Opening statement of the prosecution during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona, January 16, 2012

Opening statement of the prosecution during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona delivered by Representative Niel C. Tupas, Jr.

[Delivered at the Session Hall of the Senate, Pasay City on July 16, 2012]

“In the name of God, go!”

As public servants, we took an oath to uphold the people’s will at all times. All who hold positions in the government of our Republic are accountable for their actions. For the power of the sovereign Filipino people is a power that is higher than the Executive, the Legislative, or even the Judiciary. And therefore, no matter how high and mighty one’s position may be, no one can ever, ever be beyond public accountability.

Today, we lay down before this honorable impeachment tribunal the product of the collective voice of the people. Impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona for betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and  graft and corruption is the verdict in the House of Representatives. By issuing such verdict, we took the first step towards the fulfillment of our oath as the keepers of the people’s trust.

Let me be clear: We are not here to indict the Supreme Court as an institution, or to do battle with the judicial branch. We are here to search for the truth so as to restore the strength and independence of the judiciary. We are here because one man—Chief Justice Renato Corona—has bartered away for the pot of porridge the effectiveness, the independence, and the honor of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Senate President, your honors, one very important question before this honorable tribunal is, by what standards should Renato Corona be judged?

You only have to look at the Supreme Court itself to know the answer. As you climb its steps, you will see two statues. One of these is Cayetano Arellano, the first Chief Justice, a man of absolute integrity, and of deepest legal wisdom. The other is of Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, who viewed his oath so sacred, and loved his country so deeply, he preferred to die at the hands of the Japanese rather than betray his country.

The Supreme Court itself, then, views the position of the Chief Justice as beyond politics, beyond personal considerations, and always putting one’s honor and justice ahead of every other consideration. Pagkatao po ang ating pinag-uusapan dito. The Code of Judicial Conduct demands that a judge must be like Caesar’s wife—someone who must not only be pure but beyond suspicion at all times. A Justice, therefore, must be judged according to the highest standards. Against such standards, we then ask: Who is Chief Justice Corona?  What kind of a man is he? Ano po ba talaga ang pagkatao ni Renato Corona?

Chief Justice Renato Corona was a loyal servant to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the time she became Vice-President in 1998 until she became President in 2001. Such loyalty had numerous rewards for the Chief Justice. Imagine, GMA paid for his back surgery. His wife was given plum positions in the John Hay Management Corporation. He was appointed Associate Justice, and the best reward of all, against all odds, he took a midnight oath as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Corona’s appointment as Chief Justice also served an immoral purpose: shielding GMA from prosecution for her misdeeds during her presidency. The prosecution will show how Chief Justice Corona became the crowning glory of the cast of accomplices of the former President, and how he protected GMA’s interest in exchange for the position of prestige and power. This is at the heart of Article 1.

This unholy alliance between Chief Justice and GMA, and Corona’s deep indebtedness to the former President culminated in the issuance of a temporary restraining order to enable GMA and her husband to leave the country, and escape accountability. This is Article 7, Corona’s biggest favor yet to his benefactor. And in Article 4, we will show how the Chief Justice intervened in the impeachment case against former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez also to protect GMA’s interests.

In Articles 3 and 5, we will show the lack of moral fitness of Chief Justice when he committed acts of impropriety involving parties with pending cases in the Supreme Court. His mockery of the disciplinary institutions of the Supreme Court in the plagiarism case of an Associate Justice will be proven in Article 6. And in Article 8, we will show how he failed to account for the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and the Special Allowances for the Judiciary (SAJ), funds which are managed by the Chief Justice. Malinaw po: Kung gusto natin ng hustisya, hindi na dapat natin ipagkatiwala kay Chief Justice Corona ang pinakamataas na pwesto sa hudikatura.

And finally, we come to Article 2 where the prosecution will prove that the Chief Justice amassed ill-gotten wealth after he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2002. To give you an idea of this article, let me present to you some of the prized pieces of the Corona crown jewels:

Spanish Bay, Bonifacio Ridge, acquired October 2005, purchase price P9,159,940;

McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio, acquired October 21, 2008, purchase price P6,196,575;

The Bellagio Tower, Taguig, acquired December 2009, purchase price P14,510,225;

The Columns, in Makati, acquired in 2004;

One Burgundy Plaza—the building where GMA had a penthouse unit while she was Vice-President—acquired in 2003, purchase price P2,758,000; and

Number 57 Maranao Street, La Vista, acquired in 2003, zonal valuation P20.4 million, sold to his daughter for only P18 million.

Your honors, the governing principle of our laws is clear: unexplained discrepancy between an public officer’s income and his assets, declared or undeclared, is prima facie evidence of ill-gotten wealth, and therefore, is an impeachable crime of graft and corruption.

The process of accountability is always a painful one. But the legislature is tasked by no less than the Constitution, the very expression of the people’s will, to undertake this sacred duty. And if at this instance, this is how we are called upon to be of service to our country, impeach we must. Mr. Senate President, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, we submit that Renato Corona, by his misdeeds, is unfit to remain Chief Justice.

In closing, the message of the House, as the representatives of the people, is the same as that given by Oliver Cromwell when he dismissed England’s Long Parliament on April 20 of 1653. Before God and country, we say: “It is high time for us to put an end to you sitting in that place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice, you are an enemy to good government, as you have sold your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas Escariot betrayed your God for a few pieces of gold. Depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

Thank you and good afternoon.

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