Starting with today’s Senate impeachment hearing, we have come to the most shocking case of how Renato C. Corona held loyalty to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo above all other considerations. The case of how he aided, and abetted, Mrs. Arroyo’s attempt to make her Great Escape. And how, in the process, the Chief Justice turned a blind eye to his Court Administrator –Hello, Midas!—giving the wrong information to the public, which helped pave the way for the Arroyos failed attempt to escape. And how, furthermore, the Chief Justice, seeing how a fellow Justice wasn’t about to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans going on in the Court, aided and abetted another Justice’s efforts to prevent a dissenting opinion from being published –something that has never happened before in the entire history of the Supreme Court.
In November of last year, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband was placed on a Watch List by the Secretary of Justice. Secretary Leila de Lima did it on the basis of DOJ Circular No. 41 issued during GMA’s presidency. To escape her looming day of reckoning in the courts, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo embarked on a means to enable her to escape.
Again, in this instance, Corona hides behind the majority that voted to allow GMA to go. But he, personally, as Chief Justice, is liable for what he did to assist in the Arroyo’s attempt to make a great escape.
You will recall that on November 15, 2011, when the Supreme Court voted to issue a TRO to allow Mrs. Arroyo and her husband –to simplify matters, the separate petitions of GMA and FG were combined, something unusual in itself—it imposed three conditions for the TRO: the Arroyos, the court said, would have to post a 2 million peso bond, give their lawyer a special power of attorney and to report to a Philippine embassy or consulate while abroad.
During the deliberations of the Supreme Court, one Justice proposed that the Supreme Court’s resolution should include a phrase stating, categorically, that the TRO was suspended until the conditions had been met. This was rejected by the majority because, as one Justice put it, it’s clear that precisely because the TRO had accompanying conditions, it could not go into effect until the conditions were met.
But here, Midas enters the scene. He told the media that the TRO was “in full force and effect.” By 6 pm, the Arroyos had, on the surface, complied with the conditions imposed by the Supreme Court: they’d posted a 2 million peso bond, and given their lawyer, Hitler-loving Ferdinand Topacio, a special power of attorney.
The only problem was, considering how Topacio was willing to bet an egg the Arroyos would come back, he and the Arroyos were in such a rush that they actually were counting their chickens before they’d hatched. The Arroyos, who received the Supreme Court’s TRO way ahead of the Department of Justice, managed to post a bond, sign a power of attorney, book not one, but several flights, and pack their bags. But they were sloppy: their power of attorney said they appointed Topacio “to produce summons or receive documentary evidence.” But this is not what the Court required. What it required was precisely worded in the TRO: to “receive subpoena, orders and other legal processes” on behalf of his clients, the Arroyos. Maybe Mrs. Arroyo was still used to being president because what she granted Topacio was not a power of attorney, but the power to act like a judge.
We know what happened next. Mrs. Arroyo stampeded –or was wheeled—to the airport, but prevented from leaving because unlike the Arroyos, the Secretary of Justice was not about to act with undue haste, and insisted on reading the TRO which hadn’t been delivered to her at the time the Arroyos attempted to escape. The day after that, a court issued a warrant of arrest for Mrs. Arroyo and so she ended up stuck in St. Luke’s hospital en route to detention in the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center.
The day after that, or three days after the foiled Great Escape, the Supreme Court met to discuss whether to reconsider their TRO. During the discussions, it became clear that the Arroyos, on November 15, hadn’t complied with the condition concerning the power of attorney. When a Justice suggested that it be placed on the record that as of November 15, when they went to the airport, the Arroyo’s hadn’t validly complied with the Court’s conditions, no one objected.
This is all pretty straightforward until November 23, when Justice Velasco submitted his draft which mentioned the Arroyos hadn’t met the second condition when they tried to leave, but which didn’t mention that the TRO was not in force until the conditions had all been properly met. Justice Velasco’s attention was called to this; he said he didn’t get it, what was the big deal? And then, the shocker: when the Clarificatory Resolution was issued, dated November 23, it said the opposite of what had been agreed on in November 15 and 18: it said not only had the Arroyos met the condition for a valid power of attorney, but that the TRO had never been suspended and remained in full force.
The Clarificatory Resolution, then, was not what was agreed on, not once, but twice, by the majority and minority in the Supreme Court, was the handiwork not of Justice Velasco, who said he simply didn’t get what the whole fuss was about, but was the handiwork, instead, of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
It went downhill from there. Neither the Chief Justice nor the rest of the majority budged, when their attention was called to the astounding sequence of events on November 29. The saga continued when, on December 2, Associate Justice Sereno’s dissent was submitted for promulgation –and not published. Not until December 5, upon further inquiry, did it slowly turn out that Sereno’s dissent was not published on orders from above: Justice Velasco instructed the Clerk of Court not to publish the dissent, because it would be discussed by the Court on December 6. The Chief Justice, when asked by the Clerk of Court, confirmed Velasco’s instruction –thus assuming command responsibility for the travesty.
Things dragged out some more, until finally, on December 13, Justice Sereno’s dissent was published. And it was damning: no wonder both Justice Velasco and the Chief Justice wanted to suppress it. In it, Sereno revealed that the contrary to –Hello, Midas—Marquez’s statements, the Court had not voted 9-4 to uphold the validity of the TRO despite the Arroyos’ non compliance. Instead, the Court had voted 7-6 to declare non-compliance. She also revealed how the Justices, with the support of the Chief Justice, had tried to prevent a fellow Justice from publishing her dissenting opinion. And how, furthermore, all that time, the Court’s Spokesperson –Hello, Midas—had continued stating false information to the public: information the Chief Justice knew was false. Yet he did nothing, from November 15 onwards, to correct, much less discipline, his spokesman.
Instead, the Chief Justice focused his energies on prejudging the Secretary of Justice, as shown by the wording he insisted upon in the Show Cause Order he imposed on Secretary de Lima; and he apparently was more focused on passing off fiction as a Clarificatory Resolution of the Court, further muddling an already contentious issue.
So what the Chief Justice did, was he aided and abetted GMA by way of his spokesman who misled the public about the effectivity of the TRO handed down by the Court. He never corrected his spokesman on November 15 up to the present and instead, intervened to write a Clarificatory Resolution based on fiction and not fact, and then tried to censor a fellow Justice fully entitled to publish her dissenting opinion.
And so, this is why today began the hearing on Article VII of the Articles of Impeachment.
Related documents can be found in my Storify story: