After about forty-three days of grueling hours at the Senate, the impeachment court finally came up with a decision which led Renato Corona to vacate the chief magistrate post.
Last May 29, he was found guilty of Article II of the Articles of Impeachment filed against him pertaining to his failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth which accordingly, is ‘a violation betrayal of public trust and/or culpable violation of the constitution’. It was Corona’s failure to declare his $2.4 million and P80 million in his annual statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) which caused his downfall.
The prosecution was able to prove a prima facie case at least on the said article of impeachment which, in turn, forced the defense to present witnesses Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and the former Chief Justice himself. While the defense panel claimed that it may be true but it was not an impeachable offense. The result of the voting from the 20 of the 23 senator-judges proved to be the contrary. The defense made themselves lose when they let those two sat in the witness stand.
But after the ramblings, argumentations, the Whaas, and the soaring blood pressure of Sen. Santiago, some things are certain: we have to move on and learn from the historic trial’s feats and blunders. Here are some of the lessons we may infer:
First is preparation’s utmost essential before going to any court war. Information presented to the court should always be squeaky-clean and ‘authorized’. And with that I mean that the alibis should be ironed out and not just say that there was a ‘small lady’, or ‘someone left it at the gate’, or it was from an ‘anonymous source’. The impeachment trial may be sui generis yet the case must be made carefully and thoroughly… especially when you’re facing against the battle-grizzled former Justice Serafin Cuevas.
Secondly, one should keep his or her calmness; we’ve got to learn it from Manong Johnny himself. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile certainly gave a command performance, especially in the proceedings’ most critical moments (such as when Corona’s sudden departed from the stand or the closing arguments and his inquiries to Justice Cuevas). His professionalism, mutual respect, and experienced reference to jurisprudence are very praiseworthy. Interestingly, when one’s a witness, one shouldn’t do things that may insult the judges. Probably like walking out of the halls.
Thirdly, a public servant has to be transparent for the sake of public accountability. While the defense panel had argued that Corona’s exclusion of his dollar accounts from his SALN was done in “good faith”; it is certainly an honest public servant’s best interest to actively disclose his SALN.
Despite ruling out that Corona’s challenge for a mutual waiver on bank confidentiality is a ‘publicity stunt’, public officials should’ve declared their SALNs, too. I believe that the rest of the government has to do the same. Talking about transparency, it became clear that the country needs the Freedom of Information Act to be passed.
The result of the impeachment will best be preserved if the Filipino people can help create a ‘culture of accountability and trust’ between the leaders and the governed. FOI is a powerful deterrent to corruption which, in turn, enhances public participation in governance.
To sum up, we might say that the successful conclusion of the impeachment trial has demonstrated the strength of our constitutional institutions and the faith of the Filipino people in the same. These are the much important values that would sure have lasting effects on Philippine governance.
But it is not enough to penalize our officials; we must now help them in good governance and for accountability work… and not to just watch things on TV while munching on our favorite ‘picha’ pie.
Here's my old entry that I failed to post on time.
This appeared on The Nexus, Vol. 14,Issue No.1.