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Tuesday, June 5, 2012
THIS generation is rejoicing.
When no less than the President of this Republic promulgated his creed of the “Tuwid na Daan” in his inaugural address, we applauded him and felt euphoric that a “new era” has begun. But along the way of his administration, the true meaning of Tuwid Na Daan has been revealed and found it to have carried an opposite meaning. And this road inaugurated by the President himself is the road most traveled today.
I finally made a conclusion and deciphered the meaning of this tuwid na daan when the dislike of Pnoy to the impeached and removed Chief Justice Renato C. Corona started. How he handled the latter was the road signs I was reading. And so, the President started it all by giving his reaction during the 2010 election campaign that Corona was a midnight appointee. It was then followed by another statement of his that he would not recognize the authority of the chief magistrate then later on he meant it and actualized by not swearing his oath as the 15th President of the Philippines before him on 30 June 2010. Pnoy then considered Corona as the stumbling block of his graft and corruption reform agenda when the Truth Commission he created by virtue of his first executive order was brushed aside by the Supreme Court in its en banc resolution dated 7 December 2010.
Pnoy’s disgust over Corona was aggravated when the high court granted the former president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, temporary relief when she asked for a restraining order from the Court for her to be allowed by this administration to seek medical treatment abroad.
And in 5 December 2011, Pnoy lambasted and embarrassed Corona before the delegates and other dignitaries of the 1st National Criminal Justice Summit in Manila Hotel and narrated his litany of displeasures to the Chief Justice as if he was arraigning him before the guests. A week thereafter, or on 12 December 2011, Chief Justice Corona was impeached by the 188 Congressmen in a whirlwind and unread complaint they themselves initiated. Since then, the president exploded tirades after tirades in almost all in his public addresses against the Chief Justice.
Came 16 January 2012, the impeachment trial begun with introduction of evidence of dubious sources or origins and other government agencies that readily lent its assistance, resources and powers to pin down CJ Corona.
And finally, on 29 May 2011, 20 out of 23 senators pronounced the guilty verdict.
After an almost fanatic following of the impeachment of then CJ Corona, from initiation in the House of Representatives to trial and conclusion in the Senate, the lecture of the revered Mindanaon historian, humanist, writer and priest Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, SJ, about the Trial of Jose Rizal he delivered sometime in 1998, I was 3rd year college then, was unconsciously summoned by my recollection.
If my recollection is correct though not eidetic, the lecture was entitled, “The Trial of Rizal: Its Three Characteristics With An Examination of the Procedure and the Evidence.”
The three characteristics that Fr. Bernad referred to of Rizal’s trial that led to his execution were marked by 1) haste; 2) meticulous observance of legal formalities that gave the impression of legality and justice; and 3) in contrast to the observance of legal forms, was a disregard for the demands of real substantive justice.
Rizal’s trial happened over a century ago but now repeated in recent history.
I should say that the trial of CJ Corona partakes of the nature of the trial of Rizal. The juez instructor formally opened the case of rebellion against Rizal and submitted his report absent the required documents and evidence to the gobernador general. Rizal’s case started in 02 December 1896 and he was found guilty on 29 December and was executed the following day. He was tried and executed in less than a month.
In comparison, Corona was impeached by the 188 Congressmen in less than five hours of deliberate speed and that majority of them have not even read the articles of impeachment, have not seen any attachment or evidence of that sort not until in the trial proper that the prosecution panel was able to launch a grand fishing expedition.
Corona’s impeachment in the lower house was purely tyranny of numbers with utter disregard of due process. Of course, we know what happened.
The prosecution panel then went to trial without evidence at hand but only procured documents under the compulsory power of Senate’s subpoena. The Senate admitted all evidence presented by the prosecution with sources of anonymity from the small lady to mail box and garage stories to unauthenticated Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) report.
On the basis of the complaint and evidence gathered only in the impeachment court, Corona was convicted on a non-impeachable offense as charged in Article II of the impeachment complaint regarding his non-disclosure of his assets, liabilities and net worth in his SALN. There was no proportionality between the infraction committed and the penalty meted out that is why impeachment should be resorted to with extreme caution and responsibility. But this was how swift Corona was removed. This was how ambiguous his case was proved. Of course we know how the senator-judges voted.
Even if the impeachment trial is a sui generis, it does not mean that the impeached public officer would no longer enjoy the constitutional guarantee of due process which necessarily includes procedural and substantive aspects of it or else all Corona’s accusers and his triers were guilty of culpably violating the constitution.
Giving the senate broad power to define what constitutes impeachable offense when such offenses were already enumerated in the Constitution itself is very dangerous and anathema to the Bill of Rights as Senator Joker Arroyo correctly observed that convicting Corona with an act not punishable when it was committed is likened to a bill of attainder. The sui generis nature of the impeachment was ultimately abused.
What made this current impeachment unique was that the Chief accuser is the Chief Executive himself. How could one fight and win with an unbeatable foe who according to no less than the present Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile himself in his published privilege speech delivered sometime on 2 August 2005 on his proposal on presidential accountability he said that, “with that arsenal of presidential powers and prerogatives, plus the enormous financial resources at his disposal, he can, without exaggeration, manipulate events and control the character and flow of information that reaches the public, especially when he is bent on attaining his desired personal goal at all cost, regardless of its benefit or detriment to the national interest. He can lie through his teeth to the nation. He can use, misuse, or abuse his powers to mislead people, to intimidate them, especially his adversaries, or to rob them blind. He can pay no heed to the most egregious or desirable criticisms against him, or he can ignore unwelcome scrutiny of his conduct in office from an irate opposition, or from prying and hostile media, or from an enraged public. He can also play deaf, blind, and dumb to the most outrageous excesses of his relatives, friends, favorites, and subordinates, or worse, he can commit the excesses himself.”
There goes JPE. I admired this man for he adeptly knew how to politically reinvent himself and appear as hero throughout time but sadly he easily had forgotten these words of his.
Though Corona committed an infraction of the SALN law but to me, it did not reach the level of an impeachable offense, this conclusion I based purely on my basic readings and study of law. If the legal experts and constitutionalists cannot even agree on this matter, whether Corona’s act was impeachable or not, then there is no reason for me that I cannot say my opinion on the matter too. Because of this ambiguity, it would have been better that the senator-judges were cautious and adopted the favorable view for the accused, after all the interpretation tilting to favor the accused is a principle of law in order to avoid the “ruin of a life,” as senator-judge Santiago argued.
The SALN Law also recognizes the imperfections of man since it allows corrective measures for the declarant to comply with. Simply stated, the law anticipates that a declarant may be mistaken or may inaccurately declare his assets, liabilities and net worth.
Now, if we pose the issue of moral fitness, certainly we are touching the discipline of morality and not law. Then I should ask, was the inaccurate disclosure in the SALN intrinsically evil that the offender should “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?” Would the violation affect the very life and fabric of the nation like committing treason, bribery, graft and corruption and other high crimes? I am certain to the highest degree that most, if not all, public officials and employees in this country had in one point in time of their lives as public servants committed consciously or unconsciously erroneous declaration or statement in their SALN.
But it is alright for some to have inaccuracies in their SALN but not for Corona. It is alright for Corona to sign bank waiver but not for some.
The way Pnoy handled Corona was approved by his allies and by his supporters. Even if the president and his allies are clearly violating the constitution and using the full machineries of the government just to remove the speck of his eye and bone in his throat under the guise of good governance, it is just alright. And now, I am more convinced that this tuwid na daan is proposing a double standard and creating a new culture, a Pharisaical culture. The only way to the straight path is to be self-righteous.
Speaking of tuwid na daan, I think Pnoy must have read and inspired by Dante’s Divina Comedia specially Canto I of the Inferno. It begun this way:
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una oscura,
che la diritta via era smaritta.
(In middle of our life’s journey
I found myself in a dark forest,
Because I had lost the right way.)
And why did Dante lose the right way? Again, to quote Fr. Bernad in another lecture, he said: “He begins to climb, but his way is blocked by three ferocious beasts. One is a leopard, with spotted skin beautiful to behold but deadly. The other is a lion, the violent of beasts. The third is a she-wolf, so voracious that the more it eats, the hungrier it becomes. Three beasts representing the three besetting sins of mankind -- lust, pride and greed -- the things that prevent a person from finding the right way.”
These beasts are also omnipresent in Philippine politics. Lust of power, pride to be in power, greed of power. Power indeed intoxicates.
But the senator-judges wanted also to be in the tuwid na daan and thus they handed the guilty verdict and they said that they based their votes on the evidence presented and not on account of political favors and partisanship motives or considerations. Believe if you must. Verbal irony I should say. I doubt on the charge and evidence presented but the senators accepted it and ruled against CJ. But the senators were honorable men -- as Anthony said to Brutus.
Of course, we know that Caesar was murdered, “the most unkindest cut of all,” in the Roman Senate hall by his fellow senators who conspired and wore togas also. He was assassinated fearing that Rome would be under “one man rule.” The assassins delivered their speeches before the Roman crowd justifying the plot, conspiracy and murder and to possibly appease the plebeians. That was Roman politics.
Quite interestingly is Shakespeare’s violation of grammar rules in the phrase “most unkindest cut of all.”
Many literary critics say that it was intentional to show that Caesar’s person was violated. Well, maybe for CJ Corona’s case, his rights were clearly violated in the grandest manner as propounded by the fearless triumvirate, Arroyo, Santiago and Marcos, whose erudition and sharp dissection of the Bill of Rights will go down to posterity.
Now, after hearing the honorable senators’ explanation of their votes in delivering CJ Corona to his ruin and ignominy, let’s judge for ourselves who among them delivered the truth and not purely politics.
I must admit, I am for the Rule of Law and because of that, I must admit also that I later on favored Corona upon realizing that what I learned in law school and what actually happened in the impeachment court were entirely different. I should take a stand and not abstain on this issue. As what Dante said, “The hottest place in hell is the place for those who in times of moral crises preserved their neutrality.” Thus, I should make a stand though may not be “popular” as Senator Marcos pointed in explaining his vote.
As youth leader, I am not certain of the future of this country if our leaders run this country only to serve their own personal interests with political lust, pride and greed running in their veins, rumbling in their stomachs, colliding in their minds and controlling their very beings.
Now I understand why Rizal called the youth as the hope of the fatherland. The haste of his trial and the falsity of his accusation had traveled in so many generations and it had not stopped even in this generation. That is why Rizal’s hope will always remain and will only be a hope and not a reality because our leaders are not doing things the right way and is passed on from generation to generation. How visionary, how prophetic the hero was!
This generation is not actually rejoicing but grieving. The tuwid na daan that we are traveling now is not actually is but crooked. Oh! Youth of this generation quo vadis?
Anyway, CJ Corona has already accepted his fate with fortitude and asked the Filipino people to move forward. I think this stand of his is a true mark of a gentleman and statesman. May we learn from his unimpeachable mistake; may we be inspired of his unconditional signing of bank waiver for transparency and accountability; may we be humbled to accept our own fate, be it willed by God or decreed by man and fight "an honorable fight." Godspeed Judiciary! (Rhobert C. Maestre)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 06, 2012.