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, April 1, 2012

Cuevas talks about extraneous factors that could play a big role in CJ’s fate. I agree, and these include the all-out INC support and the all-star “Binay-led” grand alliance for 2013. Yellow media present inaccurate picture of impeachment data from surveys.

Until the start of Holy Week, wherever folks gathered socially, the favorite topic, it seemed, was who among the senators would convict or  acquit Chief Justice Renato Corona.  At the recent birthday get-together for a friend from my Camp Aguinaldo days, Andrea Castaneda-Kintanar, a businessman-friend of her family brought out his IPAD and showed me a diagram of three columns he had made for conviction, acquittal and question mark. I noted he had slightly more senators in acquit than convict, but he put two as  questionable. In my conversations with different people, the consensus seemed to be that it will be “very very difficult” to get 16 votes to convict Corona, but most people agree that some imponderables could weigh in to change the equation.  

Recently brilliant defense lead lawyer Serafin Cuevas was quoted as opining that if the senators’ decision were to be based solely on evidence that the defense has so far presented and will continue to offer starting May 7, CJ’s lawyers are confident he would  be acquitted. But Cuevas is the first to admit that there are factors extraneous to the trial that could play a big role in CJ’s fate either way. He’s being truthful.


For instance, there’s the question of how much the Palace would throw in to buy support for conviction. A few hundred millions could prove irresistible to campaign funds-starved senators, even though a sell-out may be tough to justify in the face of the prosecution’s blunders at the trial.   

Then there’s the support of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) that would be extremely critical to the six reelectionists, namely, Senators Loren Legarda, Gregorio Honasan, Koko Pimentel, Chiz Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes. Note that the over 100,000 votes that pushed Koko Pimentel into the Magic 12 over former Sen. Miguel Zubiri in 2010 was generally attributed to the INC, which boasts of a solid command vote of at least two million.  Loren and Chiz are sure-fire winners who are perhaps only vying for the top two slots, but the INC vote would be critical to, say Cayetano and his wife, Mayor Lani Cayetano, in INC-rich Taguig. 

Interestingly the INC supported Noynoy Aquino in his presidential run in 2010, but today it’s all out for his major adversary, CJ Corona, largely because of its disenchantment with P-Noy. Soon after the INC’s massive show of force in Manila which drew a million people, P-Noy, accompanied by sister Kris, knocked on the INC headquarters; but insiders stressed that while he was received by Supremo Eduardo Manalo, the INC leader refused to be cornered into talk of support for him and merely lingered on generalities. There are reports too that one of the factors that antagonized Ka Eduardo was the move of the BIR to scrutinize the books of this politically-powerful sect and the goings-on in its sprawling Bulacan HQ.


Another key factor is VP Jejomar Binay---the gravitation of various political forces toward him for 2013, in what seems certain head-on collision with the administration’s Liberal Party.  Manila Times reporter Ritchie Horario wrote yesterday a story titled “GMA, Binay join forces” which quoted Lakas-CMD President Ramon Revilla as saying his party won’t field a 12-man senatorial slate; instead Lakas will join the grand coalition being formed by Binay, called the “United Alliance Party.”

 Former Sen. Migs Zubiri was also earlier quoted by the Sun Star as talking about this grand alliance and among those from Lakas being eyed for it are Zubiri himself and feisty Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay. The coalition is inevitable,  but it’s going to be a tight choice for the twelve, for there are a number of super-stars gravitating toward Binay’s alliance---as P-Noy’s LP begins to sink with all the problems the country is facing, and should Corona be acquited.  Among them are NP’s Legarda,  NPC’s Escudero, independent Honasan, PDP’s Pimentel (who has already struck a modus vivendi with former stiff rival Zubiri for the sake of darkness-enveloped Mindanao) and PMP’s Rep. JV Ejercito. 


There’s also former Rep. Cynthia Villar, who’ll run in Manny V’s place in the Binay coalition, Rep. Jack Enrile, now on his last term in the House and who’ll run in graduating dad JPE’s place, and former senators Richard Gordon, Kit Tatad and Ernie Maceda, whose names are still matunog.  

VP Binay is the center of gravity as he’s perceived as the leading candidate for president for 2016, and of course, a heartbeat away from the presidency. But he faces a pending protest in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (composed of all the SC justices), filed by 2010 arch-rival Mar Roxas. If CJ Corona is convicted, the LPs are perceived  certain to move heaven and earth to have senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio appointed. Carpio's former law firm counts with Avelino Cruz, who's handling Roxas' protest, hence some pundits opine that it’s imperative that Binay prevent a Carpio takeover at SC.  

Defense lead counsel Cuevas is correct: CJ’s trial is loaded with extraneous factors.


Recent poll surveys say that most people will accept the Senate verdict on CJ, but it’s obvious that the administration and its cohorts remain uncertain of the final verdict and are not leaving anything to chance. They want a guaranteed CONVICTION. 

Thus the continuous stream of stories on alleged ill-gotten properties of CJ and his wife. First was the infamous raw list of 45 properties that was the shocking "official response" to the prosecutors' request by Land Registration Authority Administrator Eulalio Diaz III---which the defense team was able to whittle down to the original five properties that CJ had claimed from the very beginning. Then imaginative journalist Raissa Robles came up with allegedly two US properties of the Coronas, which turned out to be duds, however, as they belong to the CJ’’s family friend, Dr. Venerando Batas, in Tampa Florida and to CJ’s daughter Charina in California.


Then administration allies, with enormous help from the yellow media, went to town with results by two survey organizations with inter-locking directorships among Aquino relatives that supposedly indicate overwhelming clamor for CJ’s conviction.  After Pulse Asia bagged banner headlines from yellow media that “47 percent find Corona guilty,” SWS then came out with alleged finding that 73 percent want Corona convicted.

But there’s a lot of trickery and malicious manipulation in the details. For instance, the surveys were conducted when CJ’s defense team had just begun its presentation of evidence, and then came the Holy Week break for Congress. Obviously the idea was to condition the minds of people during the long lull---which is foul.

Then too, as defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III noted, the Pulse Asia survey contained a series of contradictions. Of the 1,200 respondents, only a minuscule 8 percent said they know a great deal about the impeachment, while 56 percent said they know little about it. And out of the 47 percent who said CJ Corona is guilty, said Salvador, 33 percent was not certain about his guilt and said he is “probably guilty.” Yet the yellow media bannered that “47 percent find him guilty.” Something’s rotten indeed and it’s not in Denmark.


Earlier this week I was invited by some Corona supporters to attend a noon mass at the SC lobby, sponsored by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro. Afterwards I had a chance to query Ms. Cristina Corona, the CJ’s wife, about the news item then raging about their alleged US properties, especially about his “mailing addresses” in several places there.  Stressing anew that they do not own any US properties, Ms. Corona cited as example his stay in Tampa, Florida. She recalled that in September 2003, CJ had a delicate spinal surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital in Q.C.,which gave him tremendous pains for months afterwards. Finally, a family friend, Dr. Venerando Batas, who heads the rehab department in Tampa (Florida) General Hospital, convinced CJ to fly there for treatment. Taking a leave from SC for two months he and Ms. Corona flew to Tampa in 2004 and stayed at Dr. Batas’ residence.

Ms. Corona recalled that in Tampa they availed of discount cards from airlines and department stores which needed a US address, so they put down the Batas  address. The same was true of their visits with their daughter Charina in her Roseville, California, place which, by the way, Ms. Corona added, Charina had purchased on installment at almost zero down-payment and 30 years to pay, during the real estate crisis in the US around 2008.

I myself have also listed down the address of either of my two brothers in the US for store transactions in the few times I vacationed in the US. Obviously Raissa and the prosecution are familiar with such arrangements, but do you think the erroneous claims they made on CJ owning the properties would merit even an apology from them? Not a fat chance.

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  1. Raissa Robless is rotten. She should never be called an investigative journalist, more like showbiz tabloid writer

  2. The X factor in the fate of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona will be the Iglesia ni Cristo vote. In my opinion, a Corona conviction will be perceived by the INC hierarchy as a slap in the face of lead defense counsel former Justice Serafin Cuevas, and also a slap on INC as a whole. "Insulto-personal," as we term it. Those who pushed for Corona's impeachment at the Lower House are either running for re-election or aiming for a Senate seat in the 2013 mid-term elections. And the INC knows who they are. In the Senate, there are six re-electionists who will need the INC votes for their re-election.

    Those who pushed for Corona's impeachment, and those who will render a guilty verdict can kiss their political ambitions GOODBYE!

    As for DoTC Secretary Mar Roxas, he should abandon his electoral protest. It is an exercise in futility. He should instead, run for another term in the Senate. Why? If VP Jojo Binay wins the presidency in 2016, which is not remote, Roxas will be replaced as DoTC Secretary, for sure, and he will be a gonner. Whereas if he wins in the Senate race, he will still be in the political circles.

  3. Hi Mr. Rexyboy, thanks for your incisive political comments. You ought to write a blog yourself. I thoroughly agree that the INC will remember all those who voted to impeach CJ Corona in the House, especially since it was done so crudely and without due process. I also agree that Mar Roxas should abandon his electoral protest and run for the Senate and perhaps be among the top winners, together with Loren and Chiz. You're right: a Senator Mar will remain in the Senate (perhaps vie for Senate President)with P-Noy's backing kung the latter's still President) even if VP Binay should make it to the presidency in 2016 or earlier. Politicians have to tailor their dreams to reality, especially the competent Mar Roxas.

  4. Thank you for the compliment Ma'am. I will just confine myself to reading your column.

    By the way, i forgot to mention in my blog that the impeachment trial of CJ Corona is becoming a nightmare to President Aquino. No matter how his spin doctors try to downplay the situation by way of surveys by False Asia and SWS by making it appear that majority of the Filipinos favor a Corona conviction. The principal tenant of Malacanang and his lapdogs know too well that this is far from reality.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but should CJ Corona be acquitted, it will be the beginning of the end of the Liberal Party and also the beginning of exodus of his partymates to the coalition being formed by VP JoJo Binay, former President Joseph Estrada ang KAMPI prexy Sen. Bong Revilla, for obvious reason - political survival.

    Should this happen, President Aquino has no one to blame but himself when he instructed his wards at the HOR to prepare the Articles of Impeachment against Corona. Except for a few Lawmakers, the AOI was "blindly signed" by 188 "pork-barrel" hungry Congressmen and transmitted to Senate.

    Maybe Aquino, and his allies thought that Corona will resign [just like what former Omb. Merceditas Gutierrez did] rather than be impeached.

    But Corona, like a true Batangueno, fought back and declared that he is prepared to lose everything.

    Now, Aquino is counting on his allies in Senate for a conviction. But there is the coming midterm elections and his allies, maybe, have their own political ambitions.
    We all know that in politics, there are no permanent friends and allies, only permanent interests. The name of the game is political survival.

    Ang sarap yatang maging Senator at Congressman.

  5. You're right, Mr. Rexyboy 56, the name of the game is political survival, and at this moment survival means to get the support of the INC. A very astute politician told me that the pols running in 2013 can afford to antagonize P-Noy this time, but they CANNOT AFFORD TO ANTAGONIZE THE INC. They have to get the blessing of the INC for 2013 and just make it up with P-Noy again after they are elected---with INC's help. That's realpolitik, he said, and I agree 100 percent. Have a Blessed Week, and let's pray for justice for CJ Corona, true discernment for the senator-judges and a little more wisdom for P-Noy, that he will accept an acquittal verdict from the Senate.

  6. Rightly said, Ma'am. My fearless forecast: A Corona acquittal, not only because of the weak evidences against him but the INC factor.

    Have a Blessed Week too. Till the next blog.