The Nun who floored the Chief Justice
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-03-11

Last Thursday, your Chair Wrecker was informed that Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona had announced in a Radio DWIZ interview that he was blaming me for the spread of that story about a second wife that he allegedly has.

Valuing our relationship, my immediate reaction was to text CJ Rene this message: “Rene, I was just informed that you’ve blamed me for that ‘second wife’ blogger’s posting. I never wrote that. In case, you read my columns, I shy away from such issues where innocent victims could get affected. That was from a blogger, identified as PedestrianObserverGB, who posted it all over.” CJ Rene duly acknowledged receipt of my text message.

Last Wednesday, CJ Rene initiated a media blitz to address the fallout spawned by Ana Basa’s revelations on how he and his wife Tina allegedly maltreated their family and illegally acquired their Basa-Guidote assets. Ana Basa is the daughter of one of the original owners of the Basa-Guidote Enterprise, Inc. (BGEI), Jose Ma. Basa III.

Ana Basa’s story must have thrown the CJ camp into panic, as evidenced by the media blitz that it spawned. In his March 8 column, Mon Tulfo of the Inquirer, a CJ backer, wrote that his sympathy for the Chief Justice “was somehow lessened after reading Basa’s story.”

What’s very damaging for the CJ is the fact that one of original owners of BGEI is a Nun, Sister Flory Basa. Hounded by controversies, the CJ will find it very difficult to look more credible than Sister Flory in the public eye. On Facebook, Dennis Garcia, of Hotdog fame, commented: “God is a great casting director... just when people were about to throw in the towel... He sends a handmaiden of the Lord to take up the cudgels of the bumbling, ineffective prosecution team.”

Last Friday’s TV Patrol exclusive interview with Sister Flory could be the haymaker that finally floored CJ Rene. At 90, Sister Flory was lucid and could even hear better than Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Sister Flory said that the CJ and his wife Tina can have the Basa-Guidote money since they’ve taken it already — but they only want justice. Throughout the interview with Ted Failon, Sister Flory displayed no bitterness and exuded every bit of the quiet sanctity that would normally surround a servant of God.

There are two ways that the revelations of Sister Flory and Ana Basa could severely affect CJ Rene Corona. In the Court of Public Opinion, the revelations presented a very bad face of the CJ — allegedly mean, oppressive, gun-totting, scheming, thief. The defense panel claimed that Ana and Sister Flory couldn’t be presented anymore as witnesses. How will the impeachment court deal with the reality that public perception will naturally be heavily in favor of the Nun? Isn’t it the mandate of the impeachment court to ferret out the truth and determine the fitness of Renato Corona to sit as Chief Justice? Truth should prevail over technicality.

The impeachment trial prosecutors could present Ana Basa and Sister Flory to testify against the CJ. CJ Rene had claimed earlier that the P32.6 million from three PSBank (Philippine Savings Bank) accounts that he withdrew on the very day when the impeachment case was sent to the Senate belonged to BGEI. The CJ cannot retract that now and point to another “source” for all those millions.

This puts CJ Rene in a dilemma. If he doesn’t use BGEI as the “real” owner of the P32.6 million that he withdrew on December 12, 2011, how would he then account for it? BGEI is the only entity of note that CJ Rene could use because for the last three decades he lived on a salary from the government and there’s nothing else in his SALN to account for this big amount.

Perhaps running short of legal arguments to refute these latest “close-to-home” charges that Ana and Sister Flory Basa had revealed against him, CJ Rene resorted to argumentum ad hominem. In his GMA Network interview last Wednesday, CJ Rene cited The Firm — which is associated with Justice Tony Carpio — as the operator of what he claimed is a demolition job against him. At the start of the impeachment trial, CJ Rene had accused Justice Carpio of wanting his CJ post.

CJ Rene also claimed that President Noynoy Aquino is persecuting him for the adverse SC decision on Hacienda Luisita. CJ Rene expanded his media assaults by claiming that two Senators, one of them Sen. TG Guingona, the other one he did not identify, tried to pressure him to resign. Giving CJ Rene the benefit of the doubt, so what’s wrong with that? The two Senators may have done it to spare the country the division a controversial impeachment could spawn.

From the way the CJ camp has been running this impeachment battle, it’s obvious that they’re engaged on two fronts — the impeachment court and the court of public opinion. That’s understandable because as a political process the Senator-Judges will have to account to the Filipino people. All those rallies at the SC compound, CJ Rene’s occasional media appearances when important issues would arise from the trial, press conferences of the defense panel (and prosecution) — were all about shaping favorable public opinion.

The investment in shaping favorable public opinion isn’t just for the duration of the impeachment trial — but beyond an acquittal verdict. The CJ camp will have to prepare the public mind to accept an acquittal verdict. If it’s true that the recent INC (Iglesia ni Cristo) rally was a subliminal show of force for the embattled CJ, then that’s all part of shaping favorable public opinion. Even the sudden rumor about a coup could be a part of the mind conditioning process — seeding a suggested public discomfort if the CJ is convicted.

On Facebook, a lot of friends have been asking: “Has CJ Corona gone berserk? Why is he hitting everybody, calling them liars and conspirators? Why doesn’t he just bare it all?”

From the communications strategy standpoint, that’s also understandable. The CJ camp must be thinking along the lines of painting a conspiracy picture that will taint the charges being hurled at CJ Rene. However, even if it’s true that certain persons have wittingly or unwittingly contributed their efforts to press the charges against CJ Rene Corona — that doesn’t mean that they’re lying.

Lying is the worst form of propaganda because it can be easily exposed and debunked. It’s the truth that really hurts.

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  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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