• The President tampering with a jury is not a mere public relations problem

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    Before we get lost again in a forest of side issues, propaganda and self-serving statements, let us keep our eyes on the ball and on the President.

    In his televised privilege speech at the Senate last Monday (20January), Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla jr. disclosed that President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd had a private meeting with him, with local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch’Abad both present.

    During the meeting, the President asked the senator for a personal favor — that he vote to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona at his Senate impeachment trial.

    By intervening in a trial invested with great public importance (A Filipino chief justice was being impeached for the first time), and which the public knew was largely instigated by the President himself, Aquino committed not only an act of great impropriety and ethical dubiety, he opened himself to the possible charge of tampering with a jury or judge.

    A case of judge and jury tampering
    In legal parlance, particularly in the United States, jury tampering is the crime of attempting to influence a jury through other means than the evidence presented in court, such as conversations about the case outside the court, offering bribes, making threats or asking acquaintances to interfere with a juror.

    A person commits the crime of jury tampering if, with intent to influence a juror’s vote, opinion, decision or other action in the case, he attempts directly or indirectly to communicate with a juror other than as part of the proceedings in the trial of the case. Jury tampering may be committed by conducting conversations about the case outside the court, offering bribes, making threats or asking acquaintances to communicate with a juror.

    The crucial point about jury tampering is the presence of intent to influence a juror’s vote, opinion, decision or other action in a case.

    In the Corona impeachment case, Senator Revilla was clearly a senator-juror, one of 23 hearing the case. President Aquino showed intent and desire to influence his vote in the case. He admits to having met with three other jurors as well.

    Defense through casuistry
    In response to this clearly damaging disclosure, the President and his communicators and advisers have resorted to outright denial and obfuscation and the flooding of news channels with self-serving statements exculpating the president.

    Because of Revilla’s popularity as a show-biz personality, Malacañang Communications set up an interview of the President by show-biz Broadcaster and Kris Aquino groupie Boy Abunda. The interview was broadcast by ABS-CBN at 10 in the evening last Tuesday. Aquino essayed the same defense that had already been assiduously disseminated by Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.

    This line of defense goes as follows: The President was only trying to “counter” the pressure being exerted on senator-judges to exonerate Corona, but he does not consider his action a form of pressure to secure Corona’s conviction.

    Aquino said aside from Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., he also met with Senators Teofisto Guingona III, Ralph Recto, and Jinggoy Estrada.

    Explaining his action, he elaborated: “Normally, I would have just let that pass, but there were so many confirmed reports that several sectors were exerting heavy pressure on senator-judges to decide not based on the merits of the case, to exonerate Corona in exchange for something.

    “Is it right for me to just stand by while these sectors are threatening and pressuring our senators? I think it is natural for me to ask them and confirm with them and let them feel that there are people who, if they do the right thing, are ready to support them. I would have been very irresponsible if I just let those who were exerting pressure to have their way without addressing this or doing something to counter this pressure.”

    This line of reasoning is what my classes in philosophy and rhetoric at the Ateneo described as “Casuistry.”

    The term “casuistry” is used either to describe a presumably acceptable form of reasoning or a form of reasoning that is inherently unsound and deceptive.

    The Oxford English Dictionary states that the word is “often (and perhaps originally) applied to a quibbling or evasive way of dealing with difficult cases of duty.” Its textual references are consistently pejorative (“Casuistry destroys by Distinctions and Exceptions, all Morality, and effaces the essential Difference between Right and Wrong.”)

    Encyclopedia Britannica pointedly notes: “The fine distinctions employed by some Jesuit Casuists caused their opponents to equate casuistry with specious reasoning.”

    Aquino’s and Coloma’s efforts to rationalize the president’s actions have not had much traction, especially with the legal community.

    The dean of the Lyceum College of Law, Soledad Mawis, says that Aquino’s meeting with Revilla was improper because Revilla was still acting then as a senator-judge.

    Mawis said if Corona was the one who invited Revilla to a meeting, it would also be seen as inappropriate.

    “Even if you just knock on the room of judge when your counterpart lawyer is not present, there is already a sense of impropriety. All the more that there was impropriety because the one on the dock was the Chief Justice of the Philippines,” Mawis said in a television interview.

    “In fact, we have a provision —Article 214 of the Revised Penal Code—that any executive officer who orders a judicial authority to act in a certain way, can be criminally liable,” Mawis added.

    The defense lawyers of Corona at the impeachment trial have also taken cognizance of the ethical issues raised by Revilla’s disclosure.

    One of the lawyers, Tranquil Salvador, says that it is unfortunate that President Aquino meddled in the process.

    Salvador said that while they (the defense panel and Corona) fully trusted in the fairness of the impeachment process, the President apparently worked to ruin its integrity by influencing some senator-judges.

    “I am deeply saddened because we participated in the process in the belief that it was fair and compliant with the requirements of justice, due process and fair play,” he told The Manila Times.

    Assuaging a family’s anguish and national malaise

    As I was writing this column, my researcher came in to inform me that Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has called for a review of the Corona case in view of the developments indicating interference in the process of the impeachment trial.

    Such review is overdue. Corona and his family have suffered severely – almost as though he went through his own Stations of the Cross. There is great uneasiness in the land over this trial, and what makes all of us uneasy is that we still don’t know how or what to think about what happened. Only justice can assuage their anguish and this malaise.

    Only a change of behavior by the President can wipe away this blot in his record.

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    20 Comments

    1. if the call of sen. miriam santiago for a review of the corona case is true and materializes and later on found out that there was really interference from the president himself, what will happen then? will they change the guilty verdict to not guilty and reinstate corona as the chief justice? will they throw it back to the supreme court to hear and decide for themselves? one thing is sure though, this dimwit of a president will not let this happen come rain or high water

    2. The law of Karma has been fast catching up with PNoy. What else is new? Most of the thins he did were improper. And the sad part is he didnt see anything wrong with it. So there is no point of hoping that he will change soon. And to learn from this all, lets not vote for whoever he endorse come 2016. Enough of LP!!!

    3. Abu Khaleb Ahaaz on

      Impeachment is a Political Exercise enjoin in a democratic form of governance. one need not to be an analyst before seeing facts that party affiliation and standard is a thing that just can not be disintegrated without an insurmountable burden of truth. The tedious process of impeaching the chief justice(telecast) were in accordance with the system or procedures, the merits of the case were laid down properly, with both parties involved enjoying their heydays, however at one point Mr. Corona personally admitted concealment of some of “his” wealth( worth hundred millions) for self-serving reasons, a gross neglect of his sworn duty, bound for the position he’s holding, that matter adversely affects his credibility to hold the highest position in the judiciary. The burden of truth for conviction was very eminent that the force of the defense’s alibi faint. Mr. Corona himself did not seek any further remedies of the law to alleviate himself in that effect.
      During promulgation of that impeachment trial, the senators-turn-judges explain their sworn independent merit-based votes well and that’s loud enough. That event was acclaimed by the Filipino masses who suffers the effects of corruption and renew their hope for the dawn of righteousness and prosperity.
      Both parties have done their share of talking. The truth is just too hard to overturn. Its the will of GOD, that it happens that way and that set them free.
      The most Pressing issues now were the Propriety of the way the( The Philippine Peoples) PDAF fund were being handled by these “once-trusted” politicians, just imagine Billions of peoples money were lost in that magic-maze. This callings proved to be loud enough and much importance since every centavo counts.
      In one of my visit in the Philippines i was so astonished by the writing i read posted inside a shoe repair shop, it says, ” An honest centavo is better than a stolen peso.”
      How prosperous can this nation be if all bend their knees and share the same values with that shoe-repair man.

    4. President Pnoy’s attempt to influence Sen Revilla and other senators to vote to impeach Chief Justice Corona was very bad already. It is plainly improper for the president to do that to them who were entrusted a very solemn duty to decide on the fate of no less than the Chief Justice. But I think what turns out to be worst is that President Pnoy himself seems to find nothing wrong with what he did. A person given the top job of the land doing something improper and unethical and finding nothing improper and unethical about it is no laughing matter. Now I understand why those 188 congressmen, who it seemed did not even bother to read the details of what they were about to sign, simpy signed the impeachment complaints. Now I know why even those who prosecuted the Chief Justice for failure to report all his dimes and pennies in his SALN were themselves liable to be prosecuted for the same impropriety. It was all for the money. Courtesy of the top honcho himself – the president of the land. No less.

      • May iilan tao pa in fans ng BBVIOUSLY CORRUPT CORONA. Do u mean to say U believe Corona is innocent? May mga tao talaga mahilig sa magnanakaw. Ayaw kay Pnoy kasi Honest. Don’t WORY, pag alis ni Pnoy, Fiesta na naman ang mga magnanakaw

      • Arlyn Pagaran, Corona is innocent absolutely!!!! the reason why pinoy want hm convicted its because of hacienda luisita and he don’t want that land to give it to the farmers thats why he did what he did. you know,if you are reading and watch news during impeachment or before then i mean the honest news,you know that corona is innocent…….

    5. Regardless of who is involved, the jury system is sacrosanct, it cannot be allowed to be interfered with.

      It’s purpose is to ensure that everyone receives a fair hearing where the truth reigns supreme, and personal interest and opinion take no part. Either it is or it is not, the decision is and should only be decided on one criteria, and that is well documented, the accused must be given the opportunity to fully defend himself, time limits cannot be placed upon this and in the end if he or she is guilty the finding must be above and beyond any reasonable doubt.

      If there is any doubt, the finding must be NOT GUILTY.

      Furthermore in a democracy it is a critical cornerstone that all are treated with dignity and integrity, something that I am yet to see here under the existing setup, at every turn you see delay, procrastination, and excuses, justice delayed is justice denied, if the Philippines wishes to become a world respected society, it must deal with this issue and deal with it quickly, the days of allowing people to rot in a prison without an opportunity to have a fair hearing must end.

    6. Since Day 1 by the Senate Impeachment Tribunal on against CJ Corona, enormous pressure on the senator-judges by PNoy was done. It was a known fact at that time given the several public statements he had said and purposely disseminated in the friendly media. Shameless and extra-legal machinations were done by his henchmen to gather needed evidences. The Filipino people then witnessed a stage-managed zarzuela to convict and shame CJ Corona publicly and without compunction in parallel with the impeachment hearing. We all witnessed these events and unfortunately, some senseless people watched to be amused. It was a classic presentation on the undesirable characteristics of the people of this impoverished country. A people stricken with classic political immaturity, unable to fully discern basic moral values and above all, develope judgement based on passion which incidentally is susceptible to disinformation and biased opinion. During those times, public consciousness was saturated and replete with one-sided information from media conscripts of the administration. The few thinking Filipinos were afflicted with the disease of apathy and satisfied within their own comfort zones. Now on this present development, what good can we get in considering the review of the impeachment process? It will only reinforce the assertions by some that indeed the Filipino society is “reactionary”. Meaning, we act first and think later.

    7. noelravalsalaysay on

      Pnoy admitted to meeting the 4 senators;that is a clear jury tampering.He should be impeached before the Supreme Court and ask the Chief Justice to recluse herself because of conflict of interest.

    8. Jose A. Oliveros on

      A change of President is the one that is urgently and badly needed given PeNoy’s brazen disregard for everything that is legal, moral and ethical.

    9. Change of horses will not do the Nation any good as this Tenant in Malacaang was not born yesterday with his cognitive dissonance. All the elective and appointive people in government must go for now, except for care taker people that maybe designated until a Snap Election is held. Along with this, normal linkages and relationship of Constitutional bodies, commissions, and agencies will have to be refined, restructured, re-enforced, and re-defined to suit the changing needs occasioned by the changing imperatives of the times. Even the bicameral system or the Presidential system may have to go in favor of a Parliamentary System anytime a Vote of No Confidence is asserted by an assembled body of representatives in opting for positive changes and improvements. A Referendum might be the quickest way to achieve these changes in the Charter as a Constitutional Assembly would always result to the same evil cycle of having the Trapos achieve their hidden agenda and purposes embodied in some obtuse or unclear statutory language of construction in laws that they will pass to further screw up and obfuscate the real dispensation of justice to the people.

    10. The president is such a vindictive person, anything to do with GMA he hates it. So childish non performing corrupt president. He had to bribe 50m each in pesos to control the impeachment. Lahat sila corrupt. GMA is still awaiting trial for weak evidences
      That is why he cannot put her in jail. Aquino is a proven corrupt because of pork barrel missing malampaya funds, PDAF /Dap
      Sana am impeach siya.

      • your absolutely right mr Dee…But some people dont see it that way.They think that pinoy is great. My opinion is, he is a dictator because he thinks that he owned supreme court,the senate,and congress and all other agencies…he is paying them just to get what he wanted,like a little kid.Well,what do you expect to a guy that has autism.the people that put him into that position should be in jail… Because pinoy is just their puppet.You know what I’m saying,Drillon and Abad and other people involved should put in jail……

    11. I fully support Senator Meriam Santiago – the need of a “Judicial Review” of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona to put this case to rest once and for all.

    12. Yen,

      Di kapanipaniwala ang pahayag ng palasyo na walang pressure ang presidente
      para i convict o ipahayag na guilty si Corona, umpisa palang kitang kita
      ang pangigigil ni pnoy kay corona, naroong bastusin niya ito ng harapan
      etc, at napakarami niyang pahayag laban dito.

      Bakit kailangan niyang ipatawag ng palihim, sunduin ng incognito ng
      kaniyang personal na sugo at palihim na ipasok sa bahay pangarap
      kung wala siyang dapat itago. Kitang kita rin at alam na nga
      marami ni bilyones na pera ng bayan “pork” ang ipinanlagay niya
      sa mga kongresista para pumirma ng walang basahan sa impeachment
      charge sheet at sa mga senador para ma convict si corona at
      pagkatapos ay nagbigay pa ng karagdagang pabuya.

      Kung ang layunin lang niya ay makipagkwentuhan hindi
      na niya itatago at ikakaila na miniting niya ang mga ito. Ngayon
      lang din inamin ng palasyo na may katotohanan ang nabalita
      nuong pagmimiting.

      Dahil sa boy abunda kamo ang nag interview sa pangulo
      para magpaliwanag kontra sa pahayag ni Sen. revilla,
      mas magiging kapani paniwala kung sabihin na lang
      niya na nag breakfast in bed sila kaya ito’y inilihim.

    13. Revilla’s revealation is just a mere garbage. Why? Kong malinis siyang senador,
      bakit ngayon lang niya sinasabi yong mga nalalaman niya tungkol sa pagtawag
      ni Aquino sa kanya? We are already convinced that this Aquino is an incompetent,
      mentally disturbed, noynoying worst of all he is a vindictive person whose favorite
      passion is only to his perceived enemies. But this Revilla is no different. Ano pa
      ang gamit sa mga sinasabi niya ngayon kong tapos na ang impeachment ni Corona.
      At the thick of the fight Revilla did not say anything then. So, dapat lang na kasuhan
      din siya para magtanda. Clearly for what he revealed, he allowed himself to be
      an accessory to the unconstitutional impeachment of Corona.

      • santiago caisido on

        I agree with you all of our politicians are corrupt at parapareho lang sila pangsarile lang at hinde para sa bayan. PI PI PI.

    14. Peter Gonzales on

      When abnoy said he is only trying to counter the pressure being exerted to senator-judges to exonerate CJ, it is very clear that he put the same amount of pressure or even more on senator-judges to convict Corona which is unethical if not illegal which makes the removal of CJ a sham and rigged. The senator-judges who voted to removed CJ is not an independent body but are members of the “kapal ng mukha” because they are corrupt and shameless in the highest order. The Supreme Court should review this corrupt decision and bring order to our beleaguered system of justice. Abnoy should be ousted by any means possible including military coup although I doubt the military will take action because anybody in that establishment do not have the balls to do it, instead we only have a deafening silence on their part cognizant of government corruption nevertheless.

    15. How can CNoy change his behavior? That would be wishing for a miracle to happen.

      You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Moreso, if that dog is of unsound mind.