POSTSCRIPT / May 24, 2012 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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CJ had a good show going, then he blew it

GOOD SHOW: Impeached Chief Justice Renato C. Corona had a good show going – its high point being his signing a waiver — until he rose from the witness stand and walked out of the Senate hall without so much as a by-your-leave.

I was clapping when the Chief Justice read into the record his waiver of the confidential cover of his peso/dollar bank accounts, real estate holdings and other valuable worldly possessions.

I jumped to my feet cheering when he asked for a similar waiver from the 188 congressmen who had signed, many of them blindly, the impeachment complaint, and from senator Franklin Drilon, a de facto member of the prosecution panel.

I was waiting for the Chief Justice to gaze in the direction of Malacañang and call for the Moving Force behind his impeachment to also sign the same waiver. Good move that he did not.

* * *

LEVEL FIELD: It was high drama and we groundlings would have relished the sight of the political demigods who have been strutting on the stage to come tumbling down.

It was high time that the field were leveled, I thought, that the oppressive and abusive creatures walking the earth were driven to extinction like dinosaurs of the Jurassic period.

But something went wrong. Suddenly Corona was closing his folder, standing up, and walking toward the door.

He blew it!

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CONTEMPTUOUS: Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had been accommodating at the risk of displeasing the Yellow camp. The least the Chief Justice could have done was to be just as respectful to the chamber.

As chief magistrate, Corona knew what proper decorum in court was.

He did not want to recognize the Senate as an Impeachment Court? That could not be, because the Constitution assigned it that function. Besides, Corona has recognized its jurisdiction by appearing before it.

Before his exit, he gave the unnecessary reminder that he was “the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines.” His walkout must have been his way of showing disdain for the process and those manipulating it.

Whatever the reason, Corona’s walkout struck me as contemptuous.

* * *

JUSTICE ON WHEELS: At the start of the trial four months ago, Enrile announced that he would not allow a walkout.

His warning harked back to the 2001 impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada that was marred by the walkout of the prosecution — with the presiding officer, then Chief Justice Hilario Davide, doing nothing to stop it.

This time, Enrile ordered the exits barred and sent the sergeant-at-arms to bring back Corona. They caught up with him in the basement where his Suburban van was waiting with motor running.

Having been found by a doctor to be suffering from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), he was brought back in a wheelchair minus his jacket and tie. But Enrile reset the hearing to the next day.

* * *

SOLILOQUY: Enrile warned defense lawyers, who claimed they did not expect that ugly turn of events, that he would order Corona’s three-hour testimony – a soliloquy – stricken off if their client did not return.

Pleading that no disrespect was intended, the lawyers used the reported hypoglycemia as the reason for Corona’s behavior. Corona was given a chance to redeem himself by appearing the next day (Wednesday).

But his chief counsel Serafin Cuevas informed the court yesterday that Corona was still in the hospital and was mentally and physically unable to testify.

Enrile gave the defense until Friday to present Corona. If they fail to do that, he added, the case will be deemed submitted for resolution.

* * *

$10-M HOARD DEBUNKED: Even if just half of Corona’s testimony about his dollar accounts is true, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales should consider resigning.

After the Chief Justice used Morales’ own PowerPoint pie chart to destroy her claim that he was hiding 82 US dollar accounts with some $10 million in them, not much was left of her collection of unverified information.

It turned out Corona was just rolling over his dollar placements. But every time he did that, the Anti-Money Laundering Council recorded it as a new account. The Ombudsman picked this up without verifying.

This has resulted in multiple accounts and the erroneous adding up of the same amounts into a bloated total. That is, if Corona was telling the truth.

* * *

EXAGGERATION: The exaggeration of neutral data is so characteristic of the Yellow Army that resorts to overkill in its demolition jobs.

This recalls President Aquino’s schoolmate running the Land Registration Authority who cranked out a list of 45 alleged real property of Corona. When challenged, the list shrunk to just four.

If the Chief Justice is guilty of some horrible crimes and there is evidence to prove it, as claimed, why do his detractors still resort to vengeful and hateful character assassination? It is cruel.

* * *

GREAT LEVELER: But my biggest applause last Tuesday went to Corona’s challenge for Drilon and the gang of 188 congressmen to sign also a uniform waiver allowing scrutiny of their bank accounts, real property and other valuable holdings.

Such a waiver will be the great leveler. Officials who refuse to sign the waiver should resign.

To quibble that it is Corona and not them being impeached is cowardly evasion of the question of whether they as public officials deserve public trust.

Intent to evade accountability, btw, is reflected in the administration’s dragging its feet on the Freedom of Information Bill while looking for a way to water it down.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 24, 2012)

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