Interlude: Corona’s Catch 22

A quick blog update, triggered by the events yesterday at the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. While there’s much to be said about what transpired – and much has been said throughout the Internet and in the news – I wanted to point out something with Corona’s “waiver with conditions.”

On the one hand, Corona has raised “good faith” and “common practice” defense in failing to include his dollar accounts in his SALN. Relying on court decisions establishing the absolute secrecy of foreign currency accounts (which, by the way, isn’t accurate; the Supreme Court has carved out exceptions based on extraordinary circumstances) and the general practice of excluding dollar accounts from SALNs filed by government officials (a generalization at best; there are thousands, maybe millions of government employees who file SALNs yearly, and there is no information as to what percentage of these SALNs contain foreign currency deposit information, if and when applicable), Corona argues that he cannot be impeached by something he is not obligated to do, nor for something that, to “everyone’s” mind and experience, is the proper way of filing a SALN.

I’d like to turn your attention now to the waiver that Corona presented and signed in open court. Right after signing the document, he then dared the 188 complainants from the House of Representatives and one Senator-Judge, Sen. Frankilin Drilon, to sign similar waivers, “as a gesture of transparency and reconciliation with the Filipino people and to one another,” further saying that he would not provide this waiver to the court unless those 189 people also signed the waivers.

I find it curious that as Corona sets up his defense, he wants the prosecution to waive their right to utilize a similar defense in the event that they too have undeclared foreign currency assets. Equally curious is that right before Corona’s testimony, Atty. Cuevas stated the right against self-incrimination as one of the rights of the accused – and it seems that this is one of the rights that Corona wishes for his accusers to waive, just so Corona can divulge to the public what he is mandated to do by none other than the Constitution itself.

Quite a Catch 22 offered to the prosecution.

In fact, I don’t even know if his submitting a waiver allowing all banks and financial institutions to divulge accounts under his name does any real good. It doesn’t do away with his defense in any way, it just makes public what he is accused of hiding.

Of course, the best thing to do at this point is to simply sign the waiver, as Rep. Antonio Tinio has volunteered to do. It is the Statesmanly thing to do, it is the honorable thing to do. At the very least, it will show that beyond politics and party lines, this impeachment trial is about doing what’s right, *without* any conditions for doing so.

It is unfortunate that Corona physically broke down from hypoglycemia and has since been confined in an ICU, as he may be unable to return to the Senate Impeachment Court for cross-examination on his testimony and answer the allegations in a more direct manner. For all my criticism against the Chief Justice, I do hope that he recovers, and that he is able to attend today’s session, so that all questions may finally be put to rest.

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