Two wishes for Senator-Judges
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-01-31
Your Chair Wrecker has formed a wish list for the impeachment trial, which is culled from my own impressions and feedback many folks have manifested to me through Facebook, email and text message. These wishes are, as follows:

Code of conduct for Senator-Judges

After that uncalled for and unjustifiable outburst of Senator-Judge Miriam D. Santiago last Thursday, Presiding Officer Juan Ponce-Enrile (JPE) admonished Senator-Judges: “I would like to caution my colleagues to exercise greater civility in dealing with the witnesses, with the lawyers on both sides, as well as with one another in the Senate.” JPE added: “As much as possible we should control our emotions so that we can perform our work in such a manner that there’s no impression that we are for or against anyone.”

Santiago had shouted and humiliated Prosecution Private Lawyer Arthur Lim. Santiago had demeaned the impeachment process. By occasionally flying off the handle, she tends to revive that issue of mental stability that was raised against her during the 1992 presidential campaign. Even if Lim had overstepped his bounds, Santiago’s shouting at him and telling him “I’m tired of hearing your voice” reeks of gangster bullying, not the exchanges in an impeachment trial.

Those seeking a conviction of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona were saying that compared to Senator-Judge Frank Drilon’s alleged aiding of the prosecution, Santiago’s outburst was perceived as an extension of her defense of Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). Many see CJ Corona as GMA’s protective shield from conviction.

Drilon only accidentally brought out the CJ’s SALN (Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net worth) from the SC Clerk of Court and merely clarified the ruling on Article II, paragraph 2-4 (about ill-gotten wealth). Santiago can never justify her outburst. She had no right to trample upon another person’s dignity. Drilon did not know that the SC Clerk of Court brought with her the CJ’s SALN. Santiago was fully aware of what she planned to do. Even the severe judgments of death sentences that were handed down at the Nuremberg Trial to Nazi war criminals were all conveyed in a manner that didn’t violate the dignity of the sentenced person.

We appreciate the fine job that JPE has been doing, giving both the prosecution and the defense equal opportunities to argue their cases. We understand how difficult his job is in having to rein in Senator-Judges who step out of bounds. However, such a scandalous outburst as what Senator-Judge Santiago demonstrated last Thursday could also erode the authority of the Presiding Officer. We wish that the code of conduct for Senator-Judges would be strictly enforced.

Transparency and truthfulness on the part of Senator-Judges

We wish that all Senator-Judges who will take the floor — whether to ask questions or seek clarification and what not — would do so with utmost transparency and truthfulness. It would really enlighten a lot of Filipinos if Senator-Judges will premise their taking the floor with something like this: “I’m Senator-Judge Juan dela Cruz and I’m inclined to favor the prosecution (or the defense)” — whatever the case may be.

It’s better for the impeachment process if an agreement among Senator-Judges and the two opposing panels of the prosecution and the defense can be reached that those motions for inhibition will be waived when Senator-Judges admit at the onset their inclinations. Inclinations, after all, do not necessarily mean bias but could be the effect of how the progress of the trial has thus far influenced them.
The sight of Senator-Judges premising their respective spiel with such lofty ideals as human and privacy rights of other parties and what not and then proceed to stress and score points that favor either the prosecution or the defense, insults the intelligence of the very people to whom this process belongs. Senator-Judges are acting on behalf of the Filipino people now trying their CJ. They have no business insulting the public intelligence. We will appreciate, nay even laud, your truthfulness and transparency, as these are as wanted as a cloud of rain in the arid and vast Sahara Desert.

The voters might express their censure when your reelection campaign comes if you voted against what they wanted during the impeachment trial. On the other hand, they could appreciate your truthfulness and transparency and decide to reelect you. They’ll know anyway how you voted so why not state clearly your true intention whenever you take the floor.

Respect the public intelligence

Watching Lead Prosecutor Niel Tupas Jr. and defense panel spokesman Tranquil Salvador III on TV, we can’t help get the impression that Tupas is a little kid sent to do a man’s job, and Salvador is also a little kid who deludes himself that he’s managing to convince us with his self-serving spiel. Salvador should learn from his team mate Karen Jimeno who manages to get her points across without antagonizing the audience by misleading them towards a self-serving way of thinking. It’s all about non-verbal communications and not insulting the public intelligence.

This impeachment trial is an important growing process for our people. Boorishness, sub-standard performance and untruthfulness should be the first to be impeached. All players in this impeachment court should operate by the McCann-Ericsson motto of TRUTH WELL TOLD.

* * *

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

[Click here for the Archive]

Home | As I Wreck This Chair | High Ground | Career Brief and Roots | Advocacies | Landmarks Copyright 2006 The Chair Wrecker by William M. Esposo