If there is one thing I learned from the impeachment trial of the late former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, it is the fact that there is no justice in this world unless you take matters into your own hands. I don’t mean you should buy a gun or hire an assassin; I mean be more proactive in getting the people to side with you.
If you have to hire a public relations firm just like what everyone else is doing nowadays, do it. Do not leave it up to “fate” or count on the “goodness” of those who will decide your case to “do the right thing” to get you “off the hook”. It rarely happens because most of the time, those people have already made up their minds after reading what the news outlets, political pundits or the general public have to say about you. This is exactly what happened to Corona during his trial in the hands of the congressmen who voted to impeach him and the senator-judges who voted to oust him from his post.
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Those of us who were glued to the tube watching the hearing unfold in 2012 every day for almost six months saw how Corona was crucified by the prosecutors using lies, innuendoes and exaggerations. They presented bloated figures of his savings using power point presentations for shock value. Their idea was, it doesn’t matter if they were proven to be wrong later on as long as they were first to plant the idea in the public’s mind. They know that the initial story, whether true or not, would be hard to erase from the people’s consciousness. It was really a propaganda battle. It’s always a propaganda battle. I call it inception. The game is more endemic now especially in the age of social media where anyone can post false information against you. You just don’t know who is being truthful or is just a member of a PR firm spreading false information. But the good thing is, the truth always prevails in the end with the liars eventually losing their credibility.
It was too bad that Corona, who was a religious man, thought he could trust in the humanity of the senator-judges not to fall for the Liberal Party’s tricks. He mistakenly thought the senator-judges, who would start their sessions with a prayer, would seek the truth. It was too late when the public found out that Corona’s fate was already decided even before the impeachment trial began. One of Corona’s defence lawyers revealed that former President Benigno Simeon Aquino gave “incentives” of P50 million to P100 million each to the senator-judges who voted “guilty”. Only three senators voted to acquit Corona and they were not given their “reward” money. Congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint also received P15 million each. Corona was already toast long before the sham of a trial started.
Had Corona been more savvy and met his tormentors with equal ruthlessness, he would have had a chance to change public perception and would have received more support and sympathy and maybe, just maybe, changed the course of events. Unfortunately, he was too meek and didn’t have a chance against a pack of wolves.
Current Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno seems to have learned from Corona’s mistakes and has adopted a “fighting” stance. Even while on forced indefinite leave, she goes on media blitzes, conducting interviews and accepts speaking engagements left and right. She discusses her case with anyone who cares to listen despite being admonished by her fellow justice Teresita de Castro that since there is a pending quo warranto case against her at the Supreme Court, the matter is sub judice, which means she shouldn’t be talking about them at all.Evidently, Sereno is showing arrogance and pretending she doesn’t know the meaning of sub judice. She keeps talking about her case even after De Castro already reminded her not to talk about it with the public. Members of mainstream media have been nice enough to cover Sereno’s every move and paint her as a lone crusader for “judicial independence” and “reform”. The same media outlets did the opposite to Corona – they featured all the lies the prosecutors used against him on their headlines. That was the reason the public was against him.
It remains to be seen if Sereno’s public relations work will get her “off the hook” and save her from being removed from her post. Her supporters are pleased with her move. She manages to distract them from the fact that she violated the law when she failed to submit more than 10 years of Statements of Assets, Liability and Net worth. However, her colleagues at the judiciary are not swayed by her “charms”. The Supreme Court employees are highly-educated and are not as gullible as her supporters, thank goodness. They are asking her to resign as soon as possible since she no longer commands respect and her violations are tainting the judiciary.
Speaking of fighting back, President Rodrigo Duterte has taken some bold steps to fight back his enemies. His latest move is to withdraw the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court. Duterte pointed out that “there appeared to be a concerted effort” between the United Nations special rapporteurs and the ICC special prosecutor to paint him as a “ruthless and heartless violator of human rights who allegedly caused thousands of extrajudicial killings.”
Predictably, members of the Opposition were quick to call Duterte a coward and accused him of being scared to face the international court since it announced it will launch the preliminary examination on the case filed against him by Sen. Antonio Trillanes and lawyer Jude Sabio.
They got it all wrong. A preliminary examination, which is technically collection and verification of information, can actually take many years to finalise. This means that Duterte’s term will be over and he may not even be alive by the time they finish it. Besides, Duterte doesn’t mind others thinking he’s a coward for his decision. He doesn’t really care what his critics and foreigners think of him. That’s bravery, indeed. He wants a truly independent Philippines and thinks that the moment the ICC steps in is the moment they assume the country is a failed state. We all know that’s not true. Even the Opposition knows the Philippines still has a functioning system.
The only reason the Opposition, particularly members of Liberal Party, are desperate for the ICC to meddle in Philippine affairs is because that’s their only hope of removing Duterte and claiming back power. As a matter of fact, if it were one of them being probed by the international community, they would be saying “back off” too. This was evident when they ignored the United Nations’ ruling in favour of international human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin’s case against BS Aquino’s human rights abuse inflicted on former President Gloria Arroyo. The UN body called Arroyo’s detention then “arbitrary” and a violation of international law since she was not receiving fair trial and is being detained and deprived of her liberty. BS Aquino government’s response then was similar to Duterte’s arguments now:
Arroyo’s case is being heard by Philippine courts, independent bodies that have the “sole jurisdiction” to decide on the detention of accused like her…
“The Philippine government or any international body, for that matter, cannot interfere nor influence the course of an independent judicial proceeding.”
The Liberal Party’s inconsistencies are making them look desperate and pathetic. All of a sudden they do not believe in the justice system in the country just because they are not in power anymore. Their insistence on the ICC pursuing Duterte is a slap on the faces of the men and women who work hard to keep the country together. Current Vice President Leni Robredo said that Duterte’s withdrawal from the ICC will affect the international community’s perception of the Philippines in honouring commitments. Never mind that the United States also withdrew from the ICC in 2002 under former President Bill Clinton citing ambiguity of the court and the danger it posed in prosecuting American citizens. And it turns out the Philippines and Cambodia are the only signatories from the ASEAN countries.
It’s hard to blame Duterte for his decision to withdraw the country’s commitment to the ICC. It’s apparent that Western media have already painted him as a mass murderer. One cannot be too sure which ideology the ICC prosecutor leans toward. Is she a liberal supporter? Will she respect the country’s sovereignty once she realises that the cases of alleged extra-judicial killings are being processed properly by the local courts? It’s easier to assume that Duterte’s fate has already been decided upon even before his trial has begun because of mainstream media’s negative write-ups about him.
It’s only right for Duterte to fight back since his enemies will not stop until he is removed from office. His removal could spell disaster for the Philippines and take the country a step backward yet again. They are very sloppy though and use only information or unofficial data from mainstream media whose members despise him. Duterte seems to be doing a good job taking matters into his own hands. He doesn’t even need a PR firm to help him since his enemies are not that smart. For one, they don’t know the law as well as he does. Duterte’s enemies use appeal to emotion instead of logic and that’s the reason why they can’t succeed in getting rid of him.
In life, things are not always what they seem.