Corona prosecutors: Still basking in victory
MANILA, Philippines - It's been a year since former Chief Justice Renato Corona was removed from the Supreme Court. How are the members of the House prosecution panel doing? For most of them, they're doing very well.
The trial of Corona is an experience many of them will not forget. It thrust these relatively unknown lawmakers onto the national stage. They were not prepared for the hositlity of some senators, but - with a lot of help from peers and supporters - they ended victorious. Corona was convicted on May 29, 2012.
One year later, many of them easily won their re-election bids. Some were even given bigger roles to play. At least two, however, have not been as lucky.
The biggest winner is House prosecution panel spokesperson Aurora Rep Sonny Angara who is now a senator-elect. He made a good showing, ranking 6th in the final tally of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) with a total of 15.86 million votes.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Angara was supposed to serve as a Corona prosecutor but he opted to become the panel's spokesperson to avoid a conflict-of-interest situation at that time. His father, outgoing Sen Edgarda Angara, served as senator-juror.
Corona's trial was Angara's baptism of fire. It was also during the impeachment trial - early 2012 - that President Aquino floated his name as among the potential senatorial candidates of the administration. (READ his profile: How to make Sonny Angara sexy?)
Impeachment team manager former Cavite Rep Joseph Emilio "Jun" Abaya Jr is the other member who took on a bigger role. He is now the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) overseeing the country's key infrastructure projects. He is also the acting president of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
"I really don't have time to look back. But the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona was the right thing to do," Abaya said.
The death of LP stalwart Jesse Robredo forced Abaya to cut short his term in the House of Representatives. Secretary Mar Roxas took Robredo's post at the Department of the Interior and Local Government, while Abaya took Roxas' positions as DOTC Secretary and LP president. (READ his profile: Jun Abaya: 'A good soldier')
During the campaign period, President Aquino referred to Abaya as the possible presidential candidate of the LP in 2016. But Abaya shrugs it off. (READ: PNoy's trial ballon? Abaya could be next president)
"He was teasing. But more accurately, he wasn't really teasing but joking. Mapagbiro ang ating Pangulo," Abaya told Rappler.
LP's easy victories
Chief prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr of the LP was re-elected in the 5th district of Iloilo. He won by a landslide. He got 120,079 votes while his rival Jett Rojas of the United Nationalist Alliance got 50,439 votes.
(WATCH: We weren't there for blood - Tupas)
But his father, Niel Tupas Sr, was not as lucky in the 4th district of Iloilo. He lost to Jun Biron, the son of incumbent Rep Ferj Biron.
The other LP members who were re-elected are Marikina Rep Romero "Miro" Quimbo and Oriental Mindoro Rep Rey Umali. Quimbo won by a landslide over his rival Albert Bocobo. Quimbo got 70,403 votes. Bocobo got 3,543 votes.
Re-elected Oriental Mindoro Rep Rey Umali was unopposed.
Umali became controversial during the Coronal trial because of the "Little Lady" who supposedly gave him a copy of Corona's specimen signature card with 10 account numbers showing he had at least P20-million deposited in Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) as of Dec 31, 2010. In his 2010 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, Corona declared only P3.5-M worth of “cash and investments.”
Umali made the senator-judges furious during the trial. They questioned how the prosecution was able to acquire what is supposed to be confidential information. Thus the "Little Lady" was exposed as Umali's unidentified source of information. (READ: The prosecution's original sin)
Looking back, Umali credits the "Little Lady" as the "single most important factor in the success of the prosecution."
"She helped us a lot. She helped us win the legal battle. Before the little lady came out, we were almost losing already. Wala na kami mailabas na ebidensiya," he said.
Corona's conviction made all their difficulties worth it, he said. "Our success far outweighs all the situation that we went through," he said.
Umali believes Corona's conviction contributed to the world's positive perception on the Philippines because it strengthened the Aquino administration's anti-corruption battle.
While the "ideal Supreme Court" has not been achieved, he recognized that there are "improvements."
The House prosecution panel was made up of Liberal Party members and its coalition partners in the House of Representatives. The other members belong to the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), Nacionalista Party (NP), National Unity Party (NUP), and various party list groups.
In the last elections, the LP did not field candidates against non-LP members of the prosecution panel.
Deputy chief prosecutor Rodolfo Fariñas of the Nacionalista Party (NP) ran unopposed as Ilocos Norte 1st district representative.
Pangasinan Rep Marly Agabas of the Nationalist People's Coalition also ran unopposed. It was a bitter rivalry between LP and NPC in Pangasinan for the gubernatorial post. But LP did not field a candidate against Agabas, the only district where LP did not challenge NPC.
Bayan Muna and Cibac were able to keep their seats in the House of Representatives. (READ: 53 'initial' party list winner proclaimed)
Bag-ao of Akbayan is returning to the House of Representatives as representative of newly created province Dinagat Islands.
Bag-ao defeated a member of the well-entrenched Ecleo clan - Gwen - by a margin of 3,248 votes. Bag-ao is the only one outside the Ecleo clan that won in the polls.
Bag-ao defeated Gwen Ecleo by a margin of 3,248 votes. (READ: Dinagat: Kaka cracks glass ceiling)
The LP helped her and expects her to eventually join the party.
Losses: Daza, Tañada
The only prosecutor who lost in the 2013 polls is Northern Samar Rep Raul Daza. It was a very close race. He lost to Nacionalista Party bet Harlin Abayon by only 52 votes.
Daza got 72,805 votes. Abayon got 72,857 votes.
Daza is an LP stalwart. He used to serve as the party's secretary-general.
The other heartache in the team is outgoing Quezon Rep Erin Tañada who wanted to run for senator but was not chosen by his own party to join its slate. (READ: Why Erin Tañada didn't make it to PNoy's slate)
Tañada's brother, Wigberto "Toby" Tañada Jr, also failed to win the polls to take over his seat in Congress. It was a close race with winner Helen Tan leading by only 400 votes.
Tan got 53,403 votes. Toby Tañada got 53,041 votes. The Tañadas are questioning the victory of Helen Tan because the ballot included the name of a disqualified candidate -- a certain Alvin John Tañada who got 4,735 votes. Comelec found out he wasn't a resident of the district.
“As clear as daylight, the only conclusion one can draw from this is that Alvin John Tañada was fielded to cause confusion among the voters," said Toby Tañada in a statement.
The Tañadas filed a petition before the Comelec to annul the proclamation of Tan. They want the Comelec to add the disqualified candidate's votes to Toby's numbers.
Lead private prosecutor Mario Bautista has since returned to his private practice. He's a lawyer for TV network ABS-CBN.
A few private prosecutors got government positions after the Coronal trial.
Lawyer Al Parenno was recently appointed Commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Lawyer Winston Ginez was also recently appointed head of the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
Lawyer Jose Justiniano was appointed member of board of the Development Bank of the Philippines.
Lawyer Marlon Manuel was appointed National Anti-Poverty Commission Vice Chair for Basic Sectors. - Rappler.com