The Prosecution Rests Its Case
The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C Corona has been running for several weeks now and several revelations have come out as a result of the presentation of the evidences against the numerous allegations against the Chief Justice. Despite the wealth of information and the interesting developments that have evolved from the trial and the numerous fora in media I found myself reluctant to put down on paper my thoughts on the matter at this stage of the case. Prior to the impeachment hearing by the Senate and even at the early part of the impeachment proceedings I have poured out my thoughts, responded to other writers’ opinions through my blog, wrote letters to editors, commented on columns and to those who were inclined to discuss it in e-mails, reactions to my blog and on discussions in person.
Perhaps it is the fact that so much has been aired in conventional media as well as in viral media that almost everything that can be said about the case has been thoroughly aired out from the chronicle of the events, rumours, opinions from every direction and the humorous sidelights that inevitably crop up in cause celebres.
As an avid anti-Corona advocate I have shared the thoughts of the opinion leaders who personally indict and attack the Chief Justice at the instance of each new revelation of actuations that support the allegations of his betrayal of public trust and the culpable violation of the Constitution. I believe that at this point in time there is enough rope to hang the accused and that we should already stop the needless expense of time and money that the senators incur in the proceedings. It only takes one of the allegations to be proven to impeach the Chief Justice; as Ted Laguatan says the main question to be proven in all these is the fitness; the lack of it, of Renato C Corona to continue in office as chief magistrate, the answer to which is so patently obvious. From another perspective, there are those who say that we should stop the needless use of the citizens money spent in a “moro-moro” which they say will end up on an acquittal of the Chief Justice from any wrong doing evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. I have mentioned before that I have doubts that the Chief Justice will be acquitted by the senate jurors considering that the votes needed for his exoneration is just 8 out of the 23 senators who will vote. From the outset there were already 6 who are avowedly pro-Corona while the rest is a motley group who on the surface are pro Pnoy but with quite a number of them can be easily enticed mostly out of self interest. Would any kind of proof of the chief justice’s culpability no matter how true (short of smoking gun) convince enough senator jurors to vote against him? In the course of a few weeks of proceedings there are closet pro-Corona senators now coming out of the woodwork who signal their leanings by the way they question the prosecution and sometimes join in the bullying frenzy brought about by the haughtiness of some “know it all” senate jurors and the grandstanding of the chief counsel of the defense who is quick to display his knowledge of court procedures in the presentation of witnesses, the proper unfolding of evidence in an admissible and correct form, the appropriate legalese and other court room conventions. Former Justice Cuevas truly displays good knowledge of the law but he uses this knowledge to obstruct the emergence of the truth by preventing the prosecution to develop their case through continuous objection to anything, filibustering even, that the prosecutors have to say to break the train of thought of the exposition of their case. In most cases the defense lead counsel is technically correct and his objections are upheld by the presiding officer. The presiding officer, JP Enrile, on occasion joins the defense counsel in admonishing the prosecution panel for their ineptness. With the lead defense counsel using sarcasm to demean the less experienced prosecution panel members; Senator Miriam Santiago complements him with her histrionics, threats to cite in contempt the prosecutors and ad hominems clothed in colourful but sometimes quaint verbiage. After her arrogant and uncouth behaviour she hies off leaving the rostrum with a plea of temporary intensity causing a hypertensive condition. This bashing of the prosecution panel should not have happened at all if the presiding officer was consistent on asserting that the impeachment court is “sui generis”, of its own class, and is substantially not governed by conventional litigation rules but by the procedures that they have formulated particular to the impeachment which are deemed supreme against the other branches of government insofar as the impeachment issues are concerned. The defense panel’s composition are made up of high powered lawyers and headed by a known expert lawyer and was a former justice of the Supreme Court whose knowledge of the law and its undertakings sometimes hold in awe even the presiding officer who more often than not sustains the numerous objections that he protests forgetting at most moments that the court he presides in allows common sense over the technicalities of litigation practiced in regular courts hearing criminal, corporate and cases other than impeachment. The presiding officer blew hot and cold with his rulings in the impeachment court. He is too much of a lawyer to disregard the caution to exercise common sense, prudence, conventional notions of right and wrong of the unique court and on occasion lapses into allowing the technicalities applied in litigation as the lead defense takes advantage of.
Just this afternoon we were made to witness important events within the impeachment court from outside.
The lead defense counsel, Justice Cuevas was doing the cross examination of the witnesses from media (ABS CBN) to authenticate the evidences (cd’s of events surrounding the TRO case). It was a plain and simple process of identifying and authenticating the evidences presented but the lead defense counsel was looking for ways to discredit the witnesses to make it appear that their testimonies are hearsay and not from their own firsthand experience to render their evidences inadmissible. The ludicrousness of the cross examination reached its height when he grilled the cameraman about the workings of a TRO with his characteristic leer waiting to pounce on the hapless cameraman as soon as he makes an erroneous response. Clearly it’s a case of a slick lawyer trying a legal legerdemain which seemed to be the hallmark of the lead defense counsel’s litigation style.
There was a break on the proceedings and the coverage segued into a press briefing with Atty Midas Marquez making announcements at the Supreme Court. The first announcement had to do with the results of the recent bar exams. He was pleased to announce that the recent bar exams had a high rate success, achieving more than 31%. Personally, I feel that the last thing this country needs is another lawyer to join the burgeoning legal profession and the political field. Even before the impeachment case of Renato Corona I have always held most of them suspect of using the law to disadvantage other people and to protect the rights of robber barons, unscrupulous businessmen and institutions, warlords, and drug syndicates. The impeachment case has made this unfortunate feeling even more entrenched in my consciousness. What has crept out from the dark pits into the light of day are crimes brazenly committed because they have the protection of the very arbiters of justice in our land.
Atty Midas Marquez also announced that the Supreme Court, en banc, ruled that TRO to subpoena personnel of the high court is upheld and the administrative employees earlier subpoenaed and heeded the summons on an earlier date were instructed by the Supreme Court not to obey the summons.
Talk about creating a chilling effect which was oft used in defending the Supreme Court in earlier arguments; there could not be a more chilling effect than this to us the citizens where you have a Supreme Court who can just curl up like an armadillo whenever questioned for its actuations and decisions. How can an erring member of the Supreme Court be removed from office if they have the right to stonewall against ferreting evidence from any of their members in an impeachment court? The presiding officer said that their hands are tied because they have to respect the internal rules of the Judiciary the last one of which seemed to be a patched up job to ensure the further impregnability of the dark castle of justice. Despite the explanation made by the presiding officer it leaves the message that the impeachment court seems helpless to secure evidence from them even if subpoenaed. The presiding officer said that they cannot go against the internal rules of any of the branches of government but has the power to decide on the ultimate judgment of the fate Renato C Corona through the votes of two thirds majority of the senate assemblage.
The most surprising event of the afternoon is the pronouncement made by the prosecution to rest their case just on the bases of evidences presented from less than half of the items of listed in the original impeachment complaint. They feel that, thus far, they have presented enough evidence to convict the chief justice. It seems to be a pity that the other items of impeachment were abandoned even if they seem to be reasonable albeit badly crafted. One gets the feeling that the ploy of the other side to humiliate and demean their characters and professional stature through daily diatribes by the lady senator from Iloilo, the lead defense counsel, proCorona senator jurors and at times by the presiding officer himself.
Perhaps it is also the discernment of the prosecution that all the efforts, the money spent and the hours devoted pleading their case may not amount to anything but failure.
I have expressed even before that the impeachment case will not be judged by the merits of the case, political affiliations or love for the Filipino but on the consciences of the senate jurors. If this is so, the Filipino ends up being more wretched than before. Votes will be governed by selfish interests and the senators being what they are; rich, influential, powerful and enjoying the fruits of the current system need to preserve the status quo. The status quo is the goose that lays the golden eggs and very few senators of the land, from my knowledge, past and present, will be willing to bring down the axe on the neck of proverbial goose.