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Right to Counsel

January 18, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Right to Counsel
Ronald Roy — January 18, 2012

“Corona assets worth ₱200M” was last week’s mind-blowing headline of the Inquirer, detailing in spectacular fashion the embattled Chief Justice Renato Corona’s allegedly anomalous realty acquisitions over the Gloria Arroyo years he served in the Supreme Court.

I saw from my car a pedestrian cringing in horror at the mere sight of the paper at a street corner newsstand. He moved away with mouth agape, and didn’t bother to read Corona’s stout denials in small print at the bottom half of the front page.

The pedestrian had had it, I mused. Indeed, how could have the Inquirer’s intensive daily trumpeting of this #?@! Corona’s ill-gotten wealth gone wrong?! No, not the ABS-CBN Network (i.e., television, radio and newspapers), a large and reputable media network!! Their newspaper’s headline was the unadulterated truth of it all!!

Alas, the Chief Justice had already been found guilty before the bar of public opinion even before the start of his impeachment trial! In the presence of the senator-magistrates, Mr. Corona now stands guilty right at the outset.

Henceforth, he must bear the brunt of proving himself innocent beyond reasonable doubt—instead of being found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, or by preponderance of evidence, or by the meager quantum of substantial evidence that is observed in labor cases.

Are media fair, even-keeled, and committed to help build a robust democracy founded on truth? Well, I’d like to think that: generally, they are, save that, at times, media’s paradigms—built as they are on loose sand—tend to yield to their financial interests.

Consumers will spend for media entertainment drenched in smut, scandal, mayhem, and most anything outrageous. The more despicable the entertainment, the more positive the purveyors’ profit and loss statements!

“Corona assets worth ₱200M” was a heart-stopping shocker. On the other hand, what the Inquirer could have published was “Corona denies charges,” but that would have been a ho-hum of a headline. Such is the destructive power of television, radio and newspapers.

Media’s raison-d’être is the arduous task of building a noble enterprise that is however lamentably more fatiguing than an arsonist’s lighting of a matchstick. Is ABS-CBN Network planning to do a Nero, that infamous Roman emperor who burned down the city of Rome?

The question is repeated regarding ABS-CBN network’s much-touted facade of fairness and reason in the case of another heart-stopping shocker: “WB: Loan to SC high risk”. In reaction, I quote a text message from a CBCP source, as follows.

“Evelyn Kilayko wrote: FWD: ABS-CBN and Inquirer headlined the World Bank misuse loan. What the yellow media maliciously ignored was that the WB Project was implemented in 2003 under CJ Hilarion Davide whose son was endorsed by P-Noy during the election. Sadly, WB fund was audited during Corona watch. The head of the project committee was even another Justice, not Corona. Who are you fooling, ABS-CBN and Inquirer?”

Media personalities have increasingly become corrupt through the years, if my dealing with them—which started in 1953 when I was Congressman Jose J. Roy’s Information Officer, up to his retirement as a Senator in 1972 for whom I served as Chief of Staff, then through my 1980-1987 stint as a Land Bank Board Member and Vice President—are any indication.

Once in 1956, I authorized the grant of ₱2,000 from my father’s discretionary fund to help cover the hospitalization expenses of a newspaper reporter’s cancer-stricken daughter, only to discover later he had only one child, a boy. Who would have thought he would become one day his newspaper’s Editor in Chief?

Then years later in Land Bank, I authorized the release of ₱3,000 as “abuloy” to a columnist whose mother had just died, only to discover—it was always my policy to check their sob stories—that she had died 15 years earlier. Who would have thought he would one day become a President’s Press Secretary?

A few year’s ago, I was the sole guest on one of Alan Paguia’s weekly televised interviews with various personalities on Destiny Channel. Our topic was: How honest are journalists? Boy, did I dish out a mouthful! I ended up concluding: “I daresay, Alan, that I am morally certain 9 out of 10 media practitioners are corrupt.” The gut-feel statistics are probably now more horrifying, considering how corruption has progressively crept into our culture over the years.

Indubitably, it is in impeachment cases where media assume most prominently their standing as the fourth estate equal to, if not more energetic than, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

It is in a politically charged impeachment trial, such as the current one against Chief Justice Corona, where the three branches zealously vie for media’s undivided attention, usually out-jostling one another to attain financial bottom lines in the black.

It is here where the fourth estate can unleash its awesome forces in any which way it cares to do so: to curtail or uphold the Rule of Law, to ruin or promote professional careers, to convict or acquit the accused, to serve or not to serve the ends of justice, to fortify or weaken our already sapped democracy.

At the center of it all, the proverbial man behind the eight ball is Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (SPJPE), a seasoned constitutional pundit and veteran politico, whose impeachment court he leads is a group of hard-core politicians, not judges, whose political fortunes rest on their individual performances as impeachment judges.

Can SPJPE do this objectively, considering unverified reports that P-Noy has promised his son, Rep. Jack Ponce Enrile, a slot in the senatorial slate for the elections scheduled next year? Likewise, will his fellow politico judges be willing to sacrifice their political ambitions for the sake of the country, by comporting themselves with utmost political impartiality? Time will tell, I guess, if ever political impartiality in impeachment trials is possible.

Last Christmas day at 6:00pm, Chief Justice Corona and his wife, accompanied by Atty. Midas Marquez, came to the residence of my lawyer-son, Judd, whom I recently featured in my article titled The Tragedy of Mood Law. Apart from being humbled by the visit from the land’s 5th highest official whom he had never previously met, Law Professor Jose M. Roy III, former PLM Law Dean, was moved by the “mild-mannered giant who hobbles because of a bad back and treats people with gentle ways.”

Atty Jose M Roy III with Former SC Justice Serafin CuevasOn request of Mr. Corona, Judd prepared a draft of the speech which the CJ intended to deliver before lawyer-supporters from all over the country who had already planned to assemble at the Supreme Court Quadrangle. “No, Judd, that’s too strong. Let’s not treat the President that way. Let’s tone down your draft” was the CJ’s advice.

I write this to portray the “other side” of the CJ. Certainly, the gentle giant could not have been the enemy of the state as pictured by P-Noy and some media quarters, nor the one alluded to by Neil Tupas, who virtually called him a demon by telling him “go, in the name of God!”

Tupas’ histrionic rhetoric reminds me of the debauched Russian monk Grigori Rasputin who often invoked the name of God to beguile Tsar Nicolas II and his royal family to suit his evil schemes.

I admire Judd’s professional courage in defending an extremely unpopular impeachment respondent. But like his father, he will surely give it his best shot, the same way I once wrote a column fervently defending the Ampatuans’ legal and human right to counsel.

 

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