Why are some members of the prosecution team for the trial of the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice, Renato Corona still talking about the details of the case to the media? Arenâ€™t they violating the court rules by doing so? Unfortunately, for reasons unknown to the public, the Impeachment Court seems unable to stop this outrageous trial-by-media tactic headed by no less than the head of the prosecution team, Congressman Neil Tupas, Jr. Defense panel spokesman Mon Esguerra is understandably crying foul over the prosecutionâ€™s blatant disregard for the court rules:
He attributed the ABS-CBN report to â€œunnamed House prosecutors.â€ Esguerra also cited the appearance of the lead prosecutor, Iloilo Rep. Neil Tupas Jr. before the ANC Headstart where he discussed the merits of the case on TV. â€œIf that is how the prosecution and their media associates handle this impeachment, we are alarmed that the act of the Senate is already being undermined,â€ he said. â€œImagine, having two trials: the Senate and the public, aided by some [television] networks. If the right of our client will be continually pilloried publicly on so-called evidence [that were] never presented or entered into the trial, then we might as well save the money of Juan de la Cruz and stop this charade or stop the live coverage of the hearings, so we stop the pandering, innuendoes and spins. Masyado na pong bastusan itong ginagawa ng prosecution sa media.â€
At the end of this trial, we will all realize too late that the prosecution just provided passing entertainment for everyone. Nothing significant will have been accomplished. Even an acquittal might not mean much because of the way the Chief Justice is continuously being portrayed as a villain by the opposing camp. Yes, most Filipinos are currently having a barrel of laughs at the way this whole thing has become a comedy of errors starring the prosecution team. Unfortunately, while we are being entertained, not everyone is taking the details of the case seriously. This is evident in some of the reactions of regular folks in public forums. A lot of Filipinos are still calling for Chief Justice Coronaâ€™s resignation despite the ongoing trial that is otherwise going well for Corona. Itâ€™s like they donâ€™t even see how the witnesses or evidence presented so far have NOT led to an uncovering of the so-called â€œill-gotten wealthâ€.
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Most Filipinos who have neither the time nor resources to watch the impeachment live still rely on mainstream media to get their information. Major media networks said to be owned and operated by people close to President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) are taking advantage of this by publishing articles and televising shows that are misleading and biased against Chief Justice Corona. They are doing so in an effort to keep inciting anger in the public in preparation for Plan B, said to be the possibility of another â€œPeople Powerâ€ revolution just in case the Chief Justice gets acquitted. The day our institutions and processes get junked yet again will be another sad day, indeed for the country. I canâ€™t help but think that this impeachment is all part of the governmentâ€™s grand plan to distract everyone from an economy that is flagging under the watch of PNoy.
Quite a number of Congressmen who are not taking part in the impeachment have expressed concern about the misplaced priorities of the Aquino government. It was reported that â€œIndependent Representative Edcel Lagman of Albay said the administrationâ€™s inordinate focus on the impeachment and replacement of Corona was taking its toll on the economy and legislative work.â€:
â€œThe collateral damage of the impeachment proceedings on governance and legislation is becoming inevitable,â€ said Lagman.
â€œWhile the national growth has plunged to 3.7 percent last year, which is much slower than the 7.6-percent gross domestic product [GDP] expansion in 2010, and the number of hungry Filipinos has escalated to 4.5 million from 4.1 million last September, the Aquino administration has marshaled its time and resources to an agenda of ousting the Chief Justice,â€ he said.
Lagman said the implementation of national polices to address poverty and hunger may be stalled and the bailout of the fledging economy may fall at the roadside as all guns of the Aquino administration are aimed at Coronaâ€™s head.
After being admonished by Senator-Judges and being mocked by a number of political pundits for their incompetence, one would have thought that the prosecution would devote more time to preparing for the presentation of their â€œexplosiveâ€ evidence and being more coordinated with their â€œstarâ€ witnesses on the next sessions. But no. The prosecution team is still consistently exhibiting its ineptitude â€“ a fact they do not seem to be aware of. Even columnists from major publications who are known rabid Aquino supporters like William Esposo, Conrado de Quiros and Patricia Evangelista could not help but express their disappointment with the prosecution. Esposo even went on to say that lead prosecutor, the camera whore Congressman, Niel Tupas Jr should be replaced. Itâ€™s an excellent suggestion that you otherwise wouldn’t expect to come from a PNoy supporter.
That said, PNoy apologists like Esposo, de Quiros and Evangelista who devote most of their columns to rationalising PNoy and his minionsâ€™ moves consistently fail to connect that the prosecutionâ€™s inability to handle the task of proving Coronaâ€™s guilt has a lot to do with what appears to be very little evidence they have against the Chief Justice to begin with. Evangelista simply romanticised this shortcoming by writing â€œLet us give the prosecutors the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they believe Corona is guilty so sincerely that the details do not concern them. Perhaps they do not realize their actions trivialize the nobility of the cause they claimed…” Thatâ€™s a load of crap if you ask me. Why are these so-called columnists considered professional columnists? They are worse than bloggers because they publish unsubstantiated claims.
Then again is belief in guilt, as Evangelista would like to imagine motivates Tupas in his crusade against Corona, really at work here? In his recent column â€œProsecutors linked to Haciendaâ€™s law firmsâ€, Inquirer.net columnist Rigoberto Tiglao reveals what appears to be the source of Tupas’s almost sociopathic motivation to crucify Corona…
Hacienda Luisita Inc.â€™s law firm has been the Belo Gozon Elma Parel Asuncion & Lucila Law Offices. Niel and his wife [Yvonne Angeli] joined the firm straight from law school in 1999, becoming junior partners in a few years. â€œAs lawyers, Niel and his wife are creations of that firm,â€ a law-school classmate of his said.
While Tupas officially left the firm when he was elected congressman in 2007, it is widely known in Congress that it is still â€œhis Firm,â€ on whose staff he has continued to rely for his legal research and advice.
According to Tiglao, Tupas’s firm is already involved in the battle to “persuade” the Supreme Court to “reconsider” its resolution to subject Hacienda Luisita to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Tiglao cited how the start of their involvement was a virtual go-signal for the impeachment complaint to be “rammed through Congress”. At stake in this effort to protect Hacienda Luisita from expropriation is virtually the entire fortune of the Cojuangco clan which can only be secured if the vast estate is spared from the CARP or if its owners get the payout they demand.
If the [Supreme] Court buckles under their demand, it would result in the biggest payment to a private entity by government in our history, the biggest revenue ever of any Philippine law firm ever because of its contingent-fee contract with Hacienda Luisita, and immense wealth for the Tupases, if theyâ€”and most probably they haveâ€”still have profit-sharing rights in their law firm.
I had been puzzled over Tupas and his colleaguesâ€™ ferocity against Corona, the likes of which I had seen only in the eyes of communist firebrands or of people out to avenge their murdered kin. But now I understand why they have thrown all civility out the window, and had even wanted to drag his wife, his children and even his in-laws to a modern version of a mobâ€™s stoning. Many billions of reasons, it seems.
Perhaps then, given the stakes involved, it comes as no surprise that everyone is treading carefully so as not to upset Tupas, evidently the anointed executor of the Corona impeachment. If any of the Senator-Judges are seen giving even a slightest hint that they are siding with the defense, they could be branded as a GMA supporter and face the wrath of even bigger powers.
In this context, we get to appreciate even more the emerging integrity of the Philippine Senate. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile bravely risked drawing the ire of PNoy supporters when he repeatedly warned private counsel Joseph Perez to refrain from twisting the words of the witness, Noli Hernandez, Megaworld Corporationâ€™s senior vice president for marketing and sales:
Enrile, the presiding officer, appeared irritated when Perez repeatedly mentioned a P10-million â€œdiscountâ€ when Megaworld made the original reduction from P24 million to P19.6 million even before Corona came into the picture.
â€œNo, this is not a discount,â€ the 87-year-old senator told Perez, triggering a reaction from the gallery.
â€œCounsel, you are twisting the answer. Iâ€™m sorry to tell you that. The reduction done voluntarily by the selling company could not be considered the discount. They lowered the price themselves. That is not a discount to anybody. Discount means youâ€™re giving a privilege or a favor to somebody. The discount started at the reduced price of P19.6 million,â€ Enrile added.
The prosecution thought they could actually trick a property developer into admitting that they use bribery on a regular basis. They must be dreaming. And besides, the property developerâ€™s claim that the property was sold at a discount due to a slump in the property market in 2009 — not to mention that the unit had construction defects — makes a lot of sense. This was even confirmed by Senator Manny Villar, also a property developer, who said that the discount was available to everyone and not just the Coronas.
The prosecutionâ€™s overconfidence is leading them to make grave mistakes, which is the failure to foresee the strength of their opposition. They are not good at listening, a skill they can apply if they could only stop talking too much and let the other party finish what they are saying. It was embarrassing when at some point one of the prosecutors objected to a question that hadnâ€™t even been asked by the defense.
The problem here is that no matter how many times the prosecution has been caught with their pants down, they seem unaffected. They do not seem to be aware that they are out of step, which leads me to believe that they are incapable of internalising criticism. The fact that the prosecution still has a lot of supporters means that most Filipinos are incapable of internalising as well, which is why they appear to be unaffected by criticism, a trait that actually lulls most into thinking that they are the best even when they are not.
[Photo courtesy Reuters.]
In life, things are not always what they seem.