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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Eight courageous senators and a landmark decision

Wanted: eight courageous senators who will protect the independence of the Judiciary from the Executive branch that seeks domination of all three branches of government. Wanted: eight senator-judges who will morph into 'senator-statesmen.'

Will eight senators repeat the historic role of their predecessors who--- 21 years ago---courageously said NO to continued stay of US bases, thereby asserting Philippine independence from American imperialism?

Will they vote to acquit CJ Corona and assure the independence of the SC especially in the Hacienda Luisita case? This is what it boils down to: the struggle to protect the independence of the Judiciary as epitomized by the Supreme Court, against the onslaughts of a Chief Executive who seems hell-bent on controlling the three branches of government.

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On trial in the Senate impeachment proceeding---now on its finale act---is not only Chief Justice Renato Corona but our government and even our democratic way of life. 21 years ago, as Manila Times columnist Ricardo Saludo pointed out, 16 such courageous senators (among them Sen. Joseph Estrada, father of Sen. Jinggoy, and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile) stood up to the imperialistic might of the US and asserted that after over a century, enough was enough: the US military bases treaty will not be renewed, and the bases have to get out of here.

In 1991 few expected that the 16 senators would have the courage and the guts to thumb down the bases treaty, but they did it. Similarly, this afternoon, the nation is looking for eight senators who will courageously stand up and assert their vote of acquittal of CJ Corona, because they believe that he is NOT GUILTY OF AN IMPEACHABLE CRIME in not disclosing his dollar accounts in his SALN.

But more importantly, the nation is looking for eight senators who realize they have to preserve the SC from the increasing subversion of the magistrates' independence, such as President Aquino had mercilessly sought to do with Corona, and earlier with the threat to impeach Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.

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In voting to acquit Corona, these courageous eight senators would be swimming against the tide, conditioned by an endless barrage of basically unfounded accusations---Hitlerian style---disgorged in yellow media. This will take uncommon courage, but I feel certain there are eight such senators who would be unafraid, just like the 16 before them who stood up to US might.

21 years ago few thought the 16 senators would dare do the unthinkable, but it happened. This will be the MIRACLE OF GOD THE FATHER this afternoon---that eight senators will find the courage to swim against the conditioned thinking against CJ, and above all, TO DEFY THE DICTATES of Malacanang

Corona stood up courageously to defy Malacanang six months ago---when its occupant and his allies thought CJ would cave in immediately and resign, like Mercy Gutierrez. Instead the Batangueno magistrate  fought on, hobbled by health problems toward the finish line, and despite attacks against his person and his family by various agencies of government unleashed with a ferocity never before witnessed in this country.

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 The House of Representatives quickly caved in to Malacanang with 188 members affixing their signatures to the unverified impeachment complaint blitzkrieg fashion. In the last five months the House prosecution unloaded "evidence" that was plainly malicious and unfounded---the alleged list of 45 properties, the list of 33 peso accounts, the list of 82 dollar accounts, etc.

 Fairy tales about "little lady," "an envelop hung on a gate on a rainy night" and a spurious list of dollar accounts from polluted sources in the government banking system, used without verification by an unscrupulous ombudsman with an axe to grind against her former SC colleague.

All these malicious, unfounded and unverified accusations were spun endlessly in the yellow media until they began to acquire the mint of truth. In the eyes of the public Corona was made to appear corrupt and guilty of amassing wealth. Cries for his conviction crescendoed.

As the trial winds down to the voting, the nation is looking for eight courageous senators who will not swim with the tide "in aid of compensation," but who will judge according to their conscience and valid arguments, as against spurious documents that should have been slapped on the faces of his morally unqualified accusers.

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Yesterday, the House prosecutors argued the case against Corona based again, as in previous weeks, on innuendoes and allegations, not on hard facts and evidence as the defense has done in five months. It was also the supreme irony that the two prosecutors who gave the final arguments kept hitting on the integrity and credibility of CJ, whereas one of them, Rep. Niel Tupas has his family embroiled in cases at the Sandiganbayan and who are recipients of government positions from the President in recent weeks---a clear case of bribery during the impeachment trial.

 The other, Rep. Rudy Farinas, has a colorful history of notoriety in his public and family life.

 By contrast, defense lawyer Eduardo "Dindo" de los Angeles argued with a mild-voice and milder manners the case for CJ, but his plea for acquittal packed a lot of legal dynamite that should have hit thinking and sensible members of the Senate.

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De Los Angeles, a giant in the legal community and Dean of Ateneo College of Law for 20 years, argued that Corona should not be impeached because he placed his faith in the law that guarantees absolute confidentiality of dollar accounts.

Said this lawyer: "The Chief Justice has acted consistently, unwavering in his conviction and belief that RA 6426, the Foreign Currency Deposits Act" (FCDA) affords him full and absolute confidentiality. Just because he is the Chief Justice does not imply that he gets to have less in law than anybody else. The law is solicitous of any individual's rights, irrespective of his status in life."

What he was stressing is, will the senator-judges convict a man who interprets the law THE SAME WAY THEY DO? Will the senator-judges convict a man who FOLLOWED THE LAW THEY THEMSELVES MADE?

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 The entire nation, whether pro or against Corona, is agonizing at the moment over the Senate's verdict.
Doubtless the senators are the most in agony as they face terrible pressures, mainly from Malacanang, to cave in and convict CJ, perhaps against their better judgment. That's why I said earlier that we are a nation in search of EIGHT COURAGEOUS SENATORS WHO WILL ACQUIT CJ and guarantee the independence of the judiciary and the democratic way of life.

As a parting shot before the voting, let me quote this beautiful passage from the great 19th-century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck: "The statesman's task is to hear God's footsteps marching through history, and to try and catch on to His coattails as He marches past."

 May our quest for those those eight senators who will cease to be mere senator-judges, but morph into "senator-statesmen" this afternoon be successful.  God bless us all and the country we love.