‘Corona trial good for educating people about law’
MANILA, Philippines—Evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, clear and convincing evidence, substantial evidence or a mere preponderance of evidence. Legal terms are becoming household words in the Philippines with the ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“The one thing good about the impeachment trial is it’s an educational process for those who are not too familiar with the law and the Constitution,” Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara told the Inquirer.
“The nice thing about it is that when I walk around my district, the kids shout out to me, ‘Objection your honor!’ So I hope it would also bring more decent people into the legal profession because we really need not just more lawyers but more good lawyers,” said Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo.
Both Angara and Quimbo, however, said that the legalese could be used in two ways—to bring out the truth or to suppress it.
Angara said the panel of spokespersons for both the prosecution and the defense in the impeachment trial and the media must simplify the proceedings in a language understood by the masses, who sometimes find it hard to grasp what is essential and what is not in the proceedings.
The use of Tagalog during the impeachment trial and outside the court, he said, helped a lot in explaining the proceedings to the people and raised their legal quotient.
Grasp the meaning
“I think on the whole it’s good. Everybody’s talking like lawyers, even the children. It’s good, but at a deeper level we must also grasp the meaning of impeachment,” he stressed.
He said the Corona trial teaches the public about the quality of evidence and testimony; that knowledge of anything must always be personal.
Quimbo said it would be sad if the impeachment process would just result in the acquittal or declared guilt of the Chief Justice.
“I think it should be an educational process for everybody to teach them that the justices of the Supreme Court may be the gods of (Padre) Faura (Street) but they are not the law,” Quimbo said.
Quimbo said it was “sad and disappointing” that the impeachment process had become almost akin to a criminal court proceeding which would alienate the people.
Interest of the defense
“That’s precisely why we get criticized by the defense. It is in the interest of the defense for the people to least understand the situation… if you throw in all the legal gobbledygook, people are going to get confused with the smokescreen that they raise. Believe me, it is to their interest,” Quimbo said.
Whatever the result, Senator-judge Peter Allan Cayetano said the impeachment trial can lead to stability in lieu of extra-constitutional options.
“In our case, I believe it does cause controversy but it does give us a sense of stability because there are now parameters wherein you can hold people accountable,” he said.
Cayetano said the question was how to get more people to participate.
He said American scholar Charles Black Jr. had described the role of the people in an impeachment process as that of “vigilant waiting.”
Cayetano said that with the emergence of digital communications, social networking and micro blogging, people suddenly have venues to criticize practically everyone and that was why it is important that they also have the same amount of information that senator-judges have.
“It’s also good because it gets ordinary people who are not political junkies suddenly drawn in because it is of national interest and it touches their lives,” the senator said.
Cayetano said that when Sen. Lito Lapid took the floor last week to clarify the difference between a loan and a cash advance, people laughed but it was a valid question from someone who is not an expert on law.
“People like Senator Lapid should actually speak their minds more because many of our people have simple questions and simplicity leads to better results,” Cayetano said.
“Sometimes, it is the lawyers and the powerful who actually complicate things too much,” he added.
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