The trial is a crucible, a supreme test of public trust for one of the nation’s most powerful officials and by extension for the Supreme Court, indeed for the entire justice establishment, over both of which he presides as chief justice.
As it happens, Corona himself, in what may yet prove poetic justice, has kept the trial effectively going. Not too eager to seize his day in court by appearing at his own trial and facing his accusers, he has chosen instead to bring his case to friendly audiences (“forum-shopping” in the idiom that describes the equivalent illegality in his own profession), issuing blanket denials and at the same time blaming a vengeful presidency for his troubles. He has further reaped the whirlwind in turn.
New allegations show him even wealthier and more acquisitive than his impeachment charge sheet makes him appear—in fact, the ombudsman, following up on one of them, has ordered an inquiry into a US$10-million (PhP430-million) account he supposedly keeps; he is also shown to have passed off overblown if not downright fraudulent academic credentials—and, by quickly pulling out those precisely questioned self-claims from his website, he tends to incriminate himself. With the full fallout from all this yet to descend, the nation’s interest in the trial should pick up and again stir the polls.
Actually the polls have not favored Corona from the start: they have consistently found him unworthy of the people’s trust, unfit therefore to continue in office. Just as consistently on his part, he denies the damning numbers and tries to discredit them as biased accounting. His hand is rather forced.
So is the impeachment court’s, if in a different and somewhat opposite sense. Composed of men and women whose careers and reputations rise and fall on a national vote, the impeachment court simply cannot ignore the polls, the running measure of the heat and direction of the popular sentiment. A senator-judge will just have to work his or her political agenda around them. And where Corona may be a compromised item, dealing with him becomes a problem, a problem indeed for any judge predisposed to keeping him. Obviously, it is such a judge who will hedge his or her bets until the very last moment, although it looks very unlikely that the public mood will change.
The defense and some senator-judges have certainly tried, with great effort yet little subtlety, to own the trial, to steal it from the people; they have tried to confine Corona’s case in a thicket of technicalities and legalities, obviously in patronizing hopes that in their lay- if not simple-mindedness the people would be lost in them.
But, as the polls have tended to reveal, the people, in their pure-mindedness, are not to be fooled: they know the impeachment court is their court, a mere surrogate of theirs, existing on power merely borrowed from them, and therefore has no choice but to vote their—the people’s—vote.
And the way it looks, their vote is for Corona’s “sovereign removal” (to use a phrase taken, again, from his own profession). They’re not about to risk a further emboldening of his shady establishment and a consequent crippling of all efforts at judicial reform.
The people will not be fooled. (http://www.cmfr-phil.org/inmediasres/the-people-wont-be-fooled/)
Vergel O. Santos has been a journalist for over four decades. He worked as a senior editor of the Business Day, consulting editor of the Journal publications, and executive editor of The Manila Times and The Manila Chronicle. He has written four books, all on his profession, one, “The Newswriting Formula”, a university text. Mr. Santos is today a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and Chairman of the Editorial Board of BusinessWorld, Philippines.