Sketches from an Impeachment Trial
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
“I love the law...” this is the start of a longer dialogue from the film Philadelphia, this is actually my favorite line in the film when Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) explained what he loved about the law, something about seeing justice being served occasionally, not often. This line comes back to me as I follow the impeachment trial of Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. I get so caught up with the daily drama that I even follow the news about it, the write-ups, the opinions. I am no legal expert though I did study it for a while in one of the premiere colleges in Manila. But leaving law school did not stop my love affair with legal drama and the impeachment trial is the biggest show on the road this side of the earth.
Imagine a roomful of highly intelligent individuals who toiled for over 9 years to earn their degree, pass the bar exams to finally be able to practice law. To me the law is man’s greatest invention, without which we would still be in the dark ages probably, making up the rules as we go along. It is also a great equalizer as it applies the same way to everybody. And so the Supreme Court Chief Justice is subject to the same law even if he is the highest authority on the law in the Philippines.
I love the law...
ICC Judge and Filipina Senator
The impeachment trial of the chief justice has all the makings of a saga, an epic battle between good and evil. But as it unfolded before our very eyes the lines drawn between what is good and what is evil started to get blurred. The accusers have not fully prepared themselves for their battle and the party of the accused stood by and promptly pointed out the holes of the case that the former was trying to build. Through it all the wisdom of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile shone through. At 88 years old he appeared to be the sharpest tool in the shed. Wise and magnanimous, he has single-handedly guided the entire process into a fruitful discourse as he kept everyone in line. He was credible, charismatic and worthy of respect. Newly appoionted International Criminal Court judge Miriam Defensor Santiago was a cross between a sober voice of legal reason and a court jester. She has kept the prosecutors on their toes and kept the viewers educated and entertained.
The most glaring blemish in the whole affair was the poor execution of the prosecution team. Made up of congressmen-lawyers with the help of leading private lawyers in the land, the group totally demolished their own presentation. Enrile warned them early on that they may commit a fatal error just by following their complaint in the way it was worded. They were met with objections at every turn up to the the point where they needed to trim down their eight articles of impeachment to just three.
For better of for worse this is Philippine democracy in all its glory, the impeachment is at the same time entertaining, educational and frustrating.