POSTSCRIPT / May 29, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Impeachment raises a Sign-a-Waiver call

CALL FOR WAIVER: The impeachment case of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona has grown bigger than the accused in the dock and his accusers in the Palace and the House of Representatives.

And providently so, since this bruised nation must find a high ground where it can repair and find renewal in the midst of moral decay in the bureaucracy as noted by the US Department of State.

A public now impatient with the pot calling the kettle black is demanding that government officials, especially those involved in the Corona trial, open their real property records and bank deposits to reasonable scrutiny.

The call for a Sign-a-Waiver is being made in the spirit of accountability and transparency, two central issues raised in the impeachment trial.

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SUMMARY: The summation yesterday of both sides in the five-month-old trial was generally that – a summation.

It was not expected to bring out fresh facts or novel arguments that would reverse the verdict already playing in the minds of most of the 23 senator-judges.

Let us quit playing to the gallery or seeking media exposure — and decide without further delay whether Corona is guilty or innocent as charged. Let us make a quick decision on whether he should stay as Chief Justice or go down in disgrace.

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CRITICS BALKED: A waiver, like the one signed unconditionally by the Chief Justice last Friday, will boost the anti-corruption campaign of President Noynoy Aquino by helping expose unexplained wealth of officials.

It is ironic that President Aquino, who made a campaign promise for full disclosure and transparency, and his Cabinet now refuse to sign a similar waiver of the protective secrecy of their bank deposits.

Corona had challenged the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment charges and Sen. Franklin Drilon, widely perceived as helping prosecute the case, to issue a waiver. The senator and most of the congressmen refused.

Malacañang and the prosecution have been taunting Corona to sign a waiver. But when he did and challenged them to do the same, they balked.

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S.C. EXAMPLE: As the President, his Cabinet and his runners in the House of Representatives temporized, the Supreme Court has taken the moral high ground on the matter of transparency.

Early Sunday, four SC associate justices made it known that they were ready to sign a waiver following their Chief’s opening his peso and dollar bank accounts to scrutiny.

The justices were identified as Arturo D. Brion, Roberto A. Abad, Martin S. Villarama Jr. and Jose P. Perez.

One is wont to ask why Executive officials, if they have nothing to hide, refuse to open up in the same spirit of accountability and transparency that the President has been preaching?

They do not want to appear making a forced move? Or are some of them still studying what to do with their bank deposits before signing a waiver?

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EARLY SIGNERS: Aside from the four justices mentioned, several congressmen were reported as saying they were willing and ready to sign.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who might run for reelection in 2013, was reported as challenging government officials on all levels to sign a Corona-like waiver. He got no positive response.

Among the lawmakers who reportedly said they were ready to sign were: Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, Cebu Reps. Rachel del Mar, Ben Hur Salimbangon, and Gabriel Luis Quisumbing, Ilocos Sur Rep. Ryan Singson, Kalinga party-list Rep. Abigail Faye Ferriols, ACT party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, and APEC party-list Rep. Ponciano Payuyo.

The militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno also supported Corona’s challenge to lawmakers to sign a waiver. KMU chair Elmer Labog said their members wanted Drilon, a former labor secretary, and the 188 congressmen to open their bank accounts.

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COMMON STEP: Imagine the impact of having President Aquino, the Chief Justice, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte signing a common waiver on their bank deposits in the interest of good government!

It is high time that top officials of the co-equal branches of government demonstrated that while there are checks and balances among them, they are one on the matter of accountability.

Respected members of the private sector may want to step forward and help our political leaders make this first common step toward honesty in government by signing a waiver.

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EMBARRASSING: Is President Aquino hesitant to possibly put in an embarrassing situation some members of his official family who have large sums stashed in the bank?

In the interest of transparency and good government, he can talk to those who might be uncomfortable being scrutinized about leaving the kitchen if they cannot stand the heat.

It is also possible that Mr. Aquino does not want to appear subscribing to an idea first broached by his pet peeve the Chief Justice. There is nothing we can do about the time sequence, but we hope he can ignore that.

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CONVICTION VOTES: It is also conceivable that the idea of having the President follow the Chief Justice’s example being absurd if Corona would be removed anyway at the conclusion of the impeachment trial.

Some Malacañang insiders have confided to friends that the administration already had as of last week 18 senators minded to convict Corona.

Assuming that is true and that, say, two of those senators change their mind after yesterday’s summation, that would still mean 16 votes left, which is the minimum two-thirds vote required by the Constitution for conviction of an impeached official.

This is, of course, counting the chicks before they are hatched.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 29, 2012)

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