Lessons from Renato Corona’s experience: Five tips on how to survive an impeachment trial

After 43 sessions within the span of 5 months, the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona has finally ended with an overwhelming vote for a “guilty” verdict. So much has been said about how the prosecution cut corners and violated the most sacred parts of the Philippine Constitution just to demonize the respondent in the public’s eyes, but not a lot has been said about the fact that this was ignored by majority of the judges. What they highlighted instead was Corona’s omission of some of his savings on his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) and made it look like such a horrible and despicable crime. Likewise, not a lot is being said about what will happen now.

It’s a good question. What will happen to the Philippine Republic now that the perceived enemy of the state has been removed? Most of us know the answer to that one. Of course the status quo will prevail. President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino had succeeded in removing someone he perceived as a major blockage to his corruption reform drive and someone who happened to play a key role in the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to its rightful owners. There will only be a handful of people from the opposition who will attempt to criticize BS Aquino lest they risk attracting his ire and be persecuted the same way as Corona was.

Another good question is, what will happen to Corona? Will he eventually join the private sector or will he retire? I’d like to think that Corona should be able to easily move on from all this. After being publicly humiliated for months by the President and his allies, there should be nothing more that can hurt him now. He should come out of this a stronger individual. His supporters understand that what happened to him was a political assassination and do not see him as a lesser man despite his removal from office. Only lesser people would think otherwise. If what he is saying is the truth — that he did not steal his savings, then he should be able to walk with his head held up high since he does not have anything to be ashamed of.

There is no reason Corona has to come out of this the loser. In fact, he fought for the Filipino people. He knew there was a risk that he would be removed but he still didn’t go down without a fight. What happened to him stressed the importance of respecting the rule of law and the consequences of not doing so.

Corona stayed long enough to see to it that the ruling on the distribution of the Hacienda Luisita was finalized. The beneficiaries — the hardworking farmers — will remember Corona as an honorable man for they have waited a quarter of a century for this to happen. It was BS Aquino’s late mother, former President Cory Aquino who made sure that the land stayed with the Conjuangco family that long. Hacienda Luisita is indeed, one of Corona’s legacies. The second one would have to be his challenge to all public servants to divulge their savings in whatever currency it is kept. Now the spotlight is on Corona’s accusers and the public is waiting for them to do the right thing. Third and last, because of the impeachment trial, a lot more people are aware of BS Aquino’s real motives and it seems mostly self-serving.

Corona’s impeachment trial has certainly taught me a lot of things about Filipinos and human nature in general. There are things in life that are beyond our control and we need to be careful about how to deal with these lest these consume us. I think the whole impeachment exercise can only be good for the Filipino people if some can finally accept that there were things that should not have been done. If the people who were against Corona continue justifying that the violations perpetrated by the prosecution were worth it because of the outcome, then our society will certainly regress instead of progress.

Here are some other things that I got from watching the whole impeachment proceeding:

1. Do not fall for traps — In his own trial, Corona was tricked into testifying against himself. The prosecutors and Senators kept emphasizing earlier on that the impeachment trial is sui generis or the impeachment court is unique in its purpose and that the proceedings are not judicial in nature but political. According to them, this meant that they would observe liberality in applying the rules of court. While they were very liberal in tolerating the violations of the prosecution team, they became very strict in interpreting the mandate of the law when it was time to hand out the verdict.

This demonstrated that what seemed like a friendly invitation by the prosecutors and Senators then for Corona to show up was just a trick to bait him into incriminating himself. We will recall that after Corona’s testimony, the prosecution had changed its tune and decided that they will not cross-examine him anymore. The Senators for their part were suddenly no longer interested in uncovering the truth despite all the obvious holes in the prosecution’s allegations.

The best defense is Article III Section 17 of the Bill of Rights: No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. Never show up on the invitation of the so-called “distinguished” gentlemen of the impeachment court.

2. Put on your best poker face — While we understand that the months of relentless black propaganda thrown by the prosecution with the help of various media organizations took its toll on Corona, it was his nervous breakdown in the court that probably helped convince some Senators that either he was putting on an act or he was weak emotionally and physically. I personally hate it when I cry in the middle of having a heated debate with someone because I come across as weak. It’s the same thing with what happened to Corona. He could have avoided this had he not spoken for three hours and made himself a bit emotional towards the end; or if he had allowed his lawyers do most of the talking; or as mentioned above, use Article III Section 17.

Let’s face it; while we know what we are going through, it is sometimes hard for some people to realize what we are going through. It is even futile to make our detractors understand how we feel especially when they already have a pre-conceived notion of what kind of a person we are. Besides, we should never ever let our opponents know how we really feel. We should keep them guessing. Never let them know you are affected by their bullying. Bullies will keep bullying you when they know that what they are doing is having an effect on you.

3. Be ruthless — This is the only way you will win. The prosecution showed no mercy from the beginning until the end. It was obvious that Corona’s emotional plea to be understood fell on deaf ears because the prosecution was singularly focused on removing him. Some members of the public could see that the prosecutors were very hostile with the witnesses but that was all a tactic to rattle the person into admitting guilt or to test their credibility. Some Senators like Franklin Drilon and Teofisto Guingona did not hide their animosity towards Corona from the very beginning but refused to inhibit themselves as judges. Even the very blatant conflict of interest did not stop Edgardo Angara from acting as judge and issuing a guilty verdict. He saw his son’s role as prosecutor as a non-issue.

The defense may have been very honorable and laudable for their professionalism but they were dealing with a bunch of unscrupulous men and women who had the advantage of playing on their home court with their own set of rules. In the end, the defense team should have used caution in dealing with double-crossers who did not honor their words. In the end, it was the foul-mouthed prosecutor, Rodolfo Fariñas who hammered the last nail on the coffin. It was what appealed to the crowd and the judges.

4. Know yourself and your enemies – in general; one should know one’s weakness and strength before going into battle. You should also do the same with your enemies. Corona had the people almost cheering for him on the first day of his testimony. Just before he felt sick and walked out of the courtroom, he challenged his accusers to join him in signing waivers to disclose their own dollar accounts. Most people were impressed with his maneuver. The presiding officer had to bang the gavel to demand order in the court because some people where even clapping. Unfortunately, by then, the pressure of being on the witness stand had put a lot of strain on his health and caused him to do something that insulted the Senators who, as it turned out later, obviously could not move on from the perceived slight.

5. Be careful with who you associate with — sometimes people ask why bad things happen to relatively good people. More often than not it’s simply due to the party they associated themselves with. The whole country knows why Corona became the target of impeachment complaints. It was not because members of the House of Representatives were really concerned about his SALN. It couldn’t be because it is assumed that they were not privy to his accounts because of the bank secrecy law. Even Senator Juan Ponce Enrile confirmed this when he said “It seemed that the case was being built up only after the charges were actually filed.”

Yes, the impeachment complaints were filed because the complainants thought Corona just had to go simply because he was former President Gloria Arroyo’s appointee. In the Philippines, one’s connection can make you and also break you. There’s just nothing in between.

These lessons may be too late to save Corona but it is not too late for other individuals who may become the next target of the Aquino government. Everyone needs to be very careful nowadays because the law can’t seem to protect anybody anymore. Since Corona, who held the Chief Justice position could not even get due process, what more ordinary citizens? As former Senator Francisco Tatad wrote in his recent article, we are getting closer to authoritarianism:

With Corona’s conviction and removal, PNoy is now virtually in control of the three branches of government. He may not have what it takes to exercise such control, but there will be no shortage of people who will want to do it for him. This was clear enough in the Senate trial, where representatives of supposedly independent constitutional bodies and agencies, such as the Ombudsman, the Commission on Audit and the Anti-Money Laundering Council, slavishly anticipated his bidding.

Corona’s impeachment and conviction accomplished the destruction of the tripartite system. With the surrender of the entire Congress, and the Supreme Court being “chilled” and spooked by Corona’s removal and by Justice Mariano del Castillo’s pending impeachment, PNoy has morphed into a strongman. Many had hoped the Senate would have the courage and the wisdom to turn back the rush toward authoritarianism. This was not to be.

That should send a chill down everybody’s spine.

[Photo courtesy Yahoo! News.]


Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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72 Comments on "Lessons from Renato Corona’s experience: Five tips on how to survive an impeachment trial"

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Amir Al Bahr

I guess anything can become betrayal of public trust now, huh? Even something as far-fetched as plagiarism, as in Justice del Castillo’s case.

With all three branches of government tainted by PNoy’s influence, he’s got absolute power. And what do they say about absolute power? It corrupts absolutely. Kung walang corrupt pala, ha?

From the movie “The World Is Not Enough”:
Q: “Now pay attention 007, I’ve always tried to teach you two things: First, never let them see you bleed.”
Bond: “And the second?”
Q: “Always have an escape plan.”


I really liked lesson no. 3! To me, the other thing that it says is that TAMA NA ANG PAAWA EFFECT NG MGA PINOY! Wala silang mapapala diyan because other people also have their own problems so they should not expect anyone else to help them out.


Personally.I believe that the CJ will get out of this sad experience a better man and I know a lot of people still hold him in high steem,myself included.


All hail the Yellow King.

Poverty has been solved by the great Yellow King. We shall sing of his accomplishments, wave yellow banners and parade in the streets with glee and joy.

Hyden Toro
The trial of Justice Corona was already pre-judged, like they did in Congress. The Kangaroo Court of Enrile, just want to show people, that there is an apparent trial. Can you see: real actors and real comedians, playing their roles? The five minutes impeachment in Congress is already a violation of the Due Process. Enrile allowed :liars; fabricated evidences; small lady who provided evidences; Mr. Anonymous, who also provided fabricated evidences, etc…Corona, like Jesus Christ, went into a Mockery of a Trial…the judgement is: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”…this time Pontius Enrile, did not wash his hands…He was part of the… Read more »
Der Fuhrer

Greetings Ilda. While we were distracted by the impeachment, the improved government of the improved society tries to pass a bill(without consultation)intended to muzzle the free press and legitimate dissent. I hope you have read about this in the Manila Standard.




Good one again, Ilda, thanks!
Now we wait and see who else he’s going to demolish to seal his grip on power. I never thought I would agree with a Marcos lackey, but sadly Tatad has a point. The wait for his term to end seems like forever.


If Corona hadn’t testified about his dollar accounts and peso accounts that were undeclared in his SALN because they were allegedly co-mingled, I think he would have been acquitted. The defense could have argued that the evidence presented in the Ombudsman’s testimony is inadmissible because it violated the foreign currency deposit secrecy. But Corona’s testimony rendered the issue moot. It’s also a great mystery to me why the defense had to call on the Ombudsman in the first place when the prosecution’s case was very weak.

JV Briones

Hey Ilda….

Any opinion regarding the petition to oust le Merriam as judge for the ICC?



Good article, but you have overly concentrated on the processes of which the impeachment trial was conducted. Yes, I agree it wasnt as smooth as I expected it to be, but you have sacrificed objectivity as to what the constitution had mandated us how to treat violation of the law of the land.

I dont think it is demonizing to prosecute one who is allegedly violated the Constitution, Do you really think so?

If you think that way, I could safely say that all criminals are demonized. I beg to disagree.



“Do yourself a favour and read up on individual rights in our constitution because you don’t know what you are talking about. There is no due process when the minds of the public has already been poisoned.”

Thanks you but no thanks, but I have probably read the bill of rights and individual rights many decades before you were born.

If you read the book Malcolm X and the Sons of Mississippi then you can relate to me what is individual rights.

Hi again Ilda, What? You mean you dont take me seriously because of my username? Wow….unbelievable. Look, I have not insulted anyone as far as I know; that is not in my character; however, if I did my apologies. I am here to exchange ideas under different point of view and honestly, I find it very interesting to speak with you. Two people with different point of views could be friend, couldnt they? I have seen many objectionable usernames and I am sorry you take my username lightly. You see, a jackass is kind of hardheaded and stubborn animal under… Read more »
The best way for any public figure to survive impeachment is to RESIGN even before the trial starts. The problem with our country compared to our foreign counterparts is that our leaders want to CLING to power instead of stepping down for the good of the country. Where are those virtues our past politicians have like ‘delicadeza’ and ‘palabra de honor’ ? We need people like these… people who are selfless and do not mind stepping down if need be. Btw, I ‘m talking about all politicians in our country,including PNoy,the senators, congressmen,etc. not just your beloved CJ. If ever… Read more »

There is only one lesson in the Corona experience: If you are notoriously identified and benefited with a previous administration that is so corrupt, you should watch your back at the moment a new administration comes in.

robert carino

quite ironic that the author should write about corona being held up as a hero of land reform by the HLI farmers. the same corona that gave billions to cojuangco from the coconut levy.

now. who was being self-serving again?


[…] Chief Justice Renato Corona with unimpeachable charges that the President and his minions had completely overblown. Try to ask a regular person what exactly Corona did to deserve getting kicked out of office and I […]


Reason why the pursuit stopped short in opening Corona’s dollar deposit… ’cause everybody cloaked in that court room knows, it’d take precedence and theirs would be next…

That one fine thing we Filipinos laid so calm about after that impeachment, will come back biting us in the ass… I bet, these crooks hid all their pork kick backs on such accounts…


this get real is so biased for past admin

the past is no better than the present

theyre all the same bull crap

erasmo mallillin

Well Campoamor (Spanish poet) observed “En este mundo traidor, nada es mentira todo es depende del kristal con que se mira.” Very true and such is life.