Corona Trial Road Block
Cartoon by Joseph Alvin Tibudan

The search for the truth in the impeachment trial of Philippine Chief Justice Renato Corona is extremely difficult. Aside from the shrewd maneuverings by the defense team, there are other seemingly insurmountable barriers that prevent the prosecution team from presenting the truth in the form of evidence.

Some of these barriers are legal in nature, placed by the law itself.

One such obstacle is the law that bans the disclosure of foreign currency deposit accounts with just one exception — which is the permission by the depositor himself/herself.

This law has effectively barred the prosecutors from examining the dollar deposit accounts of the Chief Justice. And, of course, Corona has no inclination to voluntarily divulge his foreign-currency deposits for reason of self-protection.

Another hindrance in the search for the truth is an internal Supreme Court rule mandating confidentiality of information about the discussions by the justices on cases filed with the court. As a result of this rule, the public is denied access to information on the cases under discussion by the justices.

The public is afforded only a peek into the discussions through the dissenting and concurring decisions of the justices. A case in point is the dissenting decision of Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on a petition by former President Gloria Arroyo for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) that allowed her to go abroad. (The TRO was later rendered ineffective due to the issuance by a regional trial court of a warrant for the arrest of Arroyo).

Sereno opposed the issuance of the TRO because some of the pre-conditions for its issuance were not complied with. This was explained by Justice Secretary Leila Delima when she testified on Day 22 of the trial.

Delima also testified that Sereno’s dissent was not promulgated along with the majority decision ordering the issuance of the TRO.

But, alas, this portion of Delima’s testimony was stricken off the record upon the motion of the defense panel. Delima did not witness what had happened, and, therefore, her testimony is hearsay, the defense argued.

Who could have witnessed this particular Supreme Court happening? The justices themselves, of course. But because of the confidentiality rule, they are barred from disclosing what they know about the issuance of the controversial TRO.

There are more legal obstacles in the search for the truth. These include the so-called privilege communication between lawyers and their clients, the right of the accused against self-incrimination and the sub judice rule.

So, what will happen to the search for the truth? It is doomed to fail because the truth is stone-walled on all sides.

We can draw hope, though, from what Buddha said: “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.”

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