Day 43: Interview with prosecution’s Quimbo
Rep. Miro Quimbo gives us a preview of the prosecution's closing arguments.

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler’s Ayee Macaraig talks to prosecution spokesperson Miro Quimbo to give a preview of their closing arguments.

Could you just give us a preview, an outlook, what can the public expect from the prosecution after 42 days of trial today?

Quimbo: Well, we expect to present a case to the Senate and to the Filipino people that insofar as the continuance of our governance and our democracy is concerned, we need a Chief Justice who is trustworthy and somebody who can lead an independent judiciary. That essentially is the bone of our contention which is going to be supported by all the evidence that we have thusfar presented on his dollar accounts, his bank accounts, as well as the properties he did not declare, as well as the actuations and actions he has done over the last nine years he has been in the Supreme Court.

We expect Congressman Tupas, Farinas, and recently announced Speaker Feliciano Belmonte to argue the case for the prosecution. So you have decided to focus on moral fitness, the moral fitness of the Chief Justice. Why is this your theme for the closing argument? Why is this so important for the prosecution?

QUIMBO: Well, I think it’s very important because we don’t want to get lost in the nitty-gritty of the small battles that we’ve had on whether the evidence is admissible or not, whether what amount of bank accounts is actually allowable that you did not declare in your SALN, we’re getting lost in the trivialities of it. But in the end, primordial question is, “Is he morally fit to continue as Chief Justice?” I think that’s the most important question. Is he good for our country? Putting him back in the Supreme Court, is that best for our democracy? That’s essentially what we want to be able to show and present.

Just a scenario that some lawyers raised, that senators can vote to abstain. So how do you think that changes the entire picture?

Quimbo: A vote of abstention is a vote of acquittal. The 16 conviction votes is immovable. It is based on a constitutional provision that determines the actual number of senators we have. So even if there are only 16 that actually show up, those 16 have to vote for us, it’s not just 2/3s of those who are present. Even if somebody gets sick, that vote will still be counted as a vote of acquittal because we need a solid 16 votes for conviction, that’s why it’s a very difficult number to reach.

Abstaining would, in effect, be a vote to acquit?

QUIMBO: Absolutely. I think if anybody or any of the senators are thinking it’s a middle ground, it’s not a middle ground. It is a vote to let the Chief Justice stay in office.

Without preempting the vote of the senators, what for you are the scenarios in case he is convicted or acquitted? What, for you, does it mean for our institutions, our leadership, for the different branches government?

Quimbo: I think, first and foremost, regardless of a conviction or an acquittal, but whatever happens is the fact that we were able to finish this and give all the parties their due process rights, present their evidence, shows that we have a democracy that is working. That while there are scathing remarks, and in fact, it’s a painful process, but the process is within the ambit of the constitution within our laws, which I think is very important becuse it shows that our democracy is working and that we don’t have to violate the constitution to find our public officers accountable, meaning people power is not the only way. There are actually remedies available to the public. Now, whether it’s an acquittal or a conviction, we can only hope that whatever decision is rendered by the Senate that is is accepted by all the parties as a final one because I think if we continue to litigate this matter, bring it up to the Supreme Court, I think that’s going to really be courting a constitutional crisis and is going to be violative of the very precepts of the separation of powers of the constitution.

Moving forward after this impeachment, what are the reforms that lawmakers like yourself are eyeing because they say it shouldn’t stop with this impeachment? Are there aspects of the laws we must change? Long term reforms.

QUIMBO: I think very important is we need to be able to impart or impress on all public officers and employees that the SALN is very important. and that we try to–I don’t think it’s ambiguous–meaning we all declare, if we have dollars, we declare if we have pesos, I don’t think there’s any ambiguity there but I think we need to go out and spread the very definitions of each matter and how important they are so that we can leave any ambiguity behind and to also enact if at all possible that there should be an automatic review of these SALNs, meaning there should be a mechanism through which we can process and evaluate and see in fact if something’s happening with a person. Is he enriching himself or not? I think those are the things that need to be done. Let’s not wait for it to balloon to such an amount. We should be able to trace it as soon as suspicions of corruption take place.

For the prosecution, what kind of experience has this been for you? What were the lessons you’ve learned? There were times you were scolded for some bloopers, for some errors, like, coming out of this, what were the things that you’ve learned?

Quimbo: Were we scolded? Actually it wasn’t a scolding, it was a scalding. I mean, it was worse. But I think the learning experience here is that no amount of preparation is always enough. There are always things that are so uncertain. And we’ve realized that the initiatory party, meaning we’re the first party, the prosecution, there’s always difficulty there because we’re breaking ground. Generally, we take on the brunt of the mistakes and the criticisms but having said that, what we have learned is that we realized that the public is deeply concerned about accountability. We’ve always known that but we realized that the public holds on to their public officers as being transparent and insuring that the trust that is given is actually not betrayed. I think it’s a learning process for us and we had to sharpen our courtroom skills, something that we don’t do anymore because that is prohibited in the constitution. Those are the things we’ve learned.

What is your mood for the prosecution?

Quimbo: Amused? That’s in the mood meter right? (laughs) Well, we are happy in a sense that it’s about to conclude more than anything else. None of us expected it to be this long. But the fact that it is about to terminate and come to a conclusion, we are happy that it is about to end. –

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