The Manila Times - Renato Corona’s revenge, with a little help from Franklin Drilon

15 August 2017

By Antonio P. Contreras | The Manila Times 

CHIEF Justice Renato Corona died a broken man, shamed by an impeachment trial that was nothing but an execution by a corrupted Congress of the personal directive of a vengeful President whose family’s largesse was diminished by the court that Corona led.

Only people who are blindly jaundiced will buy the canard that Corona was impeached for violating the Constitution and for committing impeachable offenses, and would swallow the lie that he was justly punished by a judgment of Congress whose members acted true to their duties to represent the voice of the people.

Corona died a broken man because a Congress dominated by the Liberal Party (LP) did the bidding of former President Aquino to punish Corona for presiding over a Court that ruled against his family’s interests in Hacienda Luisita. He was impeached by a Congress that acted at the behest of selfish and partisan political interests, and not to render justice as the people’s representatives.

Indeed, impeachment is a political process. But the Constitution has consigned it to the category of being an extreme penalty that is reserved only for those who commit grave offenses. The grounds for impeachment are a litany of acts that constitute high crimes against the republic. These include culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.

Wanting in evidence to impeach, Congress virtually lowered the bar that was set high by the Constitution, by considering that a misdeclared statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) is in the same genus of abominable acts as those enumerated above. Armed with the finality of a power which the Supreme Court could not abrogate, negate nor reverse, the House prosecutors argued that Corona betrayed the public trust when he failed to include in his SALN some of his assets. The senator judges, except for Senators Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Bongbong Marcos, all but elevated such act to the same degree as treason or high crimes.

Res ipsa loquitor. This is what LP Senator Franklin Drilon said to drive the nail on Corona’s conviction. The thing speaks for itself. No defense can be entertained. And with Corona’s conviction, any undeclared asset in a SALN must lead to an impeachment from thereon.

Renato Corona was dealt a blow from which he never recovered until the day he died. The bar for a process reserved only for those who commit high crimes against the Republic was lowered only to ensure that he would suffer. Considering that impeachment is the sole prerogative of Congress, there was no higher court to hear his appeal,

However, the certainty of abuse of power in the hands of the selfish, greedy and corruptible can only be matched by another certainty in life: karma.

There is a pending impeachment complaint filed against sitting Vice President Leni Robredo who is now the LP chair. While there are several grounds invoked, the most damning, and in my opinion the strongest, is her failure to correctly declare as an asset the value of her Meralco shares of stocks.

Res ipsa loquitor, as Drilon eruditely declared as he perorated against Corona. The thing speaks for itself. No defense is needed to negate the impeachable offense that was committed against the Republic, which Congress has declared to be on the same level of severity as treason. Robredo failed to declare the value of her Meralco shares in her SALN. She must thus be convicted.

And now we have Andres Bautista, the chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), who is being accused of having deposits in a thrift bank which he did not declare in his SALN.

Using the Corona precedent, Andres Bautista must and should be impeached. And again, Drilon provided the nail that can seal Bautista’s doom.

Res ipsa loquitor. The fact that Bautista has bank deposits in his name is already a fact that speaks for itself. No defense can make it right, not even the defense that those accounts are not solely his, but are in fact accounts of his family in his name, or with funds that are commingled with those of his relatives. This was the same defense that Corona raised on the Basa-Guidote accounts of his wife’s family. In fact, the Civil Service Commission (CSC), prompted by Corona’s impeachment, has reiterated the rule that all bank accounts under the name of a public official must be declared in the SALN, including commingled funds for which the percentage share of the public official must be likewise declared.

Bautista is not a member of the LP. But his case may have deeper implications for the party, as there are indications that the allegations against him may have some bearing on the credibility of the 2016 elections. Any impeachment proceeding would necessarily lead to a closer scrutiny of his bank accounts, and an inquiry into the paper trail may just reveal damning proof if there was indeed fraud.

This would be bad for Leni Robredo whose election is under protest by Bongbong Marcos, who happens to be one of the three senators who voted for Corona’s acquittal.

The prospect for karmic justice is indeed so fascinating. Renato Corona suffered injustice when he was convicted on a mere misdeclared SALN. This has become a weapon to impeach Leni Robredo and Bautista, and may just end up favoring Bongbong Marcos in his quest to unseat Leni Robredo.

Renato Corona may finally have his sweet revenge.