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, March 25, 2012

JPE declares triumphantly, “I survived!” The latest COA ploy to portray the Basa-Guidote-Manila City Hall transaction as irregular is another instance of persecution, says defense lawyer Ramon Esguerra. I smell, though, more of political intramurals. Sinbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) and CEAP should deal even-handedly with the pursuit of "truth" in Corona trial

The latest in the realm of the incredible as far as the Senate impeachment trial of CJ Renato Corona is that the Commission on Audit, obviously on orders of Malacanang, has disallowed the P34-million purchase by the city government of Manila of the Basa-Guidote property negotiated by Ms. Cristina Corona eleven years ago.  The COA issued a “notice of disallowance” last Monday, March 19, 2012 of this old transaction on the claim that certain requirements were not met and there was allegedly over-pricing.
Corona defense lawyer Ramon Esguerra labelled the COA delayed reaction as another case of "persecution" of CJ by the P-Noy administration; but to me it looks more like a grudge settlement by the Liberal Party faction dominated by Sen. Franklin Drilon, who has been at odds with the LP faction headed by former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza. This seems to be the COA's direction, for  reports say that graft charges will be leveled at Atienza and his former city hall officials for this transaction. 


But the people will be able to see through this latest ploy by the administration party. As Atienza testified last Thursday, this eleven-year old transaction went through the proper process that contracts undergo at City Hall, despite the efforts of Senators Franklin Drilon and Sergio Osmena to pin him down on the alleged absence of due diligence. 
But what does the P-Noy faction want to happen then? If the Coronas return the P34 million, will the administration return the lot that’s now occupied by the Sampaloc market, which had to be moved due to the construction of the LRT that's now benefitting millions of people daily? The COA ploy is really carrying absurdity to the extreme.


Last Thursday, March 22, the 34th Senate impeachment trial session drew to a close and the chamber adjourned for Congress’ month and a half-long Lenten break. It’s a respite the senators, the defense and prosecution panels and indeed the entire nation, by now reeling from some kind of “impeachment fatigue,” cherish.
As we impeachment habitues filed out of the Senate session hall that day, we ran into Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, already sans his judge’s crimson robe and rushing to leave the building. He had a wide smile as he exclaimed, like a triumphant little child, “I survived! I survived!”  JPE received super-deserved congratulations left and right for he had faced perhaps the biggest challenge of his long career. Indeed he has managed to successfully steer the various political interests in the Senate in this historic trial, and balance with clarity and impartiality the conflicting concerns of Corona’s defense team and the prosecution that’s backed up by the entire machinery of the Aquino administration.


In the elevator I ran into Senate President Protempore Jinggoy Estrada and I recounted what I had heard from JPE about “surviving” the trial ordeal. Sen. Jinggoy replied, “JPE put the face of justice into this Senate trial and given this chamber a new respectability.” The relationship between the two top officials of the Senate is obviously one of mutual respect, despite the wide disparity in their age. As reports had stated, the 88-year old JPE took pains to take Jinggoy under his wings and tutor him on basic courtroom trial, just in case he himself would be unable to sustain the role of presiding judge. But of course, even Jinggoy, a non-lawyer who had four years of law studies, would admit that he’d prefer that JPE himself continue to play that role until trial's conclusion.  For it’s a role that would frighten even the most prepared of them all.


 President Noynoy and the Palace were quoted as complaining that because of Congress’ single-minded focus on the impeachment trial, important bills such as the amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act failed to pass.  In the first place, how can anything get done when the House of Representatives has had enormous difficulty mustering a quorum (few House members outside of the prosecution appeared at the Senate trial---clearly, naglalakwatsa lang ang karamihan. You can check out the attendance record at the Senate, Speaker Sonny Belmonte).
P-Noy, however, should be the last person to complain about unpassed bills---for we the people have far more to complain about. For instance, the people of Central Mindanao are now experiencing eight-hour blackouts that are damaging countless appliances there and forcing industries to under-produced and workers to just go noynoying.  The frightening power failure at the Zamboanga Airport that was triggered by the switch to a generator the other day, forcing a shutdown there, could happen again and again elsewhere.  Here in the metropolis we face prospects of brown-outs too in the coming months.


P-Noy and his spokesperson Abigail Valte have no business complaining about Congress’ inaction on certain crucial bills, for in the first place P-Noy should not have filed that impeachment complaint against CJ Corona. We all knew that being a single-focus mind, P-Noy would not be able to attend to other problems if that impeachment case was filed.  But he had to file it because he was stung by the Nov. 22 unanimous decision of the Supreme Court to order the redistribution of Hacienda Luisita lands to its long-suffering tenant farmers. Obviously Hacienda was the trigger---napikon si Noynoy especially after Corona insisted on the farmers’ compensating the Cojuangcos based on land values of 1989 (or about P196 million only), vs. the Sereno formula computed at 2006 values (or a whopping P10 billion for the Cojuangcos).


But as lead prosecutor Niel Tupas admitted during the two-day appearance of Land Registration Authority Administrator Eulalio Diaz III at the Senate, at the time of the filing of the impeachment complaint by the House, all the prosecution had as lead were reports of some condo property of CJ. On Jan. 12, Diaz submitted his nefarious list of 45 properties churned out by  computer “name search,” and the prosecution went to town with the yellow media with this list. 
The Senate trial spent many weeks uncovering the truth about that nefarious 45-property list, with the defense succeeding in proving that CJ owns only five of those---which was what he had claimed on the steps of the SC on Jan. 16, 2012, just hours before the trial kicked off.  Hindi nagbago si CJ sa pananalita niya; in contrast, it was the prosecution that kept alleging properties to his name, thanks to LRA Administrator Diaz.


Incidentally, my good friend, Fr. Jose Quilongquilong, S.J., President of Loyola House of Studies at the Ateneo campus, submitted to the Supreme Court an appeal on behalf of the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) and the Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines (CEAP), for Corona to disclose his bank accounts now---“in the interest of truth.”  The defense has promised to tackle those accounts when trial resumes on May 7 and the SLB/CEAP, which never complained about the prosecution's two months on the stand, should await the defense's evidence.  
 In the meantime, I’d like to suggest to the SLB, which was organized by the Jesuit order (which is, in turn, still dominated by yellow components), and the CEAP that if they are truly after the truth and desirous of inculcating the right values in our people, especially among our youth, they should look at the two sides of the Corona controversy. 


For instance, these groups should also take it upon themselves to denounce the way the prosecution has twisted the truth in a number of instances in this trial---such as its resort to a nakedly erroneous and irresponsible listing of the 45 properties by Eulalio Diaz, that Rep. Tupas used to get document subpoenas from the Senate court. It was a clear case of kuryente all around, but for which the prosecution refused to apologize to the Corona family for destroying their good name.  In fact, Diaz displayed not a tinge of remorse for his irresponsible, and to my mind malicious, act. 

Then there’s the fairy tale that Rep. Rey Umali wove about the “little lady” who supposedly gave him the copies of CJ’s bank documents, and QC Rep. Banal, who invented another fairy tale about finding bank docus on his gate on a rainy night and who boldly sought to get verification of these from the PS Bank. Then there’s the obvious leakage of these documents by the investigator of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
 All these  were incredibly underhanded tactics resorted to by the prosecution, and as Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago noted, mere inquiry of another person’s dollar accounts is illegal and criminal as per the Foreign Deposits Act.
What do the educators, who are in impatient pursuit of the “truth,” have to say about these activities? Or do they think that only the accused should be fair game for their criticism? By remaining silent about these nefarious activities that were roundly denounced at the Senate trial by the senators themselves, the SLB/CEAP is applying a double standard.

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  1. Eto na naman. Umentra na naman ang mga prayle. Talaga bang nakakabulag ang relihiyon at hindi makita ng mga paring ito ang mga kabulastugang ginagawa ng kasalukuyang administrasyon. Paano ninyo makikita ang katotohanan kung bulag kayo sa mga kasinungalingan ng mga taong sinasanto ninyo? The least you can do is to be fair, and the way you are going, you are criminally one sided.

  2. Si Atienza ang real target nina Drilon et. al

  3. I agree totally. Recall that Atienza's faction did not go with the Drilon group when the latter sought to oust GMA in July 2005. Recall that Drilon treacherously told GMA ON STAGE in Iloilo just a week earlier that if Manila does not love her anymore, she's welcome in Iloilo as "we all love you here." A week later he and the infamous Hyatt 10 and Cory Aquino were calling for GMA's resignation. I respect people's political change of heart---that happens---but I detest traitors and double-faced politicians.
    Atienza's faction, which had recruited Drilon to the LP in the first place a year earlier, doubtless helped frustrate that call for GMA's resignation. Drilon's faction cannot forgive Atienza for this---hence the attempt to humiliate him at Senate trial and now this harassment in form of Basa-Guidote controversy.