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Back Opinion OP-ED Guest Columnist Joseph G. Lariosa If Convicted, Can Chief Justice Corona Make A Comeback?
25 Feb 2012

If Convicted, Can Chief Justice Corona Make A Comeback?

CHICAGO (jGLi) – Despite the common stands taken by Philippine Senate President and concurrent Senator-Judge Chief Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate-Judge legal heavyweight Miriam Defensor Santiago that there are differences in the Impeachment Trial between the Philippines and United States, there is very good chance that there are also big similarities.

I am referring to a clause on both the Philippines and the United States Constitutions that provides, “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office (U.S. version has additional ‘of honor, Trust or Profit’) under the Republic of the Philippines (in the U.S., of course, ‘United States’), but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to prosecution, trial, and punishment, (U.S. version has “Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment), according to law.”

Because of this striking similarity of the constitutional clause, Chief Justice Renato Corona can heave a sigh of relief if he were convicted by the Senate because he might still get some form of redemption.

Just ask incumbent U.S. Rep. Alcee Lamar Hastings (Dem.-Fla.), the first U.S. federal judge to be removed by the U.S. Senate as judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida after being impeached by the House of Representatives by a near unanimous vote of 413-3 for bribery and perjury.

Hastings was later convicted in 1989 by the United States Senate, becoming the sixth federal judge in the history of the United States to be removed from office by the Senate

The U.S. Senate had the option to forbid Mr. Hastings from ever seeking federal office again but did not exercise the option.

COMEBACK KID

So, Hastings mounted a political comeback by running for Secretary of State of Florida, campaigning on a platform legalizing casinos. In a three-way Democratic primary, he placed second with 313,758 votes, or 33%, behind newspaper columnist Jim Minter's 357,340 votes (38%) and ahead of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon John Paul Rogers' 275,370 votes (29%). In the runoff, which saw a large dropoff in turnout, Hastings lost to Minter in a landslide, 300,022 votes to 146,375. Minter would go on to lose the general election to incumbent Republican James C. Smith.

Not one to easily give up, Hastings ran again and won a U.S. House of Representative position in 1992, representing Florida’s 23rd district.

His “Prodigal Son” political back story has a very unique twist.

In 1981, Hastings was charged with accepting a $150,000 bribe in exchange for a lenient sentence and a return of seized assets for 21 counts of racketeering by Frank and Thomas Romano, and of perjury in his testimony about the case. He was acquitted by a jury after his alleged co-conspirator, William Borders, refused to testify in court (resulting in a jail sentence for Borders).

In 1988, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives took up the case, and Hastings was impeached for bribery and perjury by a near-unanimous vote of 413-3. He was then convicted in 1989 by the United States Senate, becoming the sixth federal judge in the history of the United States to be removed from office by the Senate. The vote on the first article was 69 for and 26 opposed, providing two votes more than the two-thirds of those present that were needed to convict. The first article accused Hastings of conspiracy. Conviction on any single article was enough to remove the judge from office. The Senate vote cut across party lines, with Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, voting to convict his fellow party member, and Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, voting to acquit.

HASTINGS WANTED TO BE TRIED BY FULL SENATE, NOT COMMITTEE

Alleged co-conspirator, attorney William Borders went to jail again for refusing to testify in the impeachment proceedings, but was later given a full pardon by President Bill Clinton on his last day in office.

Hastings filed suit in federal court claiming that his impeachment trial was invalid because he was tried by a Senate committee, not in front of the full Senate, and that he had been acquitted in a criminal trial. Judge Stanley Sporkin ruled in favor of Hastings, remanding the case back to the Senate, but stayed his ruling pending the outcome of an appeal to the Supreme Court in a similar case regarding Judge Walter Nixon, who had also been impeached and removed.

Sporkin found some "crucial distinctions" between Nixon's case and Hastings's, specifically, that Nixon had been convicted criminally, and that Hastings was not found guilty by two-thirds of the committee who actually "tried" his impeachment in the Senate. He further added that Hastings had a right to trial by the full Senate.

The Supreme Court, however, ruled in Nixon v. United States that the federal courts have no jurisdiction over Senate impeachment matters, so Sporkin's ruling was vacated and Hastings's conviction and removal were upheld.

If the Philippine Senate would vote to convict Corona in one of the seven articles of impeachment but would not prevent him from ever occupying any public office, Mr. Corona can always run for the 2013 Senatorial Elections, like Rep. Hastings. If he tops the 2013 senatorial elections, sky is the limit for him. Depending on his handlers, Corona can become the opposition standard bearer in 2016 en route to become the William Howard Taft of the Philippines.

Mr. Taft, Governor-General of the Philippines from 1900 to 1904, would later become Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court after becoming the 27th President of the U.S. In fairness to Taft, Mr. Taft was never impeached, like Mr. Corona.

Another U.S. President was able to hold another branch of government, President James Polk, the 11th President, who became the 17th Speaker of the House of Representatives, a feat being eyed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who could also become the Speaker of the House if she surmounts the mountains of plunder cases being poured on her by President Noynoy Aquino. President Polk, though, was charged with starting a war in violation of the Constitution but not graft, like GMA’s.

Wake up CJ Corona and GMA from your dreams!

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