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 30, 2012

Franco Castillo tearfully breaks conviction news to grandpa Corona; defense lawyers teary-eyed during voting; many of the ‘Sanctimonious 20’ senators doubtless have foreign accounts, but not signing waivers; JPE persuades six followers to convict CJ at secret dinner meeting at Loren’s residence.

Such is the human heart that when something is so hurtful, it tends to retreat from searing pain. I understand that when last Tuesday’s voting at the Senate impeachment court began, Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife Cristina, who were in his hospital room, chose not to watch the proceeding;  instead they spent the time praying quietly. His family had advised against the Chief’s watching it on TV so as not to overburden his heart, but other relatives and family friends watched it in an adjacent room.
One of those in that adjacent room related to this blogger how the Coronas’ eldest grandchild, 10-year old Franco Corona Castillo, a bright student at Xavier School, who seems to be very close to his grandpa, kept track of the score among the senators; from time to time he would run to his grandparents’ room with results, e.g., three for guilty and two for not guilty. When the conviction votes reached 16, Franco dashed back to their room screaming, “They impeached you, grandpa! They impeached you. “ Then he burst into unconsolable tears. Grandma Tina embraced him tight and led him to the bed next to his grandpa to quiet him down.
Franco wasn’t the only one who shed tears that afternoon. At the Senate session hall, members of the defense panel quietly followed the voting and cameramen with their zoom lens swore later that while Atty. Ramon Esguerra was bent over his knees he would periodically wipe the corners of his eyes. Rico Paolo Quicho stared at the ceiling but cameras caught him at some point winking away tears.
The defense panel had, as Atty. Quicho put it, given their client “an honorable fight” in accordance with the highest professionalism. This was in sheer contrast to the bungling of the prosecution which, as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile noted in his closing remarks, had relied on the court’s subpoena too often to produce evidence, when this should have come complete upon submission of the complaint to the Senate. The prosecution had no evidence of CJ's guilt at the start and just went on one grand fishing expedition.
A lead member of the prosecution, Rep. Rudy Farinas, had early on criticized his team’s complaint as lousy and the 188 signatories as having failed to read the complaint.  Yet, it is the height of irony that the prosecution succeeded in convicting Corona—thus meriting invitations to a grand victory party at the Palace last night, amid reports of fat cash bonuses and multi-million projects for their districts. 

This elicited the wry remark from DZBB commentator Joey Reyes Zobel that "namamasko na ang mga House prosecutors." It also gave rise to a new joke about the principle of check-and-balance, as Malacanang understands it: “a check now and the balance later.”
 On the other hand, the defense could not save CJ despite its brilliance---because the case against him was won not because of the complaint’s merits but because of political accommodation of the Palace’s order, and what the senators could milk it for.
 In fact, an indication of how some of the “Sanctimonious 20” who condemned CJ wore their convictions on their sleeves was the media buzz that some senators  came to the voting prepared with two little speeches to read, depending on the voting trend.
  It was also heart-rending that CJ was being crucified for non-disclosure in his SALN of his peso and foreign accounts---monies that, as Senate President Enrile acknowledged in his closing remarks, were NEVER PROVED BY THE PROSECUTION AS ILL-GOTTEN---whereas a good number of his senator-crucifiers doubtless own dollar accounts perhaps even bigger than CJ’s, that were unreported in their SALNs. Moreover, except for three senators, they refused to sign waivers on these accounts.
 As TeddyBoy Locsin noted in his “Tedditorial,” the hypocrisy of the Senate on this issue was stifling.
The Philippine Star has a story today about the dinner meeting of seven senators at Sen. Loren Legarda’s beautiful Forbes Park residence last Sunday “purportedly to map out their  strategy in the impeachment trial of (CJ) Corona.” This blogger learned that the dinner was called at the behest of SP Enrile and attending, aside from hostess Legarda were JPE’s loyal disciples, namely, Jinggoy Estrada, Vicente Sotto and Gregorio Honasan. 
At the suggestion of Loren her former runningmate in NP, Manny Villar, was added to the original list, and Lakas President Ramon Revilla III also was invited. So secret was the gathering that there were no staffers present except JPE’s chief of staff, Gigi Reyes.
When the impeachment trial was fairly new, former Sen. Ernesto Maceda, an old hand in the Senate, told us that in such an undertaking, where the Senate President goes, there’s the direction of the trial. In the first four months, JPE was being touted everywhere as fair and impartial, the savior of the court. In fact, deposed President Estrada had said that if the presiding judge at his own impeachment trial had been of the caliber of JPE, he would have been acquitted and no walkout would have occurred.
But by May 7, when Corona’s trial resumed after a five-week break, the gallery habitués all felt the Senate President had changed. He seemed quite partial to the prosecution, despite giving the latter the occasional drubbing it deserved. A number of observers thought that after the break JPE looked like a man going through an inner turmoil they didn’t see in the first half of the trial.  The perception that JPE had gone to the prosecution’s side grew stronger as voting approached. 
Last Sunday at Loren’s place, according to reports, JPE proposed to the group to vote as a bloc to convict Corona. Sensing some resistance at first---three were said to be originally leaning toward CJ: Estrada, Loren and Villar---JPE reportedly became upset and asked what use would such meeting be if they could not unite as a bloc.
Since last week tremendous pressures were said to be brought to bear on the senators, in the form of promised appointments to government posts for the "graduating" senators and campaign funds for reelectionists. One of the most targeted was Bongbong Marcos, but to this young man’s credit, he remained unwavering in his support for CJ to the end. By contrast, Legarda appeared to be vacillating over the past two weeks, but last Sunday she was obviously won over to JPE’s side along with Villar.

 Last week prosecution was already boasting of 19 votes in its pocket. Had JPE not abandoned CJ, Malacanang would not have gained the 16 it needed.


  1. This is one time I have to bash myself for thinking naively that the tiger can change its stripes...sadly he cannot. It is all about political survival...now I wonder what JPE in his calculation thought he would gain or lose if he voted his true conscience. I guess history will be the only judge hether if he leaves a legacy or will remain forever in the shadows of his martial law era role...history will judge him and I can only hope history wil judge him as kindly as he did when he rendered his own judgement.

    Secret meetings...no wonder...now I understand...Legarda, Estrada, Sotto, Honasan, Villar and Revilla...the people I thought would be the swing votes...

  2. Perhaps you could verify the report first, otherwise this blog of yours will be perceived by some as purely hearsay.

  3. Pakitanong ke Manong Johnny kung naibalik nya na yung lahat ng kinurakot niya sa taong bayan nuong panahon ni Marcos ...

  4. JPE: convict CJ, get funds, get public approval, get to remove a lackey out of SC. all gain, no loss.

  5. Bongbong was... “redeeming his father” that day, how? If he had disclosed ALL bank deposits of his own family (cronies included), disclosed asset, liabilities, and the TRUE SOURCE of how they managed to amass all that wealth, and RETURNED all of these to the gov’t -- iyan, iyan ang atonement. Redemption for the family responsible for all the deaths during the martial law period will never happen. Better for them to work on atonement.