COMMENTARY: Week 2: The Corona Impeachment Trial

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 January) — Being away and out of reach by technology during the days when many were expecting the Corona impeachment trial to proceed smoothly after a superb first week handling by Senator-Judge and presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile, I am limited to picking up TV replay highlights and news account of what transpired during the second week of the trial.

While the first week was whining time for the defense panel, the second week will make you believe the prosecution is ready to bungle its case.

It all started with the ill-timed appeal of prosecution panel head Rep. Neil Tupas for the impeachment court’s leniency – liberality actually – in fielding questions to witnesses the House and private prosecutors were and are presenting in the trial.

The appeal triggered an avalanche of pointed reactions from the Senate impeachment court made more interesting by the presence of Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago.  She of the acerbic tongue who can pick anyone up and tear that poor fellow into bits and pieces.  Only the senator from Iloilo can call a poor fellow who dares cross her path a wretched fungus-faced creature and get away with it.

Enrile, too, almost blew his top and did a very strange move by suddenly adjourning the trial resumption on Tuesday last week when the prosecution was about to present Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares.

Of course, the supposed walkout of one of the House prosecutors did not escape the prying eyes of the press.

Bar topnotcher Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, who expressed his disappointment over the reported reluctance of the House panel for him to field and answer questions, quietly slipped out during the height of the ‘colloquy’ between Senator Santiago and members of prosecution panel and was immediately mobbed by the press.  Rep. Tupas would consequently announce the appointment of Fariñas as deputy chief prosecutor of the House of Representative which impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Corona.  Fariñas owns one of the best legal minds in the House of Representative but did not sign the impeachment complaint against Corona.

The second week was also marked by charged emotions and rules governing the trial are threatening to reduce the political process into a judicial exercise with both the defense and prosecution panel arguing over them.  You may as well conclude that such a debate is raging in the minds of the 21 senator-judges of the impeachment court.

For the first time, censure and admonishment as punishments for Corona were floated, albeit not thoroughly discussed, as the protagonists and judges grappled with the ambiguity of the first article of impeachment presented by the House prosecutors.

The Filipino people could only hope that such sweeping discussion is not in effect conditioning their minds about where the trial will eventually end up.

There is too much at stake for the Filipinos for the country’s legislators to strike a legal compromise this early and save the Chief Justice from the ignominy of being the first ever impeached official that will be convicted and removed from office. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Edwin Espejo writes for the