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.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

CJ’s testimony moved nation of watchers. JPE seemed quite heartless in sternly warning about CJ’s non-appearance, even if he saw CJ in wheelchair in front of him. Senate buzzed with talk that Sen. Serge Osmena financed trip to Manila of Las Vegas-based Basa relatives and arranged VIP seats for them in Senate hall---at arm's length from Corona family.

Yesterday noon as I left for the Senate impeachment trial, I told my kasambahay, who normally begin their daily TV time with the 6:30 pm. news, to drop everything and watch the testimony of Chief Justice Corona over TV at 2 pm. For the past five months my kasambahay have followed the CJ’s trial inside and outside the Senate in the news, and of course it has been pretty lopsided against him. Yesterday I told them they would hear his side for the first time and witness history in the making. When I got back my elderly kasambahay, Josie from Iloilo, said she felt like crying at CJ’s testimony---"Awang awa ako sa kanya, M’am."  This reaction doubtless represented the pulse of the nation.


CJ’s three-hour testimony, delivered entirely in Filipino, went straight to the heart of the nation, as he had intended, as he apparently paid little heed to whether he could still win the hearts and minds of the senator-judges.  What seemed to matter to CJ only was that his fellow Filipinos would hear him and they believed, as he seemed so sincere and sure of his facts.

Senate President Ponce Enrile tried to cut CJ’s rambling testimony short--- the astute politician that he is, he doubtless knew the effect it would have on the people. But after a while he gave up and allowed CJ to finish as he disputed the Basa Guidote case, the 45 properties, the 31 peso accounts, finally reserving for the end his tirades against OMB Conchita Carpio Morales for the lies she peddled with the raw intel data from AMLC about his  “82 bank accounts in five banks.”  He also blamed the “hacendero President” for his impeachment, lamenting how P-Noy is surrounded by crooks and “leftists,” specifically presidential political adviser Ronald Llamas.


CJ’s testimony was an outpouring of all his sama ng loob at all the lies and calumnies peddled by the prosecution and its yellow allies, on orders of Malacanang, which he and his family stoically bore since last November.  At some point CJ became so emotional he couldn’t speak.  But the three-hour testimony took a heavy toll on his health and being a diabetic since the ‘80s, his sugar level dropped perilously; some people close to where he sat thought his hands began to shake.

 His wife Tina approached him during the short break sought by his defense counsel and learned that he was feeling quite bad, his vision blurring and his knees wobbly. Suddenly, after saying that “Now the Chief Justice of the Republic begs to be excused,” Corona took his notebook, stood up and left, his family scurrying after him.


Justice Serafin Cuevas at that moment was explaining something and didn’t know what was going on. Everyone in the gallery was dazed and confused.  JPE began to thunder about CJ’s lack of decorum as he was not yet given leave from the session hall. JPE said he won’t tolerate any disrespect to the Senate Court and ordered the defense to bring CJ back. Cuevas and the other lawyers ran out to do so.  JPE---and the whole world at that point---thought CJ had staged a walkout and he asserted that if CJ would not come back he would have his long testimony stricken off the record and the Senate court would just rely “on what has transpired here.”

His startled family followed the Chief who obviously wanted to get out of the building as he probably thought he had an attack coming and wanted to get to a hospital fast. Later I learned that he felt nauseous. But the Senate security, on orders of JPE, locked the entire building and prevented the Coronas from leaving. After some tussle they went back to the holding room provided by the Senate where  he was heard wanting to lie down.  His hypoglycemia appeared to be bad and soon his son-in-law, Dr. Constantino Castillo, a urologist-surgeon of Medical City, and the Senate’s doctor attended to him at the Senate’s clinic (he was fed a muffin and fruit juice).

After about half a hour CJ returned to the session hall in a wheelchair, but he still looked a bit dazed and inert from the glycemic episode.


This writer learned that during the inter-faith rally at the old SC Quadrangle it had been very hot and CJ was besieged by so many supporters, including the SC employees all in red and judges and justices and judges from various courts in the metropolis area.  When news came out about that CJ's glycemic episode, a friend of mine who was at that rally texted that even then he was afraid something like that would happen, as CJ must have suffered from dehydration.  

Because of the deluge of supporters CJ missed lunch altogether yesterday (a no-no for diabetics). In the car enroute to the Senate he still worked on his testimony. At the witness stand all he had was water.  All these, plus the terrible emotional and psychological turmoil he felt as he confronted his accusers and the senator-judges, many of whom were no longer impartial and fair, contributed to his malaise.


From the Senate he was taken straight to Medical City and later he was transferred to the ICU. The doctors’ verdict was that his troponin t level was elevated due to possible heart attack, and they want a 48-hour monitor before he could be allowed to return to the Senate. As I write this piece the senators are holding a caucus to discuss the implications on the trial of CJ’s medical condition.

A number of things must be stated here. I must confess that I remained dumbfounded at JPE’s continued warning to CJ’s defense lawyers about the dire consequences of his failing to show up today---even as JPE---and the rest of the world---saw that CJ was already on a wheelchair in front of the senators, looking rather inert. It seemed so heartless and cruel of JPE.

Why couldn’t he even have inquired why CJ was suddenly in a wheelchair? During the lull after CJ's “walk-out,” JPE must have learned of the commotion about CJ’s near-collapse. Couldn’t he even have summoned the Senate doctor to determine the facts before making his judgment that CJ showed up today or else...Or would JPE have preferred the spectacle of CJ throwing up in the session hall, or collapsing, or even dying there?  Did it have to be business-as-usual for JPE?


Predictably, the prosecution and their media allies went to town with the “walkout” spin. As I left the Senate last night I ran into some prosecution lawyers who all felt that CJ faked his sick condition because he was afraid of being cross-examined. That stand is not only quite ridiculous, it's utterly heartless. If CJ could give such a scathing testimony for three hours, I’m certain he’s prepared for an equally scathing cross-examination too. As he stressed, “I’m no fool.” Ang hirap sa prosecution, they think everything is fake.

Let’s all pray that Sta. Rita de Cascia, the “Advocate of the Impossible,” whose feast day coincided yesterday with CJ's testimony, would perform the miracle needed---to restore CJ to full health quickly so that he could finish this trial and be acquitted (the senators would have no option but this). 


The side drama was how the Basa family showed up in full force in the VIP gallery of the Senate session hall---just two seats away from where the Corona family sat, and there was no greeting either way. The loud buzz in the Senate was that Sen. Serge Osmena financed the trip of a number of the Basa family members from Las Vegas, Nevada and that his office arranged the VIP seats for them.  On an afternoon when those seats were premium---in fact some House impeachment signatories were heard complaining over radio how they had to scramble for the scarce passes---the Basa family had VIP seats. Moreover, they could use the Senate as their forum to air their complaints against their Corona relatives in the yellow media. VIP treatment talaga!

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  2. Well. What can you expect from a Yellow Government? The only thing i wishes for is to have the verdict soon. So as the CJ could finally rest. I'm not hoping for any fair decision that will come from the Senate. Coz its quite obvious. Since day 1 of BS Aquino's Presidency i never found any development that help Philippines rise from current status. All i ever see was a spoiled brat President who gets whatever he wants even if it causes the lives of people he hates.

  3. The issue of the non inclusion of CJ Corona's dollar accounts in his SALN is nothing but HYPOCRISY. And When CJ Corona signed a waiver to open his dollar accounts he also dared his persecutors, the 188 "pork-barrel-hungry" Representa-thieves, and Sen. Franklin Drilon to do the same. But Sen. Drilon, the HYPOCRITE that he is said that "signing a waiver to open his bank account would "set a bad precedent and would be disastrous to the banking system", Wow, what gall. Sen. Drilon must be in limbo. He must have forgotten that the dollar accounts of CJ Corona is protected under RA 6426, Secrecy of Foreign Currency Deposit. That law is absolute and it covers all FCD account holders including you, Sen Hypocrite Drilon and the rest of the self-righteous Representa-THIVES. CJ Corona is a law abiding citizen. Demanding him to open his dollar accounts is like telling him to disobey the law. LIke what CJ Corona said: "HE'S NO FOOL!"