Before entering law school, I had my misgivings about the profession, and this was mainly because of my exposure to discussions of how the law profession, no matter how noble, can also be susceptible to manueverings and machinations. That even when it has for its core the advancement of societal ideals, the shrewd lawyer can also use his talent to manipulate his knowledge of the law to aid him in his self-serving motives. This was not only a disconcerting idea, but this also threatened to disillusion me — so much so that prior to embarking on my own law journey, I crafted a pact with myself that if in case I get lost in my readings of jurisprudence and the law, I would always revert back to what makes sense, as well as to what affirms law as a profession.
The current impeachment case has opened my eyes to the reality that fortunately for us, our country is populated with citizens who thrive in discourse and in peddling opposing paradigms — for nothing is more unfortunate than a populace that is fixated on just one view on the political goings-on of the country. It was nice to know, amid the hype that the impeachment trial had produced, how some friends viewed the event differently from what I was seeing, and inasmuch as I treat their observations with utmost respect, I can’t help but muse about a few things that have greatly unsettled me. But before I belabor myself with enumerating my observations to the brouhaha that is the impeachment trial, allow me to first own up to my naivete with the law profession. I am still in the infancy stages of being intimate with the legalese, so my observations are primarily influenced by my own personal thoughts and biases.
First off, I find it unsettling that some of my friends think the Chief Justice is justified in not declaring his real assets and liabilities because the law affords him the immunity to do so, by virtue of the FCDA. And that corollarily thus, this lapse should be forgivable because there was ‘good faith’ on his part. In my legally inept mind, I can only wonder: Yes, good faith my be interposed as a defense, but isn’t 3.5M pesos a far cry from the real asset (which is 80M in peso deposits + roughly 108 M pesos in converted dollar deposits)? Good faith may fly if the discrepancy is not so glaring as the amounts just mentioned. When the Chief Justice first admitted to having underrepresented his real monetary worth, my initial reaction was disappointment, because here we have someone who is presumed to be the best legal mind in the country, someone who is worthy of every law student’s emulation, and yet he chooses to proffer the excuse of ‘good faith’ in accounting for the 180M or so difference.
If the person involved was not someone who enjoyed the presumption of legal brilliance, good faith would have been acceptable — but he is the Chief Justice for crying out loud, and the fact that he arrogantly clings on to his belief that the 180M difference was acceptable per his moral standards makes it all the more disturbing for me. If it were an executive or legislative official who insinuated that his interpretation of the law made him conceal his real SALN, then that would have been a different case — but the Chief Justice is not just anyone, and some friends may not understand why his stature is so revered, but any law student knows that in the echelons of law brilliance, the office of the Chief Justice hovers above all of us mere mortals.
Then there are those who claim that no clear and convincing evidence has been presented by the prosecution to warrant the conviction of the Chief Justice. Again, in my legally-untrained mind, I can only ask: Is it not that impeachment is a political exercise, and not being a criminal trial, the quantum of proof would be subjective, depending on the senator-judges? A lot of people have been using the term sui generis to describe the impeachment trial, but what is sui generis really? An article from Dean Raul Pangalanan was very instructive in my own understanding of the nature of an impeachment process.
Dean Pangalanan posits that an impeachment court is deemed to be higher than any other instrumentality in government, such as the executive, legislative or judicial entities. In his article, he discusses how a country, right after the rubble of revolutionary mayhem settles, starts to establish its own democratic entities — it comes up with the different branches of government and establishes order through the creation of a fully-functioning government. Most people, after the establishment of their government, think that the ultimate arbiter of conflicts is the Supreme Court through its power of judicial review, but Dean Pangalanan asserts that this is not necessarily the case, because in essence, the judiciary (hence, the power of judicial review) is but a mere creation of the people acting in their sovereign capacity.
This is what justifies the superiority of the impeachment court over the Supreme Court, because when the senator-judges assume the role of being the people’s direct representatives, they are the very constitution of the genuine sovereign power — and the reality that the Constitution does not require them to be well-versed in legalistic gobbledygooks is a testament to the fact that in these proceedings, a senator-judge’s capacity to distinguish conviction and acquittal is what merely matters. The fact that the Constitution does not require all of them to be law experts is quite telling in the nature of the proceedings as an exercise of power of the real sovereign — the country’s citizens. Hence, I do not buy the whole ‘no convincing evidence’ argument — for in my mind, and presumably for all average reasonable people out there, the excesses and betrayal were pronounced and obvious.
I understand the sentiments of my friends perfectly well when they say that in the hearts of the people, Corona should be convicted, but that in the impeachment court, he needs to be acquitted. But again, in my mind, I ask: Why should the procedural rigidity be used to stifle the truth? The truth stares at us right in the face, and in these crossroads, we can either choose to look away and render a convenient acquittal, or stare back at it and command it to answer for its excesses. The truth shines like a a Northern star, and yet we choose to cloud our judgment with all these rationalizations couched in ‘sound and plausible reasoning’. I think we are much more intelligent than this, and tomorrow, we shall prove this to the rest of the world as we convict a Chief Justice who is unworthy of his office.
It is in times of confusion like these when again, I revert back to my personal principle that we should stick to what makes sense and what affirms the ideals of the law profession. Convict Corona.