Vitallano Aguirre’s mind will forever be stuck in February 29 2012

Quite a shame that the prosecution team in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, already beleaguered over the course of the proceedings by a litany of gaffes, episodes of mediocre performance, and instances of unethical behaviour laid bare by one Senator-Judge after another, has to suffer the humiliation of one of its hired private lawyers getting caught disrespecting the court. Private attorney Vitallano Aguirre was recorded on video covering his ears as Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago delivered her privilege speech.

Perhaps after all, as most prosecution apologists would point out, Santiago was out of line when she used the word “gago” (presumably in unsurprising reference to the prosecution team). But then it can be argued that the rudeness of the word gago is really a matter of individual perception and its categorisation as “rude” more a subjective call. The word gago, as I pointed out ealier, has a very specific meaning in Tagalog. It means “idiot”. When a Filipino calls you gago it means he or she is telling you that you are an idiot. And what can be more evidence of idiocy in the prosecution as a collective than the idiotic behaviour and thinking that Santiago pointed out from the podium yesterday…

Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor Santiago took to the podium and said that the prosecution’s dropping of more than half the Articles of Impeachment was unprecedented. “You are prejudging the case. What are you doing, conducting trial by publicity?” She accused the prosecution of misleading the court. “Ang yayabang ng nagsasalita ng ganyan, gago naman.” This is where I noticed that most of the members of the prosecution belonging to the House of Representatives were not seated at the Prosecutions table but at the VIP Section of the hall. Most of those who sat at the prosecution table were the private prosecutors and Prosecutor Representative Colmenares who led them on Article 7.

Santiago then turns her anger from the prosecution to a recent University of the Philippines survey. Addressing the University, she said, “Please do not try these little dirty tricks on us. We are old people here.” She added, “People who machinate the press releases on the UP survey should be kicked out! Shame on the university.”

This, in fact, is just the most recent of a series of past justifiably vitriolic call-outs coming from Santiago that were directed squarely at the prosecution team. In fact, I’d consider the statement she made previous to the above a lot more in-your-face when she said that the prosecution team was “an INSULT to the intelligence of educated Filipinos”. Ouch! Suffice to say, “idiot” is putting it mildly in the context of that one.

Bottomline is that while other instances of inappropriate behaviour over the course of the impeachment trial whether it came from the defense team or the Senator-Judges are all debatable this quaint childishness (at best) and downright rudeness (at worst) of a lawyer covering his ears while a judge spoke cannot be disputed.

This quaint episode is, in fact, a microcosm of the sort of politics that imprisoned the Filipino mind over the last 26 years resulting in damage to the Filipino collective psyche that we are only now beginning to understand — an entire generation of Filipinos conditioned to think that an adolescent tantrum mounted on a Manila highway by a lynch mob can always trump the ruling of a duly-constituted institution. It is this sort of moronic thinking that breeds street “ocho-ocho” rallyists at its most benign and dangerous military adventurists at its deadliest. It is the mother of all viral memes and it continues to infect the Filipino mind like a cancer.

Either way, Santiago’s “gago” has already been stricken out of court records upon the request of Congressman (and member of the prosecution team) Rodolfo Fariñas — a request to which Santiago herself did not object to. In short, the incident has been buried. Santiago will move on, the trial will move on, and we will move on. But it is quite possible that Aguirre will forever be stuck in this moment, replaying it in his head over and over while wondering: Was it worth it?

A lucky therapist will be laughing all the way to the bank.

[Photo courtesy]


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