By Raïssa Robles
Early this year before the impeachment trial began, intermediaries of Chief Justice Renato Corona reportedly told the presidential palace that Corona would be willing to step down provided two conditions were met.
First, he would stay on as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. And second, he would get to name his successor.
One of the sources I talked to said it seemed there was a third unstated condition – that Corona would not be punished. “The bottom-line is, he would be off the hook. Whether that meant acquittal or stopping the trial was not clear to me,” the source added.
I confirmed Corona’s offer separately from two highly reliable and knowledgeable sources who do not know each other. I am not at liberty to say who they are. However, I can say that one of the sources is not in government.
I first learned of this alleged offer last week before Corona had conducted his blitz interviews with five radio stations and three TV networks. This was also before Corona disclosed the reported offer to him of a term-sharing agreement with Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
But I decided not to run what I found out until I could get an independent confirmation from another source.
I finally got this confirmation today.
Both sources saw the offer from Corona as credible.
Presidential Palace officials discussed the offer
In fact, one of them said that officials in the presidential palace actually met early this January 2012 – before the trial started – and discussed the reported offer. And “without knowing 100% for sure if it was true or not, it was rejected,” the source said.
The offer was rejected, both sources said; one of them adding because it was “unreasonable”.
One of them explained that “if he (Corona) would be allowed to choose his successor, it would pretty much negate the whole point” of trying to reform the judiciary and making former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accountable through the courts. The source explained that if Corona was allowed to choose his successor it was likely he would choose someone “who would also protect Arroyo.”
Asked what it meant for Corona to “be off the hook”, one of the sources said it was unclear what exactly that meant. However, those who discussed the offer had assumed that it meant Corona would not be convicted by an impeachment trial.
That such negotiations could have been going on behind the scenes, away from public view, is quite understandable among political power players.
Shortly after being impeached last December 12, Corona himself told his supporters:
Hindi ko po maintindihan kung bakit nanggigigil ng husto sa akin ang mahal nating pangulo, magmula pa po sa kanyang pagkaluklok sa pwesto.
Despite this, Corona said he had personally reached out to President Benigno Aquino III and offered his help and cooperation:
Tuwing kami’y nagkikita, lubos kong pinararamdam na kami’y dapat mag-ugnayan, magsama at magtulungan para sa bayan.Marami po tayong problema. Nandiyan po ang mabagal na takbo ng ekonomiya, kawalan ng trabaho, kahirapan at kagutuman. Mukhang hindi po niya naintindihan.
I tried repeatedly to get Corona’s side yesterday. His spokesman, Midas Marquez, did not answer his phone. And his lawyer, Ramon Esguerra replied with a text that he was at mass.
I could no longer reach him afterward.
It is very likely, as I write this, that there are people in both camps still trying to find a “win-win” solution to this political problem called the first ever impeachment of a sitting Chief Justice.
But the window for this is fast closing. The summer holidays are nearly upon us and soon, the public will demand a conclusion.