CORONA CASE : ROUND ONE




Stripped of its legal bullshit, who won Round One of the Corona Impeachment Case covering Article No. 2: failure of the the Chief Justice to submit his SALN (Statement of Assets and Liabilities) for many years?

Let us go back to basics. An impeachment case is not an ordinary criminal case but a political one. As such, it needs not a “proof beyond reasonable doubt” but just a “preponderance of evidence” to convict the respondent.

And the Prosecution Team led by Rep Neil Tupas succinctly portrayed the character in question: Is Chief Justice Renato Corona, already perceived to be illegally appointed as chief magistrate of the land–“fit or unfit” to be retained in that lofty position?

It is not a simple matter. The Supreme Court is the “soul and the conscience of the nation” as one journalist quipped. Its Supremo must therefore be beyond reproach- like Caesar’s wife- for what redeeming value would his rulings be if people do not trust his person -and the soul he bears inside him?

It is not true that in a few days time , the Filipino people will get tired. They will then  turn off their TVs and radios on the trial because unlike Erap (the other impeached one) whom the people elected- Corona is a just a supreme court head-without intimate relations with the people.

Such a myopic view underestimates the political sagacity of the Filipinos. The SWS survey  already showed a direct relation between those who gave GMA a (-) rating and those who gave Corona the same (-) sentiment while giving the entire SC a (+) evaluation.

In short, they do not trust Corona because he is perceived to be the “protector” of much maligned president- the most unpopular president (after Marcos) in RP’s post-war history.

Seven of ten Filipinos approved of President Benigno Aquino III partly because he brings not just by words – but real action to place the perceived “corrupt men” under the due process of  law through the legitimate impeachment process. No one doubts the searing integrity and independence of the senate led by an aging but legacy-seeking senate president in Juan Ponce Enrile.So Corona will have a fair and square deal.

The admitted failure of the CJ to submit his SALN to the public means that accountability is not the middle initial of Renato Corona. The fact that his name was among those in the  BIR’s “alpha” list is a tacit admission that other than his salary as CJ of from P400-600K per year, he has no other source of income.

That being so and  along with the declared annual salary of his wife Cristina as Camp Jonh Hay (Baguio City) officer of P600,000 (per year) and the very meager declared income of their RP-based daughter (Mrs Corona-Castillo)- together those cannot -by any stretch of the imagination – be enough for them to amass such huge real estate properties.

The figures of the ill-gotten “de facto” wealth is anywhere between Newsbreak’s P 40-Million and the (prosecution-derived) P200-M as published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

This is to exclude the cash and money placements in four banks: BPI, RCBC, Land Bank and PNB which the prosecution mercifully left out of its evidential matters, for tactical reasons.

The logical question in a thinking layman’s mind is: if the Corona family amassed so much wealth-without other visible income- who could have provided them the wherewithal?

By proving that Corona had voted 19-0  (out of 19 cases)in favor of GMA’s interests while  in the Supreme Court and his role in the issuance of a TRO in order to allow GMA to leave the country before facing unbailable charges like election sabotage and plunder (see NATIONAL PAGE in this issue), the Prosecution will try to prove that GMA and Corona breathe from the same nose, so to speak.

The Prosecution did the proper thing when it sub- poena the ITRs amd SALNs of the relevant parties.By presenting deeds of sale and property titles far larger that what they officially claimed in public documents like the ITR and SALN, a case of a prima facie “ill gotten wealth”  evidence against the respondent is established hopefully by the Prosecution Team.

Corona himself, as a judge, had allegedly shown the prosecutors the legal path. Years ago, Corona ruled that Marcos acquired “ill gotten wealth by matching their declared SALN and ITR to be way below their documented wealth owned.How about teacher, beware?

Transferring ill-gotten wealth to relatives and establishing fictitious liabilities to lessen net worth  of individuals are age-old legal tactics for  wily respondents to escape scrutiny.Let’s review some facts.

In 2009 Mrs. Corona-Castillo is legally documented to have bought-from her won mother- a La Vista property ( subdivision owned by the Tuasons -mother side of Mike Arroyo) for P 18-M which was far above her financial capability to do so.La Vista is a prime subdivision near the Ateneo de Manila where GMA’s residence and that of another perceived ally senator Miriam Santiago are both located.

Earlier Mrs. Castillo also bought a commercial lot and building  in Quezon City for P 15-M. Who is the real beneficial owner?

The Prosecution Team also showed evidence that the Coronas allegedly borrowed P 11-M from a lending institution owned by the relatives of Cristina which was no longer operating at the time of the loan. What was the purpose of “acquiring” such a loan? To “laundry” an indefensible acquisition of a substantial asset?

There are many facets of the trial- sensational as they may be – which may distract -but must not-  from the very essence of the impeachment.

There is the over-eagerness on the part of the head judge senator Enrile to appear impartial and had led to  his many over-strict  moorings of the proceedings-sometimes appearing like he is a judge in a regular court of which Enrile as an impeachment judge is not.

There is the arrogant rumbling of a senator who is “terminally ill” with boredom (her words) and reeking with so  much arrogance and humbug whose record in addressing colleagues range from “fungus faced” to “insects”- or any terms of endearment  that are light years away from being sublime.She has threatened facetiously to scuba dive in the dangerous Bermuda Triangle (and get lost there) of which there are enough  of her critics willing to pay for her one way airline ticket just to get the senator there.

There is  the aging former SC justice who probably shares the same hairstylist as lawyer Estelito Mendoza and Calawan Laguna   ex-mayor  Sanchez (now in jail) by the name of Serafin Cuevas who is the master of  obfuscation and  the art  of leading all  of us through a web of legal labyrinth that does not bring us all any closer to the truth.

Through all of this sound and fury, the Filipino people should not be confused.

Did he discern from the Round One scenario that a “preponderance of evidence” has been amassed that indeed SC CJ Rene Corona is “not fit said that even if Corona is merely censured and not convicted by the numbers in the senate, he does not have the gravitas anymore to remain as chief justice of this land of democracy.

He is “damaged goods” as some members of the Bohol Bar Association rightly declared.

 


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