The battlefield over the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona has been moved to the Senate, with the transmission of the impeachment complaint by the House. It will be interesting to see how the Senate will decide the matter.
While, technically, the Senators are supposed to judge the impeachment case on its merits, given the evidence presented by both sides, the previous impeachment trial of former President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada has shown us that, despite the evidence presented, the Senators are likely to vote based on their political and personal preferences. While it carries the trappings of a judicial case, impeachment, after all, is a political exercise, and evidence will likely be damned in the face of the Senators' leanings.
It's still early, but I'd like to take a look at the current set of Senators, who will be sitting in the impeachment trial as judges, and see whether we can discern how each will likely vote. When the impeachment trial starts next year, I'm probably going to update the prognostications based on the Senators' actions. Keep in mind that an impeachment conviction requires a two-thirds vote by the Senate, so 16 Senators will have to vote for conviction to remove Justice Corona from office.
The Senator-Judges (Party, if any, in parentheses):
1. Edgardo Angara (LDP) - Sen. Angara was the Executive Secretary of Estrada, and it was his diary which was apparently the basis of his leader's 'constructive resignation'. Still, he has shown himself to be fairly objective, so I'm betting he will likely try to vote according to his conscience. Prediction: neutral, could go either way.
2. Joker Arroyo (Lakas-Kampi) - Sen. Arroyo has been consistent in his criticism of the Aquino administration, despite the fact that he had previously served as Executive Secretary during the administration of President Aquino's mother, the late President Corazon Aquino. If I'm not mistaken, he has already condemned the impeachment complaint, so it's probably no surprise as to how he will vote. Prediction: no to conviction.
3. Alan Peter Cayetano (Nacionalista) - Sen. Cayetano has been a consistent critic of the Arroyo administration, so it's likely he will vote for conviction. However, being a member of the Nacionalista Party, he is also an ally of Sen. Manuel Villar, who ran against President Aquino in last year's elections. His vote will probably depend on Sen. Villar's position come trial time. Prediction: Likely yes for conviction.
4. Pia Cayetano (Nacionalista) - The sister of Sen. Alan Cayetano, Sen. Pia Cayetano has kept a rather low profile as of late, and, thus, has kept her cards close to her chest. I'm not sure how she will vote on the case, but I'll go out on a limb, and say that she will probably vote according to her conscience. Prediction: Neutral for now.
5. Franklin Drilon (Liberal) - Sen. Drilon is one of President Aquino's allies in the Senate. Enough said. Prediction: Yes for conviction.
6. Jinggoy Estrada (PMP) - Sen. Estrada is a wild card for now, since he is both an enemy of Arroyo, which would make a yes vote likely, and a son of Estrada, who was impeached. I presume his feelings towards Arroyo will probably determine his vote. Prediction: Yes for conviction.
7. Francis Escudero (Independent) - Sen. Escudero is an ally of the President, but, since he is not affiliated with the Liberal Party, he will likely vote according to his conscience. Prediction: Neutral for now.
8. Teofisto Guingona III (Liberal) - Another ally of the President in the Senate, Sen. Guingona will vote along party lines. Prediction: Yes for conviction.
9. Gregorio Honasan II (Independent) - Sen. Honasan isn't really a free-thinker, and will likely vote along the lines of his ally, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Prediction: Neutral for now.
10. Panfilo Lacson (Independent) - After hiding abroad for more than a year, Sen. Lacson resurfaced after murder charges against him were dropped. Since he was practically welcomed back with open arms by President Aquino, he will likely vote accordingly. Prediction: Yes for conviction.
11. Manuel Lapid (Lakas-Kampi) - A Senator of no strong convictions, Sen. Lapid is one of those Senators who make a case as to why we shouldn't vote for celebrities on their being popular alone. Nominally, he belongs to Arroyo's party, so he will probably vote according to party lines, although I wouldn't put it past him to be 'convinced' to vote for conviction. Prediction: No for now.
12. Loren Legarda (Nacionalista) - The consummate political butterfly, Sen. Legarda has thrown her lot with whichever party she thinks will help her win. Since she is likely to run for a second term in 2013, it is likely that she'll vote with whatever the popular sentiment will be. Prediction: Yes for conviction.
13. Ferdinand Marcos Jr (Nacionalista) - Sen. Marcos has been a staunch critic of the Aquino administration, so it is likely that he will vote accordingly. Prediction: No for conviction.
14. Sergio Osmena III (PDP-Laban) - Despite belonging to the ruling coalition, Sen. Osmena has shown an independent streak in the past, and he is likely to display that streak during the trial. He will probably be objective about the trial, and vote according to his conscience. Prediction: Neutral.
15. Francis Pangilinan (Liberal) - Sen. Pangilinan is a party-mate of President Aquino, and will vote accordingly. Prediction: Yes for conviction.
16. Aquilino Pimentel III (PDP-Laban) - A beneficiary of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, Sen. Pimentel will likely vote with the ruling coalition. Prediction: Yes for conviction.
17. Juan Ponce Enrile (PMP) - The Senate President is the consummate survivor, and will likely vote according to his conscience. Prediction: Neutral.
18. Ralph Recto (Liberal) - Another party-mate of President Aquino, Sen. Recto will vote along party lines. Prediction: Yes for conviction.
19. Ramon Bong Revilla (Lakas-Kampi) - Sen. Revilla belongs to Arroyo's party, and will likely vote along party lines. Prediction: No to conviction.
20. Miriam Defensor-Santiago (PRP) - It's difficult to read with whom Sen. Santiago currently sides. On one hand, she is probably grateful for the support she received in winning a seat on the International Criminal Court. On the other hand, she has shown to be independent and unpredictable. It's anybody's guess how she will vote. Prediction: Neutral.
21. Vicente Sotto III (NPC) - It will be interesting to see whether Sen. Sotto has shed his image as one of the 'balato' twins (along with former Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta) during the Estrada impeachment. If not, it's likely that he will be 'convinced' to vote accordingly. Prediction: Likely yes for conviction.
22. Antonio Trillanes IV (Independent) - Sen. Trillanes was freed from prison by President Aquino, and 'utang na loob' is a strong cultural Filipino quality. Prediction: Yes for conviction.
23. Manuel Villar Jr. (Nacionalista) - The Nacionalista Party President was a bitter rival of President Aquino during the 2010 elections, although he finished a dismal third in the final tally. It will be interesting to see how he will act during this trial, considering that, as House Speaker, it was he who transmitted the Estrada impeachment to the Senate. Prediction: Neutral.
So, the initial tally is: 11 yes, 4 no, and 8 undecided. It will be those 8 who will determine Justice Corona's fate in the Senate trial.