The House majority apparently believes Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, Jr. is doing okay in heading the prosecution in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The viewing public doesn't agree.
In the six short days of the impeachment trial, Rep. Tupas has already been castigated by Senate President and impeachment court presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and has been thoroughly schooled by defense lawyer and retired Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas.
One of Rep. Tupas' lowest moments was when he called upon the court to be more "liberal" and "flexible" in enforcing the rules of the trial. In what is probably one of the more memorable moments of the trial, Sen. Enrile,deadpan, pointedly asked Rep. Tupas if he was suggesting that the court "entertain hearsay questions? ... argumentative questions? ... hypothetical questions? ... leading questions, teaching the witness what to say?" To which, Rep. Tupas could not give any clear explanation of what he meant by "liberal" and "flexible".
Rep. Tupas was also ripped by Senator Defensor-Santiago because he couldn't say how many witnesses the prosecution was going to present.
I rarely agree with Philippine Star columnist Alex Magno in political matters, but his take on the bungling of the prosecution is spot-on. Opines Magno,
"They clearly did not expect to actually sit through a trial. They
expected that a rushed impeachment complaint, signed by overeager
congressmen even as it was still being written out, combined with a
massive propaganda effort aiming to humiliate the Chief Justice, will be
quick and easy.
"They expected a repeat of the triumphant blitz that took out
Merceditas Gutierrez. That did not happen, as we know, even as
administration spokesman continued holding to the hope a sustained
campaign of demonization might still work some magic.
"Now they have to do what they can in a terrain where rules on
evidence matter. There is a price to pay for a strategy driven by
political arrogance and weighed down by hubris. It is always the
prosecution that carries the burden of proof, a load made heavier by a
flawed political strategy."
Pro-Aquino Philippine Star columnist William Esposo is livid with Rep. Tupas' apparent incompetence. He says,
"It should have been the task of Tupas to argue and sell the liberal
parameters on evidence. Tupas hardly made any effort to do that.
Instead, Tupas delved into matters that were off tangent, or of little
importance to the prosecution cause. He appeared to be a babe in the
woods — exposed as a legal chick competing with legal eagles. It would
not surprise your Chair Wrecker if Tupas raised the blood pressure of
many folks who followed the impeachment trial in real time on broadcast
"It’s bad enough that Tupas was operating like a kid’s prattle — he
committed the mortal sin of not recognizing that Senator-Judge Santiago
had inadvertently won the prosecution’s pleadings for a liberal
interpretation of the rules. He should have kept his mouth shut after
Santiago established the parameters for the tribunal. Oh no! Tupas just
had to grab the microphone again and subsequently made the monumental
blunder of antagonizing JPE by making it appear that JPE was making
things hard for the prosecution to introduce evidence.
"When JPE asked Tupas for specific guidelines on how the Presiding
Officer could be more liberal, Tupas could not offer any specific
suggestion. JPE asked Tupas if he wants the Presiding Officer to admit
hearsay, allow argumentative cross-examination of witnesses and so forth
— Tupas said no. Now what do you call a man who asks for something
that’s important and vital to his cause and could not exactly describe
what it is exactly that he wanted?"
It was arrogant of the congressmen led by Rep. Tupas to think that they could force Chief Justice Corona to resign. They should have accounted for that possibility, and did their homework to prepare for what appears to be a drawn-out battle. Now, their ineptitude, especially Rep. Tupas', is on display for all Filipinos to see.
As I have said in the past, and will probably keep on saying, I don't believe that Chief Justice Corona is fit to hold his current position, having been the recipient of a submissive Supreme Court ruling that allowed his midnight appointment, but, if he is to be removed from office, let it be done properly, and not be railroaded through. Otherwise, the quest against corruption will simply be viewed as a political vendetta. The fact that the prosecution team appears incompetent is not helping the case against Chief Justice Corona; it just magnifies the flaws in their strategy.