Shortly after the second episode of the Chief Justice impeachment trial teledrama unfolded yesterday, with the prosecution caught with their pants down, many people who closely watch this says that score is tied--one for the prosecution, and one for the defence. The first day saw the prosecution scoring a few points against the defence. Now, it is the defence turn to score points.
Yes, I do say that the score is tied--if you look at it as a legal analyst and perceive the impeachment court as just a regular court following certain procedures. As a communications professional however, I see things in a communicative-sense, and biases aside, the score really is lopsided in favour of the prosecution.
The prosecution panel may have fumbled, yes, but it does not necessarily follow that they are unprepared, like what the defence wants the public to believe. Yesterday's trial saw a defence panel unwilling to reveal much about their client--something which doomed this trial from the start.
Don't get me wrong---the Chief Justice was once a friend of mine, having been acquainted with him during the tumultuous EDSA dos era. He knows me, having visited him several times in his office at the PICC, and coordinated several things with him during the revolution. My sympathies are with him. I am just looking at this as a normal and ordinary citizen would look at it.
The refusal of the defence panel to adopt an "open door" policy in their defence of the Chief Justice harms their client more. As what Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile reminded both parties during the start of the impeachment trial, this is still a political exercise, albeit, being governed by several legal rules. What the defence should realise is the very fact that although this is a "court", and you might win "legal" points, nonetheless, this court is still a venue meant to help people form their own "perceptions" about the guilt or innocence of the Chief Justice.
What I mean is, this is not entirely a legal battle, but the battle for the hearts and minds of the people, for the people themselves would eventually decide this through their representatives.
In this battle, actually, the Chief Justice scored one point when he presented himself before the court on its first day. That is a PR coup, by itself.
However, on the second day, perceptions about his unwillingness to reveal much about his income, and his adamance to open himself up for public scrutiny are things which already harmed him--image wise.
Yesterday's events also cast doubts on his honesty---something very sacred as far as the viewing public is concerned. The Chief Justice should be made to realise that what he lost during this battle with a highly popular Chief Executive is this thing—trust. Many people don’t trust him and this develops into a perception that he is just a stooge, even a puppy or somewhat acting as a Mr. Clean for former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The Chief Justice must regain the trust and confidence of the people. Without it, even if he wins before members of the Senate, the Chief Justice will forever be subjected to intense scrutiny and endless doubts and questions on his integrity and the honesty of his opinions, views and decisions.
Actually, the Chief Justice already lost when the impeachment trial began. When he allowed himself to be subject to the powers of a co-equal branch of government, he effectively allowed another power to acquiesce his. Meaning, even if this ends with him being acquitted of these charges, questions and doubts as to the integrity of the institution which he represents, will forever be in question for as long as he stays in power.
In several interviews, the Chief Justice says that it is important of him to salvage his reputation, and even told his relatives that they should help him in this, otherwise, the possibility of their properties being sequestered by the State eventually exists.
Let the Chief Justice knows that this is not merely an exercise to salvage his personal reputation. This is something beyond him.
When he allowed himself to be impeached, and now subject to the power of the Senate, Corona already compromised the very integrity of the institution he represents. How can the Supreme Court dispense equal justice even to cases where several senators are involved when he now faces them in an impeachment trial?
For example—how will the Chief Justice now decide on the electoral case filed by DOTC secretary Mar Roxas, questioning the win of Vice President Jejomar Binay, when, he already told the public that Roxas is one of the persons prosecuting him and planning on his ouster as Chief Justice? Surely, even now, the public would say that even if he inhibits from the case, and the Highest Tribunal decides not to grant the Roxas petition, how will they justify it, when the very head of the Institution has now been harangue by the Chief Executive and members of the Legislature? Surely, those affected by the decisions of the Highest Tribunal of the land would use enormous weapons to question the integrity of the Court to decide by merely stating that the Chief Justice once decided unfavorably of them or even say that the CJ hates the respondent personally or has a grudge to settle against the respondent?
How then can the entire Supreme Court say that they are impartial when they decide on several cases involving the Chief Executive and say, corporations or individuals?
What Corona faces right now are questions on the integrity and credibility of the Supreme Court, now compromised by his unwillingness to step down.
Eventually, this institution would have to face this choice---spare the institution from further damage to its credibility and integrity by convincing Corona to stand down and resign; or utterly destroy this hallowed institution by allowing a mistrusted personality to sit as court inter pares. As what I say, the longer this trial goes, the more this institution will suffer from lack of integrity.