Corona’s final decision on Hacienda Luisita
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - April 29, 2018 - 12:00am

Today we celebrate the 2nd death anniversary of Chief Justice Corona.  There are many stories on why President Noynoy Aquino vented his anger on him. He was Chief Justice when the Supreme Court penned the “final” decision on Hacienda Luisita. To this day despite that “final” decision nothing has been done to implement it.

The Corona court’s unanimous, final and executory decision ruled that the 4,916-hectare Hacienda Luisita be distributed among some 6,000 farmer-beneficiaries.

The en banc ruling also ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Land Bank of the Philippines to determine the just compensation for the original owners, the Cojuangco family.

The court voted 8-6 to compensate the landowners based on Nov. 21, 1989 valuation instead of 2006 rates.

The 2006 rates would have meant a P5 billion payment to the Cojuangcos, while the 1989 valuation would amount to around P200 million.

In the resolution, the SC warned, “Even though the compensation due to HLI will still be preliminarily determined by DAR and LBP…the fact that the reckoning point of ‘taking’ is already fixed at a certain date should already hasten the proceedings and not further cause undue hardship on the parties, especially the qualified farmworker beneficiaries.”

The high court said “this Resolution is declared FINAL and EXECUTORY. The entry of judgment of said decision shall be made upon the time of the promulgation of this Resolution…No further pleadings shall be entertained in this case.”

Based on the document, the resolution was promulgated also on April 24, 2012.

President Noynoy Aquino became the laughing stock of Cojuangco friends and relatives. The conditions for the sale of Hacienda Luisita stipulated that after a period of development the sugar land in Tarlac should be given back to the farmers.  Through several administrations since the time of the sale were able to delay the implementation. It would be the height of irony if the Cojuangco family lost Hacienda Luisita when Noynoy Aquino became President. That really burst his ego. He was so piqued with Corona he refused to take his oath to the Chief Justice which has been the tradition.

During Corona’s impeachment trial a press conference held at Kalayaan Hall of Club Filipino was called by the lawyers of Corona to publicly reveal that money was on offer to the senatorial judges who would help in impeaching Corona.

There were first-hand accounts from senators of the money on offer. We don’t really know how much money was on offer but those who had first-hand knowledge “if Sunday was the dinner at which the senators will agree on their vote and Monday was the day of decision the money needed would have to be in cash.” Who provided it? The suspicion was only Napoles would have that amount of cash to distribute among the senators the night before.

Corruption will never be solved by more corruption. Indeed corruption would be reinforced if the Senate would go along with the executive strategy of using extralegal methods to impose its will. That is the bottom line of Corona’s impeachment trial. It will only increase corruption if we allow the arrogance of power to take the place of strengthening our institutions. It is the formula for impunity.

A perceptive friend said to me during the defense press conference at the full packed Kalayaan Hall at Club Filipino that CJ Renato Corona could be god-send. We have grown too complacent, too laid back to care about change toward good government. We think it will just happen without our active participation.

The presidential system we have does not help us select good leaders. We need systemic change. It would be tragic if we were to be carried away by still another siren song.

So why did President Obama praise Aquino for what he did to Corona? I can only guess but Corona was President Gloria Arroyo’s appointee for chief justice of the Supreme Court. The US did not have a special liking for Arroyo who had begun to move closer to China.

On Corona’s impeachment, Obama said “Aquino recently won a major battle in his campaign against corruption with the sacking of the country’s top judge. Aquino also agreed to let more US troops rotate – but not be based – in the Philippines despite the historical baggage,” President Obama said in welcoming him.

In a three-hour speech, Corona was given a chance to have a say. Among others he mentioned the following.         

The senator judges were unmoved. Being a diabetic, Corona nearly fainted during speech. There was a moment when he stood up because he did not want to faint in front of  his senator judges. The doors of the Senate were ordered closed by the Senate President in case Corona tried to escape.

Here are some of the things he said in the trial.

“Throughout my public career, I have never been involved in any anomaly or scandal. Whatever assets my wife and I have acquired are products of 45 years of toil and honest work.

“My wife and I have been privileged to come from families of comfortable means. We grew up never lacking in anything and even enjoyed some luxuries. We earned our academic degrees in some of the best exclusive schools in the country. I went on to earn several postgraduate degrees, including a Master’s degree in Harvard Law School. Our parents provided well for our future. Family resources continue to be available to us anytime.

“I have had very successful career in the private sector where I was a top executive before I joined the government. That is public record.

“It pains me to see my family suffer the reckless abandon of a few who want to paint a different Renato C. Corona. I will not allow a career carefully nurtured and a family lovingly cared for in my lifetime to be tarnished by people in the business of lies and falsehoods.

“What my wife and I have is the fruit of hard and honest work for which all taxes have been fully paid. Since the Prosecution alleged wrongdoing, the obligation to prove it is theirs and theirs alone. Do not extract it from me through means that are foul, coercive and illegal because this can only mean one thing: YOU DID NOT HAVE ANY IOTA OF EVIDENCE AGAINST ME WHEN YOU FILED THE IMPEACHMENT COMPLAINT.

“For the Prosecution to enlist the assistance of certain patently partisan and inquisitorial Senator-Judges to help obtain the evidence you are digging up only now, is ruthless, unchristian and unrelenting public persecution through trial by publicity against my family and I.

Itong impeachment trial na ito ay isang huwad, isang paghihiganti ng sukdulan at kahiya-hiyang tangka na pigilin ang pagbabahagi ng lupain sa Hacienda Luisita.”

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