Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Demonizing of Corona family continues, violating rules of impeachment court; CCT missing in action; what kind of game is the Kano playing with disclosure of WB report on Corona Court on eve of trial?

The demonizing of Chief Justice Renato Corona in the yellow media continues unabated and it’s obvious that their aim is to break his will to fight conviction in the Senate trial that starts tomorrow.  For instance, the lead yellow newspaper bannered the so-called “45 properties” of Corona amounting to P200 million, but I laughed to myself when I saw that among those listed were three parking slots in Bellagio Condominium building that were counted with the Coronas’ unit there as separate pieces of property, making it appear that they own four units there. 

In the impeachment case against him ordered by President Aquino, the CJ has not gone into detailed rebuttal of the personal issues raised against him and his family  strip-tease style by the House prosecution team, in full violation of the gag rules of court, such as his so-called 45 properties. But friends have done it for the Coronas via the only recourse available in today’s highly-partisan media---the internet.


Civic leader Baby Nebrida recently circulated an account of a conversation with Tina Corona, the CJ’s wife, where the latter stressed that they bought the Bellagio penthouse “with no doors, not bathroom tiles, no flooring, no cabinets and no partitions, KAYA MURA.” She decried that the listing supposedly from the Land Registration Authority even included properties of her balaes as well as some old property in Marikina she inherited from her mother and sold in 1988. Tina Corona lamented that even former QC Mayor Mel Mathay’s name was dragged into the controversy. “Would I use Mel Mathay as my dummy?” she was quoted as decrying in that write-up.

By the way, Baby Nebrida was a Maryknoll classmate of Tina, whom she noted came from a well-to-do family with property in various areas, including a whole row in Lepanto, Manila.  Neither, it seems, does CJ Corona come from a poor family. His father was a renowned tax lawyer and reputed to be one of a handful of honest ones in the BIR in his time.

The "properties issue" against the Coronas was studded with holes and maliciously raked up by the Land Registration Authority, which then was seized upon and exploited in the front pages by the yellow media.


The attacks against the CJ and his family have stepped up and are getting more vicious and personal, with various agencies of government being mobilized to come up with issues designed to bring CJ to his knees. But Corona, at the lighting of the candlelight rally in the SC Quadrangle the other night, stressed that while all the attacks on his family have hurt him so much, he pledged that he will not resign and that he’ll continue fighting not for himself any longer but for the future of democracy in our country.  The Chief remains steady but it’s not hard to imagine how terrorized many of his SC colleagues are, seeing what’s happening to him, especially since a number of very crucial issues are up for resolution in the Court.
There’s talk all over media that P-Noy’s camp is mobilizing enormous amounts of money in the oust-Corona campaign and one gauge is the three-full page ad paid for by his followers in the lead yellow paper (easily over P300,000 per page in the main section on a Sunday). There’s also talk about P-Noy’s buying off senators whom he cannot cajole through persuasion. Some senators have publicly admitted they talked with P-Noy but they deny that Corona’s up-coming trial was among the topics discussed. That’s kind of hard to believe, given the intensity of P-Noy’s passion against Corona.
But what’s interesting is the tie-up between all the big money flowing amid talks of buy-offs in the Senate, with the disappearance of the conditional cash transfers in the metropolis. My info is that in Pasig and Pasay CCTs have not been given out since October up to now and in fact in Pasig it was a very bleak and dark Christmas for many poor families who waited all through the season for their 4-Ps to pay so they could pay for their electric bills, but alas, the dole-out hasn’t come until now!  The poor were told that their 4-Ps went to Sendong victims but it’s more likely being manipulated by administration officials for the anti-Corona campaign.


In my almost 29 years of continuous practice of journalism, I have learned, like many journalists, to read symbols behind events. For instance, note that the main celebrant for the mass at the SC Quadrangle tomorrow morning at 9:30 am., which will kick off a dramatic send-off for the CJ’s defense team to the Senate, will be Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Archdiocese of Manila (the announcement made last Saturday by the mass organizers said that  retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz would concelebrate, but he did not come).  Given Bishop Pabillo's influence in the CBCP, his participation says a lot.


Speaking of symbols, today’s headline in the lead yellow paper, which reads, “WB: Loan to SC high risk,” also says a lot about the US.  The story said that the final tranche of the Judicial Reform Support Project, a program designed to “restore efficiency in the dispensation of justice in the country” and is partly funded by a World Bank loan of $21.9 million, has been cancelled due to “questionable procurements and disbursements” and “irregular expenses” noted in the administration of the Court under CJ Corona. The WB aide memoire is alleged to cite “implementation delays and additional work required for smooth project closing,” and the review conducted on Oct. 24-Nov. 11 last year, supposedly uncovered “inaccurate, incomplete information” on various aspects of the project, “rated unsatisfactory.” 
The report zeroes in on criticisms on the Court Administrator who remains unnamed in the report, but of course, it refers to Atty. Midas Marquez, who also acts as head of the SC’s information office. Marquez has been in the limelight in recent weeks as he defended the embattled CJ, but there has been  pressure from the prosecutors for him to resign, as they allege that he acts more like the spokesperson of Corona rather than of the entire Court; Marquez denies this.  


I find the WB review interesting in view of the controversy the Commission on Audit kicked up recently when its auditors opined that everything’s okay with the way the SC has been handling the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), first set up in 1984 under P.D. 1949. The JDF derives from legal fees and is used to augment allowances of officials and personnel and fund acquisition and maintenance of office equipment and facilities. COA said there were “no serious irregularities” in the JDF, contrary to what Article VIII of the House impeachment complaint claimed, that Corona had failed to account for the JDF and the Special Allowance for the Judiciary (SAJ).
The JDF is different from the WB-funded JRSP, but to be logical, if the SC is being scrupulous with handling one set of funds, shouldn’t this be indication of judicious handling of other funds, especially the WB’s? 
It’s interesting, though, that instead of lauding COA’s favorable verdict on the JDF, Palace Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda quickly lambasted it as “not entirely accurate” and even “adverse.”  He challenged media to confirm this COA report from COA Chair Ma. Gracia M. Pulido-Tan (I had erroneously attributed here the COA chairmanship to Commissioner Heidi Mendoza ), but interestingly, Pulido-Tan never issued any statement to contradict her people’s findings.  Soon enough the Palace ordered the BIR to refute the COA’s statement---absolute proof that Malacanang is on top of CJ’s impeachment.


The SC has been put on the spot by the critical WB report (which we presume is correctly quoted); but at the moment it's the timing of its disclosure by the WB (which has always been regarded as an instrument of the US government, being its main funder), on the eve of the start of the Corona trial, is what's MOST INTERESTING. Now the logical question is: why its issuance at this time? Is the US thumbing down the fate of CJ Corona?
Former Assemblyman Homobono Adaza, a most vocal critic of the House impeachment move vs. Corona, was heard earlier today asserting that the US ---through the WB---has joined the chorus vs. Corona for one good reason: to ensure a revamp of the SC in the hope that a new Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (Moa-AD) can be issued by the new Court. Recall that the Corona Court shot down that Moa-AD, which is a demand of the MILF at the negotiating table, in GMA’s time as unconstitutional.
It’s hard to disagree with Bono’s logic. Some pundits opine that the Moa-AD is absolutely crucial to the US as it would placate the MILF and prevent it from being “jihad-istic”; whereas, a placated MILF would leave the US in peace to contemplate its moves vis-à-vis China. Thus, the US would support any revamp in the SC that could push the Moa-AD. 

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