What Corona Has Done

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

From the beginning, it was a matter of character. In the end, it is about character. And Rene Corona affirmed that the character that he has is the one that is capable of destroying a society’s sense of decency, sense of justice, and sense of morality. While he tried to hide behind the legal acrobatics of seasoned lawyers, he must have sensed that he would be hanged after details about his dollar accounts began to surface. He did not take the stand to be transparent; it was the only way to squirt black ink on a truth that was finding its way to the light.

Several have already written about their opinions on the theatrical performance of a Chief Justice out to save his neck even if it meant distorting the truth some more. He had to extol his virtues because no one, except for his Midas who is neither king nor credible, has been brave and articulate enough to do it for him. So the Filipino people had to witness the spectacle of a man with little credibility make a desperate effort to raise his own bench.

Raise his own bench he could not. In his desperation more than his arrogance, Rene Corona forgot a simple marketing principle – that the one without credibility cannot be the main instrument to raise his credibility. Of course, he tried his best, together with his legal scriptwriters, to put on a grand performance before the Filipino public. He had to shatter the utter distrust and adverse judgment already levied on him by a vast majority of Filipinos. He knew the judgment by the senators would be swayed by the sentiment of those who could vote them in again or vote them out of the senate.

It is always the public that has influence over the politician senators. They may claim,though, that the law and the evidence submitted will be the basis of their decision. Somehow, I cannot believe that the influence of public opinion is less valuable than legalities which have as many interpretations as there are lawyers. The collective vote of the public, however, is primordial- except to those who will not be running for reelection anymore.

Instead of raising his bench, Rene Corona lowered the bar of societal morals and ethics.  A Chief Justice stands for the very principle of justice, of integrity, of probity, of rock-hard consistency and adherence to the spirit of the law. Rene Corona is known for everything else but what he was supposed to symbolize. Ask Juan de la Cruz which of the aforementioned virtues is a strong character trait of Rene Corona. Ask, but do not be surprised if Juan de la Cruz scratches his head.

When Corona is accused as having been appointed to protect his benefactor, Gloria Arroyo, from prosecution for all the high crimes she is suspected to have committed, it is not his vote as a Justice of the Supreme Court that is being questioned the most. It is his influence as Chief Justice, as chief negotiator between his benefactor or other clients and his fellow Justices for their votes that is the most detestable. The Supreme Court has been the subject of suspicion because it has flipped-flopped in a number of high-profile cases. It is not a Corona but a Corona et al majority vote that has been accused of favoring political and business VIPs.

If a Supreme Court favors one side, especially the losing side, what is the motivation? By and large, as most corruption incidences go, money is the motivation of an unjust decision. That is why the question of where Rene Corona gets his money has been asked and deserves in depth investigation. For someone who cannot properly remember to report his SALN, Corona now claims that he earned lots of money from currency investments. How else can he defend amounts he did not earn openly? His claims merit a fuller, more detailed investigation related to the kind of money he received and dispensed with. It may be the can of worms that can send many to prison.

Amateurish the Prosecution team may be according to some senators and many kibitzers, it had the wisdom and courage to accuse Rene Corona of betraying the public trust. It is a basic accusation grounded on a basic law which requires public  officials and employees to maintain a level of ethics and morals befitting their positions of responsibility. The Defense with its alleged superior minds could have parried or twisted legal arguments but could not change the conclusion and judgment of the people against the character of Corona. It could be that the senators know better, that they see in Rene Corona an honorable man, truthful, transparent, honest. But that would mean that at least 70% of Filipinos cannot distinguish between a virtuous man and one without character.

I stand with the understanding and the judgment of the majority of Filipinos. I believe they are perfectly capable to discerning between the honest and the dishonest. I believe that their perspective of the impeachment and the impeached is an intelligent one grounded on common sense and Filipino values. The shameful performance of Rene Corona in his orchestrated appearance in the Senate affirms the soundness and accuracy of the people’s view and judgment.

We are paying a high price to dismantle an environment long controlled by the corrupt because they are also the powerful. The Corona impeachment is not the climax of change, it is the beginning. As we disturb the tradition of corruption in the highest of positions, there will be more resistance by those who cannot afford to lose their power and advantage over others. There will be more clashes if PNoy perseveres in his mission of confronting corruption. His task and our demand for change are made more difficult because Justices like Rene Corona have made the immoral and the unethical defensible.


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