MANILA, Philippines – On the eve of the resumption of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona after a 2-week break, his critics continue to seek divine intervention and appeal for vigilance in the quest for “truth and accountability.”
Non-government organizations and volunteer groups allied with President Benigno Aquino III gathered for a mass at the San Jose Seminary inside the Ateneo de Manila University Loyola Heights campus on Sunday, March 11.
In a statement, organizers presented 3 “fundamental issues” that Filipinos should “individually and collectively reflect” on as the Corona trial resumes on Monday, March 12:
- the Chief Justice’s character and moral integrity;
- truth and accountability, particularly on calls for the opening of his Statement of Assests, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) and foreign currency accounts;
- if he still enjoys public trust
“We call on everyone to listen to various voices and opinions, reflect on these 3 fundamental issues and share their stands regarding the impeachment in the coming days and weeks,” according to the statement read after the mass by Raquel Garcia of the Yellow Ribbon Movement.
The “Misa para sa Katotohanan: A Prayer Gathering For Truth and Vigilance on the Impeachment Trial” was organized by the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), a Jesuit-led network of religious leaders and lay workers, as well as a number of sectoral groups and organizations that actively campaigned for Aquino in the 2010 presidential elections.
The 3-page statement also called on religious leaders to engage the public in a “respectful discourse” on the issues, for senator-judges to remain “fair” and keep the “welfare of the Filipino people in mind,” and for Supreme Court Justices to “take a more cooperative stance” in dealing with the impeachment court.
In his homily, Jesuit priest Victor de Jesus pointed out that he will deliberately evade issuing politically-related statements for fear he might “do a Father Arevalo.”
Fr Catalino Arevalo, Jesuit theologian and spiritual adviser of the late President Corazon Aquino, was criticized for using the pulpit to admonish Senator-judge Miriam Santiago. Media reports have said Arevalo alluded to Santiago when he spoke in his homily about one who was “worthy of the fires of hell,” after she called impeachment prosecutors gago (fool) during the trial.
“I am worried that I might end up like Fr. Arevalo, whose statements were merely sensationalized by the media,” de Jesus said, while joking about the presence of a number of media men during the mass “who are waiting for me say something controversial.”
Among those who attended the mass were Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Quezon City Rep. Jorge “Bolet” Banal, and Akbayan Rep. Kaka Bag-ao.
“We are looking for forward to the presentation of evidence by the defense and most importantly, what the Chief Justice and his wife have to say, in case they will agree to take the witness stand,” politician-activist Rissa Hontiveros said.
“We will also continue to push for the opening of the Corona’s dollar accounts,” Hontiveros added.
Support for Sister Flory
A number of nuns belonging to the Association of the Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) were also present during the mass and expressed their support for Sister Flory Basa, whose family is caught in a public row with Corona’s wife, Cristina.
The 90-year old nun recently spoke to media about the family feud.
“Definitely, we are behind her. It is her right to speak up,” AMRSP co-executive secretary Sister Flolyn Catungal told Rappler.
“(Sister Flory and the Coronas) know the truth since they are family. They know the real story,” the nun said.
Hontiveros said that the idea of comparing Sister Flory to Clarissa Ocampo, the star witness of the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada, “can really sound exciting.”
“By all indications, the defense panel will use the Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc, to cite as source of the unexplained wealth of the Chief Justice and Mrs Corona,” Hontiveros said.
“But Sister Flory’s unimpeachable credibility and testimony could have dealt a death blow to the defense strategy,” she stressed.
During past interviews last week, the Chief Justice, Mrs Corona and even Sister Flory, have expressed willingness to testify in the impeachment court.
Sister Flory, however, has expressed concern over her health since testifying before the court can be stressful for her frail condition. She is 90. – Rappler.com