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Revisiting the impeachment process

Last week, I had the chance to talk with the widow and children of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona and I told them how, about three years ago, Casiano Navarro, former chief of the Philippine News Agency and I had a discussion on the fate the befell the late Chief Justice, who was about a year then from having been convicted by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court, which resulted in his removal as the head of the Highest Court in the land,
While we are no legal experts, Cass and I agreed the Senate might have erred, or even abused its power when it convicted Corona over the erroneous filing of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth.
While there may have been wrong or missing entries in Corona’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and net worth, it is recognized to be a correctible offense as no less than the Civil Service Commission had acknowledged that erroneous SALns can be corrected.
So, if the grounds for Corona’s conviction are non-existent as the erroneous filing of SALn and that the CSC had averred can be corrected, then the late Chief Justice could have his case appealed, which we heard he did. Unfortunately for him, he lost his appeal. As the law provides a decision on the impeachment proceedings is non-appealable.
Then, around 2013, then Sen. Jinggoy Estrada bared the existence of the Disbursement Acceleration Program from which the Aquino administration sourced its fund to “reward” senators who voted to convict Corona with additional pork for projects of their choice.
Estrada’s revelation was corroborated by his colleague, former Sen. Bong Revilla who gave additional information as to how he was picked up by former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas from a designated meeting place before he was dropped at Bahay Pangarap where he was met by then President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and former Budget Secretary Butch Abad. The two, according to Revilla, convinced him to convict the former Chief Justice.
“Ibalato mo na sa akin yan pare,” Revilla quoted Aquino saying. And this was allegedly followed by Abad’s statement, “Magtulungan na lang tayo.”
Revilla however did not elaborate whether the term “magtulungan” refers to the additional funding coming from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Also, the two senators, while admitting they had received additional funding from the Aquino administration, denied being persuaded by the promise of the additional pork which came in, complete with the gravy and the trimmings, to convict Corona. According to the two, they voted based on what their conscience dictated them at that time.
And that was how the other members of the Senate declared when records were made public showing they received additional funds in excess of their pork after having convicted Corona — that the additional fund had nothing to do with the way they voted as it came after the impeachment trial.
But, let’s apply the same scenario to a typical traffic violation. A traffic enforcer stops a motorist who had just violated a traffic rule. The motorist stops, gives his license to the enforcer and promises to give him a few hundred bucks if he will let him off the hook.
The traffic enforcer hands him back his license, then accepts the promised money and lets the motorist leaves.
And then, when confronted on the incident, the traffic enforcer reasons out he let the motorist go because he believes him to be honest whose only fault was to commit an honest mistake. And that was what his conscience dictated to him at that time.
Who’s buying his line of reasoning? No one because that’s a lot of BS. But what’s the difference with the line of reasoning of the senators on the Corona conviction?
Clearly there was bribery and no less than a sitting senator at that time admitted. If there was bribery, it would point to the highest official of the land then who could be guilty of abusing his power just to remove a sitting Chief Justice.
But as the decision of the impeachment court is non-appealable, how then could we correct the injustice meted upon the former Chief Justice.
Corona has already gone, but that doesn’t mean we should just accept the things as they were and as they are now. Little by little, we are now discovering how Aquino had abused his power to persecute his perceived enemies.
How he persecuted to no end former President, now Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for having invalidated the stock distribution option which paved the way for the distribution of the Cojuangco-Aquino-owned Hacienda Luisita, the collateral damage of which was Corona; how he demonized former Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, which cost him his chances at the recently-concluded presidential elections after he spoke against the DAP; and how he destroyed the political careers of Estrada and Revilla over the alleged pork barrel scam when he could not come up with potential candidates to beat them in the 2016 elections.
An injustice had been done and it must be corrected. And it could be anchored on two major things. First, establish the link between the decision of the senators on the impeachment trial and the additional funding through the DAP; and second, amend the constitutional provision on impeachment.
For while the Executive and the Legislative bodies are supposed to be acting independently of each other, the Corona impeachment showed us otherwise. The Corona impeachment is a classic case of how a sitting president can abuse his powers just to get back at his opponents, real or perceived. And the present Constitution does not provide a safeguard against those abuses.

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