A Look Back (Again)

by Juan L. Mercado


“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear,” the author  James Thurber counsels. Rather we should look “around in awareness.”  That is good advice, more so when we cross milestones.

The 20-3 decision by the Impeachment  Court to convict Supreme Court chief justice Corona is a historic watershed.  So, we  took Thurber’s advice. From the columns we  wrote over the past seven weeks we picked two points: (a) just as the trial started; and ( b ) a week before it ended. Here are excerpts:

“History’s “deep-running currents have shifted,” the column Sunset Glory”(17 Jan. 2012) asserted.  “They don’t eddy about embattled Renato Corona, 64 who predicts he’ll be vindicated. Instead, they swirl about 88-year old Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who presides over the trial. His rulings and guidance could spur —or derail — judiciary reforms in decades ahead…

“Corona is intelligent and street-wise. He doesn’t need a crystal bowl to foresee however, the decision reads, it will also be an obituary, even implicit, for the country’s 23rd chief justice’s rocky career.                                

“Against his better instincts and counsel, he accepted a midnight appointment, given two days after the 2010 elections. That was a month before President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stepped down from Malacanang, enroute to arrest for plunder and other charges.                  .

“Corona’s capacity to lead the Supreme Court died then. Filing of impeachment by 188 congressmen, last month, merely confirmed the “dead-on-arrival” notice. His 19-0 decisions, coddling his now embattled patron, form a post-mortem footnote.

“Enrile is a brilliant lawyer and legislator. His record is mixed, to say the least. He faked a Wack-Wack ambush to enable Ferdinand Marcos to clamp on martial law. Thousands were killed, “disappeared” or tortured under his watch. He played a key People Power One that restored freedom. That was smudged by his “God Save The Queen” plots against Corazon Aquino —who fired him.                                         .

“Providence grants very few people once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to alter history with sunset glory. From the impeachment court’s presiding chair, the bright and once-penniless lad from Gonzaga, Cagayan, has a chance to do just that.  Enrile’s “finest hour” could just be around the corner. Not so for Corona. Sayang.”                               

On the 39th day,  the trial see-sawed. To break the impasse,  the defense asked the Court to subpoena Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. It was an effort to disprove charges of  dollar salting by the Corona. Here are excerpts  from  May 12 column  titled: Sowing the Wind.

“Oppression can only survive through silence.” Who’d gag the Ombudsman from testifying before the impeachment court on sealed dollar accounts of Corona?                             .

I will obey the Senate,” said Carpio Morales, sub-poenaed to appear She’d respond to questions by 23 senator judges. That includes her order to Corona: explain within 72 hours, charges of stashing $10-million… “

Then Supreme Court spokesman Marquez  Midas tried to head off Morales, saying: “Suppose some one “questioned Morales order before the SC on the ground of grave abuse of discretion?”, Midas asked. The high court may “rule on legality of the Ombudsman’s order.”
“Midas assumes the Court would stitch the Ombudsman’s lips shut, if and when, such a petition is filed. Crystal bowling is not included in his “Terms of Reference”. Spokespersons are supposed to work by delicadeza. That’d rule out trolling for petitioners.

“Carpio Morales’ track record shows a jurist who does not suffer fools gladly. She acted on the pro-forma waiver that Corona, like other filers of SALNs, signed.  It authorized the Ombudsman to look into all his financial records in connection with SALN.

“Carpio-Morales won’t be silenced. She’ll display the “burnished steel” of previous decisions. That’s our take. Who  tries to gag this Ombudsman will sow the wind — and reap the whirlwind.”

That whirlwind roared in as “Postcript asked a week before conviction: “What reforms are needed for a post-Renato Corona Supreme Court?

Carpio–Morales  had made public the 17 page report by the Anti-Money :Laundering Council on 407 dollar  transactions.  over a decade, by Corona — who stalked out of the impeachment court without a by your leave. A fuming Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile ordered a Senate lock down .

“Guards later trundled a limp Corona back on a wheelchair. Played out on TV and in headlines, the “detention” is unprecedented. On “release,” he made a beeline for Medical City.

“If Corona were gravely ill, why did he not resign? If not, then this caper savaged an already battered Supreme Court. “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” the Galilean once asked.

“A prima facie case has been built, former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban wrote in the Inquirer.Hopes for long-stalled judiciary reforms piggyback on next week’s decision. Reforms come only from a credible court.

What will be good for our grandchildren? Corona’s acquittal, or conviction? Senator-judges That’s the bottom line. Indeed, curtains have fallen on the Corona era. The rest is postscript.  No need to rise from your hospital bed, Chief, and ask who those bells toll for on Day 44. “They toll for thee.”

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