by    Juan  L  Mercado


“The  future is only  the past  again — but entered through another gate”. Is this true?  Perhaps, one  way to check  is  to by  comparison.

How?  Take the just-starting  impeachment against  Supreme Court chief justice  Renato  Corona.  Stack that  against  the aborted  trial of  President Joseph Estrada in  2001

Both began in the Lower House, as required by the Constitution. Both  barreled along  similar and  controversy-ridden  express tracks.

In  Erap’s case,  then Speaker  Manuel Villar mumbled  the opening prayer, skipped the roll call, raced through   a resolution,  banged his gavel —to send  the impeachment case to the Senate for trial.  Viola!.

This  bypassed  a full plenary  vote.  Within hours, Estrada allies ousted  Villar. They installing  Camarines Sur representative Arnulfo Fuentebella, a pliant  Erap ally as  Speaker. But impeachment curtains went up in the Senate.

A  weekend  caucus, mid December,  saw 188 congressmen sign an eight-point impeachment  document  against  Corona . Without going through plenary debates, the Lower House  shuffled it off  to the  Senate for trial.

Those who signed  were  more than the one-third of the 285 House members, a requirement under the Constitution to impeach,  said  the justice committee  which initiated the process.

“We can not have  a nation run by a thief,”  then Rep. Joker  Arroyo  told  Justice Hilario Davide and senator-judges when impeachment of Erap started  Dec. 7, 2000. Arroyo  read the oath of office the 13th  Philippine President’s oath of  office.

“Except for his name, he violated every word of his oath,” Arroyo said. “That is why the House has impeached him. That is why the Senate must convict him.”

He then outlined  the charges: from skimming P130 million tobacco excise taxes, .misdeclaring his 1998 and 1998 Statement of Assests and Liabilities to constructing houses for various mistresses

“In the name of God, go”, Rep Niel  Tupas  told Chief Justice Corona in the opening statement of the prosecution. This is  a quote from  Oliver Cromwell’s 1653 speech dismissing England ’s Long Parliament.

The prosecution would prove it’s charges against Corona from sleaze to violations of the Constitution.   “It is high time for us to put an end to your sitting in that place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice….. Depart I say, and let us have done with you.”

Today, senator-judges sift   through  land titles of Corona, whose 2002  Statement of  SALN, pegged  net worth was P14 million.  Do titles presented, by the Taguig Registrar  of  Deeds,  show he is worth far more than  declared value of  various  condos?.

Among  these are: P3 million  La Vista in Quezon City  bought for P16 million; P6.8 million Bellagio penthouse  acquired for P14.5 million; P2.3 million  Ridge condo purchased  for P9 million;  the P921,000  Burgundy condo  taken at P2.5 million; and P1.2 million  Columns condominium in Makati purchased for P3.5 million

“We want to know if the children have legitimate sources of income,” prosecutors said.   “The La Vista property was sold to his daughter at P18 million, then another property in Kalayan Avenue in 2009 at P15 million and another in Cubao in 2003 at P10.5 million.”

Hit the rewind button for  December 2000.  Estrada lawyers parried  inspection, by the impeachment court, of various houses. Five  were traced to Erap’s family children and  mistresses..

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism  pinpointed  them as: (a ) P58.9 million house at 771 Harvard Street in Mandaulyong; ( b ) P34.2 million house at 769-800, also in Wack Wack; ( c ) P12.3 million house at 551 Wack-Wack Road; (d) P9.3 million house at 973-975  Stanford Road, and (d) P32.8 million Boarcay Mansion at 100 Eleventh St, in Quezon City – abandoned in the aftermath of  People Power II.

With  assets of P8million, and liabilities of P5.9 million, Estrada had a net worth of  P2.1 million in 1987, UP  School of Economic chair Solita Monsod  recalled. “Where did (he) get the wherewithal to bankroll 63 corporations, 14 of which declared assets of 606.8 million in the last two years?”

The Corona trial has barely  began. And we know that Estrada’s  trial ended abruptly when People Power II over ruled, a majority of 11-senator judges, who voted  to seal  the “Jose Velarde” envelop.

In ourfcheckered history, is there anything  to a people’s revolt, sweeping away a degraded impeachment trial that left  11 biased judges to twist in the wind?.

For the ‘Craven 11” this was a public horsewhipping. By lashing these official delinquents, enraged citizens signaled they’ve had it with abuse. There is also  much that  today’s judges can learn  from this well-deserved keel-hauling of  senatorial crooks.

Sworn to render impartial justice, the “Craven 11” acted a stalking horses for a corrupted presidency. In his first – and last – inaugural speech, Estrada  correctly such low life as “rouges in judicial robes.

“A man can not   serve two masters”is the lesson of 11 rouges twisting in the post-Edsa 2 wind. Either you serve truth and spurn a sleaze official. Or you betray  the people.

The words of a dying Cardinal Wolsey, stripped of power by Henry VIII for failing to secure a divorce for the king, is timely: “Had I served  my  God with half the zeal/ I served my king, he would not in mine age/ Have left me naked to mine enemies.” (Email: )


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