• A flawed justice system

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    A year after he was removed from office for lying in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth, former Chief Justice Renato Corona is living the life of a gentleman. He is taking leisurely lunches with friends and admirers, spending time in the gym and—we didn’t know he was musically inclined—honing his skills at the piano.

    Good for him. But what about us ordinary mortals? A woman could draw a five-year prison sentence for shoplifting a can of milk for her starving baby.

    Make no mistake about it. What Mr. Corona did was a serious crime. During the Senate impeachment trial, he was found to have been in possession of assets that surpassed his legal salary a thousand fold, and that, the law maintains, is prima facie evidence of illegally acquired wealth. And such wealth could only be the result of graft and corruption or, to be brutal about it, thievery in the government.

    Now, consider the petty criminals who are doing time in the national penitentiary or awaiting trial in detention centers. The crime committed by a swindler—to name just one example—is very similar to the charges being prepared against the former chief justice. If there is a difference, it is in degree not in kind.

    For all we know, Mr. Corona is innocent, but to find that out he must be made to answer the charges against him in a court of law. The trouble is that the Ombudsman, upon whose shoulder Mr. Corona’s prosecution rests, cannot make any significant headway because the Supreme Court has not released the relevant documents. And it has been a year since the request was made.

    It is thus understandable that the public assumes that Mr. Corona’s former colleagues in the Supreme Court are protecting him. The perception is that they are making it difficult, if not impossible, for the Ombudsman to proceed with the case. They too could be in the same fix someday, so better go easy on the man.

    Meanwhile, an agency attached to the Department of Agriculture has announced that Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc., has been blacklisted. The NGO defrauded the government of P194.97 million, and all it got was a blacklist mark as punishment? The people behind this outrage must be charged with plunder instead.

    The Agriculture agency must also be made to answer for the crime. It is that agency that funneled the Priority Development Assistance Fund of three senators, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr, and a congressman, Rene Velarde of Buhay Party-list, to certain companies, also spurious, ostensibly for the purchase of farm implements and fertilizers.

    It would be a good idea to find out how these lawmakers fell for the scheme. A politician funds the construction of a basketball court or a waiting shed, and he or she announces it for the whole world to know. These four gentlemen signed away tens of millions of pesos each from their pork barrel and forgot all about it.

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