Sunday, May 20, 2012

Corona Trial 3: Impeachment, the Senate and the Supreme Court

I personally believe that Chief Justice (CJ) Corona is corrupt, he should have resigned early on. Or he should have not accepted in the first place, the offer of being a CJ during the last few weeks of the Gloria government. But government being an institution of coercion, is full of hypocrisy, both the accused and the accusers have dirt in their hands. Nonetheless, the impeachment proceedings are going along the rule of law, the law as stipulated in the 1987 constitution.

If he is not corrupt, he should have volunteered to face the impeachment court even on Day 1 of the Senate trial. If someone will accuse me of being a theft or corrupt or what have you, I will challenge that person to a public debate or trial not a month or a week from now, but right there and then. People who are evasive and most likely guilty of corruption, would buy time, employ all forms of legal technicalities to delay or even duck personal appearance, showing cowardice in a highly charged impeachment trial. He was forced to announce an appearance only after the damaging testimony of the Ombudsman.

The discovery of his huge dollar accounts that were not reflected in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) is now a big proof of his dishonesty. Private citizens have the right to privacy like keeping huge dollar accounts, true. But public officials are not private citizens. No one put a gun on their head to join government, they entered the service on their own, voluntarily. Thus, the law on transparency of public officials should apply to them, ALL of them, from local to national government officials and personnel.

If one is already rich and has joined the government, then one should declare those wealth, say a billion pesos networth. After his term and the networth is slightly bigger than the original amount, no one can accuse that official of enriching himself while in government, because the public is aware that he was already rich before joining the government.

Thus, even if Corona has only US$ 1,000 in his foreign currency accounts, he still should have declared it in his SALN. By hiding it, is additional proof that he indeed cheated on his SALN. A cheater on small things can be a cheater on big things, and he is the CJ of the Supreme Court, the last bastion in society to promulgate the rule of law.

Private intrusion of public officials' lives is limited to what are provided in existing laws. Like the law on mandatory declaration of SALN each year. If someone will demand that the SALN of official X is questionable for whatever reason or purpose, then such SALN should be readily available, no presumption of guilt yet.

If one is rich and does not want his/her wealth to become a public commodity someday, then he/she should not join the government. If there is low supply of qualified people to head certain bureaucracies for fear of such public scrutiny, then well and good, we can start abolishing some agencies and we also start reducing if not abolishing certain taxes that finance those agencies.

Meanwhile, I like this article by Peter Wallace....

It’s all about morality

Posted  by  & filed under Opinion.

I was at the Supreme Court before Holy Week and was horrified to see huge “campaign” banners proclaiming SC personnel’s support for Corona. It looked like campaign headquarters, not a nation’s Supreme Court. These are people who are supposed to take no sides, to be completely dispassionate and make no judgments outside what the court decides. It may be that it’s not only Corona who doesn’t have the moral character for the position, but the whole court. Is it why there are close to 8,000 pending cases in that court? Is it why cases in the courts under its control can linger longer than the sentence that would be imposed IF people incarcerated in jails awaiting trial are found guilty? Is it why the alleged (I must say that according to the lawyers) murderers of 57 people can be in a court for two years and four months with no progress on the trial at all? Yet a former president, a friend of the court, can get an inconsequential, in comparison, a temporary restraining order issued in hours.

It seems Corona was right on one thing, this is not an attack against him, as a person, but the Judiciary as a whole. Given this disgraceful exhibition on the front of the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines, the court as a whole should indeed be under investigation. This is partisan politics of the worst kind. If Corona is found guilty simple logic says they should go too. Or don’t court employers do Logic 101, let alone courses on morality, decency and polite social behavior?

When a man can accept an appointment with glaringly obvious political motives from a leader who will no longer be there, and nine of 15 Supreme Court justices can agree it’s OK, then the moral fabric of Philippine society is indeed in tatters.

It’s time for a complete shakeup of the Philippine court system in its entirety, not just removal of one man. Let’s hope this is the catalyst for that.

The Dalai Lama said “there is no religion higher than truth”. Corona and his lawyers might want to reflect on this. They should be wanting to expose the truth, not hide through obfuscation as has been their want to date. The Dalai Lama added, “What really is important to me is your behavior in front of your peers, family, work, community, and in front of the world”. And Corona might want to add “in front of his god”. Does he have the clear conscience God will expect?

The acceptance of a midnight appointment was behavior unbecoming of a Chief Justice of a nation. For that reason alone, he is unsuitable. An honorable man would have politely declined and left it to the incoming leader to make the choice. He failed to meet the high moral standards demanded of a Chief Justice. If he were an honorable man, as he claims, he would save the nation from all this divisiveness and dissension, and resign. That he doesn’t is another reason he’s unsuitable.

The nine 9 justices who declared the midnight appointment as constitutional should also be impeached. Better yet, they should resign in shame. They have brought shame to this society dismissing morality so cavalierly, so loosely. They should have spent the Lenten break reflecting on what Christ taught about the absolute importance of morality in society.

I’ve read an argument that public opinion doesn’t matter, and that the senators should ignore it in their judgment of Corona. But it does matter, the people must have faith and confidence in their court system, and particularly in the Supreme Court. More particularly in the head of that court. If the people no longer trust him he cannot function and he brings the whole court into question. Whatever the Senate decides he can no longer lead the court.

Corona must resign for the stability of the Judiciary. The very fact that he already hasn’t given all the controversy is itself reason he’s unsuited for the position. His ambition (evident in his acceptance of a midnight appointment) overrides his conduct as a gentleman. He may be as innocent as hell (a carefully chosen word) but no legal chicanery to claim him so will be accepted. This is a reality his lawyers might want to ponder.

Speaking of legal chicanery, how can the defense claim that it will prove Corona’s wealth was not ill-gotten (a newspaper report) when it was the defense that blocked investigation into the source of his wealth at the beginning of the trial because it “wasn’t in the articles of impeachment”. It wasn’t because its existence wasn’t known at the time the articles were prepared. Once uncovered, of course the source should be investigated as it’s very, very relevant to his honesty, or otherwise. His dollar accounts must be opened. But it doesn’t matter how much is in them, they weren’t listed at all in his SALN. That alone makes him guilty.

The President seems hell-bent in reforming the judicial system. I support that, as well as his single-minded focus on Corona as a start of this reform. Someone has to do it.

This is not a legal case. It is a test of the moral fiber of the nation.

See also:
Corona Trial 1: Impeaching the SC Chief Justice, December 13, 2011
Corona Trial 2: Impeachment for Beginners, December 14, 2011
Weekend Fun 29: Corona Impeachment Cartoons, March 02, 2012

Rule of Law 12: Gloria Arroyo, Travel Abroad and the SC, November 16, 2011

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