With one week of the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona over, political pundits have been commenting left and right on the merits of the case, as well as the performance of the key players: the prosecution, the defense, and the Senate-judges. The following points appear to be the common ones:
1. The prosecution needs to do its homework. Despite the fact that the House prosecutors are all lawyers, it's clear that they've spent more time in the political arena than the legal one. On day one of the trial, they were caught unprepared to present their witnesses or their evidence, since they apparently did not realize that the articles of impeachment would be tackled in the order by which they were filed. I can't help but feel that, after transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, the House prosecutors thought that the whole trial would be a walk in the park, hence, their unpreparedness. Hopefully, they've learned their lessons, and, chastened, will be better prepared for the following week.
2. The defense is focused on the legalities of the impeachment. This was clear when the defense lawyers, led by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, tried to hold a preliminary hearing, the subject of which, if I recall, was the verification of the articles by the House members who signed them. Much has been made by the pro-Corona groups that the House members did not verify the articles or even read them; this, according to the defense, could invalidate the articles. The Senate judges, led by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, disallowed the request, stating that the articles, as transmitted, were valid.
While impeachment is primarily a political process, I believe that due process must be followed, so that the whole trial remains credible. By focusing on the legalities, the defense is trying to maintain the process.
3. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is credible as the presiding officer in the impeachment trial. Senator Enrile knows the value of maintaining the credibility of the Senate; he knows that the whole nation is watching the proceedings of the trial. Thus, he cannot afford to allow partisan leanings to be dominant, although it's clear that, from the first week, there are Senators who are already perceived to be partisan. So far, Senator Enrile has kept the proceedings on an even keel. What amazes me about Senator Enrile is his ability as a political survivor. Imagine, the architect of Martial Law, now being revered as much as former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide was during the impeachment trial of former President, and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada.
4. The impeachment trial will be a long process. With one week over, barely four witnesses have taken the stand, with the one lone drama being the surrendering of Justice Corona's statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SAL-N) by the Supreme Court's Clerk of Court. The prosecution says that they will be presenting around seventy witnesses, and, of course, each one will be cross-examined by the defense. While I agree with those who say that the impeachment trial is part of our maturing as a country, I'm also worried whether the Senate and the House will be able to continue their legislative work, since there are many other pressing matters for the country.
One week of the trial is over. Like many of us, I'm looking forward to seeing what will happen next week. At the same time, I'm hoping that this trial will move more quickly, so that we can move on to more important national matters.