Philippines Chief Justice Renato Corona, last week, sounding arrogant and confrontational before his impeachment trial began, said on television that he was willing to “donate” his (5 or 45?) undeclared properties in question to the government.
With his righteous demeanor, I hope, for his reputation and integrity, the impeachment procedure will find him “not guilty,” which he has repeatedly claimed to be.
The law is clear that a thief who is proven guilty and decides under fire to return his loot to escape justice is still a criminal who deserves nothing but a jail term and disdain from society…and that stolen properties can not be used as a bargaining chip.
The appropriate law would be especially more Solomonic if the one who broke the law was a president or a chief magistrate, because, like all other public officials, both Gloria Arroyo and Corona MUST BE HELD, not to a HIGHER, but to the HIGHEST standard of law and justice. After all, they occupied the highest and most honorable positions in the land and had sworn to uphold our moral code and the constitution, and protect the people and our nation.
A police officer who steals a dollar is worse than a common thief who steals ten. A priest who molests someone commits a graver sin to society compared to a sex offender on the street. A judge who commits any injustice is the antithesis of the law.
Like Arroyo, Chief Justice Corona should be presumed innocent of the charges against him till proven guilty in the court of law. They deserve this right, in spite of the apparent contempt they have for the decent and law-abiding Filipinos and the legal system of the Republic. Corona and Arroyo must have their day in court. The integrity of the whole nation is at stake. The people demand justice. Let’s make sure they get it without special treatment, fairly, and swiftly.
If they are found guilty, all their confirmed ill-gotten wealth/properties must be confiscated, and they must go to jail. The same penalty and legal prescription you and I, ordinary citizens, would get if we had committed the same crime. And NO PARDON either. There must be accountability and equality in the eyes of the law for all of us. The same punishment for the same crime for everyone. No one must be above the law. We must, as a civilized society, have equal justice for all!
Let us be vigilant, watch, and listen to the proceedings of the impeachment with open mind and open heart, with wisdom and compassion. Let our intelligence, mental honesty, and respect for the law and our constitution guide our actions and reactions. Let justice starts with us, we the people, and not prejudge anyone.
We must remember that what are on trial and a stake here are not only Corona and Arroyo and their reputation, but our national morality, integrity, dignity, justice system, and honor as a people and as a nation.
May God bless the Philippines and the Filipinos!
Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS
Chairman, Filipino United Network - USA