MARIA RESSA: Hello and welcome I’m Maria Ressa. It is a historic day in the Philippines. The Senate sitting as an impeachment court has just concluded the 44-day trial and just now voted to impeach the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Renato Corona. Sitting with us is DLSU – the Dean of the Law School at De La Salle University, Jose Manuel Diokno. Chel, thank you so much for coming here, the vote 20 to 3 it’s a large vote.
CHEL DIOKNO: It’s overwhelming.
MARIA RESSA: How would you assess how this whole process has gone?
CHEL DIOKNO: I think that if you would look at the process, the trial at two levels – from the point of view of the legal perspective and the political. On the legal side, I think despite the difficulties they faced, the prosecution is somehow able to prove the case and they may have to thank the defense for that because in many ways the prosecution was able to prove the case through the evidence of the defense.
MARIA RESSA: It was actually the defense that introduced the evidence that was used against them. Tell me how can the defense make such a large …?
CHEL DIOKNO: Of course, it is easy to make this post mortems but there were probably a number of tactical mistakes made by the defense. One of them and probably most crucial was calling in the Ombudsman Morales to testify on the trial. And second of course is the decision of the Chief Justice himself to take the witness stand. It may have been a totally different story if Ombudsman Morales hadn’t testified and the Chief Justice had gone on the stand immediately. Who knows?
MARIA RESSA: This decision… does this mean now that the Ombudsman can continue doing what she did. This is a new way of going after public officials … and keeping them accountable…
CHEL DIOKNO: … one of them is the way that every public official should sign in their SALN that is a powerful tool.
MARIA RESSA: What about the Chief Justice, now the former Chief Justice. Its immediately executory, right?
CHEL DIOKNO: There is no motion for reconsideration … you see there’s no appeal…
MARIA RESSA: What happens next in terms of the justice system?
CHEL DIOKNO: Of course the President would have to deal with the vacancy in the court, to appoint a Justice and supply the Chief Justice.
MARIA RESSA: In the interim period the most senior justice takes over… temporarily.
CHEL DIOKNO: Temporarily… I think there are more… ratifications… one of them is the issue of transparency, access to the SALNs. Is the Supreme Court trying to keep its 23-year-old rule of restricting access? I think the Court should change that hopefully immediate besides this trial.
MARIA RESSA: … It seemed like when we were watching trial something just seemed wrong, the prosecution actually said that it would set a wrong precedence if Renato Corona’s interpretation of the FCDA taking precedence over the Constitution were to have been upheld. That seems an absurd argument now given this … but how could the learned men of the law have made such an argument?
CHEL DIOKNO: I really think that was the weak link, when the Chief Justice claimed that he had no obligation. In fact, that he could hide it because of the foreign currency law that is what we call an … mistake of fact sorry…
…a mistake of law there is a big difference between the mistake of fact and the mistake of law. As the Chief Justice, you have to know that the law makes no excuse, so if you made a mistake in interpreting the law. It’s different if you made a mistake of fact like if somebody entering your house that it’s a burglar then you will defend yourself … against that person. That is the defense. But the mistake of you understanding the law, especially in the trial of the Chief Justice that a big blunder…
MARIA RESSA: What’s next for Renato Corona? I mean he admitted that he has 2.4 million dollars. Senator Lacson claims it’s more …
CHEL DIOKNO: The ball is really in the Ombudsman and under the Constitution impeachment is only for removal so question now is if they will have any for the criminal prosecutions against the Chief Justice and that is really under the jurisdiction of Ombudsman Morales.
MARIA RESSA: You’ve long talked about the problems that the justice system has. How do you think this will filter down through the justice system when you talk…transparency what things could this mean?
CHEL DIOKNO: well first of all, the transparency not just the Supreme Court but all of the justice system, the judges in terms of declaring their assets and liabilities because the supreme court has very… so it’s not just them but everyone in the justice and judiciary will must be more transparent especially because… there are least accountable in the sense that they are not elected they are appointed… therefore they must show to people that they are doing their job…