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MANILA, Philippines – Eleven years ago, Pinoys were glued to their TV sets for the telenovela-like impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada. Now, they can monitor another historic impeachment trial virtually in the age of Twitter and livestreaming.
Senate officials announced on Thursday, January 12, media guidelines for the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. The trial starts on Monday, January 16, and this trial will be tweeted.
The guidelines allow reporters to tweet from inside the session hall. Viewers can also share their views on Twitterverse, and watch the trial online. Even before the trial begins, the discussion already kicked off with the hashtags #Coronatrial and #CJontrial.
Here are quick must-knows from the press briefing of impeachment court spokesperson Valentina Cruz, Sergeant-at-Arms Major Gen. Jose Balajadia Jr., executive director for Legislation Renato Bantug Jr., and Public Relations and Information Bureau Print Media Director Sammy Santos:
Q: When and what time is the trial?
The trial starts on Monday, January 16, at 2 pm. There is no specific time for the adjournment and senators can go on until late at night if they wish. The trial will be from Mondays to Thursdays at the Senate session hall.
Q: What does the session hall look like?
Similar to the Estrada impeachment trial, senator-judges will be seated on one side of the hall while the prosecution and defense panels, and the witness stand are on the other side. There is a gallery on both sides of the hall for viewers. There are also VIP seats.
Q: Who calls the shots in the trial?
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is the presiding officer in the Corona trial. During the Estrada trial, the job belonged to then Chief Justice Hilario Davide.
Q: What’s on the agenda on Monday?
The prosecution and defense teams will make their opening statements for 10 minutes each. The Senate is also expected to tackle the defense’s motion for a preliminary hearing, questioning the validity of the impeachment complaint.
Q: Will the actual trial start on Monday?
No, the defense motion and other procedural matters will be tackled on Monday. It is still unclear when the trial proper will actually start.
Q: Can the trial NOT push through?
Yes, IF the Supreme Court issues a temporary restraining order. Senators will only address the issue if it actually happens.
Q: Who is allowed inside the session hall?
The public, Senate staff, the prosecutors and defense teams and their guests, and reporters are allowed inside the session hall. Only 40 reporters will be allowed in. They will be chosen using a lottery.
Q: Are cellphones, laptops and iPads allowed inside the session hall?
The public will be allowed to bring these devices but only reporters may use their cellphones. The mobile phones can be used for SMS and tweeting but not for taking photos and video.
Q: Can I watch the trial in the session hall?
Yes, but the Senate session hall can only seat 361 people. At least 175 seats are allotted for the public, 25 of which are for senior citizens. Because of the limited seats, the Senate will issue passes on a first-come, first-served basis. These will be issued daily at 11 am at the covered walk in the Senate grounds. Only one pass will be given for every person who lines up.
Q: How can I watch the trial away from the Senate?
Various media groups will cover the impeachment trial. At least 10 TV networks will cover it, with news channels offering wall-to-wall coverage. It will be pooled coverage, meaning all media groups will share the same video. At least 15 radio stations will also cover the trial. Wired viewers can access the livestream of the trial right here at www.rappler.com.
Q: Will Chief Justice Renato Corona be there?
Chief Justice Renato Corona is not required to appear before the impeachment court. He has the choice of attending the trial. It is still unclear if he plans to do so. His lawyers will represent him.
Q: Are the prosecution and defense allowed to speak outside of the trial?
The prosecution and defense teams, and senator-judges will only grant media interviews outside the session hall. The Recto and Laurel rooms at the Senate will be used for media briefings, and the Senate strictly prohibits interviews outside of these rooms. Daily briefings are expected from the prosecution and defense spokespersons before and after the trial and during breaks. They are, however, not allowed to tackle the merits of the case.
Q: Where will the prosecutors and defense lawyers stay?
The Tañada room is reserved for the defense team and the Padilla room for the prosecution.
Q: How much is government spending for the trial?
Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said the Senate allotted a budget of P5 million for the trial. Of this amount, P4,000 is set aside for each of the robes of the senator-judges. The senators ordered a new set of robes, saying they were not comfortable with the old ones. The robes they wore last December was red and the robes they ordered are maroon.
Q: What terms do I need to know?
Impeachment jargon includes subpoena ad testificandum (translation: summons for a witness to testify) and subpoena duces tecum (translation: summons for documents).
Q: What if I don’t follow the rules?
Security will escort you out of the hall or worse, you will incur the ire of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago. – Rappler.com