On the occasion of the blessing of the Justicia Room at the Ateneo Law School, Rockwell Center, Makati City, Chief Justice Renato C. Corona was given the privilege to deliver a speech in front of his contemporaries, former professors and the members of his defense panel in the impeachment case; quite a few, including the head of the defense panel, former justice Cuevas, were alumni of the Ateneo Law school. His speech touched on his academic experience in law school, early career and his topping of the bar examinations. He thanked his mentors for inspiring him to excel in his studies and for the school for moulding and inspiring him to rise to greater heights.
The Chief Justice is now the subject of an impeachment case which if found guilty of the accusations of graft and corruption; betrayal of trust and abuse of authority would have him removed from office, barred from assuming any governmental position as well as from private practice of the legal profession. As he said, “I have nothing to gain and everything to lose”.
The case, to say the least, is a celebrated one and is marred with controversy because of the issues that arose outside of the items in the impeachment case. What started out as a legal tussle involving former president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the head of the Department of Justice, Leila de Lima on the issuance of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) by the Supreme Court putting in abeyance the hold order barring the former president’s bid to travel for medical treatment outside the country is now a constitutional issue from whence, as suggested by the Corona advocates, a constitutional crisis can ensue.
What the Corona advocates are protesting about, among other things, is that the case has got to do with the question of supremacy among equal branches of government. Their contention is that the Executive branch with the help of the Legislature is imposing on the Supreme Court their authority, inclusive of the interpretation of the law which they insist is the sole responsibility of the Supreme Court. On the other hand the Senate avers that an Impeachment Court has the right to put to practice the rules of such a court as they see fit to allow the ferreting out of the truth unimpeded by the technicalities of regular court proceedings. The Senate Impeachment court is a lawful assemblage which is guaranteed by the constitution as an instrument to oust erring high officials of government. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a respected constitutionalist and legal expert says that not one of the branches of government has supremacy over the other, only the constitution is supreme over them.
The general public seems to be opposed to the Corona cause which the Corona advocates dismiss as a result of propaganda that the Aquino government has successfully launched. The Corona group argue on the basis of legal tenets which seem to be appreciated only by the legal community—but even then, there are law practitioners who are as intensely opposed. Within the Ateneo alumni there are those who strongly oppose Corona; seeing the ousting of the Chief Justice as linchpin to the government’s effort to eradicate graft and corruption in government as it is intertwined with the wrong doings of the former administration; and there are those, legally inclined, who see it as a threat to the rule of law, unconstitutional and anarchy bound. For many officials and politicians, past and present, see it a threat to the status quo. The success of the eradication of graft and corruption is synonymous to the end of the cornucopia of plenty which they have enjoyed.
The invitation to speak on the inauguration of the Justicia Room in the Ateneo Law School, needless to say, is a gesture reserved for those, who without a doubt, are honourable and with unimpeachable moral qualities all of which are still to be proved in the case of Corona. If by chance Corona gets impeached it would be a smear to the reputation of the Justicia Room whose inauguration was graced by his presence and oration. It would, also, be an embarrassment to the school to have granted such an honour to someone who might be proven to be an antithesis of what we uphold as the law.
Funny that Corona cites Dean Pompeyo Diaz who was spot on when he made the astute observation that among the many evil people in this world the most dangerous is the one who knows the law but has no conscience. It is a conclusion one can make upon seeing the proliferation of mercenary lawyers who make a living (a lucrative one) taking on hopeless cases which seem indefensible from the very start. What makes it deplorable is that these lawyers are among the most brilliant ones, bar topnotchers from the best of schools who know the law in depth; know them enough to twist it in favour of their clients through skilful manipulation of the technical aspects of the law. We’ve been through this discussion before, with the pro Corona advocates insisting on the literal application of the law without regard to the moral precepts that they are based on; without regard to recognizing what is patently evil and conventionally wrong—judging on the letter of the law and using procedures that ensure “due process” to free the obviously guilty Big Man of wealth and power but seldom protects Juan of humble circumstances and simple perspectives
The tact that the defense panel has taken is the suppression of evidences and testimonies through the knowledge of the intricacies of forensics, evidence presentation, admissibility of testimonies, correctness of form, legalese and just about anything that they can cite to bedevil the prosecutors who are generally inexperienced and ill trained in this art.
Corona protests that he is being demonized by being depicted as abominable and unworthy. He said it didn’t matter because he alone knows the truth--but sharing the truth of his dollar accounts would have cleared him of the suspicions and the accusations; he has chosen to keep the truth to himself, thereby, strengthening the perception that he really has something to hide.
The impeachment court is sui generis, a unique assemblage of senator jurors who have been tasked to ferret out the truth without being hampered by the technicalities of a regular court—a proceeding that could easily be understood by most of the constituents; relying on what is commonly accepted as fair and judicious assessments of the facts presented; a people’s court, for the lack of a better term.. The judgment would rely on what are perceived as conventionally correct and truthful minus the legal gobbledegook. A court where Juan would have a chance of getting redress.
Corona wanted to make heroic his act by saying that he was willing to lose everything for something he believes in. He should realize that this is his comeuppance; he had it coming to him. The prospect of losing everything stares him in the face but it is not because of defending what he believes in but due to dishonesty, abuse of position and total loss of integrity as Chief Justice.
An e-mail from DJ de Jesus (grupo58) explained that Corona was not the keynote speaker but volunteered to speak when guests were invited to do so.
from DJ de Jesus:
"The event at which he spoke was the rededication of the Justicia Room, which is adorned by portraits of the Justices of the Supreme Court who are also alumni of the law school, from Teehankee to Corona. Other justices present were invited to speak, but no one (except Corona) came forward to take the floor. Perhaps, the organizers should have anticipated that Corona would use the event to bolster his side on the impeachment case. His presence alone should have raised the alarm. Wnen Fr. Bernie criticized Corona in his PDI column for accepting the "midnight appointment,"Corona reportedly declared that he would never step into the Ateneo again, while Fr. Bernie remained there.
In any event, the impression created in the media that the Ateneo invited Corona to deliver the keynote address at the event, in order to give him a platform to argue his case, I have it on good authority, is mistaken."