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(Opening statement of former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona during the “A Call to Conscience” Forum; 6:00 p.m., June 7, 2012, Makati City.)
A blessed evening to everyone.
In my first written public statement since the promulgation of the decision of the Impeachment Court, I already lengthily expressed my deepest gratitude and appreciation at the overwhelming show of concern and support that I have received from family, friends, and strangers alike. I made sure to mention each and every person and group I could think of: the Lord God Almighty; my family and friends; my colleagues and co-workers in the Judiciary; my defense team; the doctors, nurses and other hospital staff of the Medical City; the members of the press; and all of my supporters both here and abroad. I thought that circumstances and time, especially given the outcome of the trial, would eventually exhaust the list of reasons and the people I have to thank for seeing me and my family through our most difficult ordeal to date.
I was wrong.
Though half a year has been spent trying and testing the metes and bounds of what I can endure not just as a Chief Justice and a public figure, but ultimately as a human being: a husband, a father, and a grandfather to a family, I surprise both myself and the people around me as I continue to find reasons to be thankful for having been placed exactly where I am at this very moment: at the cusp of a rebirth of the Filipino nation and its consciousness.
History has proven that human greatness lies not in individual accomplishments and feats for personal fulfillment and vainglory, but in the innate capacity of every person to be an instrument for social justice, revolution and change. This is the path that I have tread since the day I first served as Chief Magistrate of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, a weary and often obstacle-laden path towards the highest protection of human rights, especially of the marginalized and the oppressed; the equalization of Philippine society through uplifting the claim of the poor and the landless to genuine agrarian reform; the active reform of our courts and court processes; and the courageous and continuous upliftment of true and meaningful democracy, judicial independence, and the rule of law.
And I thought that was enough, more than enough even: to nobly serve the judiciary and the Filipino people through a prolific judicial career within the confines of public office. I thought it my destiny to culminate my decades-long government service by leading the Judiciary in the faithful and honest performance of my tasks as Chief Justice, before graciously and peacefully retiring into the comfort and safety of private life with my wife, children, and beloved grandchildren.
However, in the course of the past six months, I have struggled to catch every single blow in defense not just of myself but of the institution that I have sworn to uphold and defend. And as opposing forces struck again and again in an unbounded challenge on my leadership and on my professional and personal integrity, it became apparent that the goal was, in reality, not just to remove a Chief Justice from office, but to seize control of a co-equal and coordinate branch of government in derogation of every constitutional principle our ancestors have fought and died for. The animalistic ferocity of the accusations and persecution, coupled with the seeming lack of attention and respect given to constitutional and legal rights and procedures, gave it all away.
I thought that I could endure no more, and that I could no longer risk subjecting my family, loved ones, and all who support me and my cause to further undeserved pain. As a man well into the autumn of my existence, upon the verdict handed down by the Impeachment Court, I thought that for everyone's sake, that would and should be the end of it all.
But now I realize that this in fact is just the beginning. This may well be the point of all that I have suffered, along with my family and the Philippine Judiciary. This may be the stark destiny that has eluded our individual and collective consciousness amidst the haze of pain brought about by this impeachment trial. Tested by fire, acceptance should be followed by transcendence if one is ever to spin heartache and suffering into gold.
The verdict is for me to step down from office. It is not for me to give up the fight for the rule of law, judicial independence, and transparency in government service. In the grand scheme of things, history will be the ultimate judge of all that has transpired. My path may have veered away significantly from where it once was, but the destination is still the same, even clearer now than it was before. I have suspected early on that certain issues underlie those that have been actually tried that are bigger and much more fundamental than who or what we all are. I now see that as painful as the process and the result has been for me and my family, this had to happen, and I embrace this unprecedented turn of events as an indispensable catalyst for much needed social and political change.
After all is said and done, it turns out that I have much to be thankful for after all.
Standing this time on the side of the governed, I claim my right to challenge all of you to be faithful representatives of the true sovereign. We deserve nothing less.
As a private citizen, I reiterate my call to all public servants to take up the challenge for true transparency and accountability through an outright waiver of confidentiality on the part of each and every public official. That was what the people wanted from the Chief Justice, and that was what he readily gave: no ifs, no buts, just an unconditional promise to recognize that sovereignty is lodged in the people, who deserve nothing but the highest standards of governance and accountability.
We are in a time of great revolution in the demands, nature and culture of public service. Never let it be said that amidst this historic call for change and conscience, our public servants have stood aside and refused to undertake the challenge for transparency and accountability. Now, more than ever, I feel the direct stake of the people in our constitutional principles, rights and processes.
Thank you, and may God continue to bless us all.