• Corona’s case a top priority for the next President

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    AS President B. S. Aquino 3rd prepares to end his term, he is doing everything to make sure he is succeeded by his chosen successor and that only the best things are said about him and his failed regime after he leaves office. But the untimely death of the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose impeachment and removal Aquino had procured with official bribes in 2011-2012, seems to make sure that history will accurately record his dark despotic rule instead.

    If elections are held on May 9 as scheduled, and the voters become aware of the issues involved, a reexamination of Corona’s impeachment and removal could adversely affect the chances of Aquino’s candidates.

    We have learned from family related sources that when Corona died of cardiac arrest last Friday at 67, he had just finished working on a draft petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court, to nullify the impeachment proceedings and set aside all the effects and consequences thereof, for being in gross violation of the Constitution and the Senate Rules of Impeachment, among others.

    Brion’s revelation
    And at necrological rites on Sunday evening by members of the Fraternal Order of Utopia, the Ateneo law fraternity of which Corona was the president in 1972-1973, we learned some of the more repugnant hitherto unpublished details of Aquino’s bullying of Corona, prior to his impeachment and removal. In his brief remarks, Supreme Court Justice Arturo Brion, a Utopian, revealed that before the wicked ax actually fell, Corona was served an ultimatum—resign and take a lesser job or face Malacañang’s wrath.

    This came presumably after the Dec. 6, 2011 National Criminal Justice Summit hosted by the Supreme Court at the Manila Hotel, where Aquino publicly insulted his host. This was the last such incident where Aquino abused the Chief Justice; the first incident, of course, was when he took his oath as President and asked Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, instead of Corona, to administer, and refused to acknowledge his presence at all during his inaugural speech. He would appoint Carpio Morales as Ombudsman later, and use her at Corona’s impeachment trial.

    Brion, who said he continued to regard the deceased as Chief Justice rather than as “former Chief Justice,” told a large gathering of Utopians come to pay their final respects to their “Brod,” that one day Corona came to see him in his office—something he had not done before—to tell him that he was being pressured to resign, and threatened with impeachment and removal, if he did not quit. He spoke with a heavy heart, but his words were all about the Judiciary rather than about himself. What would happen to its integrity and independence, which he valued as dearly as his life? He decided to resist Aquino, even though he was almost sure he would lose.

    And so it came to pass.

    Impeachment background
    On Dec. 12, 2011, 188 congressmen signed eight Articles of Impeachment against Corona, without reading and verifying the “verified” complaint.

    On Jan. 16, 2012, the Senate convened as an impeachment court with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile presiding, and commenced trial. The prosecution panel, headed by the House committee of justice chair Neil Tupas, seemed ill-prepared.

    Charges dropped
    On Feb. 29, 2012, the prosecution withdrew five of the eight charges for lack of evidence. Of the three remaining, the prosecution focused on Article II, which referred to Corona’s alleged failure to disclose his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth to the public. This was not, and still is not, an impeachable offense.

    The trial proceeded with some of the senator-judges acting more like prosecutors and browbeating witnesses, to which however the defense counsel was not allowed to object. The prosecution also presented illegally procured evidence, which the court routinely admitted.

    Browbeating witness
    One blatant example of browbeating a witness involved the Supreme Court Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal, who was subpoenaed to bring copies of Corona’s SALNs to the Senate court. After the prosecution had completed its questioning and the Presiding Officer had ordered the witness discharged, Senator-Judge Franklin Drilon asked to be allowed certain “clarificatory” questions.

    The witness had told the impeachment court that under an en banc SC resolution, the release of SALNs of justices and judges was subject to certain guidelines, but that she had asked the Court to authorize release of Corona’s SALNs, as requested by the impeachment court. She was, therefore, waiting for the SC to approve her request.

    This seemed good enough for the official prosecutors, but not for this prosecutor-judge. Drilon pointed out that the impeachment court had ordered the witness to produce the documents, so whether or not the Supreme Court authorized her to do so, she must bring them to the impeachment court.

    The power of the impeachment court, he said, was not subordinate to that of the Supreme Court. When the late former SC Justice Serafin Cuevas as lead defense counsel objected, Drilon said, “the Counsel is overdoing it. He is objecting to the question of a judge.”

    Drilon maintained that same line, which seemed to suggest that the custodian of the SC documents was free to dispose of them as she liked or as instructed by another court. In the end Vidal, who had in fact brought the documents with her, had to yield.

    A royal example
    Obviously neither Drilon nor Vidal had heard of what happened in the English Parliament on Jan. 4,1642, when King Charles stormed inside the House of Commons, sat on the Speaker’s chair and demanded that the Speaker yield to the Crown five members who were wanted for treason.

    Whereupon the Speaker, the King’s loyal servant, fell on his knees and said: “May it please Your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.” This compelled the King to leave the House in peace. In the case of Drilon, he seemed more powerful than Charles, and Vidal much weaker than the Speaker of the House.

    I witnessed the proceedings from the front row of the gallery from the very first day of the trial. At one point, I had an unfortunate exchange with my friend Drilon, who challenged me to join the defense panel if I could not stand his acting like a member of the prosecution.

    Book project
    I had intended to write a book on this impeachment, just as I had written a big book on Estrada’s impeachment—-A Nation on Fire: the Unmaking of Joseph Ejercito Estrada and the Remaking of Democracy in the Philippines. But I had to leave the trial before it ended for a speaking engagement at the World Congress of Families in Madrid and for the World Meeting of Families with Pope Benedict XVI in Milan. So I missed the end when all justice and decency broke down.

    This happened on May 29, 2012. By a vote of 20 to three, the Senate impeachment court convicted the respondent Chief Justice guilty of Article II, without passing judgment on the two other charges.

    Questionable ruling
    On the same date, Enrile formally informed the Supreme Court that the Senate impeachment trial had convicted Corona, without however stating the law which was violated, and the facts of the case.

    Section 14, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution provides that, “No decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based.”

    This decision was a complete shock to me. Many of those who had voted to convict Corona had been my colleagues in the Senate and the Executive Department for years; their role in Corona’s political destruction convinced me that any book I wrote on the impeachment would not leave me a single Senate “friend” standing. So I decided to put the project on hold; it remains on hold until now.

    Bribery exposed
    On Sept. 25, 2013, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada confirmed what I had learned before. He revealed in a privilege speech that 19 of the 20 senator-judges who had voted to convict Corona subsequently received P50 million or more each, with then- Finance Committee chairman and now Senate President Drilon receiving P100 million, Francis Escudero, who is now running for vice president, receiving P98 million, and Enrile, P92 million.

    From the unjust Corona impeachment and removal have cascaded all the evils that have wrecked our constitutional, political and moral order. Corona’s removal put a “rat”, as it were, inside the chest of the Justices, (like Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984), and made them, except for the most virtuous and heroic, susceptible to intimidation and manipulation by the President. Thus, nine of the 15 Justices could rule that the Commission on Elections had no authority to rule on the qualifications of a former American citizen of no known biological parentage who wants to become the President, and that such an individual is indeed “qualified” to run for President.

    Controlling Congress
    This also put the Congress under Aquino’s thumb, if not inside his pocket. He has since usurped the Congress’ power of the purse, and now dictates that his budgetary proposals shall be passed without any amendments from the constitutional department with the originally authority to tax and appropriate. He has likewise usurped the authority of the Senate to concur in the ratification of treaties, and downgraded the most important defense and security treaties that need popular consent into mere executive agreements.

    Our great democratic allies, who go around the world bringing down unwanted regimes, do not give a damn, so long as they get what they want from our local despot.

    In a rare act of courage, the High Court could declare the P150-billion DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) unconstitutional, but the Executive and the Congress are free to ignore the ruling, and find themselves under no obligation to comply, even when subjected to a “mandamus.”

    Corona’s prayer
    At the time of his death, Corona was preparing an 81-page petition which would show that the “decision” of the Senate impeachment court was void for being violative of the Constitution and the Senate Rules of Impeachment, and for having been tainted with bribery; that the alleged deficiencies in his SALNs did not constitute an impeachable offense; that there was collusion between the prosecution and the senator-judges; that the impeachment court violated not only his constitutional rights but also other laws like the Foreign Currency Act; that it committed a grave abuse of discretion for admitting hearsay evidence and for not protecting him from trial by publicity.

    He wanted to ask the Supreme Court to nullify the entire impeachment proceedings and all the effects thereof; reverse and set aside the Senate impeachment court which pronounced his conviction and removal from office without stating its legal and factual bases; nullify the appointments of Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Marvic Leonen as Chief Justice and Associate Justice respectively of the Supreme Court; and reinstate him as Chief Justice.

    Now that Corona is gone, there is no longer a principal affected party who was illegally impeached and removed and should be reinstated; but the grave injury to the Constitution, the Supreme Court and the public interest remains. Whoever becomes the next President by June 30 should make it his primary duty to make sure this grave injury is adequately redressed.

    fstatad@gmail.com

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    28 Comments

    1. P.Akialamiro on

      I followed the case against CJ Corona. He was removed because of politics. Those who are and were pawns of BS Aquin are ALL corrupt and should be ashamed of themselves, led by the “dis-honorable” Senate President. Whether we believe it or not, all of them will suffer the same wrath they have caused, one way or another. They, too, will face their creator. May their tribe NOT flourish!

    2. wolfgang Struck on

      Whatever they say, this is Tatad’s best by far. Thank you, Sir!

    3. It must be remembered that the reason aquino wanted corona to be impeached after he refused to resign was because of the decision of the supreme court on the Hacienda Luisita that it will be land reformed.

    4. Duterte and Binay should start talking and forge an agreement to serve this country with
      the best interest of Protecting our Constitution and the Justice System .
      This is the Illusive Unity needed to heal our Nation!

    5. What a sad story not only Chief Justice Corona and the nation. We hope that through this article the people will be enlightened and elect the best presidential candidate this coming May 9 elections. May I humbly suggest for the readers to vote for Miriam Santiago. She is the only candidate that has an intact moral integrity and a clear platform of governance. Let us save our nation otherwise who else can?

    6. the jailing of sexy, pogi and tanda is called karma. sa talino ni tanda naisahan sya ng mga intellectual pygmies na sina bento boy sisi at lolong. kung kailan tatamaan ng karma si benito boy sisi, moral less at serena, yan ang ating abangan.
      on a side note, do not forget the names of re-electionist senators and those running for other posts who got DAPped by benito boy sisi and abadingding. per records, they are drilon P100M, escudero P98M, guingona, sotto, cayetano siblings, pimentel, osmena, pangilinan, recto, legarda, villar, lapid. tanda got P92M but he is not running for any office. YOU CAN STOP THEM from further misuse of our taxes by not voting for them.

    7. The senator judges convicted CJ Corona for filing an incorrect SALN. Radio and TV should replay their verdicts on the case , before the May 9 elections, preferably the ones who are running for re-election especially Drilon …….

    8. that’s why liberal party should not be given another opportunity to weigh in their viciousness this coming election….

    9. Duterte is right then to say that if congress will not cooperate to his program for reforms when he becomes president, he will abolish congress (house of respresentatives and senate). Isn’t that what is exactly we have in mind after they railroaded the corona impeachment? Then why is it that now that there is a name and a face, to say it for us, some people are alarmed or felt jittery.

      We have to seize the moment. and this is it.

    10. Cesar Francisco Jr. on

      one of the biggest cover up they want to maintain.. that’s probably why they are doing everything to go against Duterte, even to the extent of making alliance with other president candidates..

    11. So many law breakers and violators were produced by the voters. TONGgresmen, senaTONGStook a lot of tax payers money just to impeach C.J. Corona. What a waste, and seems they don’t care specially this CROOK PRESIDENT AND CABINET MEMBERS. They laugh the people who voted them. They fed their families from a dirty money given this ABNORMAL PRESIDENT. I could not forgive this PORKY drullion, he was laughing during the investigation of C.J. CORONA. And those senaTONGS trying to be a good lawmakers but not, what in their mind is the money offered by ABNOY.

    12. i completely agree with sen. tatad but whose to blame with all the craziness that happening within the three branches of our government no other else but ourselves for electing and still electing those “honorable” individuals that we become the mockery in the entire planet

    13. Leodegardo Pruna on

      I completely agree with Sen. Kit. The “Rule of Law and Due Process” were whimsically violated by this administration and its cohorts. And, in a democracy which we still believe in, they should be reconstituted and vigilantly observed and respected if the nation is to regain its true freedom. God save the Philippines. God bless the Philippines.

    14. Surely it deserves attention but top priority? Higher than crime, poverty, corruption, economic growth, infrastructure, slow justice system, west Philippine sea row with China, AMLA, etcetera.? It will be good if Mr. Tatad makes a list of the top 10 or 20 priorities the next president should focus on and see what ramking he will give to the Corona issue. Higher than the Supreme Court issue on Grace Poe?

      • CJ Corona’s Impeachment encompasses many crimes against the people and the nation. Crime, corruption, the complete disregard for the very constitution that the people in charge currently swore to uphold, not to mention the great injustice done to the Former Chief Justice, destroying his dignity and all that he had worked so hard to build. Tell me, is there no more important thing than to bring justice to the people who tried to destroy our government by imposing their own wants and will over the rule of law? How can we address the other problems that our country faces if we continue to let these kinds of people run our government? By solving this issue, we expose the people who have eroded our government system, and so allow the government and the constitution to properly rule.

    15. Conchita Morales was bitchy during the impeachment trial. I hate that lady for demonizing Corona.

    16. Why do so many reporters for the manila times want corona’s conviction quashed. I remember reading he tried a woman for not declaring her measly earnings from a small sari sari store on her saln. She was sacked from her job lost all her benefits & banned from ever working at all with the government. She wasnt hiding P180,000,000. He was, she wasnt rich, he was. It seems there is a rule for the rich which is different for the poor. How many times did you & or still do criticise corona & or the system for punishing her so badly. Not a single once is the answer. You & your kind make me sick. Listen corona was a crook, he had ill gotten money that he tried to hide so as not to pay taxes on it & not to get in any trouble because of it. He deserved what her got, if he had been an honest man he probably would still be chief justice today.
      Just one last thing, when he ( corona ) was given the floor to speak in court he produced not 1 single piece of evidence to show that money was legit, he just spent 2 or 3 hours telling us all how good a religious man he was & how frugal he & hs wife had been all their lives. Well i didnt want to hear a cock & bull story i wanted to hear evidence from him, but not 1 single piece of evidence did he or anyone produce for him. He should have been in jail not free to live a good life. & you in your position should be speaking up against crooks like corona

      • check you fact Mr. the lady in question was removed from her job in a local court not on only f not declaring a truthfull SALN but for double compensation . She also worked in a Treasury office in an LGU while employed with the DOJ. SO she was charges with double compensation . . a serious offense

      • Rey Corona on

        That woman you are talking about, I think her name is Delsa Flores, was punished not just because of her failure to “declare her measly earnings from a small sari sari store on her saln”. Rather she was found guilty of receiving double compensation from the government. The court found her as employee of a local government unit (Panabo City) where he lives and of a local court (as RTC interpreter). Btw, he was not tried by CJ Corona. The decision of the Supreme Court is collegial. One last thing the late CJ Corona was not a crook. If you know him better sana.

      • Daniel B. Laurente on

        You most probably missed the point Mr. Tatad’s driving at.. He is not citing priority but it is most needed to restore integrity into our Republican System.

      • be that as it may. why was there a need to bribe the senators to convict corona, and all those charges were dropped except the SALN issue. So that is the kind of legislators we have- corrupt! and a president who is using the presidency for his own personal vendeta. You pity the woman who you said has a sari sari store who was removed from employment because of not declaring it on his SALN? Any ordinary employee in the government like me will meet the same administrative feat if you do not abide by the law. The impeachment of corona shows the despicableness of those called honorables who received bribe money.

    17. Is it a coincidence that frank and Manong are members of the same fraternity and so is Sal, mentioned in Bobi’s column of today? Yet, even with this column of Kit, I don’t think that it is proper for me to speculate that the impeachment proceeding of Mr. Renato was just a zarzuela of the fraternity with the sitting judge, a prosecutorial senator-judge and a prosecution member all being members of the same fraternity – a fraternity which was co-opted by a barbarian in the name of beneegno. With Sal’s legal talent altogether, it seems that the fraternity has produced people who have failed to live up to being seekers of the right.

    18. Girlie Bebbeb on

      I hope that all those wicked people in the Philippine government will be wipe out.

    19. It seems duterte is our only hope this time. What they did to duterte now is similar to what they did to Corona.

      • Al Vitorillo on

        Yes the same strategy is applied. Numerous list of accusations; Press release. Surely it’s only one head and financer. Wost, it is the people’s money. In Corona’s case the barker was Drilon. Now is Trillanes. Puro mangwartahay.