COMMENTARY: Senator Miriam Santiago: Lost in translation

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 February) — The feisty senator for Iloilo is a joy to hear for her educated wit and superior command of the King’s language which many of us in the press would often run to our next Thesaurus to get the exact meaning and context of her predictably unpredictable but deep vocabulary.

Pardon her thick Visayan accent aside.  That’s precisely what makes Senator Santiago such good copy.

On Week 5 of the Corona impeachment trial, she rose to sternly lecture House of Representative Chief Prosecutor and fellow Ilongo Neil Tupas Jr for reportedly introducing evidence that has been testified by PSBank manager Anabelle Tiongson (incidentally another Ilonga) as ‘fake, spurious’ or whatever. (Before this writer gets lost, he is an Ilongo, too)  Nga-a inentra niyo to abi nga ebidenysa? ‘Di bala Rep. Tupas? Ti? Naano na ini? (Why did you introduce them as evidence?  Didn’t you Rep. Tupas?  Now look?  What had it become? – underscoring and translation is by the author)

She castigated the prosecution panel for what she claimed was a deception and for such it should be ‘punished’ and cited for contempt.  A former judge herself, Senator Santiago said the prosecution is losing and giving away its own case because of their perceived incompetence.

On the last hearing day of the week, the senator was again her usual unpredictable self.  This time, in a complete turnaround, goading and coaxing the prosecution and laying the ‘foundation’ from where the prosecutors should take off as far as the assailed document – a photocopy of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona’s opening bank document – which was attached in the request for subpoena.

The subpoena, granted by the Senate impeachment court, yielded damning information against the chief justice.  Such information, however, are now being threatened to be thrown away because of the authenticity, or lack of it, of the prosecution’s annexed document for the subpoena.

What was lost in Santiago’s tirade against Tupas and the rest of the prosecution was her own error.  The assailed document was never introduced in court.  Records of the Senate impeachment proceedings will bear out that what were introduced and marked were records submitted and testified by PSBank officials.

These are facts that senator ignored when she first gave Tupas a nationally televised tongue lashing, described by her colleagues in the law profession as uncalled for.  In the middle of her monologue, Tupas vainly tried to explain that the controversial document was not among the documents marked by the prosecution as its evidence.  But Santiago wanted none of it.

On Thursday, Santiago prefaced her manifestation as a judge that she was willing to give the prosecution a good day.  Without admitting her previous mistake, she again asked Tupas if the controversial document was among the evidences introduced by the prosecution which her fellow Ilongo member of Congress reiterated in the negative.

Santiago even asked Tupas if, based on the adverse testimonies of the PSBabk officials on the questioned attached documents in the subpoena, the prosecution is now poised to declare them as hostile witnesses.

The question is double-edged.  It gave the prosecution the window to prove its witnesses were lying when they testified under oath that the bank document photocopy was a fake if and when it decides to declare the PSBank officials as hostile witnesses.  It also warned the witnesses that they are facing severe consequences if proven they have perjured in court.

On Thursday, Santiago and the rest of the Senate impeachment court got another surprise from PSBank Katipunan branch manager Anabelle Tiongson when she revealed that Rep. Jorge Banal, a member of the prosecution secretariat, approached her on January 31.  Showing a photocopy of what appeared to be a similar document in the annex of the request for subpoena by the prosecution, Banal inquired about the account.

Next week, this bizarre development will yet again give the ongoing trial another twist and turn that should shame prime time telenovelas of major TV networks.

It seems every time Santiago takes the floor momentum in the trial is shifting.

We just hope it will not be lost in translation again. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Edwin G. Espejo writes for the