Fails the So What? Test: Raissa Robles on Mrs Cristina Corona as ‘GMA appointee’ @raissawriter

By “investigative journalist” Raissa Robles’s own admission, some people end up as collateral damage when “dirt” about them gets dug up when scandal erupts. That’s what “investigative journalists” do after all. Dig up dirt. So the collateral supposedly damaged by Robles’s recent article is Mrs Cristina Corona, wife of Chief Justice Renato Corona who is currently undergoing impeachment proceedings.

“Whenever a political squabble erupts, all the alleged dirt comes out in the open,” says Robles. Indeed they do. But does Mrs Corona’s “dirt” that Robles “exposes” in painful “investigative” detail pass the So What? test?

Refer to the article with the painful title “Cash gifts & car plans – COA report shows what Corona’s wife did as a GMA appointee“.

All Robles essentially does is answer the question “Are they true?” (“they” referring to said “dirt” “reported” in the above article). And to answer this question, she digs up some old Commission on Audit (COA) reports to imply that they are true.

So what are these “shocking” revelations of impropriety on Mrs Corona’s part that our perky investigative reporter dug up?

Here they are:

(1) Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) made it a point to appoint Mrs Corona to the Board of Directors of John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) in 2001.

This “point” is brought up, Robles explains, because she notes that at the time in that year, it was “roughly a week after Estrada loyalists had stormed Malacanang Palace and nearly unseated Arroyo”. So in Robles’s mind, the “fact” that Arroyo would take “the time out to make such an appointment” in the middle of a garden-variety Filipino political circus is a basis to “conclude” that this was “important enough to be on [Arroyo’s] to-do list” to do so.

Shocking!

She goes on to note that Mr Corona was “rewarded” (for what exactly, Robles does not mention) with a “plum” seat in the Supreme Court (SC). As such…

(2) There was, supposedly, a “possible conflict of interest” [my italics] in an SC justice being married to a Board member of the JHMC both of whom were appointed by GMA to those positions.

Unfortunately, I’m left scratching my head as to what specifically that “possible” conflict of interest might be as Robles did not go into the detail of that matter in her “report”. Perhaps I am slow. But, as I observed, so are Robles’s readers. So I’m in good company.

See, (and, again, by Robles’s own admission), that “question over the possible conflict of interest involved in a top judge, appointed by the President, having a wife occupy a position also by virtue of presidential appointment” was not raised at the time. It’s a point made uncanny by Robles’s timing in making it. I’m reminded of how “illegal logging” is, well, illegal whether or not it contributes to making a storm-induced deluge deadlier than it should have been. But then we can be assured that the excuse that nobody makes a big deal about illegal logging in times of clement weather holds water (pardon the pun). As long as someone does make a big deal about it after thousands die in the NEXT one of those uniquely-Filipino disasters, everyone can feel that they have “done their part”.

Tough luck for the multi-thousand Filipinos who’ve been dying needlessly over the last several decades because of template disasters such as the one wrought by Sendong today.

By the same token, back in 2001 nobody made a big deal about this nebulous “conflict of interest” that Robles shocks us with in her “report” — until “things dramatically changed” in 2005 when Filipinos “learned” that “very possibly Mrs Arroyo had cheated in the 2004 elections in order to win by a million votes”.

Politicians cheat.

Shocking!

Robles then goes into C3P0 mode, relating her account of the eeevvvvilllls that GMA did to cling to power, and how Corona either agreed or dissented to SC rulings presumably depending on how favourable or unfavourable these were to GMA’s personal health. Perhaps there was a correlation. But see, Ms Robles, if you had taken up logic while taking your English course back in school, you will probably have appreciated the reality that correlation does not necessarily imply a causal relationship between the elements observed to be correlated.

Consuelo de bobo na lang. As Han Solo said to the yammering droid in the excellent film The Empire Strikes Back, “I’m glad you’re here to tell us these things.”

Well to be fair, Robles makes one of her now famous “points” after all that, noting how…

(3) Mr Corona sat in the SC as a justice courtesy of GMA’s “reward” and Mrs Corona enjoyed a plum Board position in the JHMC over the rest of the period of GMA’s cling-on presidency.

Noted. I stand corrected. Perhaps that is a conflict of interest having a GMA-appointed justice married to a GMA-appointed Board member of a state corporation that becomes relevant at a time when the legitimacy of the appointer‘s claim to the throne is being questioned.

That reminds me. Fast forward to today then rewind a bit to mid-2010 when noob President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III ate his words (after a long temper tantrum against “midnight appointments”) and officially recognised Renato Corona as Chief Justice of the SC.

“Obvious” according to Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo De Mesa.

But then the relevance of that decision became evident today now that the family jewels — the vast Hacienda Luisita of Presidential Uncle Peping Cojuangco — is imperiled. And so Corona has to go. Uncle Peping reportedly says so. Which is why Corona is now being impeached — and why Mrs Corona is now being hung out to dry. Collateral damage.

Robles then puts her C3P0 hat back on and quotes huge blocks of text from the COA report on Mrs Corona’s shocking use of JHMC resources. Whatever. It brings us to a twist to Robles’s article in the end. She does, yet again, admit that all that really has “little to do with Mrs Corona’s husband’s impeachment trial”.

Holy waste of space Batman!

But then, Robles, yet again notes in considering that the Php170,000 value associated with one of Mrs Corona’s alleged improprieties as a JHMC senior officer is tiny, but that;

(4) “[P]ublic officials have been jailed for far less than P170,000.”

File a case then Ms Robles.

Oh yeah, I forgot. Those instances of Mrs Corona’s alleged impropriety weren’t relevant at the time. But now they are, right? You just highlighted everything about the Philippines that is wrong. You just don’t know that you did in this article of yours. Thanks for doing my job.

So the question now is this:

So what if Mrs Corona was a GMA appointee?

The saving grace of Robles’s monumental treatise on why she thinks Mrs Corona sucks lies in Item 4. As I said Ms Robles, file a case against Mrs Corona and I might give your article a C+. I’ll give you an A- if you can go after all the rest of them who did similar wrongs whether said wrongs are politically relevant now or not.

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