BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Saturday, June 2, 2012

In the land of the absurd

It was an ordinary Saturday, another work day in this struggling journalist's life. The nanny was on vacation. But I woke up to find several missed calls on my phone. And then e-mails. It was four days to go before the historic 44th day of Renato Corona's impeachment trial, where in a blue-carpeted chamber, twenty men and women in robes would convict the embattled chief justice  for betrayal of public trust.

This ranking government official asked to see me. He offered to have me fetched by a driver, saying he had important documents to show me.

I obliged after dropping off the little girl in my mother's place. Jes and I drove to that posh village of the rich and famous, the billionaire's club where my car had been banned since two years ago and where even its shadow would be denied entry.

We passed the backdoor and in a few minutes, in between bites of the green mango and bagoong served us, found ourselves staring at Corona's millions of dollar and peso deposits. There it was: the 17-page report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council that a fuming Ombudsman named Conchita Carpio-Morales presented in the impeachment court a few days before.

The story, said the official is that the man did not have just $2.4 million in dollar deposits but at least $3.2 million as seen from this withdrawal transactions.  An analysis of the report, which the prosecution would present the following Monday, also showed that Corona's transactional balance from 2003 to 2011 added up to $11.9 million. How the official obtained the document is obvious.

It was a story with enough news value and I wrote it the way I believed it should be written. Other media outfits carried it. It was the first impeachment-related story I wrote.

However, I had been hooked since day one.

What I found alarming in this whole political exercise is how the king of the yellow army, the man who, in his grand speech when he became president promised that past wrongs would be corrected and that he would lead by example, used all his power to impeach a man who went against his will. And in a stark and telling contrast, this king refused to sign his own waiver for his bank accounts, contrary to a campaign promise he made.

There lies the height of hypocrisy and the ultimate example of a broken promise. It is absurd to say the least. Even the prosecution panel refused to do so. And most of the 188 congressmen behind the impeachment complaint dismissed it as theatrics.

And in what would be another absurd twist of fate, a lawmaker would be revered and respected as among the best in the prosecution because of his "palusot-filled" speech, erasing in people's collective memory that he, according to his dead wife, was a wife-beater. His wife jumped to her death years ago.

Renato Corona and his defense panel gave a good fight and to me, he showed the public how a president did everything in his power to remove him. The votes have been cast and the anointed ones are now counting their blessings.

What is the catch at the end of it all remains to be seen.

I would not be surprised if by some political maneuvering or yet another trick from the yellow army, the Corona-led Supreme Court's historic decision on Hacienda Luisita would be reversed.

And that, in my view, is more audacious that keeping $11 million in dollar deposits and withholding it from  one's statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) because of one's interpretation of the law.

I remember a frustrated female peasant's words one morning in December when we visited Hacienda.

"Ito ang tuwid na daan, hindi namin makuha ang aming lupa." She laughed at the irony and with her sun-roasted hands covered with tattered clothes went back to toiling the grassy patch of earth, here in the land of the absurd.