Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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CJ Corona Impeached

Time for some Monday morning quarterbacking!

Disclaimer: I Am Not A Lawyer. I’m just a guy with opinions. And you know what they say about opinions…

Today, the Philippine Senate has impeached the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by a vote of 20 to 3.

I’ve generally kept silent about the CJ trial, mainly because I know people who are rabidly pro-Corona and I don’t feel like getting into an argument with someone who’s obviously biased (I’m sorry my friends, we are going to have to agree to disagree now). Not to say I dislike him either. I’ve never met the man, I don’t personally know anything about his family. All I know is what I’ve heard reported in the news, media, etc. I’ve tried to hold my judgment until the end of the trial.

First: yes, the prosecution was terrible. Rushed impeachment complaint, bringing charges that are near-impossible to prove (“bias”? =/) fishing expeditions, “evidence” mysteriously appearing given by “unknown sources”. It’s all kinds of shady. To be honest, if the defense had rested their case right after the prosecution finished, they might have gotten a better outcome than this, maybe even won, who knows. The prosecution had next to nothing before the defense made their presentation. All they had were dollar accounts inaccessible to them, and the properties being declared with market value rather than acquisition cost. The defense made so many mistakes, it’s facepalm-worthy. Calling a hostile witness to the stand without knowing what she would bring, calling irrelevant witnesses, arguing that the foreign currency act restricted Corona himself from disclosing the dollar accounts; Cuevas (or whoever pushed for it) should be disbarred for even arguing that last one. They really had only one thing they had to explain, the co-mingled funds in the peso account issue. And even that they weren’t able to explain, with nothing to back up Corona’s explanation: no bank documents, no paper trail, none of the family members testifying that some of the funds were there, nothing!

The only things Corona brought with his testimony were ad hominem attacks, appeals to sympathy, appeals to authority and drama. While I don’t care if those arguments are presented to the media or via press conferences I couldn’t care less, but for the chief justice himself, the head of the judiciary, to be making such arguments in a quasi-legal proceeding? It boggles the mind, to be claiming that the prosecution is bringing forth charges without evidence, when your arguments consist of a conspiracy theory involving an unrelated agrarian reform case and the state of mind of your grandchild. Ugh.

To be honest, I was already leaning against the CJ the moment he accepted the midnight appointment from Gloria Arroyo. That was a terrible, terrible thing to do. You can say that technically it was legal and the Supreme Court upheld it but whatever. I don’t believe that we should be supportive of public servants just because they adhere to the minimum standards set by the law. I believe that with public office being a public trust, public servants should be held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens, even more so those who hold the highest positions in our land. Higher standards of integrity and delicadeza. Public servants should be like caesar’s wife: beyond any suspicion.  To accept that midnight appointment, while ruled to be technically legal, while it could not be proven to be for the benefit of GMA, was a terribly unethical decision for someone who should be the epitome of legal ethics. It would have been so easy to say “No, this is not right, I will not accept this nomination, I will not degrade the position of Chief Justice” and thus to end his career honorably (possibly even be chosen as the CJ at a later date). But pride, ambition, loyalty, whatever, he still chose to accept it, and it led to his downfall.

The interpretation of the FCBD act and the SALN law to his benefit is another example, an indicator of a preference of adhering to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law; of placing more importance to a law whose purpose was to encourage dollar savings than to a law that promotes transparency and good government. Is that the sort of shining example we want to give to the judiciary, that they should be placing their personal interests above those of the country?

And rushing out of the trial, claiming a low blood sugar attack, conveniently right after he dramatically calls for waivers from his “political opponents”, then coming back in a wheelchair looking dazed to try to get sympathy (what, there were no sugar sources anywhere in the senate building?). There’s no way to disprove the claim or to show it was staged (even though he had time to shake hands with some people on his way out of the courtroom), but you have to wonder if the CJ himself would allow that sort of shenanigans if he was presiding over the court. Not a very good example either.

There were very few real winners in this trial, but a clear one has to be the Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Despite all the incompetence of the related parties, he did the best job he could, presiding over a very fair trial, calling it straight down the middle down to the very end. Respect.

Also, time for a lesson in bad arguments (mostly for internet commenters): “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” – this is a logical fallacy called “Tu quoque”, a form of ad hominem. While this is great for bibilical parables, probably not the best argument to cite for legal proceedings. Sure, a whole lot of the accusers themselves are probably corrupt or misdeclaring their SALNs or whatever. Impeach them too. Impeach them all if we have to. (Fortunately for the president, incompetence is not an impeachable offense… yet.)

That’s my 2 cents. Now can we move on? We still have to prepare for the next circus, it’s coming in May 2013.


Posted by under post at #Opinions #Philippines
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One shouldn't be able to break the rules in trying to enforce them. This auto-invalidate s the case in countries that follow the rule of law. You can't set aside the word of the law for the spirit of the law–who decides what that is? Secrecy of foreign accounts is the law, technicalities are the law, the congressmen having to read the complaint first before voting on it is the law. The last time this happened, where extralegal shortcuts were taken because everyone was indignant we got GMA as president. The consequences of today are much longer lasting–it's concrete proof that the law does not matter here in the slightest–popu lism, popularity and mob manipulation rule, and not the law.
Both sides can (and did) cite technicalities all they want; I don't think the constitution requires the congressmen to have read the impeachment complaint, only to have it "verified". (The term "verify" isn't defined - well, I dunno if it's there in the House rules, again IANAL). The law says foreign currencies are secret, but it also says assets have to be declared, how does one judge which one takes precedence? One must look at the intent/spirit of the law, and from there can you deduce which one is of higher importance: the privacy of citizens or transparency in government? The very existence of the SALN law indicates an inclination towards the latter. You know I agree as much as you do on the how important it is to follow the law, and you of all people should be wary of people citing technicalities to circumvent the intention of the law or justice or whatever. You are correct that we can't decide what "the spirit of the law" means, but in the case of impeachment, there is already a body provided by the law to decide - the senate sitting as impeachment court. Populism and mob rule, these are evils that exist not just in our country, and that is still a big improvement that we have to make, but in the case of impeachment, it is literally a channel for populism (read: politics) to intervene when congress feels that the agents of the law have failed the people (which is why it is only a quasilegal process and not a criminal proceeding) It's weird to rail against populism and mob mentality after saying that "technicalities are the law" - that's precisely one of the reasons why it's so hard for the masses to be accepting of the rule of law when they see the rich and powerful bending the law to their whims using technicalities. (Yes, that includes witch hunts orchestrated by the ruling party.) Our laws aren't perfect - not by a long shot. But the existence of this trial, the fact that the CJ submitted to its' jurisdiction and his acceptance of the verdict goes a long way towards redeeming the law in the eys of many. Hiding behind technicalities and dramatic escapes from testimony and making appeals to sympathy on the witness stand do not.
Ooh, I didn't hit the limit :D
The problem is that the masses are so easily manipulated here. It's not an improvement at all–it shows that those who are powerful can target those who are less powerful and break the rules if they can make it look good. This year, GMA is unpopular, so anything associated with her is fair game. Next year, Manny Pacquiao could declare that X is dishonest and through entirely the same process that just happened, arbitrarily get somebody impeached. The law needs to be applied all the time, not just when it gives convenient results. In this situation, the only reason Corona was targeted was that it began with ad hominem attacks and because he voted in a way that displeased the DOJ. This exact situation could be applied to any political enemy now–because I'm certain that the vast majority of officials used exactly the same sort of technicalities to declare or not declare various aspects of their finances, thus anyone that votes in a way that is not kosher with the popular establishment can be tossed the same way under the guise of rooting out corruption.
I'm not particularly for or against anything–I don't really come up with solutions, I'm a complainer. In this situation, I'm complaining because this is not a reason to celebrate. This process, if considered valid, will yield the same results against nearly anybody in government right now. That means the only distinction between impeached and legitimate is if one has not gotten in the way of the DOJ enough to warrant the same level of scrutiny. This is a tool that has no safeguards beyond the fickle perception of the public. This is how we got GMA as president, and how Marcos rose to power. I'm not saying the same thing will happen, but just because the result seems favorable to people right now doesn't mean that the means to get there were proper.
High five for being complainers! If only people would accept my bear-driven justice system… I understand that people are being results-oriente d at the moment, that is a flaw of being human unfortunately. There is definitely a danger of abuse, but that danger has existed even before, since impeachment as enshrined in the constitution is a political process not bound by strict rules of evidence. There is one safeguard against being victimized by this tactic - it's by saying from the very start "the law is vague about this point, I think I'll interpret it in favor of transparency instead of my own interests"; and that's the kind of person we should be favoring as public servants. At the very least, the trial has educated the public far more than the Estrada one did, because we stuck with the process until the end. If Estrada's trial had happened after Corona's, most likely the people would have been more willing to see Estrada's trial through to the end.
Good post, Roy. Mostly agree, especially about the midnight appointment thingie.
your most loving brother
your most loving brother
I also hate that “Tu Quoque” argument. Walang sense eh.
I think the Bear system is much more fair. At least we know that the bear is a bear, and it never pretends to be anything else. To me, the danger of abuse in this situation is very, very high. We have a president that was only elected because his mother died at the right time. His signature platform is rooting out corruption… and now he has the tools to threaten and get his way and while his popularity rating is high enough, it is a positive feedback cycle–he just got rid of somebody for getting in the way of prosecuting GMA at lightspeed, now he can prosecute GMA at lightspeed, then he can get rid of a, b, and c, or threaten them into following what he wants, with each 'success' a propaganda victory that tells the public what it wants to hear. Being an official that is transparent isn't even really a defense. How many documents were produced by the prosecution without a valid source? How many months of demonizing public press releases happened? By playing to the public, the current power-holders can create the impression of dishonesty with ease, and even if one turns out to technically be honest, an impeachment proceeding could vote a person out anyway, and in so doing, the impeachers ensure their own positions.
Thanks for the info Ivy; I couldn't find any definition through my quick reading of the relevant articles in the constitution, but I'm not a lawyer so I guess they have it hidden somewhere in jurisprudence or whatever. Out of curiosity, could they not have questioned the verification thing before the SC (or did they do that already? My recollection of the start of the trial is already weak…) While I don't have any concern with the use of technicalities per se (God only knows I've tried to use rules to weasel out of problems in the past), it becomes a problem when they become perceived mostly as being abused by the rich and powerful to get away with their shenanigans (and there were many instances of this during GMA's time)
Ahem, YOUR bear driven system? I think the major issue with the impeachment is that the public are not even aware that major shortcuts were taken during the proceedings. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Filipino people will just see it as a victory of one of their boys against a filthy rich plutocrat. Most people seem to view politics like a teleserye, there's always a humble hero and a rich villain. In the end, I have a pretty poor opinion of the masses. Both sides played their hands as if they were in a penny theater rather than with proper respect for the rule of law, which is common enough in politics, especially in the Philippines. >_< It's times like this I really really wish more Pinoys were educated in the things that matter.