Acquit the Chief Justice!
The primary reason not to hold Chief Justice Corona guilty of all the charges against him lies in the fact that an impeachment process should not be capriciously, whimsically used or exploited by any branch of government to weaken or to destroy any state instrumentality for that branch’s political gains.
We have heard a great deal about the nature of the Corona impeachment trial being both quasi-political and quasi-judicial. It is quasi-political because the duty of handing down the final judgment or verdict is given to elected officials whose primary constitutional responsibility is to debate on and promulgate legislative proposals that would affect the political, economic and social life of this nation. Also, we all know that most of the members of the impeachment court are not equipped with the necessary legal and judicial knowledge to try – and understand- a highly complex and sensitive impeachment case.
It is quasi-political because of the many political factors that could affect the conscience of the jurors, such as political popularity for the re-electionist senator-judges, Malacanang’s monetary and political support, political ‘heroism’, and personal integrity. In finally deciding the case, the “remedy”, according to Professor Charles Black, Jr. of Yale University, “has to be in the conscience of each senator.” Like Chief Justice Renato Corona, each senator-judge who forms part of the impeachment court is now on trial at this very moment. Our senator-judges are about to pronounce not merely a political-judicial judgment; they are also abut to make their own moral judgment, which is undoubtedly an enormous responsibility. To be an impeachment judge, one must possess an unimpeachable character. However, such a judge need not be infallible or omniscient; he only needs an un-breached integrity. This is why our senator-judges are also on trial. They’re being tried not by the people in this country, not by democracy or popular votes, but by reality. Political reality is at stake here, my friends.
It is also quasi-judicial because of one minor constitutional mandate– that the Senate has the power and authority to convene and to sit as an impeachment court. Only the Senate can have that power. This is the reason why every voter in this country must be guided by his/her own conscience. The act of voting, strictly speaking, is not primarily a social responsibility. It is a personal responsibility– an intellectual responsibility. If a person cares for his personal interests as a human being and citizen of this country, he/she would vote for the person who represents his/her values, beliefs and convictions in life. This makes the act of electing our politicians an intellectual process and responsibility. And this is the reason why we need to vote for the leaders who value reason, independence, freedom, and rights.
Impeachment process is inherently part of Republican (not Democratic) tradition. In essence, impeachment is a limitation on the powers of the government. Observe that this process merely targets a select few called ‘impeachable officials’ who hold high-ranking executive, judicial and constitutional offices, and that these officials can only be removed from office for specific impeachable offenses, which include culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, and other high crimes or betrayal of public trust. That is, those who wield enourmous constitutional powers, such as the president, vice-president, justices of the supreme court, members of the constitutional commission, and the ombudsman may only be removed from office by means of impeachment.
The concept of impeachment is also inherent part of the principle of limited government first introduced by the United States. The noble purpose of this process is to remove the crooks, the traitors, the corruptors in the government sector. Its purpose is not to weaken one branch of government by means of frivolous, politically motivated impeachment suits in order to strengthen another branch or instrumentality of government. Its purpose is not to strengthen a particular branch of government at the expense another equally important branch.
The process of impeachment is supposed to maintain the balance of powers in the government by jettisoning the corrupt, the incompetent, the betrayer, and the dishonest through constitutional means, and by preserving its most sacred founding and/or constitutional principles. The problem with our political system is that we abandoned many of the practical, realistic and moral constitutional principles introduced by the United States, such as the principle of limited government, free market system, independent judicial system, and Republican tradition.
We have also heard and seen a great deal about the most celebrated, the most controversial political drama in this country, which primarily involves our Chief Magistrate. Corona was tried in a politically charged impeachment court for 1) failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth as required under the constitution; 2) failure to meet and observe the stringent standards under the constitution that provides that “[a] member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence” in allowing the Supreme Court to act on mere letters filed by a counsel which caused the issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases; and 3) Partiality in granting a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo in order to give them an opportunity to escape prosecution and to frustrate the ends of justice, and in distorting the supreme court decision on the effectivity of the TRO in view of a clear failure to comply with the conditions of the Supreme Court’s own TRO.
The verdict should be solidly based on evidence and facts, not on doubts, assumptions and unfounded allegations. To be valid, or at least objective, the verdict should be free from partiality, political influence, politically motivated grudge, and bias.
The prosecution declared that Corona should be held guilty and removed from his position for simply failing to report his $2.4 million dollar account and the P80 million in commingled funds. However, given the opportunity to question Corona’s alleged ill-gotten wealth and undeclared monetary assets, the prosecution team failed, or refused, to cross examine him. That would have given the prosecution the opportunity to expose Corona to the public as a ‘liar’ or a ‘crook’. But they did not grab that very opportunity. Instead, the prosecution engaged in emotionally charged legal circus to perhaps further influence the conscience of the senator-judges as well as the minds of the people.
A judicial process, whether it be an impeachment proceeding or a regular court trial, ought to be simple: a verdict must be solely based on facts and evidence. Yet any judge or juror may err or commit error in promulgating his decision- when the evidence presented is incomplete or inconclusive- but may not, and should not, evade or refuse to examine the evidence available, nor take bribes, nor allow any personal bias, feeling, emotion, fear or desire to influence or obstruct his mind’s judgments of the facts presented in court.
In regard to this issue- whether the Chief Justice is guilty for failing to include all his monetary assets (some of which are being protected by secrecy of dollar deposits law) in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth- I hold or pronounce the chief magistrate not guilty due to inconclusive evidence. Is failure to correctly declare one’s dollar or peso deposits in his/her SALN an impeachable offense? Does this particular omission carry the same weight or gravity as treason, bribery, graft and corruption and other high crimes? Does it now belong to the class of impeachable offenses enumerated in the 1987 Constitution? My answer is NO. Indeed, the answer should be NO.
In regard to the remaining issues, the same verdict should fall upon the chief justice for want of evidence presented against him.
However, the primary reason not to hold Chief Justice Corona guilty of all the charges against him lies in the fact that an impeachment process should not be capriciously, whimsically used or exploited by any branch of government to weaken or to destroy any state instrumentality for that branch’s political gains.
This issue may be moot and academic for being ‘irrelevant’ to the impeachment proceedings, as the defense had no power to question the intention of the lawmakers in the Lower House for initiating and bringing the case against Corona to the Senate. However, every senator-judge ought to consider this very important aspect if they value judicial independence and the principles of Republicanism, namely, separation of powers, limited government, and checks and balances.
Without any speck of doubt, the President of this country, Benigno Simeon “Ninoy” Aquino III, is guilty of exploiting all the available machinery of his regime in order to oust the chief justice and to weaken the judiciary. This impeachment case has been politically motivated from the very beginning.
Without any speck of doubt, the President of this country, Benigno Simeon “Ninoy” Aquino III, is guilty of exploiting all the available machinery of his regime in order to oust the chief justice and to weaken the judiciary. This impeachment case has been politically motivated from the very beginning. And as many political pundits correctly claim, it’s all about the President’s ‘family-controlled’ Hacienda Luisita.
The President sought and intended to weaken the judiciary for his own political purposes and gains. This very same political trick was employed by former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was determined to push for his fascistic economic and political agenda.
We have to make a moral judgment. It’s either-or. The issue is no longer whether we support the Chief Justice or not. In the court of political reality, the one being tried is the President of this country being the one who strongly initiated and supported Corona’s ouster. It’s either we support the President’s political agenda or not. That’s the main issue issue. It’s crystal clear: the President has his own political agenda. He knows that he needs judicial support and backing in order to pursue his own political ambitions or aspirations. Like FDR, the president has been rooting for a supportive, cooperative [Yellow] Supreme Court.
We have to properly, objectively know the reason, or motivation, why the President publicly campaigned Corona’s ouster as chief justice. Did he do it to pursue his anti-corruption campaign? If so, then, why did he also fail to include his dollar accounts in his SALN? Why did he fail or refuse to fulfill his campaign promise to divulge his dollar accounts? Why did the President refuse to sign a waiver after being challenged by the chief justice? That was clearly a big opportunity for the President to show his fidelity to his campaign promises and sincerity in fighting corruption in the government. However, he did not grab that opportunity, saying it was the Chief Justice who was on trial, not him or his minions.
Or: perhaps the motive behind the President’s anti-Corona rhetoric could have been fueled by his own brand of politics- his yellowish Welfare and Big Government Politics. That the President sought to oust Corona in order to realize his own political agenda.
For the sake of ‘national preservation’, the senator-judges need to acquit the Chief Justice. Acquittal is the only proper judgment or verdict in order to:
- preserve judicial independence against the President’s version of ‘court packing’ scheme;
- maintain the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances;
- preserve our remaining principle of limited government;
- prevent the executive branch from controlling its co-equal branches;
- delay our nation’s march toward a higher degree of statism or big government
Ergo, acquit the Chief Justice!
- P.S. Now that Corona has been convicted, the next big thing to watch is the Aquino regime’s own version of ‘court packing’. Who would the President anoint as new chief justice and who would he appoint as new Supreme Court justice?