTSIDE NOISE: The ends of justice are not served if — after the filing of charges in court against an accused, or in the Senate in the case of Corona — another front on the same issues is opened in the street and in the media.

We have turned the page to a New Year. If only for our mental health and the equanimity of this nation bedeviled by problems, there should be a scaling down of the hate that has been poisoning the air since the 2010 presidential campaign.

It might be best for the public seeking the truth to just follow on TV the constitutionally ordained process – and being careful not to be sidetracked by out-of-court propaganda.

The demolition campaign against the accused outside the court (Senate) while the formal trial is ongoing does not augur well for the due process ordained by the Constitution.

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PUBLIC OPINION: In the prosecution of high-profile officials, public opinion is often cited as superior to court rulings. But just what is public opinion? How is it arrived at and how is it measured?

Is so-called public opinion the preponderant opinion being dished out in editorials, columns and blogs? Is it what commercial polling firms claim to be the summation of their findings in surveys?

What fate awaits officials who do not bother to cultivate a good public image or who do not hire hotshot PR (public relations) operators to sway opinion in their favor?

An impeachable official who makes no extra PR effort to lift his low trust rating can be easily convicted of “betrayal of public trust.”

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MEDIA BIAS: But with the state of our mass media and the corruptive influence of PR manipulation (beside the Pasig it is called “strategic communication”), it is unwise to give weight to manufactured public opinion.

An example of how media bias could ruin a person’s reputation is the wild report of a major daily days ago that the University of Santo Tomas bent the rules in awarding Renato Corona a doctor of laws degree and rating him a summa cum laude.

The truth is UST did not. After the university laid out the facts, there was not a peep from the newspaper. It did not insist on its story as it usually does when challenged – which shows that it did err in running that demolition story.

The newspaper has an army of researchers and UST is just a phone call away, but it failed to check the story before running it. There was no urgency to spread the gossip. It simply failed the test of challenging a potentially damaging story before going to town with it.

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LACK OF P.R.: But the damage has been done. In blogs and informal discussions, people who do not know any better keep repeating the canard that Corona did not earn or deserve his doctorate and summa cum laude.

What can the Chief Justice do? Nothing. The public mind has been poisoned again.

This is not to say that Corona is not guilty of the charges thrown at him by the 188 congressmen who answered the call to arms of President Noynoy Aquino.

It could be that he is guilty of at least one of the eight charges. But if the Chief Justice is to be convicted and removed, it should be after a fair trial and not as a consequence of black propaganda outside the Senate trial compounded by his lack of a PR initiative.

The only hope of a fair hearing before the extended public jury outside the Senate hall is for media to be just and professional. That might be demanding too much.

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GATDULA’S SEAT: The buzz in coffeeshop and cocktail bar circles is that Director Magtanggol B. Gatdula of the National Bureau of Investigation may just lose his job in the face of an organized campaign to oust him.

President Aquino appointed Gatdula last year for his distinguished service in the Philippine National Police and his record as a straight law-and-order professional.

But he is now in the middle of a controversy involving the NBI’s Security Management Division that “rescued” a Japanese from the Marzan family on Oct. 29, 2011, in Bugallon, Pangasinan.

Acting on his own, SMD chief  Mario A. Garcia detained Ms. Noriyo Ohara, a Japanese, at the NBI premises. Rumors circulated that money was extorted from the Marzans and Ohara families to get her released.

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OHARA CASE: Since 2009, Ohara has been in the care of the Marzans. She claimed having fled Japan because the Yakuza syndicate had threatened to kill her after murdering her father. She reportedly arrived in Manila with a Philippine government passport.

She told the NBI, in a letter received by Garcia, that the Marzans had taken her assets, including a house and lot in Las Piñas, two cars and jewelry. She asked to be freed from the Marzans.

Gatdula suspended Garcia and an SMD deputy after an investigation showed that the SMD had exceeded its authority and violated NBI procedures. Garcia admitted acting on his own.

A media report, however, said Gatdula knew of the raid, the alien’s detention, the alleged extortion, and that he had profited from the incident.

Gatdula denied the story and went on a 30-day leave while the justice department investigated. Now some persons want to grab his seat.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 5, 2012)

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