According to Dean Tony La ViÃ±a in his piece “Everything but the truth” published on ‘social news network’ site Rappler.com, “The truth demands stringent rigor, a burden enough to break lesser men. The Supreme Court carries a heavy responsibility as the adjudicator of the truth in the cases it hears. What we saw [in Chief Justice Renato Corona in his testimony to the Senate court] on Tuesday, May 22, fails to live up to the demands of that rigor and responsibility.”
Trouble is, Dean, there is also this rather often-quoted principle: The burden of proof lies upon the accuser. The question therefore is this: Did the accusers — the 188 Lower House “representatives” of this great land — articulate clearly and in precise terms the nature of their accusations?
Get Real Post writer Hector Gamboa cited the fundamental flaw in the prosecution case way back in the earliest days of the impeachment trial…
The fact remains that the prosecutionâ€™s basis for the charge of amassing ill-gotten wealth through his stature and close connection to GMA is merely a suspicion. Defense counsel Serafin Cuevas was correct to point out to the prosecutor:
â€œ[By your logic], you and I can be sentenced to death by mere suspicion? Weâ€™re dealing here with the fate and future of the Chief Justice. [We are not basing case] on what is suspect,â€
I am also bewildered, as Justice Cuevas is, why the prosecutionâ€™s plea is based on mere suspicions and not ultimate facts as the Rules of Pleading state that:
â€œA pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the allegations therein are true and correct of his knowledge and belief.â€
If the prosecution charges the CJ of illegally amassing wealth as proven by the comparison of his SALns from before he was appointed to the Supreme Court up to during his tenure at the High Tribunal, then doesnâ€™t this imply that they really had no basis to verify their allegation because prior to the Senate impeachment trial, they never had any access to the CJâ€™s SALn? How can the complainants have attested to the veracity of the prosecutionâ€™s pleading if they could not have any correct knowledge of the allegations?
Indeed, no less than a key member of the prosecution panel, Representative Rodolfo FariÃ±as admitted he had declined to join his 188 colleagues in the Lower House in signing the Articles of Impeachment because the document was “badly done”…
â€œMabagal kasi akong bumasa eh, kaya nung prinisenta saâ€™min â€˜yan â€¦ nung nakapirma na â€˜yung panghuli â€” maraming speed reader kasi diyan eh â€” dahil sobra-sobra ang pumirma na, 188, â€˜di na kailangan ang pirma ko at masama pagkagawa ng complaint (I read slowly and when the complaint was presented to us â€¦ when the last one had signed â€” there are many speed readers there â€” because so many had already signed, 188, my signature was no longer needed and the complaint was badly done),â€ FariÃ±as said.
So I wonder then, Dean, whether it is really the beleaguered Corona who you should be lecturing about “the demands of that rigor and responsibility”.
It is interesting to note that La ViÃ±a is Harvey Keh’s “mentor” at that venerable institute of learning, the Ateneo de Manila University. Recall that Keh was caught lying under oath on the witness stand in the 16th May session of Corona’s impeachment trial. Furthermore, that instance of lying under oath was just one of two counts of less-than-ethical behaviour, the first being Keh’s rather self-important transmittal of unverified information to the office of no less than the presiding officer of said court, Senator-Judge Juan Ponce Enrile.
Having learned nothing from what could otherwise have been a character-building experience, Keh had only this to say: “I can now proudly say that I survived the berating and admonishment of Sen. Miriam!”
If the good Dean wasn’t too busy being a guest “thought leader” in that self-described “social media network” that pretends to be a bastion of modern thought leadership, perhaps he would have grasped the irony in the way his pompous apprentice grandstanded about what he implies is a monumental feat of survival after only a few minutes of “admonishment” by the honourable Senator-Judge Miriam Santiago while Chief Justice Corona took months of concerted demonisation engineered by some of the most powerful men in the land in the chin and still got up the nerve and energy to deliver three hours of testimony on the stand.
To recap so far, Dean, just as you lecture no less than the Chief Justice on the merits of stepping up to the demands of “rigor and responsibility”, wouldn’t you find it a bit quaintly amusing that you so conveniently gloss over (1) the far bigger outrage in the way the prosecution team so many times over the last months attempted to insult the intelligence of the Senate impeachment court with their borderline criminal stunts and (2) the fact of some bozo under your supposed tutelage mounting such an astoundingly embarrassing spectacle as to bring to question the quality and character of the faculty of that proud Jesuit institution that employs you?
It is too bad that La ViÃ±a starts his piece in the manner that he did considering he goes at some length into what are really quite sensible personal takes on the dodgy manner with which the whole impeachment trial had been conducted and the lynch-mob-like behaviour of the people who jeered and vilified the Chief Justice while turning a blind eye to (or even endorsing) the prosecution team’s blatant falsification and misrepresentation of evidence.
However, much of that attempt at “balance” is outweighed by the lack of broader perspective La ViÃ±a applies to pinning upon Corona what are really broader fundamental issues about Philippine governance. He cites, for example, how Corona’s application of dollar bank account secrecy laws “sets a bad example and precedent to all other public officials”, when the dynamic really at work in the bigger scheme of things is more aptly embodied in the way those who persecute and judge him now nervously come to realise the full implication of where all this is headed on their own personal financial fortunes.
La ViÃ±a also jumps off from Corona’s claim that he suffered a hypoglycemia-induced episode at the end of his testimony to pontificate on the merits of â€œMens sana in corpore sano: a sound mind in a sound bodyâ€. He likens the public servant Corona to a soldier whose responsibility it is to always be prepared, “mind and body,” for the rigours of the “battle” ahead. He extends that concept to question Corona’s overall fitness to continue as Chief Justice given these health challenges he now observes — never mind that there are some obviously, to put it mildly, rather overweight people who represent relevant factors in any effort to put Corona’s health issues in the proper perspective.
Indeed, we choose to see things the way we want to see them, and tend to take on the views of people within our immediate circles of friends and family. To be fair to Tony La ViÃ±a he, as he wrote, remained consistent to his call for due process and Corona’s entitlement to a competent defense “even in the face of criticism by many friends”. But his ultimate conclusion — that Corona should resign to “spare all â€“ Corona, his defense team and supporters, the prosecution, the Senate, the Supreme Court, the Filipino people â€“ from further pain, and keep all this from getting worse” misses the real point — that there are at least 188+1 people responsible for mounting what was originally a baseles and vindictive initiative and allowing what had become a farce to progress as far as it did. Following the same template used in those maritime tragedies the Philippines is also renowned for, La ViÃ±a only addresses the after-the-fact of a fiasco that was, in essence, a misguided and preventable national disaster.
[Photo of Dean Tony La ViÃ±a courtesy IISD Reporting Services.]
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