Enrile: Classic case of wrong survey is the Man on the cross
The cold facts of evidence, not poll surveys, will decide the fate of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona come judgment day, senator-judges said Tuesday.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and his colleagues belittled the effect of surveys on their final decision to convict or acquit the Chief Justice, after a Pulse Asia survey showed that close to half of the respondents believed he was guilty.
“I will look at the evidence,” Enrile told reporters. “If we use surveys to convict or not to convict a person charged in courts, then we do not need the courts. All we have to do is conduct surveys whenever somebody is charged.”
Enrile recalled that one senator voted in favor of then impeached US President Andrew Johnson in the 1860s, and was “destroyed by public opinion, but in the end, was vindicated.”
“The voting was almost even and one senator voted in his favor to save him. This guy was destroyed by public opinion but later on it turned out that he was correct,” he said.
Enrile was referring to US Sen. Edmund Ross who provided the decisive vote that acquitted Johnson, who was impeached over his reconstruction policy.
Enrile said he was not preoccupying himself with surveys because the job of the impeachment court was to administer justice.
“We are administering justice here and the classic case of a survey that was wrong is the man on the cross… He was judged by a survey and until now people are worshiping him,” he said of Jesus Christ.
In a Pulse Asia poll of 1,200 respondents nationwide from Feb. 26 to March 9, 47 percent held the view that Corona was guilty. Forty-three percent could not say whether he was guilty. Only 5 percent said Corona was innocent.
The results were music to the ears of the prosecution panel from the House of Representatives.
Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, a prosecution spokesperson, said the public sentiments should warrant the removal from office of the Chief Justice at the end of the trial.
“It only shows that the people monitoring the impeachment proceedings are convinced by the evidence presented by the prosecution,” Tañada said.
He said he was pleased to learn that despite the criticisms that the prosecutors had received early on in the course of presenting evidence, people still approved of what they did in presenting evidence before senator-judges.
“This shows that the evidence that we’ve presented is substantial to sway the minds of the people that the Chief Justice is guilty,” Tañada said.
Marikina City Rep. Romero Quimbo said the survey results were a reflection of public sentiment toward Corona.
“The Chief Justice is accused of betrayal of public trust and the operative word there is the public, and it is important how we see the public in a snap shot,” Quimbo said.
Not popularity contest
As expected, Corona’s defense lawyers downplayed the survey, saying that the trial was not a popularity contest. They also said that senator-judges should be guided only by “law and evidence.”
Jose Roy III, one of the defense counsels, expressed confidence that the public perception on Corona’s guilt would have little effect on how the senators would eventually decide the case.
Despite their perceived political inclinations, the senators would “stand by their oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws of the Philippines,” Roy said.
“That’s their oath… (It’s) not according to what the Filipino people believe is popular,” he told reporters before the start of the proceedings.
“We think that that is the most important standard and that at the end of the day, the senators will honor their oath,” he said.
Asked if the defense could still convince the public of Corona’s innocence, Roy said: “I am confident that the votes that matter are all inside the session hall.”
“I think that the tide is in our favor,” Roy said. “Our principal concern is the evidence and the law. Public opinion can be affected by many things, but evidence should be able to speak clearly for the innocence of the Chief Justice and I think we are well on our way to accomplishing that.”
Defense still to be heard
Rico Paolo Quicho, a spokesperson for the defense, said Corona’s lawyers would present more evidence and witnesses that would help the public and the senators understand the Chief Justice’s explanation on the questions over his properties.
“We believe that the people closely observing this process would be able to see and understand our point,” Quicho said, adding:
Tranquil Salvador III, also of the defense panel, said the Pulse Asia survey showed positive indicators for Corona.
For one, Salvador said the poll indicated that more Filipinos were “willing to hear out” the Chief Justice’s explanation.
He also noted that the survey was done during the period before the defense started presenting its own witnesses and evidence on March 12.
“It shows that a great bulk of our population is waiting for the presentation of our case. This is a good indication because they are ready to hear us,” he said.
“This is enough to show that we are doing well in this process. It’s good for the country because if we are able to finish this, it would give us a certain level of maturity in addressing issues as a nation.”
In the Supreme Court, its spokesperson, Jose Midas Marquez, questioned the timing of the release of the survey results, noting that the defense had not yet even finished presenting its case.
“First of all, it’s premature. The impeachment case is still pending. I don’t know exactly what the bases are of the respondents for saying that,” Marquez told reporters.
“I hope it was not taken and released to influence the senator-judges to decide one way or the other. As I’ve said, the defense is not yet through with its presentation of its case,” he said.
“Maybe, they should do the survey only after the trial,” he added. With a report from Philip C. Tubeza
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