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Corona Impeachment Trial Day 40 – Is the game almost over for him?

I live-twitted the Day 40 of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment trial, where the accused himself took the witness stand. When Serafin Cuevas, the defense lead counsel, told Senate President and impeachment court presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile that his client will be making an opening statement, I thought it will last for just 10 minutes at the most. Corona ended up speaking for three hours.

In numerous occasions, Enrile interrupted him to ask how much time he still needs to wrap up his statement. This is like having a human resource officer indirectly telling a job applicant to finish off his or her self-introduction. Speaking for three hours is forgivable, but for a chief justice to give a rambling speech is not. In the first two hours of his statement, Corona somehow managed to squeeze in lots of subjects in the first two hours of his remarks, from his wife’s Katipunero descendant, to the Cojuangco’s Hacienda Luisita, and the family conflict between the Coronas and the Basas. Corona’s two hour verbal diarrhea earned much ridicule online.

To me, the best part of his opening statement was when Corona showed a PowerPoint presentation refuting Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ accusation that he has $10 to $12 million hidden in 82 bank accounts, saying that he only has four at the moment. He gained points for being able to explain that he does not currently maintain that many bank deposits. Many considered his signing of a waiver giving everyone access to his bank records and list of properties a gutsy move, particularly his dare to all legislators who endorsed the impeachment complaint against him and Senator Franklin Drilon to do the same thing.

After that, Corona shot himself in the foot. All of a sudden, he blurted out that he’d like to be excused from the proceedings and immediately walked out of the session hall even if Enrile did not formally discharge him. According to media reports, Corona tried to get out of the Senate building either through the elevator or the fire exit, although he was prevented from doing so since Enrile ordered all exit points closed. His lawyers, apparently caught off guard by their client’s actions, clumsily explained that Corona had to rush out of the hearing area because he is already close to fainting (it was revealed earlier that he is diabetic).

Corona’s action is puzzling. Had he gotten his way, he would have been able to unceremoniously sneak out of the Senate building right there and then. If that happened, Corona will be something like a fugitive of sorts, even if he is truly physically unwell. Although Corona’s lengthy opening statement clearly tested Enrile’s patience, he still let the former finish his piece. It is only right for Enrile therefore to expect Corona to observe proper courtroom decorum.

Because of Corona’s erratic behavior, the viewing public now focused more on his apparent walkout rather than on his rebuttal of Carpio-Morales’ testimony. Acting like a disrespected grandfather, Enrile warned Corona’s lawyers that if the Chief Justice does not want to be cross-examined, his three-hour testimony will be stricken off the record. He added that he will also make his fellow Senator-Judges render a judgment on the trial soon after.

As it is, Corona’s actions set in motion many things that are now beyond his control. He is now compelled to undergo cross examination this Friday, May25, despite his supposed medical condition. And with final oral arguments set on Monday, the Senate is bound to wrap up the five-week old trial as early as Tuesday. The winner-take-all political battle is finally headed to a conclusion. ving �r mn@p� officer indirectly telling a job applicant to finish off his or her self-introduction. Speaking for three hours is forgivable, but for a chief justice to give a rambling speech is not. In the first two hours of his statement, Corona somehow managed to squeeze in lots of subjects in the first two hours of his remarks, from his wife’s Katipunero descendant, to the Cojuangco’s Hacienda Luisita, and the family conflict between the Coronas and the Basas. Corona’s two hour verbal diarrhea earned much ridicule online.

To me, the best part of his opening statement was when Corona showed a PowerPoint presentation refuting Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ accusation that he has $10 to $12 million hidden in 82 bank accounts, saying that he only has four at the moment. He gained points for being able to explain that he does not currently maintain that many bank deposits. Many considered his signing of a waiver giving everyone access to his bank records and list of properties a gutsy move, particularly his dare to all legislators who endorsed the impeachment complaint against him and Senator Franklin Drilon to do the same thing.

After that, Corona shot himself in the foot. All of a sudden, he blurted out that he’d like to be excused from the proceedings and immediately walked out of the session hall even if Enrile did not formally discharge him. According to media reports, Corona tried to get out of the Senate building either through the elevator or the fire exit, although he was prevented from doing so since Enrile ordered all exit points closed. His lawyers, apparently caught off guard by their client’s actions, clumsily explained that Corona had to rush out of the hearing area because he is already close to fainting (it was revealed earlier that he is diabetic).

Corona’s action is puzzling (aside from being detrimental in his aim to sway public opinion to his side). Had he gotten his way, he would have been able to unceremoniously sneak out of the Senate building right there and then. If that happened, Corona will be something like a fugitive of sorts, even if he is truly physically unwell. Although Corona’s lengthy opening statement clearly tested Enrile’s patience, he still let the former finish his piece. It is only right for Enrile therefore to expect Corona to observe proper courtroom decorum.

Because of Corona’s erratic behavior, the viewing public now focused more on his apparent walkout rather than on his rebuttal of Carpio-Morales’ testimony. Acting like a disrespected grandfather, Enrile warned Corona’s lawyers that if the Chief Justice does not want to be cross-examined, his three-hour testimony will be stricken off the record. He added that he will also make his fellow Senator-Judges render a judgment on the trial soon after.

Corona’s action set in motion events that are now beyond his control. If he fails to appear on the court come Friday, the Senate can ask the defense to rest its case and submit their formal offer of evidence. And with final oral arguments set on May 28, this five-month old political drama may be over by Tuesday.

FINAL NOTE: From the standpoint of communication arts, Corona’s appearance in the impeachment court last Tuesday was a huge error. Here’s why:
1) The contents of the first two hours of his opening statement was disorganized. As noted above, Corona’s high time came when he made that PowerPoint presentation. Things could have been better if Corona made his opening statement more concise and straight on.
2) He forgot the limited attention span of his listeners. By the time he presented his slideshow, most of his target audience must have already lost their attention.
3) What non-verbal message will his apparent walk-out convey to the senator-judges and the public in general? Certainly not the way he would have want it.

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