Sunday, 12 February 2012 00:00
Like many who follow the Corona impeachment trial, I am often frustrated by the obvious lack of competence shown by the prosecution team. Repeatedly, they fail to do what needs to be done. They are often unprepared, show sophomoric exposure to rules of evidence, lack tactical skills and fail to anticipate that their own witness might turn hostile against them.
But from something bad, something good can sometimes happens.
Let’s take the last point. They brought in the Megaworld witnesses to support their argument that Corona did not declare the correct value in his SALN and to obliquely attack him by showing that he was given an extraordinary 40% discount — subliminally suggesting that this was a bribe.
They should have anticipated that the Megaworld witnesses could easily turn hostile. Certainly, Megaworld would look bad and could be subjected to criminal penalties if they gave the impression that the 40% discount was a bribe.
Predictably the witnesses justified the discount: They claimed the unit was water damaged due to a typhoon and that the economy was bad that year forcing them to sell at a whopping 40% reduction.
But as fate would have it, the error of the prosecution may result in some pay dirt. Senator Sergio Osmena intuitively has requested for detailed records of the purported typhoon damage and possible insurance compensation to Megaworld if any.
The financial records of Megaworld also indicate huge profits for the year 2008, the year the unit was sold. Moreover, the other comparable units were sold for the market price of around P10 million or more. The Megaworld witnesses also indicated that this was the last unit available unwittingly indicating the brisk sale of units.
If Megaworld is not able to persuade the public that the reasons they expressed for the price reduction are true – that would make this transaction very suspicious.
On another point, the issue of unjust enrichment or unexplained wealth would have been a logical and very relevant issue against Corona. That alone, if proven, would mean that he is morally unfit to continue being Chief Justice.
Why the prosecution gave up so easily in allowing the defense’s request to exclude this allegation and supportive evidence indicates poor thinking and technical incompetence. They could have scored heavily if they were allowed to delve into the issue of Corona’s alleged ill gotten wealth.
Nevertheless, evidence consisting of ownership of various properties in Corona’s name and his children’s names which could not be justified by his reported income nor by his relatives’ incomes — are quite damaging.
These real property ownerships and income reports were presented as evidence by the prosecution to show that Corona devaluated his assets or omitted important information in his annual SALN (Statement of liability and Net Worth).
Even if presented not for the purpose of proving ill gotten wealth — inevitably, by implication, like it or not, these series of evidence do suggest that Corona was purchasing various properties in his name and in his children’s name utilizing unexplained money sources. Of course, his lawyers will be given a chance to explain these irregularities.
These eye opening revelations should open the gates for serious consideration by the Ombudsman’s office and the Department of Justice to determine if enough probable cause exists to file various separate criminal charges against Corona and other Justices and judges with similar indications of probable corruption. Again, they will be afforded due process rights to prove their innocence.
If President Aquino and all of us really and seriously want to clean up corruption for the good of all — we must support all legitimate and legal means to carry out this sacred goal. Clean government will lead to a better life for all.
The prosecution is not exactly a dream team but I have no doubt that they sincerely want to do their best – warts and all. Unlike the defense lawyers whose daily bread comes from doing trials, the prosecutors are limited in trial experience.
A common error which amateur lawyers make: They do not carefully double check the accuracy of their data.
To show the public that they have a strong case, prior to the trial, based on incomplete data — in their enthusiasm — the prosecutors negligently rushed to announce on TV and other media that Corona had some 45 properties. It turned out later that only some 24 properties were involved.
While those numbers by themselves should be more than enough to place Corona in a bad light, still to be fair, the prosecutors deserve to be rebuked for this negligent presentation.
The majority of the viewing public who want the truth to come out cheer when Senators take up the slack to elicit vital information from witnesses that the prosecutors fail to do.
Unavoidably, the Senator-Judges reveal their positions when they speak. The defense accuses Senator Frank Drilon of being biased on the side of the prosecution and wants him to recuse himself from the trial. On the other hand, the prosecution could say the same thing about Senator Joker Arroyo. Senator-Judges on one side or another have to reveal their cards sooner or later. This is the nature of this impeachment beast.
Another Senator, Gringo Honasan, wants to keep the public from trying the case by muzzling each side’s spokespersons — a clear violation of Constitutional free speech rights. Let the people get as much truth as possible even if mixed with some bovine dung now and then. Adults should be able to decide for themselves who’s telling the truth.
The issue in this impeachment trial is not the competence or incompetence of the prosecution or the defense. The real issue is whether or not Corona should be impeached for repeatedly protecting the interests of the Arroyos above that of the people.
The main focus of this impeachment trial should be on the interest of the people. Specifically, this means having a judicial system with honest fair judges who provide true justice to the people.
The personal interests of President Aquino, Corona, the Senator-Judges, the Congressperson-prosecutors, the defense lawyers and whoever else – are only relevant here in so far as they help to promote the people’s interest.
We are a nation in continuous mourning. One third of our people go to bed hungry at night. Mothers and fathers quietly sob watching their sick children waste and eventually die because they cannot afford to buy medicines. Many innocent people are in jail because they cannot afford lawyers. Young people become victims of human traffickers. So many leave their loved ones to work in far hot and cold countries with strange cultures – braving terrible loneliness and all kinds of dangers and risks.
It does not have to be like this. If we have a clean honest efficient government, we can change the Philippines.
By Ted Laguatan
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