Karma at work

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I, too, do not believe that former Chief Justice Renato Corona can (or should even attempt to) reassume his old post. But I also think that Corona will ultimately be absolved—if not in the Senate records and in the law books, then in the hearts and minds of his thoroughly misled countrymen.

 

One of the after-effects of the privilege speech delivered by Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla last Jan. 20 is an incipient move to revisit the case of Corona, a proposition first discussed by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. Various legal authorities have weighed in on the matter since then, almost unanimously on the side of the impossibility of a Corona reinstatement.

Noting their arguments— especially about the political nature of impeachment—I cannot help but agree. But I think Corona’s besmirched name will one day be cleansed and his tattered reputation rehabilitated.

I believe that one day, historians will revisit the case of Corona and discover that his only real impeachable “offense” was to incur the ire of a sitting—and inhumanly vengeful and petty—President. And that, at the very least, compared to the crimes that were committed in order to remove the former chief justice, will make Corona’s transgressions look like mere trifles.

Corona was removed by the Senate nearly two years ago for failing to declare his assets and liabilities correctly. There was no official action of his, as a member of the highest court in the land, that were found to have been anomalous or illegal; he did not write any decision or cast any vote that was proven to have unduly favored anyone or to have hurt anyone unjustly as associate and later chief justice.

The chief justice did not steal any public funds, unlike some of the people who impeached and convicted him in Congress. He was never accused of using public money in his defense, unlike the President who instigated his impeachment and conviction – and who allegedly dipped into the public till to fund his obsession to remove the country’s top jurist.

And Corona’s ouster may even, if there really is any justice in this world, lead to the ultimate destruction of his foes. The signs are already becoming increasingly clear: the President who worked so hard (like he never worked before or since) to remove him now stands accused of various serious crimes, from misusing public funds to tampering with the senators who stood in Corona’s judgment; the senators who supposedly received untold sums to do the deed are practically ruined, politically, for abusing pork barrel and DAP funds.

And the strange thing is, Corona need not reassume his old post to gain justice. Like the rest of us, he only has to watch karma at work.

* * *

Speaking of Corona’s case, I’ve been informed that Congress is seeking to amend the charter of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to allow the central bank to look into bank accounts without the required court order. This is on top of the vast powers already granted to the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which were used extensively in the Corona impeachment hearing to build a case against the chief justice.

There are currently six bills in the Lower House and four bills in the Senate that propose the amendments to various provisions of the BSP Charter, but a proposal by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Rep. Nelson Collantes (House Bill 3112) seeks to give BSP the additional power to the BSP to obtain the banks’ data and information on any person.

The old Central Bank Act (Republic Act 265) and the new Central Bank Act (RA 7653) gave the central monetary agency the authority to conduct economic research for the guidance of the Monetary Board through the gathering and analysis of data and information. But the data that BSP is now authorized to obtain are limited to “balance of payments of the Philippines, statistics on the monthly movement of the monetary aggregates and of prices and other statistical series and economic studies useful for the formulation and analysis of monetary, banking, credit and exchange policies.”

The major banks have been silent on the Belmonte proposal, but a group of small bankers and lawmakers are already expressing opposition, saying it is not only unconstitutional and may endanger depositors.

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon raised the issue of the possible “unlawful search and seizure” of an individual’s bank account once the provisions implicitly lifting bank secrecy are approved in HB 3112. “Even a simple search over private property [currently] requires a court order,” Ridon said after a meeting of the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries.

Under the proposed measure, BSP will have the “authority to require from any person or entity… any data which it may require for the proper discharge of its functions and responsibilities.” It will also compel any individual to ask for BSP’s permission to transfer at least 10 percent of his/her portfolio of shares of stocks.

 

Former Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafurte said the proposal is unconstitutional because Article III Section 3 of the Constitution expressly provides that “the privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court. Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.”