Let civility rule in impeachment trial

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The televised impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona is a novelty in TV entertainment series. This human drama beats all telenovelas because it is telecast live. It is educational, in many ways, giving us a picture of the many aspects of bank accounts, security of bank deposits and bank investments.

Watching the impeachment trial gives us, non-lawyers, the impression that 100 lawyers discussing a case can easily come out with at least 101 opinions. In practice, in “the search for truth and justice,” a lawyer may not confine his arguments to protecting the rights of his client; he may even attempt to hide the guilt of his client behind a mantle of technicalities. Isn’t there a Code of Ethics for lawyers that provide that in the art of litigation all arguments should be directed at the search for truth and justice?

At the start of the hearings, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the presiding officer, emphasized that the Constitution delegated the function to impeach a high government official specifically to the Senate; and that the impeachment trial is a quasi-judicial and quasi-political process.

Yet in the Senate hearings, the defense has been given all the latitude to block the presentation of evidence by the prosecution using legal technicalities. Pieces of hard evidence have been rejected because they were alleged to have been extracted illegally. Isn’t evidence per se evidence? Even if extracted with some irregularity, shouldn’t hard evidence be accepted as hard evidence, although the one presenting it should be penalized for his crime, if the manner by which it was extracted  indeed constituted a crime?

Also during impeachment hearings, can’t the parties, whether they be prosecutors, defense counsels or senator-judges, temper their voices and body language with civility and politeness? Allow some aggressiveness in the words they use and in their behavior to emphasize a point, but can’t they heed the late Sir Winston Churchill’s words of wisdom that “Even if you have to kill a man, it costs no more to be polite”?

—DR. SANTIAGO A. DEL ROSARIO,

commissioner, PMA Legislation and

former president, Philippine Medical Association,

Suite 210, Makati Medical Center

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