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chief justice trial lessons learned – our reflection on the mirror

May 26, 2012 1 comment

the impeachment trial of chief justice renato corona will come to an end  next tuesday when the senator judges tell the nation their verdict on the case. looking back at what happened and picking up the things that strike us the most could very well be the reflection we see of us as a people and country on a mirror, big picture and details included.

in marketing and advertising, it is standard operating practice to look at the past business year, analyze it and draw up what we call  “lessons learned” . these are conclusions, observations and insights that the marketing guy extracts from data and results from the previous year,  both mistakes and successes that can be used to anchor the succeeding year’s marketing plans and strategies.  the idea is to help ensure the mistakes of the previous year are not repeated and the successes are continued and improved on for the upcoming year.

we will apply a similar process and principle on the chief justice impeachment trial – look back at what happened and draw the things that we think worked and those that did not work.  identifying these will hopefully prompt our leaders to re-shape our country to be better and stronger in the future.

this is from the point of view of an ordinary citizen who is not a lawyer whose only basis are first and foremost the live showing on tv of the trial and to some degree readings of  newspaper and online articles about the trial.

chief justice impeachment  trial lessons learned : 

1. the country’s laws on good governance as it applies to government officials have a lot of big loopholes, if not contradictions and room for mis-interpretation, confusion and misuse in interpretation and application.    these laws need to be looked at and to  fix the problems – the anti-money laundering law, anti-graft & corruption law, SALN  law and the ill-gotten wealth law.

i am not a lawyer and i possibly confused the laws and have duplication but that is the impression that i have as an ordinary citizen based on  what has happened in the trial.

aside from the apparent loopholes, these laws are not specific enough in defining what is lawful and what is not.  law/s recently passed in congress seem to to be inconsistent with law/s passed much earlier. worst, recent laws enacted does not seem to strictly apply or uphold the provisions of the constitution. many of the legal arguments  hinged too much on the “spirit of the law” and “intent of the framers” rather than clear cut and obvious definitions.

2. the impeachment process and its rules need to be tightened for an orderly and smooth process to ensure credibility of the process and results. the current impeachment trial process has too many components left to the discretion of the judges and  is a  large petri dish for misbehavior and abuse by the judges, the defense and prosecution lawyers, witnesses and the media.

while there is good reason to exercising leniency by the judges and the often used Sui generis characterization of the trial,  there  is just too much of those that the trial has become totally unpredictable and unwieldy.

rules and processes are like walls, they both serve the purpose of keeping things in place inside at the same time preventing  things from the outside in wrecking havoc to what is inside the walls.  having no walls is a recipe for disarray and collapse which the impeachment trial came close to at certain points.

a tighter impeachment process and rules will not only make it easier for the prosecution and defense lawyers to battle, it will force both parties to make a much more intelligent and high level discourse of the law and the issues tackled in the trial. a well defined playing field and rules will sharpen the whole discussion and debate and thus result to a much clearer presentation and debate of the issues.

intelligence and clarity of the issues in this impeachment trial are both sorely lacking.

3. the senate’s leniency and often used characterization of it being sui generis allowed both parties and others to make a near mockery of the court.  it can be argued that this is under point number 2, above, but we are dedicating a point to it as we think this is a very major lesson learned in the trial.

we have seen the court brought to confusion many times in the trial as the senate president bent  over backward in allowing both the prosecution and the defense have their way in court.

the senate president probably did that to ensure transparency and show impartiality primarily for  the benefit of the general public  but we think it also brought in its twin partner of many  negatives. both the prosecution and defense took advantage of it and introduced irrelevant issues and arguments in to the trial that in the end the public’s view of the case has become muddled and significantly shaded by irrelevant points.

the general public with a significant number of them being  non-lawyers are naturally more pre-disposed to pick up the more interesting points of personal drama,  histrionics from the senators and idiocies of the prosecution and defense lawyers. proof – showbiz chismis tv shows get higher ratings than talk shows that discuss national issues and news programs  on tv.

in many ways the confusion and irrelevant points were brought to the trial by the impeachment court itself when it refused to deny them and simply sat it out and accepted everything and anything from the prosecution and defense.

4. it is sad that one of the most important legal battles in the country’s history is marked  not by brilliance and intelligence  but remembered most for the errors. blunders and incompetence of both the prosecution and the defense teams. we are absolutely transfixed on our tv screens as senator judges  berate and castigate at different times the defense and prosecution lawyers for their incompetence, poor knowledge of the laws and court procedures and simple bad behavior and lack of  proper decorum.

we witnessed defense and prosecution lawyers build themselves up as heroes only to make a complete turn around and turn themselves as complete fools as the trial went by.

spokespersons of both camps have claimed victory as the trialwent along but for the general public who are non-lawyers, that is very hard to appreciate if not rendering us totally clueless on what successes they are talking about as we are very much bombarded and witness the errors and blunders that they commit.

5. there is a lingering bad feeling in the mouth when you witness THE chief justice of THE supreme court in the country use the drama of tears, emotions and illness to argue his case and points of law.  the supreme court is the country’s highest office in the judicial system. it is the supreme body that decides for the country in finality matters of law. the court’s decisions have the effect of becoming laws themselves for future generations.

this supreme body is headed by its chief justice who is renato corona. corona holds the highest position in the country’s highest judicial body – his words have the effect of being cast in stone.

but this chief justice did no such thing. rather than defend himself with brilliance of law and the superiority of debate and discourse, the chief justice of the supreme court used tears in his eyes to argue his point, illness to escape debate and emotional stories about himself, his family and his grandson.

we do not even think this drama or the gimmicks that corona performed on live tv will not be allowed in hearings at the supreme court. malice is done to the judicial process and the reputation of the chief justice when he himself performs such acts in a hearing in court.

in twitter we said that we should perhaps call mr. corona from now on as the cheap justice of the supreme court for his cheap tricks drama.  we have also wondered whether law schools in the philippines will now offer acting classes to law students to teach them how to properly get their tears to drop on cue or declare illness and set up a walk out in dramatic fashion like saying the words “the chief justice of the philippines wishes to be excused”.

it is regrettable that the the chief of the supreme court  himself has set a bad example for all lawyers to see. we were expecting that the man with the highest level of position in the judicial system would actually take the debate at a high level and yet he   performed one of the lowest forms of strategy in winning a court case, and all done on live national tv.

we do not know what the verdict of the senate impeachment court will be but it is plain to see that we can already lay claim to verdicts  on the conduct of the trial and the laws that are supposed to govern the trial.  this is over and beyond corona, the senator judges and the congressmen, this is about the whole country and our pride as a people for future generations  of filipinos.

 

 

Post Corona testimony poll : Is Corona Guilty or Not Guilty? (vote here)

May 22, 2012 4 comments

today,  chief justice corona will testify at the impeachment court  trying his case.  everyone is saying this is the pivotal point in this trial. his testimony will either nmake or break corona in the trial.

after his testimony at the impeachment trial do you think he is guilty or not guilty?

for the summary of evidence that have been presented in the trial, scroll down or go to this link: http://wp.me/pnw03-1zB

SWS Poll On Corona Impeachment Trial : corona is “damaged goods”

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Should CJ Corona resign? The respondents were asked to choose one of the following: (a) CJ Corona should resign as soon as possible; (b) CJ Corona should wait for the Senate decision and, if acquitted, then resign; (c) CJ Corona should leave office only if found guilty; or (d) they didn’t know enough about the case to have an opinion. To this item, a plurality of 49% say he should wait for acquittal first, followed by 30% saying he should resign as soon as possible, 18% saying he should leave only if found guilty, and 3.5% without an opinion. The only demographic deviations from this are pluralities in NCR (45%) and class ABC (45%) saying that he should resign as soon as possible

source : http://www.sws.org.ph/

first a disclaimer: we think this question in the SWS poll on the chief justice corona impeachment trial is a slightly unfair question. the question forces the respondents to make a choice on only one side – resignation of corona. it does not provide the respondents an opt out answer of corona not resigning and staying in his position.  this question forces the respondent to just choose degrees which are all on one side.

however, we think this question reveals something about what the people think of corona and that is corona is damaged goods.  in here,, 49% of the respondents think corona should resign even after he is found innocent of the charges and acquitted. this answer got the highest rating from the other 2 questions.

CoronaGate: day 1 Chief Justice Corona Impeachment Trial – opening statement for the defense by eduardo de los amheles

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

(Following is the full text of the opening statement of the defense, read by Atty. Eduardo De Los Angeles, in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate.)

Your Honors,

My Countrymen:

Good afternoon.

During the past few days, Prosecutors happily displayed pictures of the Bellagio and a list of some 45 properties, supposedly owned by the Chief Justice, to create the impression that he accumulated ill-gotten wealth. In fact, the Chief Justice owns only 5 real properties.

Yet, the Complaint, which contains 8 grounds for impeachment, does not accuse the Chief Justice of acquiring ill-gotten wealth. He is accused of graft and corruption only for refusing to account for the Judiciary Development Fund or JDF. Even with regard to his statements of assets, liabilities and networth or SALN, the issue is whether or not the alleged failure to disclose violates the principle of accountability.

The pictures of the Bellagio and the bloated list of titles are, therefore, irrelevant to this trial.

This impeachment finds its roots in President Aquino’s fight against corruption and his perception that the Supreme Court is a hindrance to his quest. He believes that the Supreme Court protects former President Gloria Arroyo. On the other hand, the defense believes that President Aquino is antagonistic to the Court because of its ruling in the Hacienda Luisita case.

The nobility of President Aquino’s fight against corruption cannot be questioned. It is respectfully submitted, however, that in his fight, the President and the Executive Department are duty-bound to scrupulously observe an abiding respect for the Constitutional rights of every one of us.

The 8 Articles of Impeachment can actually be classified into 2 categories. First, those that involve decisions of the Supreme Court (Articles I, III, IV, V, VI, VII). And, second, those that pertain to the non-disclosure of the SALN of the Chief Justice, and his alleged refusal to account for the JDF. (Articles II and VIII).

Let me first address the latter. Complainants accuse the Chief Justice of allegedly refusing to account for the JDF. The documentary evidence will prove the contrary. And, with respect to his SALN, the defense will establish that in accordance with law, the Chief Justice annually files his SALN with the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court, who has legal custody of such documents. We shall show that the Clerk of Court is restricted from disclosing the SALNs by resolutions first issued during the term of Chief Justice Marcelo Fernan way back in 1989. In ligt of current developments, the Chief Justice has already caused these resolutions to be included in the agenda of the Supreme Court for re-evaluation.

With respect to the decisions, the complainants made a tally of selected cases to show that the Supreme Court was biased. This is not so. First, it is not fair to handpick decisions that supposedly favor the Arroyo administration; all the decisions of the Supreme Court must be considered. Second, there are several decisions against the former President and her administration. For example, in Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines v. Office of the Executive Secretary, the Chief Justice himself penned the decision declaring former President Arroyo’s Executive Order No. 46 null and void. Third, in any decision, the Supreme Court always bases its judgment on sound legal grounds.

Take the case of the Truth Commission. The defense will establish that the Supreme Court was not biased towards the Arroyo administration. Aming ipapakita na tama ang desisyon dito. Nilabag ng Executive Order No. 1 ang Equal Protection Clause dahil ang pag-imbestiga kay Ginang Arroyo ang tanging layunin ng Truth Commission. Moreover, the Supreme Court even suggested a cure for the defect by not limiting the probe to the Arroyo administration. But the Executive Department stubbornly refused to adopt such simple amendment.

The defense will also explain that when the Supreme Court issued a TRO enjoining Secretary Leila De Lima from enforcing her Watchlist Order, the Supreme Court acted in accordance with the Constitution and jurisprudence. Hukuman po lamang ang maaaring magbigay ng Hold Order kapag mayroon nang naisampang criminal case. Ngunit, noong panahong iyon, wala pang naisasampang criminal case si Secretary De Lima laban kay Ginang Arroyo kahit, bago pa dito, matagang nang naghain ng reklamo ang Akbayan for Plunder. Bakit naman po natin sinisisi si Chief Justice? Di po ba’t malinaw na ang Exective Department ang may pagkukulang sa kaso ni Ginang Arroyo?

I remember a Secretary of Justice who aimed to rid our country of corruption. His name is Jose W. Diokno. He secured several search warrants and raided the offices and homes of Harry Stonehill, a rich American businessman who was alleged to have bribed government officials. To set an example, Secretary Diokno sought to prosecute Mr. Stonehill. Using the search warrants, the raiding teams seizes truck-loads of incriminating documents, including a “blue-book” containing the names of the bribed government officials. Yet, after 3 days, the Supreme Court issued a TRO preventing Secretary Diokno from using all the seized documents. Tulad ng marami, nagtaka ako: paano ito nangyari? After I read the decision penned by Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, I understood. The decision explained that the search warrants were void and the seized documents inadmissible in evidence because the warrants did not specify the things to be seized, as required by the Constitution.

The Stonehill case is strikingly similar to the crusade of President Aquino. In both, there are crusading officials who want to eliminate corruption. In both, the public overwhelmingly support these officials. In both, the officials unfortunately transgressed the Constitution. And in both, the Supreme Court stepped in and issued adverse and unpopular decisions because its task is to always uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The House also complains that the Chief Justice betrayed the public trust when the Supreme Court decided on the cityhood of 16 municipalities, the creation of a new district in Camarines Sur, and the conversion of the Dinagat Island into a province. Aba, nakakalimutan na yata nila na sila ang naglikha nitong mga batas na ito. Now that the Supreme Court has upheld what they did, sila pa ang nagagalit at nagmamadaling magsampa ng impeachment case laban kay Chief Justice. Ano bang kalokohan yan?

At eto pa po, sabi nila, this impeachment is not against the Supreme Court but aimed to make the Chief Justice accountable for his personal actions. All decisions are, however, rendered by the Supreme Court, never by the Chief Justice alone. Isa lamang po ang boto ng Chief Justice at hindi niya kontrolado ang ibang mga mahistrado. Each Justice votes according to his own opinion. Taliwas sa sinasabi nila Congressman Tupas, wala pong voting bloc dito.

Your Honors, in performing its responsibility under the Constitution, the Supreme Court as a co-equal branch of government is now being assaulted and criticized. It is our humble submission that in upholding the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice cannot be considered as obstacles to clean government or to the President’s vision to realize his “daang matuwid.” In upholding the Constitution and in safeguarding individual rights, the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice cannot be considered the enemies of the people. Precisely, they protect individual rights and therefore do not betray public trust.

Today, the House of Representatives and the Executive Department have joined all their might, power and resources to impeach the Chief Justice. This impeachment sends a chilling threat to the Supreme Court to withhold the exercise of its judicial power and just let the President have his way.

Unfortunately, his obsessive pursuit of his goal has, at times, resulted in the infringement of the law. It has also brought the branches of government into collision, and now it divides the nation. During this crucial moment in history, we fervently pray that you, our Honorable Senators will listen, consider the evidence and as your solemn oath declares, do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws of the Philippines.

May God Bless us all.

CoronaGate: Day 1 video of Chief Justice Renato Corona Impeachment Trial

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

CoronaGate : Day 1 Chief Justice Corona Impeachment Trial – Rep Niel Tupas’ opening statement for the prosecution

January 17, 2012 1 comment

this is history being made at the senate in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona. we will be posting the important speeches and developments in this blog.

Following is the full text of the opening statement for the prosecution, read by Iloilo Rep. Niel C. Tupas Jr., in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate

As public servants, we took an oath to uphold the people’s will at all times. All who hold positions in the government of our Republic are accountable for their actions. For the power of the sovereign Filipino people is a power that is higher than the Executive, the Legislative or even the Judiciary. And therefore, no matter how high and mighty one’s position may be, one can never, ever be beyond public accountability.

Today, we lay down before this impeachment tribunal the product of the collective voice of the people. Impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona for betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and for graft and corruption is the verdict in the House of Representatives. By issuing such verdict, we took the first step to accomplish our oath as the keepers of the people’s trust.

Let me be clear: We are not here to indict the Supreme Court as an institution, or to do battle with the judicial branch of government. We are here to search for the truth so as to restore the strength and independence of the judiciary. We are here because one man — Chief Justice Renato Corona — has bartered away for a pot of porridge the effectiveness, the independence, and the honor of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Senate President, your honors, one very important question before this honorable impeachment tribunal is, by what standards should Renato Corona be judged?

You only have to look at the Supreme Court itself to know the answer. As you climb its steps, you will see two statues. One of these statues is of Cayetano Arellano, the first Chief Justice, a man of absolute integrity, and of the deepest legal wisdom. The other is of Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, who viewed his oath so sacred, and loved his country so deeply, he preferred to die at the hands of the Japanese rather than betray his country.

The Supreme Court itself, then, views the position of Chief Justice as beyond politics, beyond personal considerations, and always about putting honor and justice ahead of every other consideration. Pagkatao po ang ating pinag-uusapan dito. The Code of Judicial Conduct demands that a judge must be like Caesar’s wife — someone who must not only be pure but must be beyond suspicion at all times. Therefore, a Justice must be judged according to the highest standards. Against such standards, we then ask: Who is Chief Justice Corona? What kind of a man is he? Ano po ba ang pagkatao ni Renato Corona?

Chief Justice Renato Corona was a loyal servant to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the time she became Vice-President in 1998 until she became President in 2001. Such loyalty had numerous rewards for the Chief Justice. Imagine, GMA paid for his back surgery. His wife was given plum positions in the John Hay Management Corporation. He was appointed Associate Justice, and the best reward of all, against all odds, he took a midnight oath as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Corona’s appointment as Chief Justice also served an immoral purpose: that of shielding GMA from prosecution for her misdeeds during her presidency. The prosecution will show how Chief Justice Corona became the crowning glory of the cast of accomplices of former President Arroyo, and how he protected GMA’s interest in exchange for his position of prestige and power. This is at the heart of Article 1 of the Impeachment Complaint.

This unholy alliance between Chief Justice Corona and GMA, and Corona’s deep indebtedness to the former President culminated in the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to enable GMA and her husband to leave the country, and escape accountability. This is Article 7, Corona’s biggest favor yet to his benefactor. And in Article 4, we will show how the Chief Justice intervened in the impeachment case against former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez also to protect GMA.

In Articles 3 and 5, we will show the lack of moral fitness of Chief Justice Renato Corona when he committed acts of impropriety involving parties with pending cases in the Supreme Court. His mockery of the disciplinary institutions of the Supreme Court in the plagiarism charge against a Supreme Court Associate Justice will be proven in Article 6. And in Article 8, we will show how he failed to account for the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and the Special Allowance for the Judiciary (SAJ), funds which are managed by the Chief Justice. Malinaw po: Kung gusto natin ng hustisya, hindi na dapat ipagkatiwala kay Chief Justice Corona ang pinakamataas na pwesto sa hudikatura.

And finally, we come to Article 2 where the prosecution will prove that Chief Justice Renato Corona amassed ill-gotten wealth after he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2002. To give you an idea of this article, let me present to you some of the prized pieces of the Corona crown jewels:

Spanish Bay Tower, Bonifacio Ridge, acquired October 14, 2005, purchase price Php9,159,940;

McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, acquired October 21, 2008, purchase price Php6,196,575;

Bellagio I Tower, Taguig, acquired December 2009, purchase price of Php14,510,225;

The Columns, Ayala Avenue, Makati City, acquired in 2004;

One Burgundy Plaza – the building where Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had a penthouse unit while she was Vice-President – acquired in 2003, purchase price Php2,758,000; and

Number 57 Maranao Street, La Vista, acquired in 2003, zonal valuation Php20.4 million, sold to his daughter for Php18 million.

The governing principle of our laws is clear: unexplained discrepancy between an official’s income and his assets, declared or undeclared, is prima facie evidence of ill-gotten wealth, and therefore, is an impeachable crime of graft and corruption.

The process of accountability is always a painful one. But the legislature is tasked by no less than the Constitution, the very expression of the people’s will, to undertake this sacred duty. And if at this instance, this is how we are called upon to be of service to our country, impeach we must. Mr. Senate President, your honors, we submit that Renato Corona, by his misdeeds, is unfit to remain Chief Justice.

In closing, the message of the House, as the representatives of the people, is the same as that given by Oliver Cromwell when he dismissed England’s Long Parliament on April 20 of 1653. Before God and country, we say: “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, you are an enemy to good government, as you have sold your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas Escariot betrayed your God for a few pieces of gold. Depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

Thank you and good afternoon.  

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