Citizen judges will also try the Chief Justice

Voltaire Tupaz
Sen Francis Escudero: this is what also makes the process political

MANILA, Philippines – “Maraming salamat po, and I love you all!”

Chief Justice Renato Corona, in a rally this morning, Jan 16, 2012, punctuated his speech with a public declaration of affection. The public, after all, will influence the verdict of the Senate convened as an impeachment court.

In an interview via Twitter, Senator-juror Francis Escudero (@SayChiz) said the people participate as “citizen jurors” during the impeachment trial.

“In a sense, this also makes the process ‘political’ because the public can be part of the proceedings, be ‘citizen judges’ and make known their opinion without fear of being sanctioned.” 

Escudero was the first interviewee on Rappler’s Ambush, a quick and brief interview with newsmakers conducted on the popular microblogging site. This writer moderated the online exchange that included Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa (@Maria_Ressa) and multimedia reporter Ayee Macaraig (@AyeeMacaraig). 

Asked by Ressa about what the stake is for the Philippines with this impeachment, Escudero replied, “Our ability to show and prove to the world that we can settle our differences legally, peacefully and rationally both as a country and as a people.”

Political or judicial

Pressed by Twitter user Milken Cutamora (@milkenc) if the process is political or judicial, Escudero explained, “The impeachment trial is a political and judicial process — political because elected reps get to prosecute and decide the case, and judicial in that, certain rules of procedure, rights and decorum must be observed during the trial.”

However, during the opening of the impeachment trial this afternoon, Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile emphasized, “No other body can try this case. People have no authority to decide.”

Ruling on a motion to sanction prosecutors who earlier divulged evidence to media, Enrile also warned the prosecution and defense panels to forego discussion and presentation of evidence outside the impeachment court.

But according to Escudero, “The sub judice rule does not apply to an impeachment trial. At best, we can proscribe discussion of the merits by the jurors, the parties, their counsels and witnesses.”

Senate on trial

Responding to a question from Macaraig on whether the Senate will share with the public the result of the caucus they held this morning, Escudero said there’s “no gag rule with respect to what was discussed. That’s why it is my fervent hope that this time we get to finish what we started.”

“We, the jurors and the Senate, in a way, will also be on trial. Whatever the outcome, it must be perceived to be fair for it to be acceptable whatever our collective decision may be,” Escudero added.

When asked how the Senate will avoid trial by publicity, Escudero replied, “You get to be the judge if the trial is fair, given that it will be covered by media. I hope that it will be perceived as such.”

For Sen Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr (@bongbongmarcos), the best way is to keep mum and stay away from social networking sites. After the first day of the trial was adjourned, Marcos posted on his Twitter account: “I have decided to suspend my TWITTER and FACEBOOK accounts for now, in compliance with the Senate Impeachment Rules. Thank you.” – Rappler.com