Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Impeachment In the Season of Lent




It has been a long first quarter this year where almost 35 days or roughly two months of hearings have been devoted to the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato C. Corona. For us Filipinos it was a big price to pay when the celebrated event hogged all of our legislators’ time to enact urgent legislation and impeded the course of some needed governmental projects. Almost a quarter of 2012 has been spent on hearing both panels’ presentation of their evidences; the defense panel trying very hard to suppress the revelations of witnesses and documents through the efforts of mainly of the wizened  and venerable lead counsel for the defense, former associate Justice of the Supreme Court Serafin Cuevas.

Atty. Cuevas has done an excellent job of singlehandedly limiting the prosecution panel’s presentation through court room savvy and a sharpness not seen even among the young members of his panel who are composed of the best and the brightest in the legal circles. He is an aging legal lion, an octogenarian with more than half a century of litigation experience tucked under his belt; an awesome sight to behold in his distinctive light coat batting down evidence after evidence, with his objections most of which had been sustained by the Chief Presiding Officer of the Impeachment Court, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. At times, Senator Enrile seemed in awe of the brilliancies displayed by his “companero” of long ago.

 “The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

At the other end of the contending teams is the prosecution panel headed by Rep. Niel Tupaz, a boyish looking congressman, a lawyer himself but not displaying much knowhow in litigation practice because his career has mostly been in politics. This was made apparent by his constant bumbling in his courtside manners and the shoddiness of his evidentiary presentations. Despite the incessant bullying of some senator jurors, together with the lead defense counsel and occasional demeaning reminders from the Chief Presiding Officer Enrile, the lead counsel of the prosecution panel, Tupaz, has maintained his cool and equanimity. His young political career may have been damaged by the scathing diatribes he got from Sen. Miriam Santiago, an exceptionally garrulous senator juror.

"The meek shall inherit..."  Beatitudes

Senator Enrile, who at 88 years, was very impressive with his knowledge of judicatorial procedures and an amazing recall of relevant jurisprudence. While Senator Enrile has displayed some admirable moments as head of the impeachment court, it was the observation of some that he had abdicated his role as moderator and allowed rudeness and indecorous behaviour among some of the senator jurors who were availing of their advantage of not being argued with, as in a privilege speech, and in so many times have resulted in boorish intimidating behaviour, using vituperative language on occasion, to browbeat the lawyers, mostly from the prosecution panel into submission.

No “sober judges” in this court. Idiom

It also seemed that in some instances Sen. Enrile was groping for procedural rulings which he could impose on the court at certain junctures. One got the impression that the set of procedures in the impeachment court was a work in progress resulting in inconsistencies. He seemed to have been blowing hot and cold. After what seemed to be a series of rulings in favour of the defense he comes back with a streak of favourable rulings for the prosecution; as if trying to make amends for having been unkind to one side of the combatants. It was probably his way of showing impartiality in the court but it sometimes looked ridiculous and unreassuring because he would have lapses in judgment as the trial wore on. "Young men think that old men are fools but old men know that young men are fools." Truman Capote

The defense panel has had little over a week presenting the case for the defense and what we have heard thus far is more of the bad mouthing, sly and underhanded tactics, and exchanges of accusations and lies more vehement than before, leaving both camps even more firmly entrenched in their respective trenches. This was the situation the impeachment process was in before the court adjourned for the Lenten season.

"Wild and wooly..." idiom

So much animosity and recrimination have been generated by the impeachment hearings not only in the courtroom but outside of it. Media exerts a strong influence on the public and the “live” broadcast of the proceedings on radio and television, and the daily take up of issues in the print media have created strong opinions for pro and con groups depending on which media facility the audience favours. Not to be outdone, viral media or the Internet has been in the forefront of message dissemination through Face book, Twitter and a proliferation of blogs who express their opinions much more undauntedly than in conventional media.

“the medium is the massage” Marshal McLuhan

What transpired may be regarded as a contemporary first quarter storm which has caused divisiveness among us; have brought out the strongest of animosities, have spawned unjust accusations, have employed dirty machinations and lies that served to discredit one another and a host of other unsavoury actions which in more clement times are not resorted to. “These are the times that try men's souls...” Thomas Paine

The season of Lent comes like a bracing summer breeze which will cool down all the heat generated from such impassioned tussles between two headstrong contending parties. Lent is a time for introspection, a time to delve into the other half of our existence, the spiritual realm which in the pressure of daily struggles and in the rat race has been relegated to just a weekend predilection. This godly season of Lent gives us more time to think about how we have lived thus far. In the dizzying pace we have moved, we are always have struggled to live a more focussed life and living within the precepts of a morality that we try hard to follow. Lent allows us to stop in our tracks, at least momentarily, giving us time to take stock of our personal growth and time to reset the keels of our life, so to speak. The resetting is a formidable task as bad habits die hard, even more difficult is the revaluation of our priorities and the way we view the world.  .

 “...because the Holy Ghost over the bent

world broods with warm breast

 and with ah! bright wings” Gerard Manley Hopkins

The impeachment proceedings have divided us into two camps totally polarized, completely at odds with each other and stubbornly clinging to whatever we believe in and with utter disrespect to any contrary view no matter how reasonable they may seem.

This season of love and forgiveness should be able pry open our minds that have long been shut and adumbrated by our biases, mindless animosities, unjustified presentiments, false notions and pride. We have been at each others’ throat like misdirected men and women, however, we are not all that bad; to lesser degrees we have masked our intentions with a bit of hypocrisy. Lent gives us the opportunity to examine ourselves in depth...our true motivations and desires and often we hide our motivations with the cloak of self serving rationalizations sometimes verging into self righteousness or at times with a dose of agnosticism for comfort.

 “Men willingly believe what they wish”. Julius Caesar

Would we ever see the plainness of truth? Is there a guiding light that would enable us to see beyond what seems obvious, rending asunder the veil of hypocrisy of our own weaving. The triumphant glory of the Resurrection will provide us the glow to see the truth that we ourselves have caused to be hidden from view.

We view travesty of the law, moral atrophy, religious dishonesty and hypocrisy from a set of glasses that we have tinted and distorted to suit our views but there is the hope that in Lent there will emerge, as an inspiration from the soul, an impulse welling up, a spiritual kneejerk that has to rise up from the depths of human goodness; God’s hand removing the mote in our eyes.

If we emerge from the Lenten season with eyes, ears and heart that
 discern unadulterated and unembellished truth then the conversion 
of our convictions, either pro or con, have been inspired by the way, 
the truth and the light; the unequivocal message of His glorious Resurrection
“...And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the 
renewing of your mind...” St. Paul

Would all of us emerge from the Lenten season repentant and forgiving?...wiser and more judicious? We should pray that we will be provided with just eyes to see the truth, open hearts to be respectful to all, pray for moral uprightness for prudent judgment and for a forgiving heart to those who would be rebuked when proven wrong.

We wish these among the principal protagonists in this unfortunate drama; the lawyers of the defense team and the prosecution team; the senator jurors and the chief presiding officer, the media and more importantly Pnoy, Gloria and Renato C Corona.

We wish it for us too, who are in the peanut gallery of these grand spectacle, the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice Renato C Corona.

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