Chief Justice Renato Corona, interviewed just recently, revealed that he is prepared to account–to the “last centavo”– for his accounts, properties, and other assets that the impeachment prosecution unearthed. He further said, he will disclose his dollar accounts in due time and the time is when the defense has its turn. Lastly, he affirmed that he is willing to testify personally before the impeachment court.
On its face, his pronouncements exude the image of a confident defendant, with nothing to hide, and prepared to dispute every charge alleged against him. Unfortunately, a careful assessment of the same interview presents a different view of the Chief Justice. It only portrayed, in advance, the plausible defense strategy. On the other hand, it may well be a trial balloon, even a red herring.
First, he avoided the main issue in Article 2 of the impeachment complaint, that is, he “failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth as required under Section 17, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution.” He also failed to offer his explanation or defense for Articles 3 and 7. In relation to Article 2, his explanations, possibly foreshadowing a defense strategy (or analysis of the most damaging accusation), dealt at length on the legitimacy of acquiring his wealth. Ironically, this is relevant insofar as Section 2.4 of Article 2 is concerned–the charge of ill-gotten wealth. This was already set aside by the impeachment court.
Second, he responded to news reports of his alleged misdeeds in relation to the affairs of the Basa-Guidote Enterprises, Inc., the family corporation of his wife’s family. It is one of the most problematic part of his defense, insofar as he claims that the major part of his bank account come from the BGEI funds and not from his own funds. A trace of nervousness seems to hang in the air here.
Third, the interview itself can be interpreted within the context of influencing public opinion and not strictly as preparations for the defense. Despite arduous efforts by the Arroyo camp to portray a big shift in public opinion in Corona’s favor, it is evident that the situation here has not budged much and he faces a tough battle to change the prevailing negative public opinion.
In a sense, his interview is a desperate attempt to prevent a possible guilty verdict, especially after the unanimous vote (20 for, none against, 3 absent) of the impeachment court to accept the evidence of the bank accounts. In a political impeachment process, his is an uphill battle.
Next week, we will see how the defense actually tries to wriggle out of trap that the bank accounts laid for CJ Corona. We will also see how the senator-judges have already made their own appreciation of the facts laid out before them.
The bank accounts can very well end the impeachment, for better or for worse.