Time for some Monday morning quarterbacking!
Disclaimer: I Am Not A Lawyer. I’m just a guy with opinions. And you know what they say about opinions…
Today, the Philippine Senate has impeached the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by a vote of 20 to 3.
I’ve generally kept silent about the CJ trial, mainly because I know people who are rabidly pro-Corona and I don’t feel like getting into an argument with someone who’s obviously biased (I’m sorry my friends, we are going to have to agree to disagree now). Not to say I dislike him either. I’ve never met the man, I don’t personally know anything about his family. All I know is what I’ve heard reported in the news, media, etc. I’ve tried to hold my judgment until the end of the trial.
First: yes, the prosecution was terrible. Rushed impeachment complaint, bringing charges that are near-impossible to prove (“bias”? =/) fishing expeditions, “evidence” mysteriously appearing given by “unknown sources”. It’s all kinds of shady. To be honest, if the defense had rested their case right after the prosecution finished, they might have gotten a better outcome than this, maybe even won, who knows. The prosecution had next to nothing before the defense made their presentation. All they had were dollar accounts inaccessible to them, and the properties being declared with market value rather than acquisition cost. The defense made so many mistakes, it’s facepalm-worthy. Calling a hostile witness to the stand without knowing what she would bring, calling irrelevant witnesses, arguing that the foreign currency act restricted Corona himself from disclosing the dollar accounts; Cuevas (or whoever pushed for it) should be disbarred for even arguing that last one. They really had only one thing they had to explain, the co-mingled funds in the peso account issue. And even that they weren’t able to explain, with nothing to back up Corona’s explanation: no bank documents, no paper trail, none of the family members testifying that some of the funds were there, nothing!
The only things Corona brought with his testimony were ad hominem attacks, appeals to sympathy, appeals to authority and drama. While I don’t care if those arguments are presented to the media or via press conferences I couldn’t care less, but for the chief justice himself, the head of the judiciary, to be making such arguments in a quasi-legal proceeding? It boggles the mind, to be claiming that the prosecution is bringing forth charges without evidence, when your arguments consist of a conspiracy theory involving an unrelated agrarian reform case and the state of mind of your grandchild. Ugh.
To be honest, I was already leaning against the CJ the moment he accepted the midnight appointment from Gloria Arroyo. That was a terrible, terrible thing to do. You can say that technically it was legal and the Supreme Court upheld it but whatever. I don’t believe that we should be supportive of public servants just because they adhere to the minimum standards set by the law. I believe that with public office being a public trust, public servants should be held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens, even more so those who hold the highest positions in our land. Higher standards of integrity and delicadeza. Public servants should be like caesar’s wife: beyond any suspicion. To accept that midnight appointment, while ruled to be technically legal, while it could not be proven to be for the benefit of GMA, was a terribly unethical decision for someone who should be the epitome of legal ethics. It would have been so easy to say “No, this is not right, I will not accept this nomination, I will not degrade the position of Chief Justice” and thus to end his career honorably (possibly even be chosen as the CJ at a later date). But pride, ambition, loyalty, whatever, he still chose to accept it, and it led to his downfall.
The interpretation of the FCBD act and the SALN law to his benefit is another example, an indicator of a preference of adhering to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law; of placing more importance to a law whose purpose was to encourage dollar savings than to a law that promotes transparency and good government. Is that the sort of shining example we want to give to the judiciary, that they should be placing their personal interests above those of the country?
And rushing out of the trial, claiming a low blood sugar attack, conveniently right after he dramatically calls for waivers from his “political opponents”, then coming back in a wheelchair looking dazed to try to get sympathy (what, there were no sugar sources anywhere in the senate building?). There’s no way to disprove the claim or to show it was staged (even though he had time to shake hands with some people on his way out of the courtroom), but you have to wonder if the CJ himself would allow that sort of shenanigans if he was presiding over the court. Not a very good example either.
There were very few real winners in this trial, but a clear one has to be the Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Despite all the incompetence of the related parties, he did the best job he could, presiding over a very fair trial, calling it straight down the middle down to the very end. Respect.
Also, time for a lesson in bad arguments (mostly for internet commenters): ”Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” – this is a logical fallacy called “Tu quoque”, a form of ad hominem. While this is great for bibilical parables, probably not the best argument to cite for legal proceedings. Sure, a whole lot of the accusers themselves are probably corrupt or misdeclaring their SALNs or whatever. Impeach them too. Impeach them all if we have to. (Fortunately for the president, incompetence is not an impeachable offense…yet.)
That’s my 2 cents. Now can we move on? We still have to prepare for the next circus, it’s coming in May 2013.