‘Who is really in control’ in Menorca case against INC?
Iglesia Ni Cristo lawyer Rogelio Vinluan stopped INC ex-minister Lowell Menorca from pouring his heart out in the Court of Appeals on his petition for habeas corpus (“Iglesia lawyers block ex-minister’s testimony,” Second Front Page, 12/2/15) with a mere technicality: Menorca’s “judicial affidavit” was “noncompliant with court rules” in that it was not in a “question-and-answer” format. As a consequence, the proceedings were needlessly put on hold.
This is really the problem with too much technicality being resorted to by pedantic lawyers who invoke the letter, instead of the spirit, of the law. The truth of the matter is in the joke being told and retold quite often: If the facts and the law are on your side, pound on the facts and the law; if the facts and the law are not on your side, pound on the desk (meaning, technicalities)!
True, the rule on “judicial affidavit” would abbreviate proceedings by curbing the loquacity of lawyers. But more importantly, it is intended to cut to the chase by getting the facts right out; and supposedly to ensure that the story is the witness’ own and not the lawyer’s tall tale, it is required to be in a Q & A format!
But what actually happens in practice is, after hearing the witness’ story, it is still the lawyer who puts in every word in the affidavit whether in narrative or Q & A format. No one is crazy enough to say it in court, but lawyers do add or take away minutiae depending on which way they want to go with their prosecution or defense of a case. Thus, all kinds of half-truths—nay, blatant lies—may still find their way into such supposedly solemn act!
The rule serves no genuine purpose but to perpetuate the illusion that a witness’ testimony is given spontaneously! Anyone who thinks a witness comes to court without being coached or rehearsed by his lawyer has got another think coming!
The only way to shorten trial is for the judge to take full control of the proceedings and stop lawyers from filibustering or grandstanding. The trouble is, many judges are used to just winging it and so lawyers have a field day running circles around them. In many instances, new rules only cause more delays especially if they don’t make practical sense, such as the overly fastidious and pompous rule on “judicial affidavit.” Why so much fuss about its form, instead of just taking the sworn statement in whatever shape it comes, subject to the test of its truthfulness by cross-examination?
In numerous law seminars, innovative rules are being discussed—mostly formulations of “experts” who hardly had actual trial practice and don’t know what they are talking about! Evidence of that is the frequent revision of the rules after being found to be more of a hindrance than an expeditious way to get things done. Thus, methinks the delay in the disposition of that “urgent” petition against the INC simply because of a defective “judicial affidavit” was uncalled for. Rightly or wrongly, it just made some quarters wonder who is really in control.
—GEORGE DEL MAR,
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