Quit, or you will be “stripped in public.”
This is what an emissary sent by an unnamed senator told Chief Justice Renato Corona a few days after he was impeached by the House of Representatives last December.
Corona revealed this on Friday in interviews with Bombo Radyo Philippines and dzRH radio.
“There’s this senator who is sitting as a judge in trial who sent an emissary who told me to resign. I could not believe the message relayed to me, I was shocked. You know what he told me, ‘Tell him (Corona) to resign because if not, we will strip you in public,” the Chief Justice recounted.
Corona did not identify the senator or the emissary. He only said the senator was male and that the emissary had gone to see him at the Supreme Court.
“The senator knows who he is—I’m quoting him verbatim. That’s the message relayed to me,” Corona said.
“I won’t tell you who he is because he might get angrier with me. I just kept quiet about it because I did not want to dignify it since at the time, the situation was somewhat tense. I did not want to make things worse,” he said.
At the time, he said it became clear to him that his enemies wanted to remove him at all costs.
Asked if there was a point when he considered resigning as calls were loudly made by various sectors for him to quit, he replied, “Never.”
“What I’m fighting for is not myself. I’m fighting for a broader and higher interest than me—the country, the judiciary… That’s why I cannot leave this fight because it’s not for me. In truth, I have nothing to gain but everything to lose in this fight,” he said.
“If I give in and the executive [takes] control of the judiciary and our countrymen would need help, there’s no more judiciary to run to, they will go to the streets,” he said.
He said that in this fight he was not just risking material things but also intangible ones.
“If I win, I will remain a Chief Justice. I won’t be promoted; my salary and benefits won’t increase. If I lose, I have put at stake my face, my entire person, my reputation and that of my family. Maybe our friends will desert us one by one. I also put at stake my entire retirement pay and pension because these will all be gone if I lose,” he said.
Corona said he would accept with an open heart the ruling of the Senate impeachment court, but will not stop his fight for principles.
“Even if I lose and get kicked out, I will continue to fight for [my] advocacies,” he said.
“I believe in the process under our Constitution and in the fairness of the Senate as a whole. That’s why I submitted myself to the process. [But] from the very start, I put everything in God. Whatever God wants I will comply,” he said.
‘Take warnings seriously’
Corona also said he has started to seriously consider the death threats he has received, based on the advice of friends in the police and military as well as judges who are his friends.
“In a government official’s life, [threats] are frequent, whether they’re sent through letters or text messages. That’s why I’m used to it and do not mind it. But in the past few weeks, my friends in the military and the police, especially from the intelligence community—they all told me, ‘You better take the warnings seriously. We have reports,’” he said.
“That’s why I became worried because the advice came one after another. They all told me to take the threats seriously because these are really threats against my life,” Corona added.
Drilon denies it
Sen. Franklin Drilon on Friday denied he was the senator who had sent an emissary asking Corona to resign.
“If that is (Corona’s) charge, maybe he should also name the senator instead of passing around such innuendoes,” Drilon said.
The senator said Corona’s statement was a “pallid attempt” to distract public attention from his ongoing impeachment trial.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan said Corona was trying to win public opinion by belatedly revealing a proposed “term-sharing” scheme with Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
Covering all bases
“The defense is covering all bases” on the eve of its presentation of evidence, said Honasan.
“Maybe, they don’t want to let their guard down when it comes to winning public opinion,” he said.
Corona has claimed that at a lunch meeting with Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, a former student of his, Guingona had suggested that Corona consider retiring early to give way to Carpio in a so-called “term-sharing” proposal. The meeting took place before there was even talk of Corona being impeached.
Although this latest revelation has no bearing on the trial itself, Honasan said that senator-judges would naturally take “judicial notice.”
“We are not insulated from that, we read newspapers, listen to radio reports and watch news on TV,” Honasan said.
He noted that “all sides” were trying to gain an upper hand in the court of public opinion—defense, prosecution, Malacañang and the Supreme Court.
“The public is also involved in the trial outside of the courtroom. The objective is to present themselves before the public [in hopes that] the verdict would be the same as public opinion,” he said. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac, Cathy Yamsuan and Norman Bordadora
First posted 12:08 am | Saturday, March 10th, 2012