Speech of Senator Ralph Recto explaining his verdict on Chief Justice Renato Corona, May 29, 2012

Speech of Senator Ralph Recto:
Explaining his verdict on Chief Justice Renato Corona

[Delivered on May 29, 2012]

I base my decision on facts presented in this Court and not on opinions aired outside of it; on testimonies of witnesses and not on theories of wags; on the arguments of lawyers and not on the analysis of their spokesmen; on submitted evidence and not on anonymous leaks; and above all, on the figures and official documents and not the numbers on the recent polls. Because as a judge, my duty is to choose what is right and not what is popular.

Having expressed the foundation of my decision, let me put forward my observations on this trial.

First, in an impeachment complaint, length is not strength. Better for an indictment to be short but substantial than one that is long in allegations and short in proof.

Second, haste makes waste. The reason why the trial simmered in the Senate is that the Articles were served half-cooked instead of well-done.

Third, the way evidence was produced left a bad taste in the mouth. Mr. President, let me now explain my vote.

There is no such thing as a SALN so statistically perfect that it is precise to the last decimal point. If a government employee is asked to catalog what he owes and what he owns, some information may fall into the crack, not as an act of deliberate concealment, but as an unwitting omission done in good faith. So, this boils down to the degree of the unintentional miscalculation. And logic dictates that we accept the slight inaccuracies because if we leave no room for those, then, believe me, no government official will be left behind his desk.

In the case of the chief justice’s SALN, the undeclared assets are so huge—50 times more than what he declared in cash—$2.4 million in U.S. dollar deposits, P80 million in peso deposits—that they cannot be brushed aside as innocent exclusions.

The very same Constitution that he had sworn to obey and uphold makes it mandatory for a public officer like him to submit a true declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth. Mr. Corona knows this because in cases brought to the Supreme Court, he had punished his fellow government workers for failing to disclose far lesser amounts. He should have declared the above. Thus, I vote guilty on Article II.

Mr. President, in a few hours, we will be pulling the plug on this afternoon’s political telenovela. With a sigh of relief, let us go back to our regular programming where hard unheralded work is done away from the camera lights.

The end of the trial does not call for celebration. It calls for getting our bearings back and setting our priorities right again.

One in five people who watched this trial on TV occasionally, go hungry. One in three in the labor force had all the time to watch because they had no work. Five in ten people who follow this trial rated themselves poor. Eighty percent do not even have a bank account or savings. So, if we think what we have done here is herculean, then, we stand indicted for being clueless of what our people want and ignorant of our true potential.

It is easy to impeach one man; what is hard is to impeach hunger, to impeach joblessness and to impeach poverty.

Thank you, Mr. President.