Sunday, February 19, 2012

Corona's Censure: Clans, Causes, & Cases

As I have always mentioned before, my approach to the sensational issues of the day has always been from a genealogist's perspective. As a social historian, I always see current events as the cause of deep and sometimes dark events from the past. And in the midst of these events are people, and people usually mean family affairs.

The impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Coronado Corona, which has once again occupied our legislators and every one else with the daily proceedings, is a clear example of of the interconnectedness of families and events. And at the center of this impeachment trial is the question over the finances of the the chief justice and his wife, Cristina Basa Roco-Corona.

The Basa Family

Before he was thrust into the national limelight on May 12, 2010 when then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed him as the 23rd chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, Renato Corona had already entered the web of Philippine history. On November 7,1970 Corona married Cristina Basa Roco, whose maternal family, the Basas, was one of the most prominent families in Cavite and Manila; the Basa family is also known for their active involvement in the Philippine revolution against Spain.

The most renowned member of the family was Jose Maria Basa, a good friend of Jose Rizal. He smuggled copies of Rizal's novels, the Noli Me Tangere and the El Filibusterismo, to the Philippines and made his home in Hong Kong the base of operation for the revolutionaries.

(Partial Basa family tree)

Jose Ma. Basa was the son of Matias (Jose) Basa and Joaquina de San Agustin. He married Bernarda Panlaque and had seven children. One of these was Jose Basa, Jr. who later married Rosario Guidote. Cristina Basa Roco Corona is a granddaughter of Jose Ma. Basa and Rosario Guidote. So when Renato Corona married Cristina, he married into the entire history of the Basa family and the role they played in the country's past.

Court Cases

A peculirity in Cristina's family is their constant involvement in litigations; the current impeachment trials is just the tip of the iceberg in their unfolding history. When the Basa matriarch (and Cristina's grandmother), Rosario Guidote Basa, died in December 1983 the entire family started suing each other, with Cristina and her mother Asuncion Basa de Roco against the rest of the family. The family war has continued to this day. Cristina filed a libel suit against her uncle and aunt Jose Ma. Basa III and Randy G. Basa in 1997 where the court found the defendants guilty. In that same year Jose Ma. Basa III sent a letter to the Judicial and Bar Council to stop the nomination of Renato Corona as a possible contender for the position of associate justice.

Even their own ancestor, Jose Ma. Basa, was himself involved in a sensational litigation. After the death of Jose Rizal his widow, Josephine Bracken, filed a lawsuit against Rizal's family to claim her inheritance from her martyred husband. Included in her demands was that Jose Ma. Basa, who was entrusted by Rizal with his extensive and expensive library, surrender the books to her. When her lawyers served Basa with the demand, Basa simply asked for proof of marriage between Rizal and Bracken, the matter was no longer pursued further.

Causes

It cannot be denied that the Basa family has already earned their mark in Philippine history, at least in terms of Jose Ma. Basa's contribution to the revolution. His descendants, however, have not been as discreet as he was in their feuds.

However it also appears that another clan, case, and cause has been in the midst of Corona's impeachment. The embattled chief justice maintains that the entire impeachment trial is all about the Cojuangco family's desire to have the Hacienda Luisita ruling reversed. President Aquino claims otherwise.

Who knows?

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