Santiago says ‘complaining’ prosecutors eyeing Senate seats
House prosecutors are crying foul over how they are being embarrassed at every turn in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona because this is hurting their senatorial ambitions.
The switchblade-tongued Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago propounded this theory on radio on Thursday following complaints by some lawmakers apparently hurt by senators, including herself, who had been critical of the performance of the prosecutors.
Santiago countered that live coverage of the trial, and not she, should be blamed for the prosecutors’ woes.
It is very clear that the real-time airing of their bloopers is hurting their chances at a Senate seat in 2013, she explained.
“The world has changed. Students especially, are accessing the Web so you can see from their reactions to the trial that they disapprove of the unpreparedness of the prosecutors,” Santiago said. “My critics just want to get attention. They want to become senators, perhaps.”
The former trial judge initially refused to comment on the prosecutors’ grievance.
“Why be on the defensive? The prosecutors should think for themselves why the judges are upset over their performance. They do not study! If they were school boys, I should be spanking their bottoms with a ruler because they are not doing their homework,” Santiago said.
Santiago was apparently singled out for her vitriolic attacks on the prosecution panel’s manner of questioning witnesses.
The senator recalled there was even a time when she aided the prosecution in “laying the foundation” during the direct examination of Annabelle Tiongson, a branch manager of Philippine Savings Bank, to establish her credibility as a witness.
Santiago has also criticized the chief House prosecutor, Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., numerous times for what she perceived as the panel’s lack of preparation in their presentation of evidence and witnesses.
This is on top of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s dramatic rejection on Tuesday of a witness to be presented by the prosecution on the travel perks that Corona and his wife Cristina supposedly enjoyed at Philippine Airlines.
Told that House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales Jr. had complained about her tone of voice during the trial, Santiago said prosecutors had no business minding the way she spoke.
“If they think they can make an issue out of this, I have been talking like this since I was a child. If this is part of my personality, is that not a personal attack? Like when one berates another’s hair, face, bad breath or body odor? We should stick to the issue,” she said.
Santiago added that this kind of nitpicking was her reason for not taking the prosecutors seriously.
“They were losing. To think that I was already helping them. I really want to punch some of them given the chance (’Yung iba suntukin ko na, eh),” she said.
In another interview, Enrile lashed at the prosecutors for whining.
“They should come to the trial prepared. How long have we been doing this? How many days,” he asked. So far, the trial had already run for six weeks or 23 days.
Enrile said prosecutors had been told time and again to come to the trial already braced for a grueling presentation.
“I even aid them now and then by asking questions because the manner by which they grill their witnesses is really objectionable. Sometimes, it seems I am already acting on their side as their lawyer so they cannot say I am biased against the House of Representatives,” he fumed.
Enrile reminded prosecutors he opted not to call Quezon City Representative Jorge “Bolet” Banal to explain how he acquired photocopies of Corona’s dollar deposits in Tiongson’s branch and his alleged illegal attempt to confirm the deposits with her.
“I could have summoned him but I did not want to breach interparliamentary courtesy so I did not do it. As presiding officer, I also consider their interests. If there is a valid objection to their questions, are they saying I cannot rule?” the Senate President asked.
Santiago said that Enrile should have agreed to a pretrial conference before the Senate started hearing Corona’s impeachment case.
This would have spared the prosecution from the embarrassment it is suffering now, she said.
“Unfortunately, the impeachment court decided against it under pain of being accused of slowing down the proceedings. The judge asks one party what his story is and the other, what his version is. A pretrial would have determined the course of the trial,” she explained.
Reacting to Santiago’s statement, Corona’s lawyer, Tranquil Salvador III, said: “It’s hard at this time to make a conclusion that the prosecution is losing steam … We cannot say that it is shared by all senator-judges.” With a report from Marlon Ramos
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