Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fiat justitia ruat coelum

So cliche, but as they say, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. And so it came to pass that the guilty verdict (20-3) was finally declared and imposed on impeached Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. But there was no allegorical fat lady singing before the curtains fell and the lights went out. There was no mysterious singing “small lady” either that would upstage her. It was the blindfolded Lady Justice who sang loud and clear. Her song: “Fiat justitia ruat coelum.” Let justice be done though the heavens fall.
It was a solemn, operatic moment, if you ask me, with the senator-judges’ crimson velvet robes providing theatrical sheen and drama. Add the chorus of masa voices outside. So I just had to have my bottle of wine and pizza to-go. I chose Tribeca mushroom instead of Corona chicken salsa pizza (yes, that’s on the order menu). And—I couldn’t help turning it on—the slow, splendorous sound of “Casta Diva” (from the opera “Norma”) emanating from the awesome pipes of Maria Callas. Temper, oh Goddess, the hardening of your ardent spirits/ Temper your bold zeal/ Scatter peace across the earth/Thou make reign in the sky…
Ahh, what a comforting sound… Turn it on… and soar. It had been a messy five months down here.

Now it is time to pack up and go back to our everyday routine, but we carry loads of lessons to be pondered by us citizens, whether in public office or the private sector. Be honest, be transparent, possess only what rightfully belongs to you—not a peso or a square meter more. Fear God who is very forgiving but also fear the just laws put in place for all to follow, and fear the punitive outcomes if you deliberately break them. Listen to the inner voice that tells you what is right. When caught, own up and make reparations. Remember what you learned in kindergarten.

What does it profit a man if he amasses great wealth and gains power but in the end falls in disgrace and drags his family into the pit of dishonor? The afterlife is another story.

When confronted, guilty individuals almost always make paawa or palusot by calling attention to the pain and shame their families go through. As if their families are being punished when in fact it was they who brought the collateral damage upon their loved ones, pets included. So before you engage in something disgraceful, think of your family, the younger generation especially, who will carry shame in their middle names and surnames.

Speaking of families, many are wondering what to make of the Basa beso-beso that happened a few days before the last day of the impeachment trial. The Inquirer used four dramatic photos (two on the front page and two inside) of the so-called “reconciliation” between the feuding Basa heirs—the Chief Justice’s wife Cristina Corona on one side and the aggrieved children of Jose Ma. Basa III and Mario Basa on the other side. The assets of the Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. (BGEI) had figured in a major way in the impeachment trial, with Corona using the BGEI bank assets to explain his unexplained failure to declare his enormous wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

The BGEI issue sprung up like mushrooms in the wilderness during a thunderstorm. A long-simmering family feud then unfolded like an afternoon telenovela.

Several times, US-based Ana, one of the nine children of the late Jose Ma. III, bared to the media how her family had suffered—there was a libel suit, loss of property, etc.—because of the Coronas. Mario Basa’s wife Cecilia and daughter Betsy were among those accused of libel by Cristina. Also accused was the only surviving direct Basa heir, Sr. Flor Maria Basa, FMM, alert and clear-headed at 90. The case ran for years.

The Chief Justice appeared in court on the 40th day of the trial and delivered his almost uninterrupted three-hour “opening statement.” He got back at the Basas and spoke unkindly of his dead uncle-in-law, Jose Ma. III. Jose Ma. Basa’s daughters immediately held a press conference and tearfully defended their father while the Chief Justice wheelchaired his way to the hospital.

The Chief Justice was back for the second and last time last Friday, four days before judgment day. Then theater. Stunned were the trial participants and spectators when the feuding Basas kissed, embraced and shed tears in full view of the cameras. What happened? What was that about? Who choreographed and arranged this drama? What was the motive? Why here (in court), why now (at the trial’s end)?

It was both planned and spontaneous, I was told. But it unfolded in such a melodramatic way that it raised eyebrows and ugly questions. It looked orchestrated as if it was meant to desperately airbrush the image of the Chief Justice whose last-minute appearance, utterances and hostile defense witness (the feisty Ombudsman no less) proved his undoing.

“Not here, not here,” was a Basa’s reaction to the imminent display of reconciliation. “But everything happened so fast.” All she heard was Cristina cooing, “I feel so good.” It didn’t feel so good when the Basas were swarmed by the media as they were leaving the court. “It was traumatic,” my source said. They were hard put explaining.

So what was that all about? It is none of our business? It is our business to know because the Basas had called on the media several times to air their side on the disputed BGEI shares and on the family feud that ran for decades. Then all of a sudden “reconciliation” happened and the media were left in the dark. Who would not want a reconciliation—a genuine one?

The verdict on the Chief Justice has been handed down. As to the telenovela, if it does not end with this generation, there is always the next. Though the heavens fall.