Defending the law in our time of lawlessness

6

IT was shameless. After opposing Chief Justice Renato Corona’s appointment, then dispensing with the tradition of having the CJ administer his oath of office, President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III asked a favor from the man he disdained.

Advertisements

Just weeks after his inauguration, Aquino spoke with Corona at a close family member’s home, according to an unimpeachable source present at the meeting. There the Chief Executive conveyed his request to the Chief Justice regarding his Cojuangco clan’s Supreme Court petition against the redistribution of Hacienda Luisita.

In 2005, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) under Aquino’s predecessor Gloria Arroyo had ordered the 6,453-hectare sugar plantation parceled out. The Department of Agrarian Reform recommended redistribution after finding that the alternative land reform scheme using shares of stock did not benefit Luisita’s 6,296 landless farmers.

One-and-a-half years later, in Nov. 2011, the Supreme Court decided in a 14-0 vote to redistribute. The Cojuangco elders were said to have been livid, with one lamenting that after holding onto the land through the Marcos regime, they would lose it under their own flesh and blood.

Soon after the Luisita decision, Aquino lambasted Corona in a criminal justice summit in Malacañang. A week later, congressmen receiving pork barrel funds signed the Articles of Impeachment against the Chief Justice, many of them never reading the eight charges. Amid even bigger largesse, including the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program, 20 senator-judges convicted Corona in May 2012.

Then followed years of prosecution on tax charges, which took their toll on his health. His pains finally ended two Fridays ago on April 29 when his heart failed at age 67. Thus, Corona, interred yesterday, paid the price of defending justice, the rule of law and the national interest against the powers that be.

The courage of Corona

In our time of escalating lawlessness, the nation and our institutions of democracy and justice owe CJ Corona and his family a debt of gratitude for their sacrifices for the Republic, democratic institutions, justice and progress until his last breath.

First and foremost, Corona stood up for the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary against the collusion and bullying by its two co-equal branches. And this judicial independence was best shown under his watch in the 2011 unanimous High Court decision affirming the PARC’s redistribution order for Hacienda Luisita, advancing the rights and welfare of the poor against profiteering landlords.

In the Palace-orchestrated reprisal, Corona fulfilled the imperative for national leaders to maintain dignity and statesmanship even in the face of ruthless, mindless politicking and character assassination.

The CJ also exemplified transparency and accountability in facing senator-judges and accusers at his impeachment trial, despite unashamed partisanship, anomalous trial procedures, and unlawful presidential interference.

Lastly, the Chief Justice and his family together upheld the paramount value of family oneness and love, facing their trials together and giving full support to one another, especially Corona himself in his sacrifice for justice and democracy.
Justice for the people

Supreme Court opinions Corona penned since joining the bench in 2002 evinced a deep regard for human rights in a democracy. In his dissenting opinion in Raul Lambino vs. the Commission on Elections, which blocked the 2007 people’s initiative to amend the Constitution, Corona stood by the people’s right to propose charter change as “an exercise of ‘direct democracy’ as opposed to ‘representative democracy.’ ”

Religious freedom also gained. In Dominador Taruc et al. vs. Bishop Porfirio de la Cruz, Justice Corona argued that “it is not for the courts to exercise control over church authorities in the performance of their … functions.”

And in Islamic Da’Wah Council of the Philippines vs. Executive Secretary, the justice likewise rejected state encroachment upon “the religious freedom of Muslim organizations to interpret for Filipino Muslims what food products are fit.”

Justice Corona also embraced a deep understanding of the delicate balance among co-equal branches of government. In his separate concurring opinion in Romulo Neri vs. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers, Justice Corona made the following statements—which have turned out to be prophetic in the last several years:

“The hands that wield the power of legislative investigations are powerful…[The respondent Senate] Committee disregarded the procedural safeguards purportedly in the name of truth and good governance. In so doing, they dealt a devious blow … on our cherished traditions of liberty.”

Those statements were made in defense of executive prerogative. Little did Corona know that the warning over congressional abuse would apply to his beloved Judiciary, as well as his own good name, against Executive-Legislative attack.

Serving in suffering

Many probably believe Corona’s impeachment travails ended his contributions to national advancement, democracy and justice. In fact, it marked his most important achievement in his principled struggle.

For in the fight to uphold justice, democracy and the rights and welfare of the marginalized, the hardest test is having to sacrifice position, prestige, privilege and personal finances for the often thankless, losing battle against gargantuan elite forces.

In their suffering all the way to and beyond his illness and death, Corona and his family sacrificed and endured so much, even as most Filipinos hardly took notice, and many even maligned the CJ and his brood.

But such suffering is inevitable in any struggle for truth, justice and right. By undergoing those trials, the Coronas showed Filipinos who care about those ideals the high price of such lofty principles, and the courage we must muster to uphold them.

And only by witnessing Corona and other brave, longsuffering martyrs to the cause of justice and right can the rest of us be stirred to join the struggle, even at the cost of our own fame, fortune, comfort and security.

So it has always been in the history of great ideals in the march of human civilization, from the execution of early Christians to the sacrifice of 44 police commandos defending the Republic in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Thus, we mourn Renato Corona’s passing and salute his sacrifice. God rest his soul.

Share.
loading...
Loading...

Please follow our commenting guidelines.

6 Comments

  1. I do not question the patriotism and judicial dedication of CJ R. Corona to the rule of law and his principle to uphold the independence of each branch of government (jududiciary, legislative and executive). However, as a Chief Justice, Corona lacked the legal strategy to confront the challenges by other two branches by yielding to their demand to take the witness stand and tell the truth about his bank accounts (including his dollar deposit) despite the strict legal confidentiality of such deposits. The demand was a cover up to cajol him to shed his constitutional immunity against “self-incrimination”, which Corona could have had constitutionally invoked. Had Corona done so and refused and resisted the Senate-Court superficial encouragement to testify and act credibly, Corona could have used this defense to defend against his conviction by claiming that the impeachment court “acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction” by using his alleged false SALN as the basis of the conviction supposed without his testimony was just presumptions but not factual. Hence, Corona could have appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court which could have created a constitutional crisis between the judiciary and legislature. The Supreme Court could have rule that without Corona’s consent to open his dollar account protected by strict secrecy, there will be no factual basis of the impeachment court conviction. Thus, it will amount an acquittal as it does vacate the conviction. As Chief Justice, Corona as the respondent could have argued “strict bank deposit confidentiality” as protected by law and cannot be impinged since no grounds were advance that will allow bank deposit examination without depositors consent. This challenged anchoring on respondents rights against sel-incrimination could have ultimately utilized as a legal argument to parry conviction based solely on presumption of filing false SALN, which could have been corrected also during the trial without Corona’s yielding to take the witness stand and testify, after all the impeachment article did not include and assert “graft and unexplained wealth” against him to permit opening of bank accounts without consent.
    With Corona refusing to heed the advise of his counsel, Serafin Cuevas not to take the witness stand to testify, Corona opened the flood-gates of public opinion to,divulge his bank accounts and ultimately used as weapon to put a dagger of conviction on his back. Corona’s appearance was more an appeal to emotions rather than to plead self-incrimination which he waived when he took the witness stand. He lost the strategy to appeal the conviction since revelations of his hiding his bank deposit and not included in his SALN, proved fatal,to,fis case. The rest is a shameful,history as the first Justice, in fact a CJ at that, convicted for impeachment removed and forever disqualified to hold public office. So Corona stepped down the Justice Hall as a disgraced Chief Justice for lack of strategic legal acumen to confront the xecutive and legislative branches.
    The irony of it all was that after his conviction Senator Estrada revealed a. Hideous scheme of Pnoy that the justices of the Impeachment court were bribed via DAP to convict Corona. Had Corona used this dilatory strategy of invoking self-incrimination and resisted to,take the witness stand, he could have strengthen his appeal for conviction with the Estrada revelations. Well,that is Corona’s fate who died a disgraced Justice and disillusioned person.

    • CJ Corona was a dignified man who proved his love for his country by making the ultimate sacrifice.

      You do understand that when all his supporters were ready to go up in arms or support an appeal to the Supreme Court after the trial, it was CJ Corona who said to them “Tama na, we stop here. This issue has divided our country for too long. It is time for our country and the Filipino people to heal.”

      You can give all your legal scenarios, which the CJ knew, but in the end, he chose peace for the Filipino people. He knew the administration was not going to stop, and to drag out the issue would only mean Filipinos fighting Filipinos. He and his supporters fought, and fought hard, but it was time for the country to heal.

  2. Pmakabayan on

    Thank you, CJ Corona , for standing for the oppressed. The Lord will reward you for your good deeds! What you did not receive here, you will,a thousandfold, in heaven. Rest in Peace!

  3. as to your statement mr saludo that benito boy sisi tried to persuade the late cj to stop the redistribution of the hacienda to its tenants, this is what he did to pogi (remember pogi spilling this fact this in his defense by saying inarbor ni benito si corona) and then screwed pogi when ma’am janet’s scam was accidentally exposed. he screwed tanda and sexy also. as to the 3 who got screwed by benito boy sisi, karma got you

  4. ang hindi maganda na nangyari nuong operasyon ni benito boy sisi, belmonte, drilon at abad laban kay corona ay maraming tao ang pumapalakpak sa kababayuyang ginawang paglabag sa konstitusyon ni benito boy sisi at de singko kasama na ang mga tong este kongresista at mga insane este senador. instead of the rule of law, it came out the rule of the mob prevailed. and now so many people are sad that corona passed away. too late for the sorrow. had he not been impeached, hindi nagawang babuyin ni benito boy sisi, llamanzares, de singko, moral less ang batas at konstitusyon.

  5. atty al besinal on

    Farewell CJ Rene..your firm determination to uphold the rule of law and your resolve to protect the integrity of the Supreme Court will always be remembered..Rest in Peace, Boss.