Crowning glory

“As for CJ Corona, God bless his soul, the public, as well as the Sandiganbayan, have already pronounced him INNOCENT.

The second Aquino Administration, just like the first one, left in its wake a trail of destruction. The SAF-44 massacre, the botched “Yolanda” relief operations, the Luneta Massacre, among others, quickly come to mind. But the disasters of that administration were not limited to loss of life, but the undeserved assassination of character. It is a good thing that karma is a universal rule, and thus those whose reputations were ruined were able to re-establish their good names.

Last Saturday (29 April) marked the seventh death anniversary of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, he whose reputation was dragged into the muck by a vengeful Chief Executive stung by a decision by the Corona Court that upheld the long-delayed distribution of the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita to those who tilled its land.

The 2011 ponencia, in effect, invalidated the cockamamie scheme implemented by the family of the then-President to distribute shares of stocks, instead of actual land, to the farmers, a machination that allowed the Cojuangcos to keep the plantation for themselves by skirting the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program mandated by the Constitution.

Noynoy was reportedly fit to be tied because, to his far-from-presidential mind, adding insult to injury was the fact that Corona was his predecessor’s appointee and former presidential chief of staff. Seeing conspiracy where there was in all probability none, Noynoy ordered his attack dogs in the House to file impeachment raps against Corona, using the pork barrel as a carrot to prod the rest of the Malacañang-controlled chamber to ratify the flimsy charges. A principled House member, Toby Tiangco of Navotas, went public with what he called a “pattern of intimidation and undue influence” in the House to have the charges approved by the majority.

Thereafter, the Yellow rags went into full-scale attack mode, printing every bit of rumor, calumny, innuendo and outright lie against Corona. One early pushback was from big businessman William Keng, who supported Corona. Linked falsely by Rappler to murder, smuggling and human trafficking, Keng sued — and won — for cyberlibel, and now Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is facing the very real prospect of a decade and a half in jail.

During the hearings before the Senate, wave after wave of defamatory articles continued, never mind if the issue was sub judice, as members of the Senate, during an impeachment trial, take an oath to act as judges, and the flood of publicity adverse to Corona would prejudice the minds of the magistrates.

Not even the sterling legal mind of former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas could turn the tide. Aside from being hampered by a legal support team that was less than stellar, so much (government) money changed hands in the Senate that the outcome was never in doubt: Corona was to be convicted.

But as I have said, karma has a way of giving each one his due, and the architects of Corona’s persecution got theirs. Three Senator-Judges (Enrile, Revilla and Estrada) went to jail for accepting pork during the trial. The then Ombudsman, Carpio-Morales, who testified falsely against Corona, retired in ignominy, her legacy that of having covered up Noynoy’s involvement in the Maguindanao Massacre. Justice Secretary De Lima is now in jail, and has been for more than six years. Lourdes Sereno, Noynoy’s choice for Chief Justice to replace Corona, was booted out in a most graceless and demeaning manner by her own brethren in the Supreme Court, unable to even claim to have been a former Chief Justice, her portrait never to hang in the halls of the High Tribunal.

As for CJ Corona, God bless his soul, the public, as well as the Sandiganbayan, have already pronounced him INNOCENT. Having died of a broken heart, his exoneration has made his shattered name whole again. That, to me, is the crowning glory of a great magistrate.

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