THE defamation of the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona, as well as the Supreme Court, by a Yellow columnist in her piece the other day (“Misplaced compassion,” MT, Feb. 15, 2020) is one of the most sickening hatchet jobs I’ve read.
We columnists, by definition of our jobs, express our opinions. But we cannot disseminate disinformation, regurgitate allegations proven baseless years ago, and disguise these as our opinions. That kind of garbage should not have a place in a decent, fair newspaper.
The Supreme Court in its January 12 decision awarded Corona’s retirement benefits to his widow Cristina – four years after his death in 2014. The unanimous decision also practically vindicated Corona — who was judged by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court, guilty for filing an incomplete statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) — by declaring: “The SALN is a tool for public transparency, never a weapon for political vendetta.”
It alluded to President Aquino 3rd and his Yellow cult’s massive propaganda campaign against Corona in 2012 to remove him as chief justice: “The Filipino people live, toil, and thrive in a democracy, but the rule of law should not stand parallel to the rule of the mob.”
But this Yellow columnist claimed that the high court had made that ruling because it “sets a precedent if and when any of them are placed in a similar situation. “It’s all about position and money,” she wrote. The justices in voting for Corona’s retirement benefits just have “selfish intentions,” she declared. They all expect to be impeached out of office, so they want to be sure they or their heirs will receive their retirement benefits? This is such preposterous reasoning.
The columnist claimed that the high court’s decision granting Corona’s widow his retirement benefits and other allowances, was “misplaced compassion” on the part of the court.
This only shows that she didn’t even read the decision, which is an absolute prerequisite when you are writing something about a particular document. This is especially true if it is a ruling issued by the highest court of the land, and in this case agreed to by all 14 justices, yes, even by those appointed by President Aquino, namely justices Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Caguioa.
Nowhere in the 26-page decision did the court raise the point of “compassion” for Corona’s widow as a reason for their ruling to grant her the benefits due her late husband. It instead cited unchanged provisions in the 1935, 1973 and 1987 constitutions that very clearly say that “judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office.”
The columnist does not seem to understand this so I’ll explain what it means: There are no other penalties ensuing upon conviction in an impeachment case, not even the penalty of forfeiture of retirement benefits which is imposed in corruption cases. The court decision even cited several US cases on this issue, since we adopt many of our jurisprudence from the US, and it has more precedents on impeachment cases.
This shameless writer even imputes criminal motive on the part of the Supreme Court justices that she should be cited for contempt. She wrote that “the high tribunal’s resolution, dated January 12, was made public only last February 5 raises suspicion that it was timed on a weekend to temper any adverse reaction.” This is plain malice and so shockingly ignorant, that only she can have such far-fetched suspicion.
The decision was dated January 12 when the ponente, or the justice assigned by the court as point man for the case, finalized his draft decision. But the ponente’s draft first had to go through a phalanx of grammar and proof readers (which is why even a misspelled word is unheard of in the Court decisions), and then circulated among the 13 other justices who study them and then concurs or dissents with the draft decision. That takes many weeks, given the number of cases the Supreme Court handles.
This writer is hallucinating: There can be no “adverse reaction” to the decision since the nation, even most of the Yellows – excluding her – have realized that the impeachment of Corona was based on a huge body of lies, and that Aquino wanted to remove him in order to replace him with an unqualified lawyer – Maria Lourdes Sereno – that would do his bidding. Aquino was desperate to remove Corona because he stood firmly on the court’s earlier decision to reduce from P5 billion to just P300 million the compensation the Cojuangco clan had wanted for giving up its Hacienda Luisita under the land reform program.
This Yellow writer exaggerates what the Senate declared him guilty of, in order to demonize Corona. She claims that it did so because of “his failure to declare some of his assets, including bank accounts and real estate properties, in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.”
The truth is the only reason the Senate used to justify Corona’s conviction was that he didn’t include in his SALN his dollar accounts. But whether this should be included in the SALN is a legally unsettled issue, as dollar accounts are deemed secret under our bank secrecy laws. I haven’t seen a SALN declaring an official’s dollar accounts.
And if a court of law were to rule that dollar accounts should be included, the SALN law prescribes only that the accused should correct his SALN to reflect all of his assets. Of the 40 alleged real estate properties the Yellows alleged to have belonged to Corona, all but two were proven not to be his nor to any of his family members, with Corona perfectly explaining how he got to purchase these real properties.
The depravity of this writer is such that she claims that a “consequence” of the conviction were a slew of criminal cases and administrative cases, which were dismissed only because of his death. The truth is that these cases were all merely announced by Aquino’s minions, rushed by his justice secretary Leila de Lima in order to portray that his conviction was well-deserved.
This became extremely necessary when public outrage broke out over the disclosure just two months after the trial – claimed even by senators who received the bribe and voted Corona guilty — that the Aquino administration used both pork barrel funds and the novel so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program to bribe the senators into voting to convict Corona.
I wrote a dozen articles on this issue, even listing the amount given each senator: It is an indisputable fact that the senators were indeed bribed.
No Yellow senator nor even any Yellow leader dare deny now that the Senate was bribed to convict Corona, and that the Aquino regime threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Chief Justice to remove him. Yet that columnist who gives irrational arguments and presents false information still demonizes a dead man, portraying him as a crook who deserved to be politically assassinated. Why?
One reason is implied in her column itself: She is a fan of the other ousted Chief Justice Sereno. She libels the Supreme Court by claiming that the eight justices voted to remove her only because she would have remained as Chief Justice until 2030, thus “an obstacle to the magistrates’ dream for them to became chief justices themselves with a hefty financial package.” She expresses Sereno’s resentment over the Court decision giving Corona’s widow his retirement benefits as his heir.
This is because the SC in its quo warranto decision against Sereno ruled that unlike Corona, she was not entitled to retirement benefits because her appointment as chief justice by Aquino was invalid from the very start, as she had failed as required to submit several of her SALNs to the body reviewing applicants to the post for submission to the president. Legally, she was never a chief justice and therefore was not entitled to any benefits due the post.
What a stupid mind of a sick soul, so typical of the Yellows. Most cultures have that admonition made famous by the ancient Romans, “of the dead, say nothing but good.” Even if you don’t subscribe to that adage, at least base your bad words on facts, not on lies and irrational arguments.
The ouster of Corona – whom most in the legal community consider as one of the most upright men to have become Chief Justice — was one of the Yellow regime’s most horrendous crimes, which very tragically led to his untimely death. I am biased of course as Rene was a colleague of mine when we were in Gloria Arroyo’s government. He was a decent and good man. I hadn’t heard any rumor of corruption or charge of incompetence against Rene.
Why even the ancient, warlike Greeks admonished mercy for widows, as vividly depicted in Euripides’ play “The Trojan Women.” This writer wants the high court to deprive Corona’s widow his retirement benefits, which was a a decision the court made on purely legal grounds.
This distinguished newspaper should not be used as a channel for journalistic incompetence and vile accusations against an upright man who in death can no longer defend himself.