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Aguirre faces detention, listening to Santiago 24/7

EARFUL An irate Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago covers her ears during a tumultuous moment in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona on Wednesday after private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre III was caught on camera covering his ears as Santiago was berating the prosecution panel. Aguirre, who said his ears “were hurting,” was later cited in contempt for disrespect of a senator-judge. SENATE POOL

For showing disrespect for the Senate tribunal, Vitaliano Aguirre II faces detention for 48 hours and fed sashimi and wasabi or for 24 hours be forced to listen to video speeches of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Aguirre has apologized for covering his ears with cupped palms as Santiago blasted the prosecution for what she regarded as yet another show of incompetence.

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The volunteer prosecutor admitted his demeanor on Wednesday during the nationally televised Senate trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona was “contemptuous.”

But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Santiago both made it clear on Thursday that Aguirre would be punished.

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“If I would have my way, he should be made to sleep here for two nights and we will serve him sashimi,” Enrile told reporters in Filipino, referring to the Senate detention facility on the ground floor.

Half-joking, he said the raw seafood—a favorite Japanese dish—would include “lots of wasabi,” the spicy green paste made of  horseradish.

But Santiago, whose blood pressure rose to 190/90 shortly after her verbal clash with Aguirre on the Senate floor, had something else in mind.

She said she was open to a suggestion of some “playful” (maharot) senators, abandoning the usual penalty of 10-day imprisonment and a fine of up to P2,000.

“They said he could be jailed for 24 hours in our detention facility and be made to listen to my speeches whether he likes it or not,” she said in a phone patch with reporters.

Asked if Aguirre’s hands would be tied so he could not cover his ears once again, she laughed and said the prosecutor would not be allowed to do so. “Hindi pwede,” she said. No way, Jose.

Bizarre apology

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Whatever punishment would be dealt will be discussed in a Senate caucus on Tuesday.

Aguirre on Thursday offered what seemed to be a half-baked apology to Santiago.

“I apologize to Senator Santiago for hurting her, for causing her discomfort. But I won’t apologize for what I did. I’m standing by what I said yesterday,” Aguirre said in a phone interview. “I did something wrong, but it’s a small wrong. Sometimes you do these things to get your message across.”

Asked for comment, Santiago said Aguirre’s statement was “very strange,” noting that “normally, when you apologize, you adopt a contrite attitude.”

“Even if he apologized, the court will not withdraw its finding of direct contempt,” she said. “We have to preserve the dignity of the court. That’s why even if I was the one affected, all the senators were unanimous (in citing him in contempt) because it was an affront to the entire impeachment court.”

Santiago, a tiger trial judge, said the judgment of contempt would stick on Aguirre’s professional record.

“This is very serious for him to be arrogant about it,” she said.

Heckler in gallery

Santiago said Aguirre used to heckle her while seated in the gallery. Wednesday was the first time he was seated in the prosecution panel, she said.

Aguirre denied he was planted there to taunt her—a behavior noticed by an incensed Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and caught by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on his camera phone.

Enrile said he shared Santiago’s frustration, which was directed at prosecutors for their apparent blunders since the impeachment trial began seven weeks ago.

“You know, for us who practiced (law), it is frustrating when we see that our fellow lawyers do not know what to do (nangangapa),” he said. “Those who understand (the law) who are not critics, they know why (Santiago is angry).

Santiago on Thursday announced that she would skip the March 9 oath-taking ceremony for the International Criminal Court, of which she had been elected to serve as a judge.

“In all probability, I shall be able to vote at the impeachment trial by about May,” she said in a statement.

Enrile welcomed Santiago’s decision, saying: “Nobody is driving her away… we enjoy her company.”

Aguirre’s gaffe did not help the cause of the prosecution, Marikina Representative Romero Federico Quimbo conceded.

“It did not do us any good because we’ve long prepared to bear with the process,” Quimbo told reporters in a briefing. “At the end of the day, you have to accept it and hope that in the end the evidence will carry through a decision that is going to be favorable to your cause and in this case a conviction.”

He said the prosecution, however, would extend any support to Aguirre if the impeachment court decides next week to impose a penalty on him.

Church: No trash talking

But Fr. Conegondo Garganta, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Youth, said Santiago and other members of the impeachment court should avoid trash talk at the nationally televised trial.

“It’s not only the old who are watching the ongoing trial of the Chief Justice. The children are also watching,” Garganta told the Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas.

“Our reminder is that we should not lose sight of good manners especially when it comes to our statements and in the words that we use. As ranking leaders of the country, we should be good role models for the youth,” he said.

“If children see our leaders shouting and throwing around hurtful words, they’ll think that what their idols are doing is OK and there’s a big possibility that they will also do the same,” the priest said. With a report from Philip C. Tubeza

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Corona Impeachment, impeachment trial, Judiciary, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Politics, Renato Corona, Senate, Supreme Court, Vitaliano Aguirre II
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