Corona impeachment twist: 100 million reasons to defy a Supreme Court restraining order

Last night (the 12th of Feb 2012), the legal team defending Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial went public on a plot allegedly perpetrated by Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa to “persuade” members of the Philippine Senate to defy a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court on the opening of dollar accounts allegedly held by Corona with Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank). The TRO was issued at the request of PSBank management following a summons issued by the Senate impeachment court ordering it to reveal details of these alleged foreign currency accounts — an order which would have put PSBank in violation of Section 8 of Republic Act 6426 (“Foreign Currency Deposit Act of the Philippines”) which states that foreign currency accounts are “absolutely confidential”.

Already possibly liable for serious charges relating to this violation are “online journalists” Magtanggol de la Cruz and Carmela Fonbuena who had earlier published the balance and account number of one such PSBank foreign currency account on “social news network” site even before the subject of a bank subpoena was even brought up in the trial proceedings. For his part, PSBank president Pascual Garcia III, it seems, has earned the admiration and respect of the banking and business community for almost single-handedly standing up for the entire financial services industry even as the full political weight of the prosecution team and their allies among the senator-judges bore down upon him…

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Mr. Garcia is certainly not out of the woods yet, but already he has earned the admiration of many who saw his admirable demeanor on live television. Most court observers said they expected a “coniotic” bank executive in the mold of Ayala Avenue lords, and were pleased to see a man who epitomized your friendly, trustworthy neighborhood banker. Someone pleasant and humble—why, he even joked about consulting his counsel before greeting the court “good afternoon”—yet grim-faced when it came to declaring, repeatedly, that “if there’s any liability here, then let it be me [taking the blows].”

The subpoena ordering PSBank and the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) to open their accounts to public scrutiny had been issued on the back of illegally-acquired information to begin with. The subpoena of the PSBank accounts traces its roots to an “anonymous source” described by prosecution team member Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali as a “small lady” who handed to him an envelope allegedly containing Corona’s bank documents.

Both the unlawful origins of the information that underlies the Senate court subpoena of PSBank and BPI and the watertight nature of Philippine bank secrecy laws pertaining to foreign currency accounts alone make a restraining order on any further steps by the Senate impeachment court to act on the matter a robust proposition. Regardless of that, the Constitution makes it quite clear that the Supreme Court is the superior power in the state when it comes to interpreting the law and it alone has discretion over any court — even courts organised outside the jurisdiction of the judiciary (below taken from Article VIII Section 5, Part 5 of the Philippine Constitution) …

Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.

In short, the Senate impeachment court exists only because the Supreme Court allows it to.

Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III occupying Philippine hallowed space as the Son of Aquino supposedly anointed by the “graces” of the “will” of the Filipino people now fans the flames that have already been burning down instiutional governance in the Philippines by daring Corona to “voluntarily open his dollar accounts to scrutiny to prove he had nothing to hide”.

The fact that the President of the Philippines himself is not inhibiting himself from directly influencing the outcome of Corona’s impeachment trial lends some credibility to the allegations of the defense team that a top cabinet official of Malacañang — no less than the Executive Secretary as alleged — would attempt to buy favours from the “honourable” members of the Philippine Senate. Suffice to say, the notion of Philippine politicians being on one unofficial private or public payroll or another is not exactly a shocker to most Filipinos. So lets not get all worked up over any perceived “insults” to one’s “honour” here, ladies and gentlemen.

In making this revelation, the defense team it seems is playing a shrewd gambit. It provokes the Senate impeachment court to bring to fore the elephant in the room that the formal “debate” has so far tiptoed around — the issue of participants in the trial directly engaging the Philippine media. After all, if there will be any contempt citations to be issued to the defense team for this recent stunt, there will surely be an equal and commensurate lashing that will have to be directed against the prosecution team too who themselves had even earlier openly and blatantly defied warnings from the court to desist from their own illegal publicity operations.

Facts are, as usual, on the side of the defense team. If we were to take a full accounting of the number of instances due process — specifically those that have to do with disclosure of the merits of the case to the media — was violated by either side, it is likely that the prosecution will already have racked up enough notches since the beginning of the trial (and even in the days before it started) for any judge to cite them in contempt ten times over.

I came across an interesting phrase that describes this circus…

Burning down the house to kill a rat.

That would have been an apt phrase to describe the Philippine political landscape if we weren’t aware of what is really at stake here for President Noynoy Aquino and the Cojuangco feudal clan to which he really answers to. The fate of the multi-billion peso family jewels — the vast Hacienda Luisita estate — had already been sealed by a Supreme Court order to have it subjected to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. The clan can always build ten new houses if they succeed at killing said “rat”.

28 Replies to “Corona impeachment twist: 100 million reasons to defy a Supreme Court restraining order”

  1. But what if the defense team presents a Senator-Judge to validate their claim of Ochoa’s attempted “vote-buying”?

  2. Why was lead defense counsel Justice Serafin Cuevas not present in that press conference?

    Maybe, he was not convinced of the defense gambit and/or alleged source of the ‘pasabog’?

  3. “In short, the Senate impeachment court exists only because the Supreme Court allows it to.”

    Seriously? Sorry, but this is the stupidest statement I ever heard. Read the Constitution. I am sure no lawyer will even agree with you on this. And if you’re a lawyer, then I’m just ashamed to call myself one.

      1. ARTICLE XI and the power of semantics.

        Nowhere in that article is an Impeachment court mentioned. The might as well call themselves something else to prevent the SC from stopping them (if it wishes to and given what you’ve written).

        Of course, I’m just playing with words as some lawyers do.

      2. Art. XI. Sec. 6. The Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide cases of impeachment. When sitting for that purpose, the Senators shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the Philippines is on trial, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside, but shall not vote. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.

        There. The senate sitting as an impeachment court exists because of the provisions of the Constitution, and not because “the Supreme Court allows it to.”

    1. @gherome
      It is not “the stupidest statement” you ever heard. Ours is a rule of law not of men. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the law hence, “the Senate impeachment court exists only because the Supreme Court allows it to.” Still not convinced? Read the Constitutional Provisions on the Judiciary.

      1. Premise 1. Ours is a government of law and not of men.

        Premise 2. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the law.

        Ergo, the Senate impeachment court exists only because the Supreme Court allows it to?

        Where’s the logic in that? No logical flow whatsoever.

  4. i saw the presscon of the defense and i must say i was greatly disturbed by it. i am beginning to think that this impeachment court is just one expensive kangaroo court. i am clinging on a very thin strand of hope that the senate would still rise to the occasion, but barely.

    if there’s one truth that has come out of this whole zarzuela, it would have to be that the halls of power in our country is severely rat infested.

      1. They only love cats who chase the other mice, not their own KKKK mice, and the fat cat who couldn’t let go of HL and has a huge chunk of cheese to dangle over their faces.

  5. baket nag e-emote tong mga senator judges tungkol sa issue??? eh di naman pala totoo…is that a streak of guilt im seeing on the senate??? tsk…tsk…tsk…

  6. The political slogan of the straight(and wide) path (to perdition)continues to this day. Mr. Aquino and his spokespersons always repeat this subliminal pitch. Repeating it every time. Lies become truth and real truth appears as lies. Many still remember the impunity of his KKKK and the scams revealed by the press.

    The repeat lies in trial by publicity and black propaganda are not only aimed at the dictator’s perceived enemies and their families. Its chilling, evil effects are felt when the youth begin to emulate these lies. Politicians are known to be liars. But now it is different. Lying is now an instrument of public policy in the corridors of power. Evil examples are destroying culture and society.

    Many of the ignorant and the gullible are led to believe in false political promises and slogans. Many are mesmerized by gold and by the yellow/red entertainment of political circuses. Integrity and character is also targeted for destruction by the dark souls who manipulate minds through subliminal propaganda and fixed surveys. What is the real intention of the dictator? Destruction of institutions, democracy and freedom. False pretenses rules this day and age. Thus divide and conquer the people into factions and use them in promoting absolute dictatorship. We are already a damaged culture and society. Is total destruction of values and ethics not far away? There is saying that in times of crisis, heroes will arise. We need heroes and patriots. Do your part.

  7. Yesterday, I thought the defense panel’s ‘pasabog’ sounds incredible.

    Now, the story line of the prosecutors reads bizarre with facts/allegations that there was no small lady in the Senate’s CCTV, fake bank record copies, ergo wrongly issued subpoenas, etc.

    Fruits of the poisonous tree.

  8. I’d love to have proof of this bribery attempt. Otherwise, it’s no different from the prosecution tactic, and ultimately useful only for entertainment.

  9. Isn’t playing the administration’s game, by using alleged reports and reporting rumors to the media, downright treacherous for the defense? The administration and media can easily spin things to call them dirty players.

    Clearly more than a few of the senators have shown their bias for the prosecution. It is not surprising if/when they look the other way every time they are in contempt, but make a big issue of every thing that the defense does.

  10. The RATS in the house, the two-legged varieties, are : Noynoy Aquino, Kris Aquino, and their Cojuangco family. These people are : deceitful, greedy, opportunists, collaborators, etc..they will make pack with the Devil, to save their Hacienda Luisita land; swindled from the Filipino people.
    They don’t care, if people are now suffering from bad economy. They just want to impeach Corona, who ruled against their ownership of their Hacienda Luisita. Reverse the Supreme Court ruling. And take back the land…these people are filthy rich, while our people are mostly poor. And, they want more…

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