Prosecution misled the public when they alleged CJ Corona had 45 properties

Just when most people thought it was going to be another boring day of presentation of documents by the defense counsels, a bombshell hit the impeachment court during the trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. Even with the absence of defense lead counsel Serafin Cuevas, crushing the allegations of the prosecution was just a walk in the park for the rest of the defense team.

Tupas misled the public when he alleged Corona owned 45 properties.

Even as private prosecutor Jose Justiniano snickered as he objected to the laborious testimony of the witness from the Land Registration Authority (LRA), no one from the prosecution team realized that some of the Senator Judges were listening intently to the presentation of the evidence — which is probably why they were caught off guard when those Senators questioned their motives in releasing what is now clearly the wrong information that Chief Justice Corona owned 45 properties. By then the defense had made it quite evident that only five of those can be directly linked to the Chief Justice.

LRA Administrator Eulalio Diaz III, who gave the list of the properties to the prosecutors was heavily admonished by a few Senators who were shocked to find out that he (1) acted on an informal request done over the phone by Congressman and lead prosecutor, Niel Tupas, Jr; (2) released a list of properties supposedly under Corona’s name without checking if the list was accurate; (3) inadvertently divulged private information concerning other individuals who are not even involved in the trial; and (4) adopted a “cavalier” attitude towards his own gaffe.

Apart from the above, LRA administrator Diaz, a former classmate of President Noynoy Aquino, was unapologetic when Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Joker Arroyo, Pia Cayetano and Loren Legarda kept asking him why he released documents without checking them. Diaz simply blamed their department’s computer system for the inclusion of a few individuals unrelated to the case, including former Quezon City Mayor Ismhael Mathay who is not even related to the Coronas. Diaz also insinuated that it was not his job to check the accuracy of the list — a list that came from their department – but the prosecutor’s.

I’ll give Diaz half a point for his half-assed excuse because the prosecutors led by Congressman Tupas should have combed through the list before presenting it to the court as evidence and especially before presenting it to the media during their trial by publicity. When asked to explain, Tupas tried to throw the ball back onto Diaz by saying that they relied on the accuracy of the list. Tupas also denied misleading the public and justified presenting it as evidence because, according to him, he just wanted to know the truth. But the truth, it seems, is that he and the rest of the prosecution team just wanted Chief Justice Corona to resign by damaging his credibility.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: the prosecution and their cohorts probably think that the Filipino people, including their Senators, are stupid. What were they thinking when they alleged that Corona had 45 properties when in fact, documents that are also available from the LRA indicate that 17 were cancelled titles? Did they actually think that the defense would miss that important piece of information just as they had missed it? It’s amazing how the whole thing flew over their heads considering they have all the available resources including most government agencies and a stealth army of “small ladies” at their disposal. They even have the backing of the President himself, for goodness sake. Obviously, even investigative journalists like Raissa Robles and those at Rappler.com could not help them with the facts. It’s probably because they are not used to handling real data.

I used to think the prosecution was incompetent. Now I think they are also hopeless. The problem is, most people tend to believe what the prosecution are saying. This is evident in the new survey released by survey firm Pulse Asia, a firm said to be owned and operated by friends and family members of PNoy. According to the survey, 33% think that Corona is probably guilty and 15% think he is guilty. In the same survey, it says 56% of Filipinos know only a little about the issue.

Whether the result of the survey is accurate or not, the real question is: Who would sponsor a survey while the impeachment trial is still ongoing and more importantly, for what purpose? It is worth noting that the result was published a day after PNoy promised to stop commenting on the trial. His minions probably decided that sending subliminal messages to the public is much better for his image.

Now the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona may just prove the theory that suggests, “incompetent people are unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas.”

According to a new study, democracy may not work in societies where the majority is “just too stupid to pick the right candidate.” We already know that statement to be true with the biggest proof in the underachieving former Senator, Noynoy Aquino winning the presidential election in 2010. The study also explained the reason why the wrong leaders keep getting voted in:

“…a growing body of research has implied that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.

As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them.

[Cornell University psychologist] Professor [David] Dunning said: “Very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognise how good an idea is.”

If you change the words of the above statement to what is happening now during the impeachment trial, you will come up with something like this: If people lack the expertise on law or the interpretation of the constitution, it is very difficult for them to identify the lawyers or judges who are actual experts. The majority of Filipinos simply lack the mental tools to make meaningful judgements.

This, unfortunately, is the dilemma in our society that is evident now. It seems that regular folks can only understand simple statements such as “Chief Justice Corona betrayed the public trust”. But when the defense counsels try to prove the allegations are wrong using facts and data, most people including some senators, roll up their eyes or glaze over because it becomes too technical for them. Journalists certainly find it “boring”.

Explaining a simple concept is like having a root canal because even senators themselves cannot comprehend what some of the counsels and experienced former regional court judges are saying. Their lack of understanding of the law and their own biases against Chief Justice Corona frustrates or bores some of them when they are listening to the painstaking defense presentations. It seems they consider “hearsay” information more exciting. If the senators cannot understand the rule of law, what more can we expect from regular Filipinos?

How in the world will the senators come to a decision? There is simply no meeting of the minds, which is why the trial does not progress at a quicker pace. The guideline on how to fill up the SALN form for example cannot be agreed upon. Defense is saying that the “constitutional provision on the SALN did not require more stringent guidelines for the Chief Justice and other magistrates of the Supreme Court than any other public official.”

They even pointed out that “the Civil Service Commission recently announced that it would issue a new SALN form which would require specific entries–proof that the current SALN did not require detailed information.” However, the prosecution is simply insisting that “Corona betrayed the public trust” when he did not include some assets in his SALN. Never mind that the evidence already proves that Corona didn’t have to because some properties that were alleged to be his do not belong to him.

The bottom line is, the senator judges seem to have conflicting ideas about what should be the guideline in coming up with a decision. Sometimes they quibble on matters such as determining when the property should have been included in the SALN to trivial ones such as whether a witness is still relevant or not. It’s just so amazing that everyone talks like an expert while knowing very little about what they are talking about. It is becoming apparent though that all the confusion can be traced to the prosecution’s presentation of false evidence and violation of the law, something that should be grounds for the immediate dismissal of the impeachment case.

[Photo courtesy Sunstar.com.ph.]

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