Get it done
To call today’s impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona unprecedented would be a misnomer. We’ve had one like this before. More than 10 years ago, President Joseph Estrada was impeached and underwent trial. That one tried a chief executive; the one that’s opening today will try the head of the Judiciary. Perhaps in another 10 years, another official will be in the dock, but we will not bet on it yet. What’s important is today’s trial.
After all, today’s proceeding poses enough problems of its own, the most important of which is time and endurance. Can the nation endure the agony of a prolonged impeachment trial? We doubt it. For people struggling against everyday want and eager to get on with the day’s business of toil and earning a living, the trial may seem to be an unnecessary burden, a distraction or another excuse for a self-indulgent government—all three branches of it—to strut its wares and pander to the gallery, all at the expense of the public. But the circus has to go on. However, the protagonists must be restrained from their propensity for buffoonery because the crowd, which pays the costly ticket, is in no mood for a bad joke. So let all the players of the impeachment court do their job and do it sensibly and sensitively.
To the House prosecutors: A solid 188 of your colleagues signed the eight articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Corona last month during a five-hour caucus and transmitted them the following day for trial in the Senate. The swiftness with which you impeached the Chief Justice may be due to the conviction that you really have the goods on him. Or it may be due to political expedience and horse-trading that members of the two political branches—the Executive and the Legislature—are prone to. If the former, well and good; if the latter, shame on you. But since the people are giving you the benefit of the doubt, perform your work competently and credibly. And since Rep. Niel Tupas has said that you could finish presenting your case in three weeks, do your job quickly. The less fuss, the better.
To the Chief Justice: Since your midnight appointment by the former chief executive came in the face of obvious questions about its constitutionality and blatant abuse of power and privilege, you’re now reaping the wages of politicization: you, the head of the Judiciary, will now be subjected to an impeachment trial that is heavily conditioned by politics. But since you’re sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land, the same laws that allow the removal and impeachment of government officials, you have to subject yourself to today’s trial that’s part of the due process accorded to every citizen. Make use productively and effectively of the relief provided you by the trial. But stop employing dilatory tactics, such as the motion of your lawyers seeking a pre-trial; they will only add to the stock of political ammunition the prosecutors and your detractors can use against you. You are accused of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and graft and corruption. Make use of the trial to come clean on the charges against you. Prove your innocence and your moral and professional fitness to be the chief jurist of the nation.
To President Aquino: Only the blind and blasé would deny you have used your overwhelming political support in the House of Representatives to impeach the Chief Justice. Do not use it when the senators sit as judges in the impeachment trial. Don’t meddle. Respect due process and allow it to operate without the pressure of political whim and caprice.
To the senator-judges: You have the unenviable task of sitting as jurors in a trial that has divided the nation and brought it to the brink of a constitutional crisis. Despite your heavy political nature, suppress your partisan interests and employ objectivity and fairness. You know well that an impeachment is a game of numbers, another arena for politics. But restrain your natural instinct for politicking and exercise impartiality, independence and justice. An independent and fair trial is very important for the maintenance of our system of institutional checks and balances. If you debase the trial with your narrow partisanship and unprofessional behavior, then you make a mockery of the Constitution and bring the constitutional crisis to the breaking point. How you comport yourselves during the trial and how you dispense final justice would determine if we can keep this nation whole.
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