May 30, 2012
Transcript of Headstart with Karen Davila Interview
On the Impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona
Q: It's my honor, I have to say, Impeachment Court Presiding Officer and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Good day to you, Mr. Senate President.
SP: Thank you for inviting me.
Q: Thank you for coming.
SP: Do not call me judge because I am not a judge. I'm an elected senator of the Republic. I just happen to be the Senate President and by the Constitution of the country, when there is an impeachment case below the President, I preside. The Senate President is the presiding officer. It's only when the president is the one under the impeachment when the presiding officer is the chief justice just like what happened with Pres. Joseph Estrada.
Q: I will ask what is in everybody's mind, 44 days of trial, how do you do it at 88 years old?
SP: Alam mo, pagkatapos ng trabaho ko, kung may panahon, nagpupunta ako sa driving range at pumapalo ako ng golf balls. Ako ay nag-eexercise sa bahay. And then kung wala naman akong ginagawa, I exercise my mind. I memorize poems. I read heavy books. In order to keep my mind busy, I study one of our dialects even my own dialect, I have to restudy it because I've been in Manila for more than half of my age.
Q: But did you have to review law books when the trial started?
SP: Not law books, I read three books on impeachment written by Chief Justice Rehnquist, the book of Black of Yale University and then Raoul Berger of Harvard. You see, I have to know how an impeachment case was handled in other jurisdiction because we never have a completed impeachment case in our country. We do not have any rules on it and the literature is scanty so I have to read this books and find out how an impeachment case is initiated, how is it tried, and what is the jurisdiction of the highest court in the country over the impeachment court which is the Senate in case of the Philippines as well as in the case of the United States. That's why I kept repeating in the course of the trial which I don't know if it was understood by both sides of the controversy, the prosecution and the defense, that in an impeachment trial, there is no reversible error. Meaning, the decision of the impeachment court regarding the admissibility or non-admissibility of evidence, the manner of what types of evidence will be admitted by that impeachment court, as well as the conduct of the trial and judgment, is purely the function of the impeachment court because the Constitution says the Senate has the sole power to try and decide and there's no appeal. So, how can you have a reversible error?
Q: Now, if there's no reversible error Mr. Senate President, what happens to the grave abuse of authority often used by the defense?
SP: Well, they can find out any instance where we did a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction and then they must point out but precisely in my case, I stretched out the rule in favor of the defense in order that they cannot accuse us of any grave abuse of discretion. Where in this country could you point out a case where the witness was allowed to testify through a narrative. The defense did not ask any direct questions addressed to the Chief Justice. I allowed him to recite and say anything he wanted to defend himself.
Q: Alright. What did it for you? You issued a guilty verdict, I want to ask you personally, what disturbed you the most?
SP: Well, actually, first, when the defense brought out the sale of the Basa-Guidote property in the City of Manila. Thereafter, a judgment of libel was rendered by the courts in favor of Mrs. Corona and it was claimed by the defense that Mrs. Corona was the trustee of the corporation and she, as a trustee, did not object to the sale of 90% holdings of Jose Basa, a deceased already, to her daughter for P28,000 when she knew as a trustee and in fact, as a participant of the transaction selling the property of the corporation to the City of Manila that the corporation was worth at least almost P35 million. That to me is an unjust enrichment. If there is any unjust enrichment done, then that would be it because P28,000 for 90% control of the corporation with an asset of almost P35 million, and the transaction was between the mother and the daughter, I think any court in this world will rather raise its eyebrows in a case like that. Second, the other factor that changed my position, because in the beginning I was really trying to give the Chief Justice the benefit of the doubt as you know I have dealings with him as a friend, as a colleague in the profession, ang nangyari doon ay hindi ko alam kung bakit pina-subpoena ng kanyang depensa ang Ombudsman. Ngayon, pinaupo nila ang Ombudsman na testigo nila. Sinabi ko sa kanila, verify her as a hostile witness. Doon pa lang nakita ko na na hindi sila preparado. Hindi nila alam how to qualify 'yung witness as a hostile witness. Tinutulungan ko sila, sa madaling salita, naging hostile pero what is the meaning of hostile witness. It simply means that you're establishing the testimony of this witness as going to be adverse to you and you must be ready to have an impeaching evidence to destroy the witness. That is why you are allowed to ask leading questions, to cross examine that witness in every respect as if that witness is an adverse party to your case. But any evidence presented by that witness against you that you cannot controvert will have to be taken against you. Now, the Ombudsman presented a report based on documents so detailed, myriad of details. No mind, even Einstein, can invent the details covered by those transactions. A legal mind or a financial mind could concoct or invent the contents of those documents and the numbers and the transactions that happened over a period of eight years. No one in my opinion can do it. If they can convince me by empirical evidence that it could be done, I'm willing to reverse myself.
Q: But you said it yourself, it would have helped the Chief Justice if he brought bank statements...
SP: If the Chief Justice was the owner of the deposits allegedly hereto, he admitted it, he must have had records of those bank accounts. What was the opening balance? What was the amount that started that flow of income to him over a period of 40 years according to him? What rate of interest was used? That's why I asked him, were you buying and selling foreign exchange because if he was buying and selling foreign exchange, I would understand the accumulation of such a quantum of dollars like the money changers that became the Binondo Central Bank during the term of President Marcos. He said no, I did not engage in buying and selling foreign exchange, I invested my dollars and the interest was compounded. He did not even tell the Court whether the compounding was monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. So, I level with that. I was not the defense lawyer. I could not bring out evidence for him. It's up to him to defend himself. He was a good lawyer. He's the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Q: Do you feel that he was lying the whole time?
SP: I will not accuse him of lying but I think they were not ready to bring out the full quantum of evidence needed to explain the amount involved in his four dollar accounts. He could very well presented his monthly balances when he opened the account in April 2003 and in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 then. After the Articles of Impeachment had been filed with the Senate, there's evidence that withdrawals were made. So, what is the meaning of that? Why should you withdraw your funds if nothing was wrong? So what if it could be frozen? You did not need it so it's being invested so it will continue to be earning interest.
Q: Now, he had said na kung nakaw ito, bakit ko ilalagay sa ilalim ng pangalan ko...
SP: Well, precisely because, in his own words, he relied on the absolute confidentiality of Republic Act 6426. That's why he justified his non-disclosure, non-inclusion, of those dollar accounts because he thought, that is my understanding, that it can never be revealed. He felt safe to put it in his name. If you go back in his testimony, he said he wanted to put all his money in dollars because he did not believe in putting it in real estate because it can be the source of quarrel among his children but what about the P80 million that he was keeping? There was some degree of inconsistencies and the totality of his defense.
Q: Now, did the Chief Justice's character or his reasoning affect your decision? Did you feel he is capable to be the chief justice?
SP: I would not judge him. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and I would assume that he was fit as a lawyer to hold the position but from the viewpoint of rectitude, this I must say with all due respect to him, he was measured and I think he failed because in the handling of the Basa-Guidote case, I could not accept the proposition that Mrs. Corona never consulted him because Mrs. Corona was not a lawyer. The matter was a complicated issue. There was an estate proceeding involving the grandmother of Mrs. Corona which until now is still pending and in that estate proceeding, it appeared that she was the owner of Basa-Guidote corporation although she willed a bigger portion of her estate to some of her children and there were transactions among the children along the way. Still, the owner of the corporation, the controlling interest of the corporation is the estate of the grandmother of Mrs. Corona and they did not present any board resolution or stockholder's resolution to show that, indeed, the stockholders sold the property of Basa-Guidote and mind you, that was the only asset of the corporation. Under the income tax code of the Philippines, when a corporation sells all or substantially all of its assets, a mere resolution of the board is not enough. There must be a resolution of the stockholders because then the corporation is in the process of liquidation.
Q: Clearly, this has disturbed you the most. Did you find this abusive, in a way?
SP: I will not call it abusive but I would not give too much credence with the explanation given about the treatment of the Basa-Guidote corporation. Then when the Ombudsman came, that exploded the whole thing. The Ombudsman was presented by the defense, she was their witness and she was the one that brought out all of these records of bank accounts.
Q: There was a question Senator, earlier, that if the defense had not brought in the Ombudsman and you would have no information on the dollar accounts would there have been a chance...
SP: It would have been very difficult for us. Many of the senators would have had probably some difficulties in convicting the Chief Justice.
Q: Did politics play a role for you?
SP: Politics? Well, as far as I am concerned, I was basing my decision on the evidence. If you remember, early on, when I made my opening statement for the start of the trial on January 16 of this year, I spelled out the manner by which we will conduct the trial, and I followed that. There were suggestions that we follow the strict rules of evidence, and there were also suggestions that we should be a little bit more liberal. And if you remember I asked, 'How liberal do you want me to be?' Because, really, in an impeachment trial, you are not supposed to follow the rules of evidence strictly. What is important is that you give the respondent all the opportunity to be heard, to present his evidence to a use-compulsory process available to the court, to compel the correction of documents that he did not forge his defense, as well as the appearance of witnesses to use as witnesses for himself. And we did that. There's no question about it.
Q: Be honest, did the walkout affect your decision?
SP: Yes, we felt there was some degree of rudeness. Later on, we gave him the benefit of the doubt. He was medically infirmed that moment. In fact, when he came back on Friday to testify - that was the 25th, I think- I went to see him in his holding room.
Q: You did?
SP: Yes and I asked him how he was. And I told him, 'Mr. Chief Justice, I hope you understand our position here. That was nothing personal. We are playing roles. It just so happened that you are the respondent, I am the presiding officer, and I have to make rulings.' And he perfectly understood. Q: Is it true that you gave former Justice Cuevas a tongue-lashing after the walkout? That's what we heard. Were you upset? SP: No. The one that saw me first was Atty. Roy. and I said, "Why did you not control your client? That's your function. Why did you just allow him to walk out without being discharged by the court? " It was not a problem for me. It was a problem for the court. There was a degree of disrespect. What aggravated the problem was the way the Chief Justice acted when he left the witness stand and said, 'The Chief Justice of the Republic wishes to be excused', and immediately stood up and just walked out. And I said, 'Please come back.' I ordered the defense panel, 'Please tell your client to get back on the witness stand. He was not discharged.' And they did not do anything. The Chief Justice just walked away. To me, I could not allow that as the presiding officer because it evoked a very bad impression as far as the impeachment court was concerned. I have to maintain the dignity, the respect, the stature and the role of the impeachment court. We are not under the Supreme Court. We are not a bar then. We exercise a special jurisdiction granted to us by the Constitution to represent the people in this case. It could have been the people that tried him but they delegated this trial to the House of the Representatives as the prosecutor, and the Senate as the trier and the decider of the matter.
Q: Now, did that bring back any memories, so to speak? You were there during Erap's impeachment trial, and the walkout was not handled.
SP: Yes. Now, Karen you see, I anticipated all of this. Before I went into trial I studied the possibilities, and I instructed the Sergeant-At-Arms that, 'If there's any commotion or disturbance inside the courtroom, and if there is any effort on the part of anyone to walk out of the courtroom, stay beside me and I'll issue the order.' And that's what I did. I issued the order to close all the gates of the Senate.
Q: So you were already prepared? You had known it could happen?
SP: I studied this case more than the prosecutors and the defense. Q: Now, I'm curious. You and Senator Joker Arroyo have a long history together - and you're always on the other side of the fence. You were never really, I mean...
SP: Well, Joker and I - he was ahead of me in the UP Law School. He was class '52 and I was class '53. During the Marcos years, he was an active human rights lawyer. Especially when I was the defense minister later on during Martial Law, we were always on the opposite sides of any legal question, but we remained friends. Even now we are friends. We understood each other. I respect his position, and he respects also my position.
Q: You can correct me in this thought - but people feel you have changed the way history will judge you. You have once said this in an interview - you have been demonized and judged harshly in the past. You have always been associated with Martial Law, and now you've changed how people think of you. Do you feel different?
SP: You know Karen, I'm an avid reader of history. And I believe that man must play a role in life. There are ups and downs- you take these. I never got bothered by the opinion of others. I know myself. I know what I've done. I could not walk the streets of this country if I oppressed anybody, if I cheated anybody, or if I did anything unjust to anybody. Even the people that I fought- the Moro National Liberation Front, the MILF, the different rebellions in Mindanao, even the Marxist movement in the country - I fought them over time, because that was the role that was given to me by the circumstance of my position in the government. But I think we were noble combatants. I have never incurred the animosity of anybody. Q: I'm curious, has President Aquino texted you, or sent word or said, 'Thank You'?
SP: To be fair to the President, he never talked to me. I suppose I go to Malacañang whenever there is a meeting of leaders to discuss national problems - like the Scarborough problem, the MILF problem and others, or whatever government official functions. But we never brought up the issue of the impeachment.
Q: Did you expect Sen. Bongbong Marcos to acquit?
SP: Yes, from the very beginning.
Q: Why? You've known him for a very long time.
SP: That has always been his position. So was Joker, and so was Miriam. In fact, I made a listing of the senators, and I have it here in my wallet.
Q: Really? Can we see? This is like in ballpen?
Q: Wow. I'm impressed. Is this what happens when people age?
SP: You can read it.
Q: Wow, this is exclusive. Oh my, alright. You have great handwriting.
SP: These were the middle groups that were uncommitted beforehand. These were the committed ones, on the other side.
Q: You felt?
SP: Yes. Based on my reading of their statements and their positions and their questioning, I classified them. And it turned out that I was right on the three. I was also quite right on the other side. I was sure of their positions.
Q: When did you right this? Over coffee? Over breakfast?
SP: A long time ago. Q: Really?
SP: In the middle of the trial, I had this in my wallet.
Q: If the Supreme Court decides to nullify the entire impeachment proceedings, what will you do? What if Corona appeals to the Supreme Court? Will there be a Constitutional crisis if that happens?
SP: I will say this very frankly and I hope they understand, if they will question the jurisdiction of the impeachment court and reverse our decision, we will defy them. If they want a Constitutional crisis in this country, they will have one. In fact, I told the lawyers of the defense when the Chief Justice walked out, you want to create a revolution in this country, go to the streets, I will face you. A law must be enforced in this country. We cannot be lackadaisical of our laws. Otherwise, we will have anarchy. Of course we have to temper the rigors of the law with a certain degree of compassion and understanding but there must be a firm hand to enforce the law in a society in order to maintain the balance between competing forces.
Q: What do you mean by 'we will defy them'?
SP: Who will enforce their order? I'm sure the members of the Court will understand this. We are given a special jurisdiction. The people removed this case from the ordinary courts covered by the judicial system by Article 8 of the Constitution. We belong to Article 11 and we are outside the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in terms of the trial and judgment in an impeachment case. They cannot review our decision. Otherwise, they will be the one to make the final decision in violation of the Constitution which says that the Senate has the sole power to decide and try all impeachment cases.
Q: Who do you think should the President appoint?
SP: Well, I will tell you, the President cannot appoint an outsider because right now there is no JBC. The President cannot fill the vacancy that is now open because of the conviction of the Chief Justice. That means that there is a vacant position out of the 15 members of the Court. One position is vacant and it so happens that that position is of the chief justice. So, since there is no JBC, so to speak, because the Chief Justice is the chairman of the JBC, the President, by force of necessity, must appoint a Chief Justice among those incumbent justices of the Supreme Court, the 14 remaining justices. There is no one that can act as a chief justice, not even the whole court can appoint an acting chief justice. Only the President can appoint a chief justice. Acting chief justice is not authorized under the 1987 Constitution unlike under the 1935 Constitution.
Q: But you are certain, sir, that you really have to appoint from within because there are talks that he can appoint from outside?
SP: No, he could not. He will be committing a violation of the Constitution.
Q: Who had the best clarificatory explanation during the trial? Whose speech did you like the most?
SP: Lito Lapid. Very simple. He believed in Rudy Fariñas. You must give credit to Rudy, the way he exposed the issues, very graphic, very simple. It could be understood by the hoi polloi.
On who he is supporting in 2016 national elections
Q: Who will you support in 2016 for President?
SP: At the moment I will be frank with you, it will be Jejomar Binay.
Q: Why is that?
SP: First of all, he is my partymate. Second, he is an Ibanag like me. Third, I know that he is capable being the vice president unless somebody spectacular will come by, I think there's no reason for me to believe that Jejomar Binay will not be the President in 2016.
Q: Who is your vice president? Jinggoy or Chiz?
SP: It could be one of them but I haven't made up my mind yet. They are both my friends/
On his stem cell therapy
Q: Did you have stem cell therapy?
Q: You did? What were the effects?
SP: Well, I guess it gave me some energy. Actually, the treatment that I got was not in Germany but here.
Q: Meaning, the doctor came here?
SP: They came here but it just gave me a little bit more energy but as far as restoring the quality of my organs like my eyesight, hearing, heart, lungs, and kidney and so on and so forth, I could not say because I still have a problem with my vision.
Q: But come on, at 88, I mean everybody will pay to have your memory and energy at 88...
SP: My memory has remained even before and after the stem cell.
On his memories with his father
Q: There were very heartwarming stories about you and your father. You were not always together and when you met him...
SP: I never knew my father until I met him in 1945. I was 21 years old and I just finished first year.
Q: Do you miss your father still?
SP: Of course. He gave me a future. I will not be here if he did not take me home when I met him and took me to Malabon to his family, the mother of my sister Armida became very close to me. No difference between half-blood and full-blood siblings. Their mother took me in as her real son and I was grateful to them.
Q: Was it easy growing up from the province not knowing your father, knowing him at 21?
SP: Early on in my life I was called 'bastardo'. I was used to being called names. It didn't bother me at all. And I guess all those things kept me going to try, to rise over and above those who were my critics so at least I can tell them, 'Look who's talking.'
On Justice Cuevas
Q: I'm curious with Justice Cuevas, I understand you have a personal relationship with him?
SP: He was my lawyer when I was arrested, imprisoned.
Q: With coup?
SP: Yeah. I owe him a favor by serving as my trial lawyer. Unhappily, I was the presiding officer and I have to be impartial. I do not look at people based on relations. I look at them as professionals.
On former Pres. Cory Aquino
Q: How was your relationship with President Aquino before she passed away?
SP: Okay. Well, I gave her due respect. Even when I was not a member of Cabinet, I maintain a respect for her being the President of the country. It just so happens that I do not agree with her policies and then I was suspected to be the source of her problems. I could not abandon the men that I work with. If people work with me, I fight with them and for them.
On how he would like to be remembered in history
Q: Sir, how would you like to be remembered in history?
SP: I never thought about it. Let the people. We play roles in this life, roles that we do not relish and do not expect. I think that there is a strong power moving in this world that really directs events for each one of us to play a part. Given that notion, I would leave it to the people to judge me because different people have different impressions about you, about me, about others so let it be.
Thursday, May 23
Wednesday, May 22
Tuesday, May 21
Monday, May 20