By: Francis Allan L. Angelo
I’M YIELDING my space to a portion of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s explanation on his guilty verdict on former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona last May 29, 2012.
Setting aside his legal discussion on the guilty verdict, let us look into Enrile’s definitive summation of the impeachment trial which not only riveted the nation but taxed their patience as senator-judges.
His words should also enlighten us on the real meaning and lessons of the trial – that both the prosecutors and judges are facing the challenge to be unconditionally transparent, open and honest to their real masters – the Filipino people.
Here are some of the notable and eye-opening excerpts of Enrile’s explanation:
In the entire course of this impeachment trial, I have faced many difficult challenges to my own and the Court's collective wisdom, our sense of justice and fairness, the delicate balancing act we must perform to ensure that we do not stray from the strictures of the Constitution, the law and our rules.
This trial began and unfolded against the backdrop of a highly charged and emotional atmosphere, acrimonious debate in and outside the confines of this Court, and a deep political fissure which threatened the stability of our democratic institutions.
But the impact of the many events that transpired since December 12 last year to this very day, taken altogether, cannot compare to the sense of heaviness that I feel at this very moment.
The culmination of this national drama is at hand, and the time has come for me to render judgment on the person before whom I took my Oath of Office as a Senator of the Republic...no less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato C. Corona.
The Respondent Chief Justice and his family understandably feel deeply hurt, pained and aggrieved.
As a lawyer, I must confess that I was personally frustrated by the loose and hasty crafting and preparation that characterized the presentation of the charges contained in the Articles of Impeachment. It seemed that the case was being built up only after the charges were actually filed. The repeated recourse to this Court's compulsory processes to obtain evidence which normally should have formed the factual basis of the charges in the first place further burdened and, at times, taxed the patience of this Court.
We have witnessed with disdain the indiscriminate, deliberate and illegal machinations of some parties who have been less than forthright with this Court in presenting dubiously procured and misleading documents which were spread to the media obviously to influence this Court's and the public's opinion.
The letter of the Administrator of the Land Registration Authority which contained, as an attachment, a list of 45 properties supposedly owned by the Respondent Chief Justice, was fed to the media even before we could begin the actual trial of this case.
Even before the Hon. Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio Morales, was called to testify before this Court, her letter to the Chief Justice requiring him to explain in 72 hours an alleged aggregate amount of US$10M in several dollar accounts was leaked to the media right before the resumption of this trial last May 7.
We have sternly cautioned against unethical and unprofessional conduct, the penchant to engage in trial by publicity, to use the media to disseminate and advance so called "information" or "evidence", to provoke and disrespect this Court and its members, and to irresponsibly hurl disparaging insinuations and accusations.
We have tried to impress upon everyone who may be similarly motivated and inclined to test our will that this Court means serious business and would not succumb to nor allow such underhanded tactics and gimmickry to deter us from our task.
Prudence and justice dictate that in determining the guilt or innocence of the Chief Justice, we must try our best to confine ourselves to the pieces of testimonial and documentary evidence that have been presented to this Court, to pass upon their relevance, and to measure and weigh their value in the light of the charges before us.
The so-called conflict of laws between R.A. Nos. 6713 and 6426 is more illusory than real. Section 8 of R.A. No. 6426 merely prohibits the examination, inquiry or looking into a foreign currency deposit account by an entity or person other than the depositor himself. But there is nothing in R.A. No. 6426 which prohibits the depositor from making a declaration on his own of such foreign currency funds, especially in this case where the Constitution mandates the depositor who is a public officer to declare all assets under oath.
Some have raised the question: Why should the Chief Justice be held accountable for an offense which many, if not most others in Government are guilty of, perhaps even more than he is? They say that hardly anyone declares his true net worth anyway.
Here lies what many have posited as a moral dilemma. I believe it is our duty to resolve this "dilemma" in favor of upholding the law and sound public policy. If we were to agree with the Respondent that he was correct in not disclosing the value of his foreign currency deposits because they are absolutely confidential, can we ever expect any SALN to be filed by public officials from hereon to be more accurate and true than they are today?
I am not oblivious to the possible political repercussions of the final verdict we are called upon to render today. I am deeply concerned that the people may just so easily ignore, forget, if not completely miss out, the hard lessons we all must learn from this episode, instead of grow and mature as citizens of a democratic nation.
Those whose intentions and motivations may be farthest from the lofty ideals of truth and justice are wont to feast upon this man's downfall should this Court render a guilty verdict.
I am equally aware of the tremendous pressure weighing heavily upon all the members of this Court as we had to come to a decision on this case, one way or the other.
But to render a just verdict according to my best lights and my own conscience is a sacred duty that I have sworn to perform.
As one who has been through many personal upheavals through all of my 88 years, I, too, have been judged, often unfairly and harshly. But I have constantly held that those who face the judgment of imperfect and fallible mortals like us have recourse to the judgment of history, and, ultimately, of God.
And so, with full trust that the Almighty will see us through the aftermath of this chapter in our nation's history, I vote to hold the Chief Justice, Renato C. Corona, GUILTY as charged under Article II, Par. 2.3, and that his deliberate act of excluding substantial assets from his sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth constitutes a culpable violation of the Constitution.