The Philippine Senate voted 20-3 to convict Corona. Turns out the vote wasn’t even particularly close. Moreover, 2 out of the 3 senators who voted to acquit were either Marcos or Arroyo relatives. Here’s an article summarizing the vote. I’ll write more once the fallout is clear.
And if you were confused about the complex accusations against Corona, here is an article summarizing the legal case.
More polls from the Philippines. According to Pulse Asia, 58% of respondents disapproved of Chief Justice Corona’s job performance, while only 14% approved. Moreover, just 11% trust him. Moreover, both numbers dropped precipitously from November 2011, when the impeachment case against the chief justice began.
While Filipinos are notoriously cynical when it comes to politicians, it’s worth comparing those numbers to President Aquino’s, who received a 70% performance rating. Given these numbers, I just don’t see politically how the chief justice can survive. Senators in the Philippines are elected on a national basis, so I’m sure they’ll take note of these numbers when they vote on the impeachment case in the next few weeks.
I’ve included a convenient table below summarizing the survey results (click to enlarge):
We know the Senate is expected to vote on the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona fairly soon. Moreover, some lawmakers are now claiming that Corona’s omission of assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth constitutes a per se impeachable offense. The most definitive statements seem to be coming from the House, so they’re not necessarily dispositive of the views of them majority of senators. Nonetheless, the trial thus far hasn’t given Corona’s defenders much to work with.
Perhaps more importantly it seems Filipinos themselves are finding their own conclusions about the trial. According to a recent survey, 58% will accept any Senate decision regarding the outcome of the case. Around half of respondents viewed the chief justice as guilty, while 43% remain uncertain. Based on Manila’s distaste for Arroyo, I suspect Manila residents are more likely than not to consider Corona guilty, so if he is convicted we probably won’t see any attempts to launch a People’s Power movement against the administration. However, if Corona is acquitted, I wouldn’t be surprised if Philippine politics gets a bit more contentious.
Of course, there’s always been a large potential conflict of interest underlying the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. Namely, President Aquino would have a chance to appoint another justice to the court if he succeeds. However, two recent articles raise other possible conflicts of interest. The Supreme Court of course decided the fate of the Aquino family’s plantation in Hacienda Luisita. President Aquino adamantly denies any connection and points out that impeachment started with the Supreme Court’s decisions on Arroyo and the TRO. Second, and perhaps more interesting, Chief Justice Corona has accused Justice Carpio’s old firm (commonly known as “The Firm”) as behind the “black propaganda” against him. Of course, should Corona be removed, Carpio would probably be his successor. The Firm denies any involvement in the impeachment, but the accusations do raise the question of whether Carpio can keep his hands entirely clean in this whole affair.
Prosecutors in the impeachment trial against Chief Justice Corona announced that the chief justice had favored Arroyo in 80% of the 31 cases involving the former president. While likely to be damning in the public eye, it’s worth thinking about what those numbers actually mean. First of all, on average one would expect a the average unbiased judge to vote 50% in favor of any random plaintiff in a borderline case, so Corona voted 30% (80% – 50%) more often in favor of Arroyo than one might expect. The first question is whether that difference is meaningful, given that there were only 31 cases in the sample. The difference is large enough that it should be statistically significant, although one would also want to consider other factors that might account for the difference.
Moreover, of course judges are not unbiased, plaintiffs are not random, and not all legal claims are borderline. It’s difficult to assess the numbers without a sense of the underlying merit of the cases. How many of those cases were split decisions in controversial cases, as opposed to unanimous opinions in rather mundane cases? Also, we would also have to compare Corona’s voting pattern to other justices on the court. If the majority had a similar vote pattern, Corona wouldn’t be such an exception.
Finally, if the prosecution is right and Corona favors Arroyo, why would he vote against her in 20% of cases? Again, we’d want to be sure that 20% is statistically significant, but it still must be explained. After all, if Corona was so loyal to Arroyo, why vote against her at all? It would be interesting to find out more about those cases.
In U.S. law, prosecutors are generally not allowed to use general statistical patterns as evidence. This announcement shows why. While Corona might have been unduly loyal to Arroyo, the headline oversimplifies the situation.
I have reposted the article below:
MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Renato Corona favored 80 percent of the 31 cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Supreme Court (SC), a prosecutor said yesterday.
On questioning of Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza said these are among the pieces of evidence that will show Corona betrayed public trust as stated in Article 7 of the impeachment complaint.
“It turned out that there are 31 cases involving (former President) Arroyo,” he said.
“Chief Justice Corona voted 80 percent in favor, more or less. 20 percent is not in favor.”
Daza said the SC under the influence of Corona issued decisions very fast involving Arroyo’s cases.
“Mabilis pa sa alas dose (Faster than 12 o’clock),” he said.
There’s been no shortage of rude words between Chief Justice Corona and President Aquino. As the impeachment trial against Corona has progressed, the Senate has focused on his SALN and allegations of corruption. Now, the chief justice has responded by challenging the president to release his psychological records. According to PhilStar, Corona said that the President has an obligation to assure the public that their leader is “in his right mind.” Harsh words! I can’t imagine that the relationship will ever be repaired if Corona escapes impeachment.
I haven’t written much about the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona in the Philippines partly because events are moving so quickly that it’s hard to post anything without it becoming obsolete the next day. Nonetheless, the main development now seems to be that prosecutors have found inconsistencies on Corona’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) (for an overview of the charges, see here and here). This alone is an impeachable offense. Other allegations of corruption have arisen, including misappropriation of World Bank project funds (see the World Bank memo asking for the return of 8.6 million pesos here).
While I’ve been following the news pretty closely, I certainly don’t recall any discussion of corruption as the basis for impeachment before the House voted last December. While these allegations of corruption certainly paint a disturbing picture of Corona’s chief justiceship, I’m surprised that the trial has moved in this direction rather than focusing on the stated basis for impeachment, namely Corona’s decisions. I hope the focus on real crimes means that the Philippines can minimize the damage the impeachment trial will have on judicial independence. If future judges see this impeachment as the legitimate removal of a corrupt official rathe than a politically motivated attack then all the better. However, while judges don’t often state their positions publicly, what I’ve seen in news reports is that judges are sticking by their chief justice – at least for now.