Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Corona Impeachment Thus Far

There are just too many technically “innocent” evil men in our society all because of the ability of seasoned lawyers to find loopholes in our legal system and apply them to exonerate persons who obviously are guilty but by some legal sleight of hand are allowed to get away scot-free. As if this is not enough the influence of well placed politicians and high government officials are used to overturn honestly arrived at decisions of the lower courts.
The impeachment court trying the Chief Justice Corona is made up of senator jurors who want to let the truth come out. At the least this is how the impeachment court is defined and at this stage the presiding officer, JP Enrile, seems to be conducting a fairly liberal procedures of the impeachment court. How this will be applied as we get into the crunch point of the proceedings remains to be seen.
Legal luminaries like former justice Cuevas, Dindo de los Angeles and a battery of lawyers who are deemed experts at litigations are pitted against a prosecution panel of congressmen made up of lawyers and non lawyers who hardly have had court experience. Even the outside help from practicing lawyers are not the best that money can buy compared to the powerhouse team of the defense panel. Former Chief Justice Cuevas knows this full well and is having a grand time bamboozling the lightweight opposition to submission. In his frequent objections he makes fun of the lawyers of the other side most of whom were his former students. He facetiously chastises them for being absent in class or for not being attentive during his lectures and the objection almost always turns into a lecture or a remedial review of legal academic subjects. The impeachment court recognizes this and has set up their own rules which may not be constrained by legal protocols, narrow and stretched jurisprudence and other legal technicalities. In some cases the truth is caged by the restrictions of the procedures that are supposed to guard against the curtailment of the rights of the individual often at the expense of abusing of the rights of the larger public or the rest of society. What is inherently evil and what is patently incorrect are sometimes protected by the very laws that are supposed to ensure the reign of civility and morality in our society. How often do we find lawyers and opinion leaders leaning towards the literal applications of the law without regard to the moral precepts which served as bases for such laws?  
Coronarroyo advocates from the senate juror ranks who were shy at the onset are slowly coming out of the woodwork to show their leanings and have joined the bamboozling frenzy of the relatively ill equipped lawyers of the prosecution. Thus far I have already counted seven senator jurors who would be on the side of the Chief Justice needing only one more to swing it in favour of the defense. The feisty now turned testy Miriam Santiago has joined the fray and with her usual bully tactics has irritated, sometimes intimidated the prosecution panel and most of the audiences with her mindless and bombastic tirades. 
I hate to say it but the Senate is not exactly the institution where one finds the most upright of persons. A swing vote is all that is needed and I fear that the price for that will be a tantalizing one when dangled.  All the more Justice Cuevas will be emboldened by this show of support and we can be assured of continuous pedantic filibustering from the head of the defense panel. 
Of late, Cuevas has leaked the information (now denied) that he has been offered a deal by Malacanan which involved his resignation as head of the defense panel in exchange for the dropping of the extortion case against NBI Director Gatdula who happen to be a co-Iglesia member. As Ted Laguatan said, this is nothing but ego tripping for Cuevas and using dirty tricks that puts Malacanan in a bad light. Cuevas has been irresponsible in this recent ploy of his and the INC higher ups are concerned that they have been dragged in an inadvertent light into the controversy.
In the latest impeachment proceedings, Megaworld head of Marketing Noli Hernandez testifies that the 40% reduction/discount is a justified one because of the expediencies surrounding it. It should not have surprised anyone that the prosecution witness would turn “hostile” because anything that they say which proves that they have given special treatment to the Coronas in the purchase of their property will be inimical to them. Being a seasoned Marketing executive he was quite glib and adroit in his testimony, a fact which did not escape the attention of Senator Osmena. His story of how the 40 % (P10 million) reduction/discount was arrived at seemed stretched and contrived at certain points. The cost reduction from the list price of P24 million of the Bellagio top penthouse to P19 million, a P5million reduction, was due to the fact that it was a water damaged unit (typhoon inflicted). The second, which was purported as a  discount of 15% (a little less than P3 million) was for cash discount. The rest has been explained away as pressure coming from the softness of the market after the global financial crisis which sent the financial giants like Lehman Bros., Merryl Lynch, JP Morgan, et al in dire straits. The testimony of Noli Hernandez gave rise to several questions such as the insuring of the unit at construction stage and the insurance claims, the selling of a damaged unit involving liabilities, the cost of rehabilitating the water damaged unit, the strength of the typhoon (as insinuated by Jinggoy Estrada), the existence of an engineering department’s report. Senator Manny Villar, an expert in the real estate and condominium industry cited that 40% discounts are not exactly unheard of because SMDC (Henry Sy) granted a 40% discount to anyone interested in buying SMDC condos. It of course does not bolster the case of the 40% reduction/discount given to Corona because Megaworld had the offer only to a specific individual and not to all. SMDC must have overestimated what the market can bear with their initial price offers and corrected it by granting the substantial discounts to everyone. Hernandez also offered the reason of market softness due to the financial debacle, however, the annual financial statement belies his claim because the company experienced a very profitable year and there was really no need to bring down prices for their units on sale and the specific penthouse unit sold to Corona. The executives of Megaworld Messrs. Ng and Hernandez were understandably cagey and a bit evasive in their statements. Their allegation that they were separately not aware of information with regard to pricing and financial deals is pure fiction. Anyone who has worked with organizations the size of Megaworld would know that executive committee or management committee members would share an awareness of vital information. If you were to ask Mr. Ng about the prices of their units he would easily rattle them off from the top of his head and Mr Hernandez would surely consult the head of finance for deals involving these amounts, just to cite examples of sharing of information at the top.
I have always said that it is almost a certainty that a man of humble resources and simple perspectives will not be served justice while somebody who has a strong support base of money to afford the best lawyers and media mercenaries; and extensive influence is expected to have the odds in his favour for exoneration.
So where lies the truth? So where’s justice?
De Quiros said in an article that the common Juan finds it difficult to find justice because the system favours the elite and that they are left with no other recourse but to seek justice elsewhere by taking the law into their own hands, later as a fugitive of justice vengefully wreaking havoc to society or as an insurgent joining the NPAs.

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