Face-off at the Senate
AS Congress returns to work tomorrow, Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona will finally face his accusers and defend himself against allegations that he amassed great wealth while in office, violated the Constitution he swore to protect, and betrayed the Filipino people’s trust.
Corona, a known ally of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, will have to answer 8 charges brought against him by the House of Representatives and convince the senators sitting as judges of his innocence.
Uncertainties, however, hover around how the Senate convened as an impeachment trial court would conduct itself in the glare of public media where every Filipino will be glued to their television set in the same way as they watch their favorite soap operas.
The Senate needs 7 votes to acquit Corona, and 16 votes to convict him even for one of the eight charges filed against him.
If the Senate finds him guilty, Corona will be removed from office and be barred from holding public office.
If the Senate acquits him, Corona will rule the Supreme Court and the entire judiciary until his term of office as Chief Justice expires on 2018 and would by then have outlived President Aquino’s term which ends on 2016, thereby spoiling his reform agenda.
If the present government succeeds in removing Corona from office, many believed it would augur well to the cases the government hurled against Arroyo now facing charges of electoral sabotage, seven plunder cases and recently, a graft and corruption case.
But any move to unjustly exonerate Corona or even prematurely abort his impeachment trial similar to walkout that led to the blotched impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada in 2001 could trigger unsavory reactions that may be beyond President Aquino’s control.
An acquittal of Corona by the Senate that does not conform to what have been presented as evidence in the impeachment trial could provoke a public outrage.
The prosecution team should prove not only Corona’s guilt but also that they are perceived to follow the rules of law, the judicial court procedures, and strict adherence to democratic processes.
On the other hand, Corona’s legal defense team has a bigger responsibility on their shoulder to debunk all of the impeachment charges in order to convince the public of his innocence and eventual acquittal.
Either way, without all of these conditions, the Filipino people would not accept either an acquittal or conviction verdict.
When this happens, it would result to a dire political crisis that may rebound on the country’s faltering economy and political stability.
President Aquino should be well-advised to stay out of the impeachment trial and leave the Senate to conduct its constitutional duty befitting its time-revered independence and reputation as the last bastion of the country’s democracy.