Empty seats, bored audience mark Day 11 of Corona impeach trial
Empty seats and a sleepy audience marked the 11th day of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment trial.
Former Senators Ernesto Maceda and Francisco Tatad, who have been religiously attending the trial since it started on January 16, sat stoically in the gallery reserved for Senate guests.
Noticeably absent at the VIP gallery on Thursday were Maceda and Tatad’s former colleagues in the Senate, and other high-profile personalities who attended the opening of the trial.
Former President Joseph Estrada turned up at the Senate on Wednesday, but did not enter the session hall. His wife, former Senator Luisa Estrada, was in the VIP gallery on the first day.
Boredom was obvious on the faces of a handful of prosecutors and leaders of the House of Representatives seated behind Maceda and Tatad.
The VIP gallery is in the rear portion of the hall, which serves as a backdrop for the witness stand as seen on TV.
On Thursday, the gallery seats on both sides of the hall were occupied by a half-awake audience composed of concerned citizens, members of the senators’ staffs and reporters.
An exasperated Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile urged the prosecutors to speed up the authentication of their evidence via subpoenaed witnesses, repeatedly telling them to “hasten the proceedings.”
The senator-judges pleaded with both the defense and the prosecution to end the repetitive debates over rules and procedures by submitting their respective memoranda instead of engaging in verbal tussles on the floor.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said that at the rate the trial was being conducted, he expected it to last beyond the Lenten season in April. “That’s possible,” he said in an interview.
“But the session break is the break. If we don’t finish by March 23, we will resume on May 7,” he said, referring to Congress’ six-week Lenten break.
Senator Loren Legarda echoed Sotto’s apprehension.
“We have a long way to go because of the many articles and the hundred witnesses. Compared to the first two weeks, it’s becoming smoother … But still we would want a more efficient process,” she said.
Legarda said the prosecution should be more “direct to the point.”
“The issues in the eight articles of impeachment are very clear. We want the evidence and testimony to support the articles of impeachment so that we can make a decision for or against the case,” she said.
Senators also a problem
Interviewed during a break in the trial, Maceda blamed the slow pace on both the defense and the prosecution.
He observed that the prosecution had “not been very effective,” and that the defense had “better lawyers.”
Maceda also said the behavior of many of the senator-judges was likewise a problem: “Part of the delay is the [senators’ insistence] on asking questions even if the Senate President already said, ‘Let’s hear the prosecution and the defense first.’ No, that’s not being followed.”
He noted that if eight senators would stand at one time, with each taking “usually one long minute of three or five minutes,” almost an hour of the trial would be taken up by their questions.
Noting the absence of other guests at the VIP gallery, Maceda said: “I cannot answer for them. The only reason I’m here … [is] I record in my [newspaper] column what’s happening, and I have a radio program.”
Tatad, who writes a column for another newspaper, agreed that many people—both inside and outside the Senate impeachment court—were losing interest in the televised proceedings.
“That looks like it. Even the televiewers are [getting impatient],” he said.
Asked to elaborate, he said “very tedious details” were being discussed in the trial. He said this strategy “doesn’t fire up the enthusiasm of the people.”
Recalling Estrada’s impeachment trial, Tatad said: “The charge there, for example, was ‘jueteng.’ That’s illegal money … from gambling, a very serious charge.”
But for all its slow pace, the current trial still appeals to the former senator.
“I’m writing a book [on it, but] I missed one day when I stood as godfather in Tagaytay last Wednesday,” he said.
He vowed to maintain a front-seat view of the proceedings “for as long as I can … because I’d like to witness everything if I’m going to write about it. The flavor should be there.”
Originally posted at 12:41 am | Friday, February 03, 2012