GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/March 6, 2012) – Judging from a Philippine Daily Inquirer report (Aguirrefacesdetention,listeningtoSantiago24/7,March2), the senator-judges were making light of the February 29 Aguirre court “quiet protest” that raised to 190/90 Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’ blood pressure. Of course, they can be serious at their caucus today when they decide how they would punish lawyer Vitaliano Aguirre.
Half-jokingly Enrile proposed to let Aguirre sleep for two nights at the Senate detention cell and serve him sashimi, the raw-fish Japanese delicacy. Perhaps in the same vein, too, Senators Francis Escudero and Panfilo Lacson suggested a 24-hour detention listening to records of Santiago’s speeches. Santiago enjoyed the moment.
If really they were enjoying, the joke would be on Santiago and the senators enjoying with her. The last laugh would not be theirs. That afternoon of February 29, Miriam was dissected, spread up and exposed to the flies [inMiriam’snativeIlonggo: ginpakas, ginbulad kag ginpalangawan] by no person other than Miriam herself abetted by her colleagues and highlighted by her past browbeating of the prosecutors.
She has self-righteously defended her conduct persistently but many to whom she has exposed her inner self are displeased and critical.
In the Philippines
Fr.ConegondoGarganta, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines warned: “If our children see our leaders shouting and throwing around hurtful words, they’ll think that what their idols are doing is OK and there’s a big possibility that they will also do the same (Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 1).
The 80-year-old Jesuit Fr.CatalinoArrevalo, the late President Corazon C. Aquino’s spiritual adviser, admonished Santiago in his homily last Saturday (PDI, March 3) at EDSA Shrine. While clearly referring to Santiago, he did not name her. It was Inquirer in its report that did.
Quoting from the Gospel, Arrevalo said: “If you call anybody ‘You fool,’ you are worthy of the fires of hell. And she called them ‘gago’ which is Filipino for fool, before millions of people. I did not say that. Jesus said that.” Interviewed later by Inquirer, he repeated what he had said in his homily emphasizing that “So she is, in conscience, bound to make a formal apology before millions of people if God will forgive her.”
Santiago did not let this pass. She accused the priest of violating the doctrine of the separation of Church and State. She attributed “ulterior motives” to Arrevalo’s homily and challenged him to a public debate – making it known she has a master’s degree from the Marhill School of Theology.
[NOTE: Fr. Arrevalo’s homily reflects Matthew 5:20: “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool’, you will be liable to the hell of fire.” Mere anger is light offense; insult is serious; shaming or demeaning is most serious. This resonates in a reproach in Miriam’s native tongue: “Kung akig ka akigi lang ako. Indi ako pagbuyayawa (If you’re angry, scold me; don’t shame or demean me.)”]
Columnist RickyPoca of Cebu Daily News: “Santiago is not and will never be a good role model for our children and lawyers because she is arrogant and a braggart.”
Lawyer StephenL.Monsanto in a letter to Inquirer: Of Santiago as our representative to the International Criminal Court in The Hague , “Let’s all cross our fingers and earnestly pray she will not make a bizarre spectacle of herself there as she does so hilariously here almost all the time.”
Around the World
Philnews.com, a website in the U.S. linked to 20 Philippine newspapers and televisions, in its March 3 editorial said: “Now that Atty. Aguirre has been cited for contempt and faces a possible fine plus up to ten days in jail for covering his ears in court, we ask: what punishment does Sen. Santiago get for her boorish and uncouth behavior? The answer: nothing! And that folks, in a nutshell, is what his wrong with the Philippines today.”
The editorial commented on the culture of impunity in the Philippines as shown in Aguirre’s case and said in contrast: “Here in America, we have a saying: ‘you can put lipstick on a pig … but it’s still a pig!’ And you can just as easily dress a person in legal robes and bestow on them (sic) all kinds of fancy titles, but if the vast majority find their (sic) demeanor to be akin to that of palengkera, then that’s all they (sic) really are.”
In its online poll, eight out of ten Philnews.com readers, mostly Filipinos by nationality or identity (as of March 3) worldwide “sided with private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre”. Generally, they despised Santiago for her “boorish and uncouth” language and conduct and criticized the Senate for not disciplining her.
To quote some comments:
CPOofAustralia: “[Santiago] talks in a very grandiose manner, her behaviour totally outrageous and despicable. No doubt what she is trying to portray of herself is that she is super intelligent. I think she is more of pseudo intellectual….”+++++H
AleahSchmidtofStuttgart,Germany: “What? Is this the way highly educated people communicate with their fellow brother/sister on the bench? …inside the impeachment court? Is this not an outright manifestation of fools at the height of their ineptitude! Oh la la!”.
AgaLeeofLasVegas,U.S.A.: “Kasing baho ng kanyang “ano” ang bibig niya. Nakakahiya na may senador sa Pinas na ganyan. Nakakahiya na my Senado tayo na inaaruga and ganitong klaseng tao.”
Giving the Lie
During the January 25 hearing of the Impeachment Court (IC), Santiago scolded private prosecutor Arthur Lim and declared: “Please don’t treat me as a mere observer. I am a judge in this proceeding! In any trial court …you should not speak, you should not take any behavior at all unless with the consent of the presiding judge. Don’t drown me by screaming in this courtroom! Only I can scream here and my fellow judges.”
Santiago was mad partly because Enrile did not recognize her right away. While her description of court protocol was correct, her implication that a judge can scold, scream and do anything he/she likes in court spoke of Santiago alone. To this Inquirer columnist Randy David gave the lie in his March 3 column “The ‘upper’ house”.
David saw in Santiago’s scolding of Lim her virulent projection of political arrogance. When he asked a former Supreme Court justice “if that was normal behavior inside our courts”, he was told: “That’s judicial abuse”, referring him to the Code of Judicial Conduct of 1989 that states, “A judge should be patient, attentive, and courteous to lawyers, especially the inexperienced, to litigant, witnesses and others appearing before the court.”
David cited three Supreme Court rulings on the conduct of judges in court. In the first (Conde vs. Judge Superable Jr.) ruling, “[A judge] speaks and acts for the state, not for himself. His personal feelings must not get the better of him.” In the second (Office of the Court Administrator v. Bartolome), “Judges are not common men and women, whose errors men and women forgive and time forgets.” In the third (Juan dela Cruz v. Carretas), the Court’s warning fittingly applies to Santiago’s conduct. It says:
“[A] judge who is inconsiderate, discourteous or uncivil to lawyers who appear in his sala commits an impropriety and fails in his duty to reaffirm the people’s faith in the judiciary … that it is reprehensible for a judge to humiliate a lawyer, … that a judge must at all times be temperate in his language…. And that equanimity and judiciousness should be the constant marks of a dispenser of justice.” A judge “descends to the level of a sharp-tongued, ill-mannered petty tyrant when he utters harsh words.”
Interviewed on [email protected] on March 1, Aguirre said covering his ears was nothing compared to the claim of Corona’s lawyers that the Palace had offered the senator-judges P100 M each to vote against the Court TRO against the disclosure of Corona’s dollar account. He remarked that IC should have “just let his action pass”. (ABS-CBNews.com, March 1, 2012).
Aguirre was alluding to the double standard of Santiago and IC. During the trial on February 13, the day after the exposé, ten senators expressed their displeasure over the claim of the defense – others grilling lawyer Jose Roy III, who stood for the team. Santiago was not among the ten. (The Philippine Star, February14:Senatorsberatedefenselawyers)
On February 17, the defense lawyers submitted a 12-page explanation of their action – pleading for leniency. The senators tackled the contempt issue in their caucus on February 20. There was no report of their action.
Obviously, the senators were satisfied with the defense team’s explanation. A scanty report from the Inquirer said that the defense lawyers were hopeful they would not be cited in contempt since they had not received an announcement nine hours after the decision was supposed to have been announced.
By their mood on February 29 and March 1, the senators seemed bent to punish Aguirre.
Early today, Aguirre prepared for an overnight detention. Enrile’s announcement must have been both a surprise and a relief to Aquirre, his family and sympathizers: “I will not impose a penalty with respect to loss of freedom on Aguirre; but simply to admonish him to be more careful.” (ABS-CBNews.com, March 6, 2012)
So, no sashimi, no listening to Miriam’s tirades and lectures for 24 hours. Were the senators, including Enrile, just humoring Santiago last March 1? Whatever, until IC can sanction Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago for conduct which critics see as contemptuous, these critics here and abroad will not remove their double-standard tag on IC. (“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at [email protected])