In 1992, I still had plenty of hair, was just fresh out of high school and I was in my first year of college. Back then I also held a job as a car wash and gas station attendant. If I remember it correctly, I was merely making around 7 dollars per hour and my bank account barely had 500 dollars in it as I wasnâ€™t exactly a Donald Trump back then. Fast forward to the present time, Iâ€™m still not a Donald Trump but my assets have increased exponentially compared to my assets during my wild partying Vanilla Ice hair look-a-like days. Given this information, should I be branded as guilty of amassing ill-gotten wealth? To the prosecution team in the on-going impeachment trial of Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona (CJ), the answer appears to be – â€œYesâ€.
Prosecutor Jose Justiniano presented witness Mariano Dimaantal, Chief of the MalacaÃ±ang Office Records, to attest to the veracity of the CJâ€™s Statement of Assets, Liability and Net worth (SALn) being presented by the prosecution. The SALns being attested to are from 1992 to 2002, this is the period prior to the CJ being appointed to the Supreme Court as a member of the High Tribunal. It is interesting to note that the pertinent Article of Impeachment being deliberated upon merely charges the CJ of having violated the Constitution of failing to disclose to the public his SALn. Never mind that the period of SALn being presented is outside of the CJâ€™s tenure at the Supreme Court, what I find amusing is the justification of the prosecution to use the SALns being presented to â€œshow the trend [in Coronaâ€™s wealth] over the yearsâ€. Prosecutor Justiniano, when asked to explain the relevance of the SALns outside of the period of the CJâ€™s tenure in the Supreme Court, said that these will be used and compared with his financial status when he worked for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) and when he was appointed to the Supreme Court by her. This gives the impression, of course, that the increased assets of the CJ throughout the years are ill-gotten which was made possible by his close association with GMA.
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Letâ€™s even put aside for now the fact that it has not been proven yet that the assets being pointed to were ill-gotten, let us focus for now the insinuation that the increase in assets were caused by the CJâ€™s association with GMA. The argument and logic being presented by the prosecution seems smacking of the logical fallacy called â€œCum hoc ergo propter hocâ€. The fallacy is to assert that because two events occur together, they must be causally related. It’s a fallacy because it ignores other factors that may be the cause(s) of the events. To illustrate this point, I would like to point out that the United States of America is populated by approximately 79% â€œwhitesâ€. In addition, the United States of America also has approximately a 400% violent crime rate. If we are to apply the logic that the prosecution seems to embrace, given that the US, a country predominantly populated by â€œwhitesâ€, has a high average violent crime rate, does this mean that â€œwhitenessâ€ causes violent crime?
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? The main charge is the failure of the CJ to publicly disclose his SALn and that he is suspected to have amassed ill-gotten wealth which the prosecution said they intend to prove by showing the trend of the CJâ€™s increasing assets from his pre-Supreme Court years to his Supreme Court tenure. How could it be possible to correctly allege to have amassed â€œill-gottenâ€ wealth because of his positions at the Supreme Court from 2002 up to the present when the complainants never had access to the CJâ€™s SALns for that period?
From the prosecutionâ€™s line of attack, I see that contrary to their claim that they hold smoking gun evidences, their case seems more like cold as ice. I really commend CJ Corona for keeping his cool while he gets vilified with these half-baked allegations. He â€œkeeps his composure when itâ€™s time to get loose; magnetized by the mic when he kicks his juice. If there was a problem, yo heâ€™ll solve it, check out the hook while his DJ revolves it, Ice Ice Baby!â€
Calling a spade, a spade…