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, June 6, 2012

Arresting Corona could trigger tipping point; our senators should have given more weight to independence of judiciary as the US Senate did in FDR’s time; but alas, our senators more obsessed in painting Corona as egregiously corrupt in order to make themselves look clean. With three exceptions the whole lot continuously refuses to sign waivers

Yesterday a veteran media practitioner told me about a rumor sweeping town about the impending arrest of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. It even had a date: this Friday. The rationale for CJ's arrest, opined this media practitioner, is that President Aquino could present the heads of President GMA, who’s detained at Veterans’ Hospital, and Corona to US President Obama as proof of his reform agenda, when they meet in Washington D.C. later this week.

While this report stunned me, I felt it could not be taken lightly, given the administration’s penchant for heavy-handed revenge toward perceived enemies. If such arrest were to take place, however, it would not be totally unexpected, as the newspapers have recently carried stories about how the BIR is investigating not just CJ but the entire Corona family; and of course Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales threw generous hints about a second impeachment and continuing investigations of CJ during her Senate appearance.


I conveyed the arrest report to some media colleagues and friends, hoping they could help check its veracity (by the way, I NEVER CONFIRMED that arrest report, as some texts made it appear later---any journalist worth his salt would naturally treat it only as something needing verification). Interestingly, such was the level of credibility of this arrest rumor that those I relayed it to were ready to believe it; some of them have also been hearing of this scenario in the past two weeks.

Some analysts quickly said that the OMB could establish a prima facie case for, say, plunder or tax evasion, and trigger an arrest order from a court really fast. They recalled how GMA’s arrest worked like lightning. Some opined that the rumor was purposely detonated by the Palace to throw off people from scrutinizing the plan to install the Doberman in the Supreme Court.


Those I discussed this rumor with, however, all agreed that arresting CJ Corona now---so soon after his Senate conviction---would be something the administration should weigh super-carefully, as it could be the fuse that could ignite something bigger. Recall that after the Senate vote, three senators pleaded openly with President Aquino for compassion for the ousted CJ (tinamaan kaya ng guilty conscience ang tatlo at what was clearly a politically-motivated decision?), namely, Senate President Enrile, and Senators Edgardo Angara and Jinggoy Estrada.

Their plea, however, may be less from compassion but more out of fear of a massive negative reaction to Corona's imprisonment---or reaching what we Filipinos call the “kasukdulan.” Unfortunately, P-Noy and his spokespersons appear bent only on straining the quality of mercy and credulity to the end, arguing, after breaking all the rules on decency and fair play in the impeachment trial, that hindi daw pwedeng baliin ang husticia ki CJ!


Friends who have spoken with CJ Corona about reports of his impending arrest note how remarkably calm and serene he is, as he vows to fight anew this possible second battlefront that the Palace could open in the criminal court. Soon after the Senate conviction vote, some family friends advised CJ to take a recuperative rest abroad and avert further complications on his life; but he said he preferred to stay and continue the fight to clear his name and defend his honor. He also said he could not forsake the legions who have supported him.

In the days immediately after his impeachment by the Notorious 188---and before the start of the Senate trial, Corona was asked at media forums if he could entertain thoughts of resigning before the trial started---a la Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. He nixed that option altogether as he insisted that his conscience was clear---"God knows I did nothing wrong toward our country and people."

Moreover, he said he was fighting for the independence of the judiciary from a President who clearly wants to dominate all three branches of government.

In that first “rally” in front of the SC building last December, CJ vowed to his cheering supporters to fight till the end---even if it would cost his life. And he never wavered, despite six months of unrelenting attacks on himself and his family in the media that could easily have affected a man with less inner strength and conviction.


Now, says CJ, if he loses again in the court of law on whatever trumped-up charges P-Noy’s attack dogs---one of whom is now seeking to be Chief Justice---may unleash against him, he is ready to go to jail. The fight, he insisted in his statement upon leaving the hospital last week, “has just begun.”

There is something about the “unconquerable soul” of this stubborn man that has touched his kababayans, and which even his Senate detractors have grudgingly acknowledged. Jinggoy Estrada, who couldn’t say no to his father’s command to vote conviction, was quoted recently as saying, “Sana CJ just resigned at the beginning. Then he wouldn’t have gone through all the pain and humiliation of the trial.”

All through the merciless public shaming in the trial court and in the yellow media, Corona carried himself with honor and dignity, never stooping to the level of the Tupases and Farinases of the prosecution and the Drilons, Osmenas and Pangilinans of the Senate. He  entrusted his fate and that of his family to God instead of to the wiles of thoroughly corruptible senators.


As the virulent campaign against him shifted to high gear, many people worried---rightly so---about the independence of the judiciary and the terrible prospects of putting the three branches of government under the thumb of a President with dictatorial tendencies, and the SC being controlled by his Doberman appointee.

Most worried are the members of the judiciary themselves---who witnessed all the demonizing of CJ in the past six months. Who among us is of such stern stuff as to the able to withstand similar onslaughts, they ask among themselves?


Judge Franklin Demonteverde, presiding judge of the Bacolod RTC, aptly put it after Corona’s conviction: “Today is a sad day for the Judiciary. Judicial independence has passed away. The men and women in judicial robes are grieving as they cower in fear while the sword of Damocles hovers over their heads.These honorable men and women will be walking on dangerous grounds, lest they step on the toes of the powers that be. While we abide by the decision of the Impeachment Court, we can only pray---God help the Judiciary!”

We congratulate Judge Demonteverde for even articulating his fears in public.


The senior Corona defense counsel, the amiable and soft-spoken former Ateneo Dean Eduardo “Dindo” de los Angeles, in his closing statement at trial’s end, recalled the time of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when a similar peril threatening judicial independence occurred. As De los Angeles narrated it, “After being rebuked repeatedly by the Supreme Court, a peeved Roosevelt wanted to undermine and control the judiciary by seeking to create additional positions in the US Supreme Court, so that he could appoint a majority of its members.

“But the US Senate Judiciary Committee refused to pass the amendment, writing in its report: ‘Let us of the 75th Congress, in words that will never be disregarded by any succeeding Congress, declare that we would rather have an independent Court, a fearless Court, a Court that will dare to announce its honest opinions in what it believes to be the defense of the liberties of the people, THAN A COURT THAT, OUT OF FEAR OR A SENSE OF OBLIGATION TO THE APPOINTING POWER, OR FACTIONAL PASSION, approve any measure we may enact. We are not the judges of the judges (underscoring BOC’s).' ”


The Philippine Senate, unfortunately, did not have this sense of mission to preserve  an independent judiciary, as the 75th US Congress possessed. The “Sanctimious 20” Philippine senators were more obsessed to march to the drum-beat of  Malacanang for political concessions---a political prostitution---than to preserve the critical independence of the SC. They were also more eager to portray the impeached CJ as egregiously corrupt and fallible---so that they could appear more upright and clean, despite the fact that in some cases their dollar accounts may be far bigger than Corona’s. This is why they stubbornly resist signing those waivers to their accounts in the SALN.

Sadly, we have petty grand-standing senators instead of real statesmen with a keen sense of history and justice.



  1. "He who humbles himself shall be exalted, and he who exalts himself shall be humbled."
    Don't worry Mr. Chief Justice, MAKAKARMA din ang mga taong humusga sa iyo falsely.
    The LORD said: "Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
    Mas matindi pa ang daranasin nilang kahihiyan!
    Leave everything to GOD. Ang nangyari sa iyo ay isang blessing in disguise. God works in a mysterios way.

  2. If there is one good thing that happened in the impeachment of exCJ Renato Corona was the former Chief Magistrate had set a new standard for transparency when he signed an unconditional waiver on his bank accounts. That unconditional waiver served as an eye opener. Two Senators, Chiz Escudero and Allan Peter Cayetano finally knocked some senses in their heads and realized that RA 6426 and RA 1405 need amendments so as not to be abused in the future. Sen. Chiz Escudero signed a similar waiver and challenged his colleagues and everyone in the government from the President down to the lowest government employee to do the same. The challenge hurled by ex CJ Corona to Sen. Drilon and the 188 pork-barrel-greedy Congressmen to sign a similar waiver and the challenge made by Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano to President Benigno C. Aquino III to sign a waiver on his bank accounts is slowly gaining support. The battle cry now is “Sign or Resign!”
    And recently, the Judicial and Bar Council added as one of the requirements for all SC nominees for the position of Chief Justice to sign a waiver on their bank accounts. That is, according to JBC, for the sake of transparency.