When in doubt, bluff.
Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. stated last Saturday that the prosecution has acquired the proverbial last nail on Coronaâ€™s coffin regarding the second article of impeachment. To recap, the second article of impeachment against the respondent, Chief Justice Renato Corona, states that:
â€œRESPONDENT COMMITTED CULPABLE VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION AND/OR BETRAYED THE PUBLIC TRUST WHEN HE FAILED TO DISCLOSE TO THE PUBLIC HIS STATEMENT OF ASSETS, LIABILITIES, AND NET WORTH AS REQUIRED UNDER SEC. 17, ART. XI OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION.â€
Marikina Representative Romero Quimbo went on to explain that the prosecution panel intends to rest their case on Article 2, briefly discuss Article 3, and then proceed to attack the respondent on grounds of the seventh article impeachment, which explains the respondentâ€™s prejudice towards former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
â€œRESPONDENT BETRAYED THE PUBLIC TRUST THROUGH HIS PARTIALITY IN GRANTING A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER (TRO) IN FAVOR OF FORMER PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO AND HER HUSBAND JOSE MIGUEL ARROYO IN ORDER TO GIVE THEM AN OPPORTUNITY TO ESCAPE PROSECUTION AND TO FRUSTRATE THE ENDS OF JUSTICE, AND IN DISTORTING THE SUPREME COURT DECISION ON THE EFFECTIVITY OF THE TRO IN VIEW OF A CLEAR FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE CONDITIONS OF THE SUPREME COURTâ€™S OWN TRO.â€
Quimbo also questioned the respondentâ€™s eligibility in returning to office after his Coronaâ€™s outbursts against his persecutors. According to him:
His actions have only made his remaining in office untenable. Before he starts acting like a politician, he should first get elected. If he wants to attack other people and talk on top of soapboxes, he should resign first and run for [public] office.
Meanwhile, Tupas claimed that the defenseâ€™s stratagem of making the prosecution incompetent backfired on the respondent.
The mere fact that they went to the Supreme Court to stop the proceedings already shows that they have no defense. Itâ€™s a desperate act that leads to a very weak defense.
As expected, the prosecutionâ€™s bold claim is backed by the Palace. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad argued that there was already enough evidence presented in court to incriminate the respondent for good. Furthermore, Abad argued that Coronaâ€™s refusal to have his bank accounts scrutinized in court incriminates the respondent in the process. He added:
And considering that the unreported assets are grossly disproportionate to what he has declared in his SALNs, it is not going to be difficult to draw conclusions.
He went on to argue that although the quantum of evidence will ultimately rest on the decision of the presiding jury, he believes that the testimonies and documents presented can warrant a sound and fair judgment, which is quite amusing, considering the fact that the respondentâ€™s â€œbank recordsâ€ presented in court are, in all probability, falsified.
Finally, Undersecretary Abigail Valte insisted that the President has full faith in the impeachment process, another shameless assertion, if we consider the contradiction that ensues in such a claim, which I explained in this article.
(To read the full story, visit this link.)
So it seems the prosecution, or so it says anyway, is sharpening its claws to start pouncing on the respondent and oust him from office, backed by the Palaceâ€™s support. However, if we take the entirety of the impeachment trial into account, such a bold declaration of strength from the prosecution is not really something noteworthy. After all, theyâ€™ve been practically doing it during the course of the trial, only to be shamed by the defense and their own lack of organization and competence.
The discrepancies in the list of the respondentâ€™s properties and assets, the blatant lie of Tupas in court as he defended himself regarding the presentation of the said list, the prosecutionâ€™s blunder in compromising bank secrecy laws, the fake documents presented in court, the persistent doubts on the prosecutorsâ€™ reputation, and of course, Tupasâ€™ hubris in the impeachment trial, mounted on top of each other, building a mountain of shame that the prosecution will have to carry for the remainder of the trial. Given the decaying reputation of the prosecution and even of the Palace, Tupas, Abad and company might be digging their own graves by once again bluffing their way to regaining the confidence of the people.
Robert Greene, author of the 48 Laws of Power, explained the importance of reputation in making your point:
Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation â€“ Guard It with Your Life
Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once it slips, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides…
The prosecution, in bluffing their hearts out despite the growing skepticism in their credibility, is risking the totality of their reputation in the process. Should this bluff of theirs lead to another humiliation, which is by all means probable, thereâ€™s no telling how strong a blow will be dealt to their collective reputation as â€œseekers of justice.â€ By literally placing their reputation on the line, they are exposing themselves to attack from the searching eyes of the defense and the public.
Then thereâ€™s the matter of discretion in what one says in public, which is a requisite to the preservation of oneâ€™s reputation:
Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary
…The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.
Tupas, Abad and company, by saying perhaps too much in public, exposed themselves to close scrutiny, putting them in a very delicate position.
1. In recklessly claiming that the prosecution has proof beyond reasonable doubt, they have only raised the stakes in the impeachment trial, something they tried so hard to avoid these past few weeks, while acceding at the same time to the judgment of the defense that the quantum of evidence should be similar with that of a criminal trial. In effect, they might have bitten off more than they can chew, as weâ€™re not treading on solid, damning evidence, not the clumsy ones that they have a strange habit of presenting.
2. In asserting that the defense has a very weak defense just because theyâ€™re objecting to the disclosure of the respondentâ€™s bank records and whatnot, Tupas simply showed how clueless he actually is, and for one simple reason; the prosecution has already been stumped by the defense, even when the defense has hardly presented evidence in court. The prosecutionâ€™s witness shot up to a hundred, while the defense prepared no more than twenty, but it was the prosecution that took the harder blow. Even in the midst of the controversial claim of the defense regarding Senate bribery, to assert that the defense has a weak defense is nothing short of childish hubris.
3. As aforementioned, Abadâ€™s statements betray his short-sightedness in legal proceedings. How can someone formulate a sound judgment from a bunch of fake documents and shady testimonies? Furthermore, the respondentâ€™s refusal to submit to the pressure of the prosecution regarding his dollar accounts do not incriminate him in any way, since, aside from the bank secrecy law, heâ€™s also exercising his rights as an accused.
Letters D and E of Section 1 of Rule 115 in the Rules of Court state two of the rights of the accused, which also apply to impeachment trials:
(d) To testify as a witness in his own behalf but subject to cross-examination on matters covered by direct examination. His silence shall not in any manner prejudice him.
(e) To be exempt from being compelled to be a witness against himself.
The respondentâ€™s silence is an insufficient ground for incrimination.
4. Finally, as also aforementioned, Valteâ€™s insistence on PNoy fully trusting the impeachment process confirms that PNoy is a man of contradictions, as explained in my previous article. If he trusts the impeachment process, why would he try to steer the proceedings as he sees fit?
All in all, the prosecution, together with the Palace, is treading on very dangerous waters. To think that a single respondent will force the government to lay their reputation on the line will simply show how desperate the Aquino administration really is.