The Senate at the crossroad

THE Senate is at a crossroad of a historic event as it hears the first ever impeachment case against a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Lest it be forgotten, the impeachment trial is not judicial in nature or a criminal inquiry. Impeachment is a process whereby the credibility and honesty of an impeached official, in this case Chief Justice Renato Corona, is challenged to determine if he is fit to remain or not in office.

It is of vital importance that the proceedings are understood by the masses since they involve the possible removal of a public official from office. If the people cannot understand the on-going proceedings there will never be a credible closure of the issues that brought about Corona’s impeachment.

Due to the nature of the impeachment proceedings the Senate, acting as an Impeachment Court, is duty bound to ensure that the process is not bogged down by legal technicalities.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, acting as the impeachment court presiding officer, made it clear that at the start of the trial, the Rules of Court will only apply should the Senate rules proved inadequate. It is unfortunate that everybody involved in the trial now seems to have forgotten Enrile’s reminder.

What is now crucial for the Senate, as it determines the truth behind the eight-point Articles of Impeachment against Corona, is to immediately do away with the legal technicalities that characterized the proceedings since day one.

Right now the trial is the domain of lawyers and their strict application of the Rules of Court and Rules of Evidence. It is doubtful whether any lay person understands what is happening at all.

For instance, a lot of people in the streets are at a loss why Corona’s lawyers are trying to stop the attempts of prosecutors to prove that the Chief Justice amassed ill-gotten wealth when he himself is insisting that he had done nothing wrong and why the Impeachment Court seem to agree with them.

This seeming contradiction between Corona’s behavior and those of his lawyers, and the court’s apparent refusal to dig deeper are perplexing as far as people untrained in the technicalities of the law are concerned.

“Kung walang kasalanan bakit pinipigilan. Dapat pakinggan ang mga testigo,” said one street person from Tatalon whom I talked with recently.

The senators are representatives of the people like the one whom I had a discussion a few days ago. It is their duty to make him understand what is happening since whatever the outcome of the proceedings would have a profound effect on him and the entire nation as well.

Stop the legal gobbledygook and let us begin the people’s talk.


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