Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 January 2012


It started off so well. First, there was Sen. Edgardo Angara’s opening prayer, asking for wisdom and enlightenment. What I hoped would be internalized by the senators was the part where Divine intervention was asked to “enlighten our minds so that we may do what is right and just and fair,” to “spare us from dissension and discord set off by selfish ambition, faction and envy”; and to “endow us with sound judgment and discernment—so that we will not judge by external appearances.”

Then there was Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s opening statement. Two particular passages: “While it has been said that, by and large, the trial in an impeachment case is political in nature, nonetheless, such is neither an excuse nor a license for us to ignore and abandon our solemn and higher obligation and responsibility as a body of jurors to see to it that the Bill of Rights are observed, and that justice is served, and to conduct the trial with impartiality and fairness, to hear the case with a clear and open mind, to weigh carefully in the scale the evidence against the respondent, and to render to him a just verdict based on no other consideration than our Constitution and laws, the facts presented to us, and our individual moral conviction.”

And, “[a]lthough the ostensible respondent in the trial before us is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, we cannot escape the reality that, in a larger sense the conduct of this trial and its outcome will necessarily have a serious impact on the entire nation…. Its success or failure… may spell the success or failure of our democratic institutions, the strengthening or weakening of our sense of justice as a people, our stability or disintegration as a nation, and the triumph or demise of the rule of law in our land.”

Alas, while God must have been inclined to grant Angara’s prayer, He still has to contend with the free will he gave to humankind, and—no offense meant—may have been hoisted with His own petard. At the same time, Enrile’s plea/advice, addressed to his colleagues, has fallen in some very obvious instances, on deaf ears.

Maybe Angara’s prayer and Enrile’s opening statement should be repeated at the beginning of every impeachment court session. In any case, even after only four days, most of us, or at least the impartial observers, will agree that the following has been made clear:

1. The prosecution panel, or rather, those who have so far participated, came without really doing their homework, or are inexperienced, or—even worse, some combination of both. Why can one say this? Just listen to Enrile  constantly reminding them to rephrase their questions, or asking them to stop treating their own witness as a hostile witness, or having to cut short the second day’s proceedings with the remark “o, ayon lang pala ang gusto niyo, e—postponement,” or words to that effect.

2. At least two senators, at this point, will surely vote for conviction. So much for observing the Bill of Rights, or conducting the trial with impartiality and fairness, etc. The two senators, under the guise of “clarification,” or even more emotionally loaded, “the truth,” intervened to ask what the prosecutors failed to ask, in one case not even waiting to see if the prosecution would do so under “redirect” examination, i.e., when they ask the witness questions after the defense panel’s cross examination.

How should the senator-jurors act?  Well, Chiz Escudero’s question was truly in search of clarification—as in asking both sides to submit a memorandum on how to treat the second impeachment complaint, where the title has only one charge, but the body has two other charges—based on “suspicion” and “report” at that. Pia Cayetano also asked a question, the answer to which she truly did not know. This, in contrast to the questions posed by Frank Drilon and Kiko Pangilinan.

3. There are two trials going on at the same time—the trial being conducted on the Senate floor as a courtroom, and the trial by publicity that is still being conducted outside that courtroom—where the entire machinery of the Executive, not just the House of Representatives through their “spokesmen for the prosecution panel,” has been focused on demonizing Corona. The reader will remember that Corona has been the target of my criticisms—but just because I think he does not deserve to be Chief Justice does not mean that I am willing to sit by while his opponents play dirty in trying to oust him from office.

Take the 2010 Commission on Audit (COA) report on the Supreme Court. It has an “adverse opinion on the fairness of the presentation of the financial statements” of the Court. Yet there doesn’t seem to be that much difference from what was found in the 2009 COA report, which merited a “qualified” opinion. Reminds me of the COA reports on the PCSO for 2008 and 2009—2008 was all right but 2009, which was rendered after the Aquino administration came in, found a lot to be critical about.

Or take the spin on a World Bank report on the Judicial Reform Support Project (JRSP). It was “leaked” (by guess who?) with the spin that made Corona look very bad (what timing!). Yet just think of it: the project cost was $24 million, the “ineligible expenditures” was $199,000—or less than one percent of the cost, not to mention that these represented expenses that were not in the project agreement, and not necessarily cost overruns.

Get him out, certainly, but in the right way. The end never justifies the means.