chief justice trial lessons learned – our reflection on the mirror
the impeachment trial of chief justice renato corona will come to an end next tuesday when the senator judges tell the nation their verdict on the case. looking back at what happened and picking up the things that strike us the most could very well be the reflection we see of us as a people and country on a mirror, big picture and details included.
in marketing and advertising, it is standard operating practice to look at the past business year, analyze it and draw up what we call “lessons learned” . these are conclusions, observations and insights that the marketing guy extracts from data and results from the previous year, both mistakes and successes that can be used to anchor the succeeding year’s marketing plans and strategies. the idea is to help ensure the mistakes of the previous year are not repeated and the successes are continued and improved on for the upcoming year.
we will apply a similar process and principle on the chief justice impeachment trial – look back at what happened and draw the things that we think worked and those that did not work. identifying these will hopefully prompt our leaders to re-shape our country to be better and stronger in the future.
this is from the point of view of an ordinary citizen who is not a lawyer whose only basis are first and foremost the live showing on tv of the trial and to some degree readings of newspaper and online articles about the trial.
chief justice impeachment trial lessons learned :
1. the country’s laws on good governance as it applies to government officials have a lot of big loopholes, if not contradictions and room for mis-interpretation, confusion and misuse in interpretation and application. these laws need to be looked at and to fix the problems – the anti-money laundering law, anti-graft & corruption law, SALN law and the ill-gotten wealth law.
i am not a lawyer and i possibly confused the laws and have duplication but that is the impression that i have as an ordinary citizen based on what has happened in the trial.
aside from the apparent loopholes, these laws are not specific enough in defining what is lawful and what is not. law/s recently passed in congress seem to to be inconsistent with law/s passed much earlier. worst, recent laws enacted does not seem to strictly apply or uphold the provisions of the constitution. many of the legal arguments hinged too much on the “spirit of the law” and “intent of the framers” rather than clear cut and obvious definitions.
2. the impeachment process and its rules need to be tightened for an orderly and smooth process to ensure credibility of the process and results. the current impeachment trial process has too many components left to the discretion of the judges and is a large petri dish for misbehavior and abuse by the judges, the defense and prosecution lawyers, witnesses and the media.
while there is good reason to exercising leniency by the judges and the often used Sui generis characterization of the trial, there is just too much of those that the trial has become totally unpredictable and unwieldy.
rules and processes are like walls, they both serve the purpose of keeping things in place inside at the same time preventing things from the outside in wrecking havoc to what is inside the walls. having no walls is a recipe for disarray and collapse which the impeachment trial came close to at certain points.
a tighter impeachment process and rules will not only make it easier for the prosecution and defense lawyers to battle, it will force both parties to make a much more intelligent and high level discourse of the law and the issues tackled in the trial. a well defined playing field and rules will sharpen the whole discussion and debate and thus result to a much clearer presentation and debate of the issues.
intelligence and clarity of the issues in this impeachment trial are both sorely lacking.
3. the senate’s leniency and often used characterization of it being sui generis allowed both parties and others to make a near mockery of the court. it can be argued that this is under point number 2, above, but we are dedicating a point to it as we think this is a very major lesson learned in the trial.
we have seen the court brought to confusion many times in the trial as the senate president bent over backward in allowing both the prosecution and the defense have their way in court.
the senate president probably did that to ensure transparency and show impartiality primarily for the benefit of the general public but we think it also brought in its twin partner of many negatives. both the prosecution and defense took advantage of it and introduced irrelevant issues and arguments in to the trial that in the end the public’s view of the case has become muddled and significantly shaded by irrelevant points.
the general public with a significant number of them being non-lawyers are naturally more pre-disposed to pick up the more interesting points of personal drama, histrionics from the senators and idiocies of the prosecution and defense lawyers. proof – showbiz chismis tv shows get higher ratings than talk shows that discuss national issues and news programs on tv.
in many ways the confusion and irrelevant points were brought to the trial by the impeachment court itself when it refused to deny them and simply sat it out and accepted everything and anything from the prosecution and defense.
4. it is sad that one of the most important legal battles in the country’s history is marked not by brilliance and intelligence but remembered most for the errors. blunders and incompetence of both the prosecution and the defense teams. we are absolutely transfixed on our tv screens as senator judges berate and castigate at different times the defense and prosecution lawyers for their incompetence, poor knowledge of the laws and court procedures and simple bad behavior and lack of proper decorum.
we witnessed defense and prosecution lawyers build themselves up as heroes only to make a complete turn around and turn themselves as complete fools as the trial went by.
spokespersons of both camps have claimed victory as the trialwent along but for the general public who are non-lawyers, that is very hard to appreciate if not rendering us totally clueless on what successes they are talking about as we are very much bombarded and witness the errors and blunders that they commit.
5. there is a lingering bad feeling in the mouth when you witness THE chief justice of THE supreme court in the country use the drama of tears, emotions and illness to argue his case and points of law. the supreme court is the country’s highest office in the judicial system. it is the supreme body that decides for the country in finality matters of law. the court’s decisions have the effect of becoming laws themselves for future generations.
this supreme body is headed by its chief justice who is renato corona. corona holds the highest position in the country’s highest judicial body – his words have the effect of being cast in stone.
but this chief justice did no such thing. rather than defend himself with brilliance of law and the superiority of debate and discourse, the chief justice of the supreme court used tears in his eyes to argue his point, illness to escape debate and emotional stories about himself, his family and his grandson.
we do not even think this drama or the gimmicks that corona performed on live tv will not be allowed in hearings at the supreme court. malice is done to the judicial process and the reputation of the chief justice when he himself performs such acts in a hearing in court.
in twitter we said that we should perhaps call mr. corona from now on as the cheap justice of the supreme court for his cheap tricks drama. we have also wondered whether law schools in the philippines will now offer acting classes to law students to teach them how to properly get their tears to drop on cue or declare illness and set up a walk out in dramatic fashion like saying the words “the chief justice of the philippines wishes to be excused”.
it is regrettable that the the chief of the supreme court himself has set a bad example for all lawyers to see. we were expecting that the man with the highest level of position in the judicial system would actually take the debate at a high level and yet he performed one of the lowest forms of strategy in winning a court case, and all done on live national tv.
we do not know what the verdict of the senate impeachment court will be but it is plain to see that we can already lay claim to verdicts on the conduct of the trial and the laws that are supposed to govern the trial. this is over and beyond corona, the senator judges and the congressmen, this is about the whole country and our pride as a people for future generations of filipinos.