Suntok, iyak, takbo (punch, cry, run) was how an Ateneo classmate of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona described in a text message to your Chair Wrecker the CJ’s strategy last Tuesday. CJ Corona, like his patroness Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), opted for what’s popularly perceived as malingering in order to escape scrutiny — and just like GMA, he ended up last Tuesday in a wheelchair.
That was no trial testimony that CJ Corona made last Tuesday. It was a slyly acquired forum for making a lengthy attack on his accusers, which Presiding Officer Juan Ponce-Enrile (JPE) must have regretted for allowing it. Opening statements are not accepted in a court trial, even if given under oath. That can be done in Congress and Senate hearings in aid of legislation, but not in an impeachment trial. The best that JPE could do was to rule that the entire soliloquy of CJ Corona was to be entered as part of his testimony and therefore subject to cross-examination by the prosecution.
In the end, CJ Corona proved nothing. His conditions for the waiver that he signed negated what would have been the highpoint of his announced ‘bare all’ testimony. His walkout sealed his fate. After his suntok, iyak, takbo stunt, CJ Corona’s public stock crashed.
In his rant, CJ Corona curiously mentioned that he suffered from diabetes. Was that to prepare the stage for his grand retreat to escape the scrutiny of cross-examination, citing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) as reason? JPE saw through the act and ruled that if the CJ does not appear in 24 hours, his testimony will be stricken off the record and the tribunal will make a ruling based on established evidence.
Hypoglycemia is dangerous if it leads to coma but there are many tell tale signs before one reaches the stage of hypoglycemic coma. Familiar with my wife’s many dangerous episodes of hypoglycemia — the CJ showed no signs of being anywhere near that danger zone. Hypoglycemia can be easily addressed by simply drinking a full serving of regular Coke or orange juice, and normalcy can be restored in fifteen minutes.
Perhaps realizing that hypoglycemia was not serious enough to justify a CJ court non-appearance, his camp then floated the idea of a heart attack after bringing him to the ICU of Medical City. The stress and pressure that the CJ is undergoing could indeed induce a heart attack but seen within the context of last Tuesday’s weird sequence of events — it’s doubted if the public will buy that. In the May 23 reactions on social media, the widespread feedback was that the CJ executed a suntok, iyak, takbo strategy.
CJ Corona’s May 22 trial appearance was forced by signs that he has lost the case after the appearance of the very credible and highly regarded Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales. From the point of view of political strategy, the CJ needed an event that can reverse public opinion, the majority of which saw him as guilty. Thus, his long tirade against his perceived “persecutors” was more of a political speech and less of a court testimony.
CJ Corona should have capped his long political speech with the signing of the waiver to his dollar accounts because that would have made a big impact for his cause. That’s assuming, of course, that there was nothing damning to be found. But no — he had to impose a condition, a presyong ayaw mag-benta (setting a price that nobody will pay) and that only reinforced public perception that he had a lot to hide.
The CJ’s walkout sealed his fate. Instead of reversing adverse public perception, the CJ worsened his image and credibility problems by adding a new dimension — a hit and run coward.
Others likened the CJ’s court appearance to a teleserye (television soap), quite understandable when seen as a means to win the masses to his side. However, it was a very bad script that failed to consider that the CJ had very little political capital and therefore should be extra careful in making wild accusations. The scriptwriter also failed to consider that in communications, the non-verbal aspects — how you’re seen — are more important than the verbal (what you say). The CJ’s suntok, iyak, takbo can be considered a political Waterloo from the standpoint of non-verbal communications.
On the verbal aspect, the CJ’s political speech was also a disaster. He failed to consider that President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) and Conchita Carpio-Morales are very highly regarded. CJ Corona should not have presumed that he could dent their credibility and high public esteem on his mere say-so, especially considering how low his trust ratings have been. CJ Corona should have concentrated on assertions that can be easily believed and avoid assertions that would tend to deepen public distrust.
The administration believes that the CJ will push this issue to a Constitutional crisis by SC interference, and has prepared for that eventuality. Before he makes that move, CJ Corona should check first just how many of the Associate Justices will go along with him in this misadventure.
Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”
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