Continued from The man behind the facade of Chief Justice (Part 1 of 2)
“I don’t want to face him… I want to face the Filipino People.” is the reply of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona to the question “ if he had the chance to talk to the President, what would he say?”
One might wonder, what would he want to tell the Filipino people.? The purpose of this fight? His family’s legacy or “preserve and defend the Constitution” ?
What is Corona fighting for?
“Recent events point out that our nation is now in grave peril of teetering toward a one-man rule where executive action aims to shield, shackle judicial independence, undermine the rule of law, and erode the system of governance, particularly the principle of the mechanism of checks and balances,” Corona told members of the Philippine Women Judges’ Association (PWJA)
Corona tells us he is fighting for “ the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and preservation of democracy. “I see nothing wrong with what I’m doing. Because if these people can do it to me, the Chief Justice, what will prevent them from unjustly doing it to others, like Regional Trial Court judges and justices. Someone has to take the stand, and I elect myself to this role because I believe that behind me, there are millions who believe in the majestry of the Law.”
Even without speaking to Corona, I held this belief that every citizen should have due process whether it be Corona, the former president, President Aquino and even ordinary citizens. Can you imagine if that happened to you? If due process is not followed, there is no rule of law. How can there be a future for our children if their liberties will be compromised? Do we really want a trial by publicity? There is due process under a democracy.
Listening to the mild mannered Corona speak about this, I was touched by his sincerity. This exchange disconcerted me a bit since the man portrayed in media is different when you meet him in person.
Proud of his family’s legacy
Corona refused to comment on the claims of Ana and Sister Flory Basa because he is not involved on the squabbles of his wife’s family. He feels it is not relevant to his case, and he has respect to the vocation chosen by Sister Basa.
The Basas and the Guidotes had that fight long ago, and he was just dragged into it because he is Cristina’s husband. The Basas suspected that he used or is using his vast network to influence the cases. Corona denies any allegation, saying that if he did, those cases pending before the Regional Trial Court of Manila would have been resolved a long time ago. On the allegation of his uncle-in-law, he also refused to comment with due respect to the dead man but hinted on going to the old Basa compound to interview the residents there.
His eyes lighted up as he relates the history of his family. “I am proud of my heritage. I am proud of the service my forebears brought to this country. Fact is, go to Mandaluyong, and you’ll find a street named after my grandfather.” His family were land surveyors. Raised comfortably by his parents, he was never the person Malacanang pictured him to be—a poor, struggling man who only enriched himself when he entered public service.
He fondly shared collections of original documents and other historical mementos of both Basas and Coronas before World War 2. There is this letter written by Jose Rizal to his supporters trying to sneak the Noli me Tangere into the Philippines. It was translated from Spanish and printed out for us. Corona added that Jose Maria Basa was a financier who helped the Katipuneros.
He looks a bit wistful , folding his arms as if protecting himself from unseen forces. I could feel the pain as he looks down. “I am being affected severely by this fight. I see myself as a collateral damage. Malacanang probably thinks that I owe my allegiance to GMA when in fact, I swore to defend the Constitution and the People. I am not the one they think I am. If they would just take a seat back and listen to many, they will probably change their minds about me. I don’t harbour any grudge. I don’t want any of this. I can be a friend to them. However, I am not about to resign my post, never. I owe it to the people.”
Despite all the mud thrown at him, he prides himself as someone who rarely loses his composure. “Ever since this happened I have never thought of taking revenge. Ask my wife. Ask my kids. There has never been an instance where I thought evil against any man. I was not raised by my parents to be vengeful, oh no. I am proud of being a Corona. I am proud of my family’s legacy to this country.”
A message to the Filipino people
I thought Corona needed rest so I concluded the Q & A by 9:00 PM. Two hours is just too much even for me as I tried to sort out my thoughts on many issues. Corona surprised me when he said he was enjoying the questions and without prodding from the bloggers , he extended 15 more minutes. When the time came for us to say goodbye , I announced that Leslie Bocobo will place a pin on the lapel of his green barong tagalog. Leslie went forward and pinned a Philippine flag while announcing to everyone present “I pinned the Chief Justice — with a Philippine flag, to deliver a strong message to the President to do the same by wearing our colors instead of just yellow.”
Corona was speechless as he showed off the Philippine flag to everyone for photo ops. He just sat there as he proudly glanced at Philippine Flag pin and smiled for the cameras. You know how bloggers are. We started clicking away with our cameras like paparazzis. Leslie explained “my pinning the Chief Justice with our flag was the right thing to do. More than any title or position, He IS a FILIPINO. I was sending a message to the President and to the rest who still wear a yellow ribbon on their collar/lapel. As President of the Republic, it is only right (and expected of him) to wear a Philippine flag, since he represents our nation as our Head of State, and NOT only his supporters anymore.”
I could not help thinking that at least for a few minutes, we made him smile. Corona and his family are hurting from all the mud thrown about their private life , “rather than a process to determine his guilt or innocence based on due process according to the rules of court.”
Like most of us present in that meeting, I am withholding my judgment until his defense team have argued and presented their evidence. I was visibly touched with his sincerity and candid replies to some of our skeptical questions. The horrible things said of Corona will have its day in the Senate Impeachment Court. I just do not feel any bad vibes in front of him. Now I understand the reasons why employees of the Supreme Court and others support and defend him. He is highly likable person. There was none of the negative vibrations emanating from him as a person. I had the chance to meet his wife , son and eldest daughter before the meeting and were all gracious and easy to talk to.
As I glanced at the embattled Chief Justice, his earlier statement of “I swore to defend the Constitution and the People” resonated in my thoughts.
Will the Senator-judges who also swore to the Constitution live up to the Rule of Law and not be influenced by the Court of Public Opinion and party lines?
Will the Filipino people remain fair and listen to the presentation of evidence in order to understand the truth and form opinions based on facts?
Photos by CreatiVoices and Jane Uymatiao. Some rights reserved.