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It’s time for Corona to cut and cut clean!

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As the Senate impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona is about to begin, the intensity of public outrage against him has reached fever pitch.  Recent disclosures that he owns several real estate properties triggered demands that he release his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), which is a constitutional requirement.  Calls for his resignation abound.  But he defiantly stood his ground.  He is going to fight to the end!

*By the numbers

The Senate impeachment trial will start on January 16, 2012.  Corona is accused of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and graft and corruption.   There are eight articles of impeachment transmitted to the Senate by the House of Representatives, which impeached Corona based on the signatures of 188 congressmen.  A minimum of 95 signatures was required to impeach.  

Corona assembled a battery of 15 seasoned defense lawyers ready to face 11 congressman-prosecutors and 23 senator-judges who will pass judgment on each of the eight articles of impeachment. 

Conviction -- which needs a 2/3 majority or 16 votes -- on one article of impeachment would be enough to remove Corona from office regardless of the verdict on the other seven articles. Acquittal needs eight votes on all articles. 

*Fate or karma?

Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of the impeachment of Corona.  About 70% of the people support President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s initiative to remove Corona from office.  Most of Corona’s supporters are politicians allied with former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, opinion writers who have a long history of siding with Gloria, and those who have a long history of criticizing P-Noy.  Indeed, the impeachment trial is all about Gloria.  If Corona wins, Gloria walks.  It’s as simple as that.

If not for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who defiantly ignored the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court in a lightning fashion, Gloria and her husband Mike Arroyo would now be safe in a foreign country with no extradition treaty with the Philippines.  But it must be fate – or karma – that did the Arroyos in. 

Their “escape plan” was executed with clockwork precision.  But just like the movie, “The Great Escape,” in which Steve McQueen almost made it across the Swiss border in a motorcycle but got snagged by barbed wires right at the border, “Queen” Gloria almost made it to the airplane that would have brought her to “freedom” but was stopped at the tarmac by immigration officials on De Lima’s order.

*It’s all about Gloria

But what we’re dealing here is a real-life situation, where the freedom of 97 million Filipinos to live in a democratic society is threatened by a Supreme Court packed with Gloria’s appointees whose loyalty to Gloria seems to be the secret covenant attached to their oath of office.  As I jokingly said of Corona’s oath of office recently, “My loyalty to the Constitution ends where my loyalty to Gloria begins.”

It did not then come as a surprise when P-Noy made his move to impeach Corona.  He knew that if Corona remains as Chief Justice until his mandatory age retirement in 2018, P-Noy would never be able to fulfill his promise to the people to rid the government of corruption and poverty.  And Gloria would go scot-free, never to face justice again for as long as Corona remains as Chief Justice.

“Walang korap, walang mahirap” would just become one of those sound bytes associated with failure of leadership.  He would be a lame duck president for four long years until he steps down in 2016 or resign in shame.  He would be the butt of jokes by his political enemies, and his allies would shun him, not out of disrespect but out of pity. 

That would be the advent of the Arroyo-Corona “axis of evil,” which would restore the abbreviated reign of Gloria.  With Corona and the other “Arroyo justices” in a position where they could interpret the Constitution any which way they want, the country could be heading towards a plutocratic oligarchy never seen before, even during the time of Marcos.  There is no shadow of a doubt that Gloria still harbors a desire to be back in power.  Simply put, she would not live a life in prison.  She has to get out and back in the saddle again.  And the “Coronarroyo Court” would be there to protect her.  Indeed, a restored Arroyo regime would make Marcos look like a boy scout.  

*Obstacles

When the Senate impeachment trial begins on January 16, the senator-judges will decide on the motion of Corona to declare the articles of impeachment invalid because Corona claimed that a majority of the 188 signatories did not read the articles. If the Senator-judges rule in favor of Corona, then that would the end of it.

The following day, January 17, the Supreme Court en banc will meet to rule on six separate petitions to stop the impeachment trial for various reasons.  The petitioners asked the high court to issue a TRO against the impeachment trial.  More than likely the petitions would be consolidated into one; thus, resulting in one ruling only.  If the Supreme Court rules against the consolidated petition, then that would be the end of the impeachment trial.

Any of these “threats” to short-circuit the impeachment trial would definitely cause public uproar and unrest.  I would not be surprised if that would ignite people power.

However, if the Supreme Court rules against the consolidated petition, then the show goes on.  The impeachment trial could become nasty and brutal.  Corona and his family members’ lives would be turned inside out and expose everything they have, particularly his wife Cristina who is under investigation by the Department of Justice for alleged abuse and misuse of public funds during her tenure as Chairman and President of the Camp John Hay Management Corporation. 

In my article, “Corona’s Achilles heel” (December 28, 2011), I wrote: “But at the end of the day, it would all come down to a conjugal decision on how Corona should play his hand at his impeachment trial.  Corona and his wife are both in this together.  If one went down, the other would go down, too.  Or, they can cut their losses and move on with their lives.  And all it would take is for Corona to take the fall – resign — in order to protect his Achilles heel… Cristina.”

Corona’s situation reminds me when U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt called Marcos at Malacañang at 5:30 a.m. on that fateful day Feb. 25, 1986.  “Senator, what do you think?” Marcos asked. “I think you should cut and cut clean,” Laxalt responded. “I think the time has come.”  The silence was deafening.  “Mr. President, are you still there?” Laxalt said. “I’m here, Senator,” Marcos answered softly, “I’m very, very disappointed.”  Marcos and his family left the country to exile in Hawaii.  It prevented further turmoil and bloodshed.

Corona should do a Marcos.  The time has come for him to cut and cut clean!  That is the right thing to do.

By Perry Diaz




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