pop goes the world: open sesame

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  2 February 2012, Thursday

Open Sesame

The impeachment trial of Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona is a can opener.

It has breached a can of worms, dragging into the light that which was hidden in the dark, away from the public, for too long. It has exposed the way some influential and wealthy people in this country conduct their affairs beyond the pale of the law or ethics.

The lengthy, drawn-out testimony on Corona’s SALN was mind-boggling. Clearly the man omitted to declare several different properties, notably expensive condominium units, among his assets.

A unit at McKinley Hills was declared as belonging to his daughter, whose income did not reflect the capability to pay for the property. The receipts also reflected the father’s name, while the deed of sale was made out to Corona and his wife, not the daughter.

The defense sought to explain this away by saying that the daughter was abroad during the time and the father acted as her representative. But why was the deed of sale made out in her parents’ name, rather than hers?

Next was the revelation of a P10 million discount on a unit in the posh Bellagio building given to Corona by developer Megaworld, for the reason the unit was “damaged.” Really? What a sweet deal. Where can I get me one of those? Obviously they’re not available to ordinary folk.

 High living: view from the corridor leading to Corona’s condo unit at the Bellagio. Image here.

These explanations reek of manipulation, of facts being massaged. We have a word for this in Tagalog – palusot.

One might ask, “Can’t a Supreme Court justice avail of property at a discount? Is there a law against that?”

It’s a question of ethics – “Caesar’s wife”, as we have heard several legal analysts quote.

The phrase refers to Julius Caesar’s second wife Pompeia, whom he divorced after her name was linked to the notorious rakehell Publius Clodius. Caesar knew there was no truth to the rumors swirling around the pair, yet he held that as ruler of Rome, his wife must be above all suspicion. “Caesar’s wife” therefore is someone of impeccable morals.

Pompeia, Caesar’s second wife, whom  he married in 67 BC. Image here. 

Public officials are held to higher standards than plain folk, and that is both their delight and their cross.

It is their delight to live a life by the highest moral standards and to be held in respect and esteem by their fellowmen.

It is their cross, because it is a burden to be thus set apart from others.

Yet this is what is asked of public servants – to live a life of sacrifice. Isn’t that so, political adviser Ronald Llamas?

The trial is also an eye-opener.

A lady legal analyst for a major news network said on Ted Failon’s radio show the other day, “Hindi pa gising ang tao.” They should be. With all that we have seen and heard, there is no turning back to the days when we were deaf and blind to the machinations of those in power.

Cheers to the following, who gave good face – Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner Kim Henares, who did not crumble under the onslaught of questions; lawyer Noli Hernandez, who only told his witnesses “Tell the truth”; young legal eagle Joseph Joemer Perez, who has impressed everyone with his brilliance; and the indefatigable and endlessly entertaining Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, whose rapier-like wit and courage cuts through all the bullshit, everytime.

On Day 5 of the trial, tired of the deluge of rhetoric, she said, “…it behooves us to start with this principle: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ Huwag na tayong magpa-epal dito dahil nawawalan ng gana ang nanonood. Tama na ‘yun. “

Much ado has also been made about the blazing intelligence of senator Juan Ponce Enrile (turning 88 on February 14) and retired Supreme Court justice Serafin Cuevas (83). Both evoke an earlier, more genteel era, where gentlemen of the law exchange courtly gestures while exchanging elegantly-crafted arguments based on research and sharp analysis.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. Image here.

Enrile, during this grueling process, shows aplomb and stamina. It’s been said that he studies about the case several hours each day, as does Cuevas, who even throws in half-an-hour of jogging before his mental preparation.

These elder statesmen are to be emulated by their younger counterparts, in terms of discipline and work ethics.

Meanwhile, the trial of the year continues, and is expected to drag on for several months. A middle-aged government lawyer, who has witnessed the trial in the Senate several times, sums it up as “a slow-moving political trial that has gone viral through the antics of the show-boating lawyers involved.”

My 13-year-old daughter, who is studying about the trial in their freshman high school social science class, asked, “Mama, CJ Corona was a midnight appointee, in violation of the Constitution. Is that not enough to have him removed from a position he should not be holding in the first place?”

My point, from the start.

* * * * *

Those interested in learning more about the creative process may regularly interact with writers at the monthly Openbook event of the Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines.

The event is held every third Friday of the month, 730pm at Chef’s Bistro, Sct. Gandia, near Tomas Morato. The following authors have been featured: in 2011, novelist Samantha Sotto (September), essayist Bebang Siy (October), and novelist Tweet Sering (November). Screenwriter Ricky Lee kicked off 2012 with a guesting last month.

This month’s Openbook will be held on the 17th with Bebang Siy as host. Multi-awarded poet Joel Toledo, the night’s featured guest, will read from his Ruins and Reconstructions (Anvil Publishing, 2011).

A poetry reading will follow, with performances by Ramil Gulle, Nonilon Queano, Ceres Abanil, Abet Umil, Haresh Daswani, Veronica Laurel, Brandon Dollente, Rustum Casia, and myself, among others.

The FWGP, founded by Ime Morales in August 2011, is a group of Philippine-based freelance writers, among them journalists, copywriters, bloggers, researchers and documenters, literary writers, SEO experts.

The organization, says Morales, is “committed to protecting the welfare of freelance writers, and to elevating the quality of their work output.” To learn more, search for the group on Facebook. ***

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