When a cool CJ Rene Corona barks and threatens to bite
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-10-18
I’ve known Supreme Court Chief Justice (CJ) Rene Corona since we were both wearing short pants at the Ateneo Grade School. We were batch mates and in several school years we were classmates.

Rene was one of my best friends in school. He was easy to like - mild mannered, courteous, and well behaved. Rene certainly had a good head on his shoulders. He was also on the heavy side although a mere light heavyweight when compared to me. When I left the Ateneo in 1965, my ties with Rene were severed and we were to touch base again more frequently in Ateneo Alumni socials and when he was already the Chief of Staff of then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA).

In 1967, I accompanied my father to the Blue Eagle Gym in Loyola for the medal awarding of my younger brother Richard. After the ceremonies, as we were walking to our vehicle, I noticed that the High School PMT (Preparatory Military Training) Corps cadets were conducting exercises in the parking lot. To my pleasant surprise, Rene was the corps commander.

I introduced Rene to my father and I must say that Rene did cast an impressive sight — standing erect like a military officer, with sabre resting on his right shoulder as if poised to salute, and speaking his best Arreneow accent. After they talked, Dad said to me: “I wish you could be like him.” I suppose that Dad’s remark warmed Rene’s heart — but it certainly deflated my ego. More than anything else, Dad meant the remark to focus on my lack of scholastic discipline and not in the sense of rowdy behavior.

On January 21, 2001, just hours before Vice President GMA took over power from ousted President Joseph Estrada, Rene and I were having lunch at the Gloria Maris Seafood Restaurant at the CCP Complex. I shared with Rene my apprehensions about corruption in the incoming GMA regime. I even shared with Rene whom I think we should closely monitor in the new GMA inner circle. Rene promised me: “Believe me Billy, if ever I spot any anomalous transaction in the new administration, I will expose and denounce it.”

Somehow, after he had served as GMA’s Chief of Staff before moving to the Supreme Court — I do not recall Rene having exposed and denounced any anomalies under the GMA regime.

I experienced mixed feelings when I saw the television news report that CJ Corona had lambasted Malacañang and Congress for what he described as “disrespect and lack of civility.” In his October 13 speech at the Philippine Judges Association annual convention, held at the New World Hotel, CJ Corona declared: “I say to them: enough is enough.”

“Let not those who pervert democracy and the Constitution for their selfish political ends mistake our judicial decorum, wisdom of silence and sense of dignity as signs of weakness, for nothing can be farther from the truth,” he added. The people present being judges and under the Supreme Court, CJ Corona’s speech was roundly cheered.
Referring to the recent budget row with Malacañang, CJ Corona stated: “I mince no words and I speak of nothing else but the insidious attempts to undermine, destroy even, the independence of the judiciary through such means as forcing us to beg for the funds guaranteed to us by the Constitution.”

Coming at the heels of the Supreme Court recall of its “FINAL” ruling on the FASAP (Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines) case against PAL, which ruled in favor of FASAP, CJ Corona’s untypical ‘bark’ with an accompanying threat to ‘bite’ led many to believe that it is the reaction of an already wounded tiger.

The recall of the FASAP ruling on the basis of a letter from PAL lawyer Estelito Mendoza drew widespread condemnation. Even political stars associated with the GMA regime denounced the recall of the FASAP ruling. One solon called it a betrayal of public trust, an impeachable offense. Coffee shops were buzzing with speculations as to whether big money was involved in the highly unusual recall.

Because the majority of its Justices were appointed by GMA, the Renato Corona-led Supreme Court is weighed down by public perception that it is a pro-GMA court. That public perception is further bolstered by the many decisions of the Supreme Court that were unfavorable to the present administration of President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy).

Having the majority in the Congress and the Senate, the P-Noy administration could not have been gifted with a better time to test the impeachment option. This majority in both Houses was a major factor that pushed Merciditas Gutierrez to resign after she saw the Congress vote for her impeachment. She spared herself the bloodletting that would have taken place in an impeachment hearing.

It pains me to watch CJ Rene Corona in the fix that he is in. I have no doubt that he aspires to leave his post come retirement time with an unsullied reputation. I prefer to keep CJ Rene Corona in my highest esteem, believing that he meant well, but was just another good person who got mixed up with some very dubious characters.

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