There is enough basis – and motivation – to dismiss the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona

After weeks prior to the Easter break of putting up with the inept lawyering of the Prosecution team in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, we find on the first day of the trial post-Easter that our Senator Judges have suddenly seemingly grown weary of the whole circus. Instead of patiently respecting the Defense team’s turn to present their witnesses, they instead shut down any further Defense witness testimonies for the day.

To be fair, what the Defense team had lined up for today were witnesses who would testify in favour of Corona’s assertion that one of the properties the Prosecution were accusing him of not declaring on his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) had not been turned over to him within the reporting period covered by said SALN. At the start of the trial session today, the Prosecution had already accepted the assertion and, as such, any further witness testimonies related to that matter would have, indeed, been pointless. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, however, had to go on and express his disappointment that all of the witnesses that the Defense panel had lined up for the day were relevant only to that matter, which came across as a bit unfair considering the Defense attorneys had no way of knowing that the Prosecution would accept the assertion as early as they did in the trial session.

Ultimately it seems that it is really the resolve of Enrile to conclude the trial by the end of May that could be driving this sort of behaviour…

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday said the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona will not last beyond May 31.

“Gusto namin matapos ito. We will not go beyond the 31st of May,” Enrile told reporters after a caucus before the resumption of the impeachment trial on Monday.

Enrile even talked about conducting prolonged “marathon” hearings just to make good on this timeframe. But if this is really all about a case of trial fatigue, then the impeachment court need really not bother with getting all stressed about this deadline. All they need to do is dismiss the case. It has long been observed that there had already been enough grounds to dismiss the case even just weeks into the trial. Accounts of the railroading of the signing of the impeachment complaint through the House of Representatives, to the evidently empty and baseless accusations (in fact, mostly mere allegations) contained in the Articles of Impeachment already form more than enough bases to assert that the very premise of the trial itself is fundamentally flawed.

On top of that which alone would already have been a showstopper in most trials, the Prosecution was also many times caught lying and submitting illegally-obtained evidence to the court in the course of trying to prove Corona held ill-gotten wealth — offenses that would have warranted outright citation of conetmpt of court and, again, perhaps dismissal of the case.

There is more, obviously. But to cite them all here will simply belabour the simple point that the Prosecution had all but botched Uncle Peping’s chances of convicting Corona even before Day One of the trial itself. My colleague Ilda already earlier provided an excellent executive summary of the litany of Prosecution gaffs that have all but turned this trial into another joke to add to the long list of things that make the Philippines the global laughingstock that it is.

[Photo courtesy Philippine Senate.]

More importantly, there is no longer any point to the trial even from the perspective of the interests of the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan — owners of the vast Hacienda Luisita estate that is the real point of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s entire presidency. The Supreme Court had already ruled in favour of its long-overdue dissolution under the tenets of the Philippines’ Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

What is the point in continuing this circus, ladies and gentlemen?

Hacienda Luisita is gone, the Senator-Judges are over it, and we have a country supposedly in the throes of a second wind (if we are to believe the spin) as far as its aspirations to get up to speed with the rest of the region’s economy. So much to do, so little time for this quaint idiocy — a pet initiative made idiotic by the very people tasked to make something out of it.

Time to quit deluding ourselves that the presence or absence of one man in government — even if he may be the top judge of the land — can really change the fortunes of the average Filipino schmoe.


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