Apologists among the mob who have been campaigning for the ouster of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona now seem to be getting really desperate — desperate enough to question the very manner with which Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is conducting the Senate trial. A certain Floren Hilbay, for example, writing for the Inquirer.net is now lamenting the way the impeachment process has been “judicialized”, that is, he now sees the way the proceedings are regarded as “akin to a criminal trial” (i.e. based on a rigorous evaluation of evidence and logical argument) as being a “problem”. Hilbay, it seems, prefers to see the impeachment court trying Corona as one that the prosecution has taken great pains to deny that it is, a court of public opinion…
Here is the lament of Hilbay…
One sense of the word “political” when used to describe an impeachment is that our senator-judges are not checked by a judicial institution such as the Supreme Court but are instead constrained by the force of public opinion. Precisely because it is the people who will ultimately judge our senator-judges, it is imperative that the people be able to understand this trial without submitting themselves to the mercy of so-called legal experts. The first week of trial indubitably shows that the attention of the public was diverted from the merits of the case to the undeniable brilliance and wit of former Justice Serafin Cuevas, the difficulties of the prosecution panel, and the star quality of Representatives Miro Quimbo and Sonny Angara, and defense spokesperson Karen Jimeno.
The irony in Hilbay’s lament seems to fly way above his pointed head. If he will take the time to review the history of how this whole impeachment circus came about, he will find that the very tactics he now accuses the defense team of employing in this battle — including capitalisation of their now very evident “star quality” (Hilbay’s own words) — were first used by the pro-impeachment mob over many months in the lead up to the trial. Indeed, the prosecution had a huge headstart to the trial-by-publicity. This months-long headstart dwarfs the mere two weeks that it took for Corona defense chief Serafin Cuevas’s brilliance and wit to resonate among his now numerous fans and the glamour and class of his spokespersons to register a big fat blip on the media radar.
We should take the time to absorb the true historical significance of this show, as it is a rare instance of substance winning mightily on the home court of the vacuous.
Compare the awesome resources brought to bear by the Mob who campaigned for the demonisation of Corona over the last several months. Two of the biggest media outlets in the country, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the ABS-CBN Network, benefited immensely from the rise to power of the late former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino and, as a result, owe the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan big time. It’s called utang na loob (literally “debt coming from the inside”) in the vernacular and now the government of the Son-of-Cory, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, has come to collect — big time. It was (and continues to be) a full-court-press engineered to pre-judge Corona.
One of the biggest talents of ABS-CBN, presidential sister Kris Aquino has leaned the full weight of her star power upon the scales of justice in favour of the Mob…
In a television interview during a show on Vice Ganda, Kris once again tried to appeal to the people’s emotion by saying that “her family needs the vote of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago in the impeachment case of Chief Justice Renato Corona.”
And in defiance of repeated warnings coming from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the prosecution team blatantly mounted a sustained media blitz against Corona during the lead-up to the trial, showcasing “evidence” of the Chief Justice’s alleged “ill-gotten wealth” to the starry-eyed public…
Some rational members of society including Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, already warned [Iloilo Representative Niel] Tupas against his penchant for rabidly announcing to the media what should only be discussed during the impeachment process. Enrile even went as far as telling Tupas to go back to school:
“Kung gusto nilang litisin yung kaso sa labas ng impeachment court e di i-withdraw nila yung kaso at isiwalat nila sa buong mundo yung gusto nilang ebidensya (If they want to try the case outside the impeachment court, then they should withdraw the case and expose whatever evidence they want to the entire world),” he said in a phone interview on Thursday.
Enrile said he would be ‘very lenient’ to the prosecution team but warned that the impeachment court could cite them in contempt for presenting to a press conference documents pertaining to a high-end apartment in Taguig City that was allegedly owned by Corona.
Enrile specifically trained his gun at the chief prosecutor, Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., who made public disclosure of the documents against Corona.
“Sabihin mo kay Cong. Tupas mag aral muna sya (Tell Cong. Tupas to study the rules),” said the Senate leader when told of the lawmaker’s remark that he had not violated the impeachment rules.
Preemptory language of Rule XVIII of the Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials states that the presiding officer and the members of the Senate “shall refrain from making any comments and disclosures in public pertaining to the merits of a pending impeachment trial.” The said rule applies to the prosecutors, to the person impeached and to their respective counsels and witnesses.
At the very bottom of the food chain, there is also the two-bit “investigative reporting” of small-fry reporters like Raissa Robles and Marites Vitug who published “shocking” exposés on Corona’s wife’s so-called “conflicts of interest” and the “outrage” surrounding the University of Santo Tomas (UST) awarding Mr Corona academic credentials under supposedly inappropriate circumstances.
Most poignant of all is how Hilbay laments how “Judicialization disempowers our senators, most of whom are not lawyers. Our 12 non-lawyer senators may be both wise and shrewd, but the proceedings may as well be conducted in elvish to them. This is unfortunate as it prevents them from fully grasping the details of what is going on and severely impairs their ability to participate.”
Well that’s just tough luck now, isn’t it? I recall someone wondering out loud why Senator Lito Lapid was even given a microphone considering he is not much of a talker and more the action star. As I stated earlier, “we may be privileged to be witness to a seminal exercise that could herald the dawn of the glory days of the Philippine Senate”. Indeed, perhaps the Senate, under the stewardship of brilliant statesman Juan Ponce Enrile is in the throes of an opportunity to shed its reputation as a retirement village for has-been celebrities and greedy carpetbaggers whose only qualifications are popularity.
It seems, the Yellow Mob is being beaten at their own game on their own court. And no amount of traditional jologry will outshine the understated class of substance.