The impeachment trial droned on and on. Again and again, the prosecution was given the chance to nail the case, only to fail miserably again and again as it dilly-dallies with dubious evidence, unreliable witnesses and public display of hubris devoid of any leverage. Even in the eyes of a layman, it’s not hard to deduce that the result of this controversial trial will hardly change, even with the five-week break declared by the Senate to pave way for the Lenten season. Given the already battered reputation of the ragtag team of prosecutors and the “Noynoying” epidemic, it’s only a matter of time before this pile of shame accumulated by the Aquino administration collapses on themselves, effectively bringing down the “Daang Matuwid” demagogue of our beloved president, together with its twisted dreams of personal vendetta.
However, the Aquino administration, together with its cohorts, might just be tougher than we give them credit for. Despite the decaying public image of the Yellow brigade in their cartoonish campaign against the “evil” respondent Chief Justice Renato Corona, these folks may haven’t run out of dirt to throw just yet.
Recently, blogger-journalist Raissa Robles dug up some serious dirt that can potentially damage the reputation of the respondent.
“A journalist and blogger has sought the help of her readers in the US to help her determine the identity of a certain ‘Renato C. Corona’ whom she says US public records have linked to properties in Tampa, Florida and Mountain View, California.
“In her blog, Raissa Robles said the records turned up a ‘Renato C. Corona’, aged 63, with his “most recent address” at 1401 Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.”
Undoubtedly, the said journalist has done something truly worthy of your good ol’ local tabloids; make some major scoop and stir the masses by digging on an individual’s personal life. As if turning the whole issue into some sort of a mediocre showbiz gossip, Raissa Robles posed a rhetorical question to her readers:
“You might say there are many Renato Coronas in the world. You would probably be right. There’s a long list of them in California alone.
“But how many Renato Coronas in the world have ‘C’ as their middle initial; are 63 years old; was born in October 1948; and have relatives named Cristina, Carla, Francis and Charina?”
In an attempt to substantiate her mud-slinging hypothesis, Robles acknowledged her very trustworthy sources; an anonymous person under the name of “Yvonne,” and Tomas Gomez, a former Philippine consul general to the United States.
According to her, the data gathered by her associates (the manner of which is yet to be confirmed) corroborate the respondent’s personal information:
“She added that she, Yvonne and former Philippine consul general to the US Tomas Gomez “separately confirmed that not only do the names of Chief Justice Corona’s children match those of the Renato C. Corona found in US public records. The ages of the children are also a perfect match.”
Quoting an excerpt from a feature story on the Corona couple, Robles wrote: “According to Renato and Cristina Corona, their first-born child Carla was born in 1972 which makes her 40 years old today; Francis was born in 1977 which makes him 35 years old today; and Charina was born in 1978 which makes her 34 years old today.”
‘This data matches the ages obtained by People Smart and Intelius. Both sites are sort of digital detectives that draw information on individuals from US public records.’”
Truly, Robles has really outdone herself this time. However, despite her seemingly revelatory discovery, several skeptical “netizens” have offered their contentions with the journalist’s findings. Several of them even have problems with Robles’ suggestion that the respondent might own property at Tampa, Florida at all. One of the “netizens” even warned the journalist about the dangers of baseless accusations:
“And another named Johnny Lin cautioned:
Tampa bay does not make sense to buy as vacation house since Charina lives in CA.
Charina lived in Mountain View in 2008 then the Roseville property was bought in 2008. Mountain View is about 3-4 hours drive from Roseville. That is probably when Charina changed work place in 2008 but it appears to be a condo complex. It is not a beach home so it is not a vacation home.
Baka makuryente kayo pag sinabi ninyo na me property si Corona sa US. Research muna natin itong Roseville. Pag nabiling cash, yun pwedeng hanapin kung kayang bayaran ni Charina dahil nung 2009 binili din niya cash ang McKinley condo.”
However, transcending the curious speculations surrounding this dubious fishing expedition of Robles and friends is the moral ground upon which their actions were based. In Robles’ article, she was quick to defend herself in saying:
“No, I’m not saying that CJ Corona OWNS Bayshore or has a house in Mountain View. Heavens, no.”
Still, there is an underlying principle that can somehow shed some light into the legitimacy of Robles’ actions, which can, in turn, shed light into her credibility as a journalist.
Were her actions journalistic?
She fastidiously clings to her claim that she is a passionate investigative journalist, but what she did was comparable to what your showbiz paparazzi would do, which is quite frankly, unbecoming of someone who is supposed to inform people about the politics of society… which brings me to refresh my memory of the journalists’ code of ethics as adopted by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. Here are some points worth pondering about.
(Source of ethics: Link)
“III. I shall resort only to fair and honest methods in my effort to obtain news, photographs and/or documents, and shall properly identify myself as a representative of the press when obtaining any personal interview intended for publication.”
Her abiding by the third code is yet to be proven, given the highly dubious sources she utilized in publishing this “news.” However, even with the limited information we have on our hands right now, we can at least come up with a few insightful speculations regarding the legitimacy of her actions. Here I have an excerpt the terms of service of Intelius, the information agency Robles made use of in her cyberspace espionage.
1. General Restrictions.
You agree to use our information only for appropriate, legal purposes, and in compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. Additionally, you agree that our databases and information may not be used to bother, stalk, harass, threaten or embarrass any individual. You may not use the service to look up celebrities or other public persons, or to locate individuals under the age of 18. Information shall not be provided or resold to any other person or entity without our prior written consent. All searches of our databases are tracked, and (as noted below) you consent to such tracking and to the provision of all information about your use of our databases to law enforcement and others as may be useful to respond to allegations that our service or information has been misused.
2. Additional Restrictions.
In the event of using this service for criminal or civil background checks, you should not assume that this data provides a complete or accurate history of any person’s criminal or civil history. You should consult state and federal laws before using this information in making decisions on hiring or firing of employees. Intelius cannot offer legal advice on how to use the information contained in criminal or civil background reports, and is not responsible for any action taken by the customer based on this information. Customers should use extreme caution when interpreting the results of a criminal or civil background search for any type of personal verification. Positive or false matches in criminal or civil searches may not provide confirmation of an individual’s criminal or civil background. Proper use of these reports is the responsibility of you, the customer.
Upon reading the legal terms, several questions inevitably come to mind:
1. What, again, was the intention of Robles and company in trying so hard to obtain sensitive information?
2. Were they able to preserve the trust between Intelius and themselves, its clients?
3. Did they consider the implications of the agency’s open admission of the uncertainty of the accuracy of the documents in their database?
4. Did they consider the consequences of misinterpreting one’s reputation, especially that of the respondent, given the records obtained from the Internet?
As a self-proclaimed “investigative journalist,” it is only imperative that you think things through before publishing any material that can implicate somebody, especially if that somebody is standing on trial, wouldn’t you agree? After all, a journalist’s job is to inform, not to mystify.
“IV. I shall refrain from writing reports that will adversely affect a private reputation unless the public interest justifies it. At the same time, I shall fight vigorously for public access to information.”
Given the frenzy of the Yellow masses to implicate the respondent at all costs, no matter how dirty the tactics may be, she might just pass through the test of the fourth code and justify the questionable claim of her being a journalist, if not for the fact that she’s at odds with the other codes to begin with.
“VIII. I shall presume persons accused of crime of being innocent until proven otherwise. I shall exercise caution in publishing names of minors and women involved in criminal cases so that they may not unjustly lose their standing in society.”
…Now we’re talking. Given the calloused and snide comments towards the respondent, encompassing even his loved ones and relatives, one can only wonder on whether she really fits the title she bestowed upon herself.
Truly, this unexpected turn of events once again proved how far someone can go in the name of a very juicy scoop. Publishing news based on unverified data, running at odds with the TOS of an agency you yourself made use of, and risking violation of journalistic ethics, it’s no wonder why more and more people question the credibility of this “investigative journalist.” And it’s no wonder how low the Philippine brand of journalism has sunk throughout the years, trying to make a shameful travesty of investigative reporting.
Quoting renowned fictional detective Sherlock Holmes:
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”