The death of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona is a reminder to Filipinos that there is no justice in the Philippines — unless of course you take matters into your own hands or proactively seek it by using your connections in the Justice Department and law enforcement agencies. Because patronage politics is rife in Philippine society, justice is only afforded to those in power and their allies.
Corona, who reportedly died of cardiac arrest, passed away without getting vindication for his removal from office. His career in the judiciary and as a lawyer ended abruptly after he was found “guilty” of the trumped-up charges filed by members of Congress. The senator-judges, who presided in what some called a Kangaroo court, also allowed the prosecution to publicly humiliate him during his impeachment trial in 2012. They ignored the blatant violation of the rules in gathering evidence against Corona and their bald mockery of the justice system. This included divulging his dollar accounts that were supposed to be protected by the Philippines’ bank secrecy laws and making false accusations based on hearsay.
President Benigno Simeon Aquino paved the way for their shameful behaviour. The President relentlessly persecuted Corona from Day One of his Presidency. The President pursued Corona’s removal from office like a mad dog would. He did not care about Corona’s right to presumption of innocence because his goal was to ruin his reputation with the public.
BS Aquino kept badmouthing Corona even to his face. The first-born son of so-called “heroes” Ninoy and Cory showed his lack of breeding and empathy in his agenda to remove Corona. This was evident in the first instance BS Aquino humiliated Corona during a speech he delivered at the Criminal Justice System summit in 2011. He did not have any qualms about calling Corona a midnight appointee in front of the crowd. The audience were visibly shocked at his callousness. Never mind that the Judicial and Bar Council of the Philippines found Corona’s appointment legitimate anyway.
Why was BS Aquino obsessed with Corona? Because the Corona court granted the Hacienda Luisita farmers the lands that have been denied to them by the Aquino-Cojuangco clan:
In 2011, the court directed the Hacienda Luisita Inc. to give the farm workers P1.3 billion as share in the sale of the 500-ha land to RCBC, as well as 81 ha of Luisita lands to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).
It’s not hard to understand why BS Aquino was angry at Corona. Just imagine being in power and not being able to do anything to stop the distribution of the lands your family had been clinging on to for decades. BS Aquino’s pride must have been hurt especially if presumably the elder Aquino-Cojuangco clan members were pressuring him to do something to take it back.
What has happened since Corona’s removal from office? Not much has changed. They said Corona’s impeachment would pave the way for “honesty” in government. But the truth is politicians today still refuse to open their bank accounts to the public for scrutiny. The only time Filipinos are made aware of a public servant’s account details is when another politician is using it to expose corruption against his rivals. Other than that, politicians in the Philippines in general enjoy the privilege of hiding their loot using the bank secrecy law. They seem to have this understanding not to expose a secret account unless it is necessary or as a last resort. Why else would someone like Senator Trillanes use Davao City Mayor and Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte’s bank account against him just two weeks before the election? The senator could have exposed that months ago.
Indeed, the country’s bank secrecy laws do not work for those who are not in power. If you are not allied with the incumbent President, your secret account is at risk of being exposed. What happened to Corona is called selective justice and is still happening today especially prior to the Presidential Elections. People have noted that only candidates running against the incumbent’s bet, Mar Roxas, are subject to investigation and public scrutiny. It goes to show that so-called democracy in the Philippines is only a front. In a true democracy, justice is applied equally to all. It should not favor anyone, rich or poor.
The application of selective justice in the Philippines is the reason why Filipinos are getting increasingly frustrated at the current government. BS Aquino’s Daang Matuwid or so-called “straight path” only works for his friends and allies. No wonder Duterte’s vigilante style of justice has become acceptable to a lot of people. If the justice system is broken anyway, people think it is better to take matters into their own hands. They are tired of politicians like BS Aquino and Mar Roxas who say they are “decent’” but do not have any qualms about destroying people who get in their way.
Corona was never found to be guilty of corruption by a real court. His only offence was in the discrepancy in his Statement of Assets and Liability Net Worth (SALN), which by law, government officials are allowed to correct whenever discrepancies are found. Most public servants would be guilty of that but they are spared from the persecution Corona was subject to under BS Aquino and his minions. BS Aquino keeps bragging about being the first President to impeach a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice. He couldn’t have done it without the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and pork barrel funds and a corrupt Congress.
Perhaps, in death, Corona gave Filipinos his final gift. His death should remind the voters of the injustice and cruelty of the BS Aquino government. Corona’s impeachment, trial and removal from the Supreme Court were blatant abuses of power and disregard for the law. The consequences of that will be evident in the decades to come. And that is the true legacy of BS Aquino.
[Photo courtesy Reuters.]