The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona is good for the Philippines in so many ways. First of all, it is democracy in action, at the highest level. The World Championship of checks and balances. The trial is being conducted in a dramatically tense, often confrontational tone, but also in an amazingly civil and mature way thanks to the firm and respected guiding hand of Senator Enrile.
The man is a hero in my book.
First of all he is highly old and therefore testament to the idea that if you use your brain it stays sharp, and you have a pile of wisdom to leverage.
Second, he demonstrates that a former wild man and coup leader can settle down into a constructive elder statesman. So I figure there is hope for all the wild-eyed leftists out there protesting in the streets, that they will some day ripen, wise up and contribute something meaningful to the Philippines.
Third, he displays the kind of calm, mature, legally tough presentation and perspective that we wish the Chief Justice could summon up.
The trial also reveals what dunces attorneys can be, and that is always a good thing. The persecution . . . oops, slip of the keyboard there . . . the prosecution slammed about like a drunk in a barroom fight for a few weeks, trying to figure out where the restroom had been dispatched to, or the evidence. They were fishing, folks. Using the trial to discover. Not present discovery. I don't know if that is endemic in the way Philippine laws work, that investigators can't investigate because they might find out stuff about powerful people, or if the trial was rushed together so fast they could not do a proper job, or what. They eventually threw out most of the charges to focus on the few that seemed to have some fish behind them. And if conviction is the way of the day, it will probably be on only one point: the guy lied on his SALN.
The defense also got in on the act of the dunce by demanding the Ombudsman testify. They made a loud splash of it and she marched in and laid out a trail of numbers that suggested, not only does the guy have a lot of dollar money stashed here and there, but he is working those accounts like a money launderer would. Like over 700 transactions whipping through something like 80 accounts.
I think this guy is the Teflon man who has been around too many years and the Teflon is peeling off, one scrape at a time. He figured he had three firewalls. One, he was Chief Justice, a high and mighty, and no one would have the audacity to probe their proboscis into his affairs. He is simply too honorable. Second, the Philippine bank secrecy laws are designed to protect scoundrels who launder money. They aren't used as tax havens, but places to clean up dirty cash and send it off for spending by said scoundrels. He deposited there. Third, he figured he had the other justices in his pocket, and, boy, would I like to look at their dollar accounts, too. This is the famous "TRO Court of CJ Corona", with TROs being akin to defecation by kangaroos.
The defense reaction all along has been one of belligerence and victimization. Same attitude regarding the Ombudsman, a position that warrants respect, even if begrudging: "We'll tear her apart and show her to be a fool!" the defense exclaims.
Well, as of this writing, that may or may not transpire.
But the reaction is classic Filipino, neh?
Macho, this Chief Justice and his mighty legal minions. Masters of intimidation and bluster. Not an iota of humble, except that displayed when God is called into the picture, as a Team Player for the defense.
I will say this for the Senate. If they confirm that this character as the kind of Chief Justice that represents the Philippines well, I will join the rest of the world in laughing . . .
You see, a Chief Justice should represent all that is honorable and just about understanding, living and interpreting laws that draw out the best in people. That defend those harmed and express where freedom has its limits. It requires intelligence, knowledge, judiciousness and calm impartiality.
Mr. Corona was stained from the day he accepted a midnight appointment from Ms. Arroyo. He could have worked past that through mature, honorable rulings and leadership of the Supreme Court. But instead he allowed himself to be drawn down into the pit of politics and its ugly recriminations. He displayed rash judgments and thuggish leadership. He refused to recuse himself from cases where he might be seen as biased, and he cast himself as a direct opponent of the President. He cried that the President was challenging the court's independence when it is his own injudicious behavior that threatens the reputation and independence of the Courts. He rebelled against the wholly legal process of impeachment, groveling in the dirt like the most sorry, pitiful victim imaginable. When he wasn't groveling, he stalked about lording his indignation on anyone who simply wanted answers to reasonable questions. Like, why doesn't your SALN report the money? And exactly where did all that money come from?
The guy is a clown by Western judicial standards.
The Senate can determine what standards are appropriate for the Philippines.
That is another reason the trial is good. It will show us what the Philippines is really about, in terms of ethical renditions for the most important ethical position in the land.