By Ellen Tordesillas
The walkout by Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona sealed his fate: he will be convicted.
During his three-hour narration, where he didn't mince words against those he perceived was maligning him including President Aquino, whom he scornfully referred to as " hacienderong Pangulo" , he kept on complaining about his detractors undermining the rule law and bastardizing due process.
"Binababoy nila ang proseso ng Saligang Batas para yurakan ang aking mga karapatan," he said.
As chief justice, Corona should be the embodiment of the rule of law. His office enforces judicial code of conduct and the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers. He knows that a witness, which he was on May 22, does not leave the witness stand without being discharged by the Presiding judge.
Yet, acting imperial, he declared: "And now, the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines wishes to be excused." He left the witness stand and walked out of the courtroom. He didn't wait to be excused.
If the Chief Justice trampled on simple rules of court, how then can he demand obedience to it from those that come under the jurisdiction of the Court? If he arrogantly committed contempt of court, one wonders what other laws did he arrogantly violated.
Even before his May 22 appearance at his own impeachment trial, sources said Malacañang already has enough votes (at least 16 out of 23 senators) to convict him. Corona is lucky if he gets four or five (he needs eight senators to block his conviction) sympathetic senators.
Since Tuesday, he was confined at the Medical City where he was under observation "for possible heart attack." His chief legal counsel, Serafin Cuevas, said Corona will be at the Senate today despite his doctors' orders. The Chief Justice has signed a waiver freeing his doctors from any liability in case anything happens to him while at the trial.
Enrile set the oral arguments for both prosecution and defense panels on Monday. After that, the senator-judges will vote to either acquit or convict Corona, the first chief justice to be subjected to this judgment.
How will the voting be done?
Rule 21 of the Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials adopted by the Senate for the Corona impeachment states: " The trial of all the articles of impeachment shall be completed before the Senators vote on the final question on whether or not the impeachment is sustained. On the final question whether the impeachment is sustained, the vote shall be taken on each article of impeachment separately; and if the impeachment shall not, upon any of the articles presented, be sustained by the votes of two-thirds of all the Members, a judgment of acquittal shall be entered; but if the person impeached in such articles of impeachment shall be convicted upon any of said articles by the votes of two-thirds of all the Members, the Senate shall proceed to pronounce judgment of conviction, and a certified copy of such judgment shall be deposited in the Office of the Secretary of the Senate.
"A motion to reconsider the vote by which any article of impeachment is sustained or rejected shall not be in order."
There will be no motion for reconsideration.
I'm not a lawyer but I suppose once he is convicted, Corona would have to be removed not only from his post as chief justice but as justice of the Supreme Court.
Those who want to see him be punished further can file charges against him before the Ombudsman. Civil society groups like that of Harvey Keh would not have to rely on Mr or Ms Anonymous for evidence against Corona. The records of the impeachment trial would be a rich source of materials for cases they can file against him.
They can charge him with perjury and violation of Republic Act 6713, the law that establishes the code of conduct for public officials and employees. If they can prove that his wealth is ill-gotten, despite his declaration that all his money were earned honestly, they can file appropriate charges with the Ombudsman.
Romeo Solina wrote me to dispute Corona's statement that they do not employ a house help.
I'm publishing this so that the Coronas can counter-dispute, if they want to.
Here what Corona said: "Simpleng buhay at tahanan lamang—hindi man kami gumagamit ng aircon sapagka't napakadali po naming magkasakit sa lamig. Simpleng pagkain lamang ang kinakain namin sa bahay, at sa maniwala "po kayo at sa hindi, kami po ay walang katulong sa bahay.
At, iyan ang sinasabi kong katotohan sa inyo. Ganoon kasimple po ang aming pamumuhay na paminsan-minsan lamang na may dumadating na naglilinis ng aming bahay o nagplaplantsa ng aming damit. "
Here's a portion of Solina's letter: "We have a 'katulong' with us for several years now. We took her after she worked with the Coronas. That was when Corona was still working with then President Arroyo. She said she was supposed to work in the canteen being run by Mrs. Corona near a school in Vito Cruz, but had to stay in the residence of the Coronas. She committed a blunder — by spilling something on a guest and was berated by Corona himself — and she had to resign.
"When I heard Corona's statement "wala kaming katulong" (to impress the public that he lives simply) I asked Tess, our own katulong what the situation was several years ago. She said that while she was assigned to serve at the canteen, there were three maids for the household — a cook, a laundress, and a cleaner. All of them slept in the house, but were not allowed much free time."