Spotlight on the Senator-judges

Gemma B. Mendoza

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Who are the Senator-judges? Rappler compiled quick facts concerning each of the Senators which might interest you


(Editor’s Note: This story was originally published February 17, 2012.)

MANILA, Philippines – Beyond the legal gobbledygook, the fate of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona ultimately depends on the 23 men and women now comprising the Philippine Senate.

As one senator-judge, Antonio Trillanes IV, puts it, the burden of proof or quantum of evidence required to convict Corona is “at the discretion” of each senator. 

Who are the Senator-judges? What factors can affect the decisions they make during and after the trial?

Rappler compiled quick facts concerning each of the Senators which might interest you:


  • 12 of the 23 senators are not lawyers – Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile leads lawyer-lawmakers in the impeachment court. The others are Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Franklin Drilon, Francis Escudero, Teofisto Guingona III, Francis Pangilinan and Aquilino Pimentel III. 


THE BARRISTERS. Only 11 of the 23 senator-judges are lawyers

  • In terms of profession, the second biggest cluster in this Senate are the actors. There are 4 of them: Senator Jinggoy Estrada, Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Vicente Sotto III.
  • Then you have 3 senators with background in business: Manuel Villar II, Sergio Osmeña III and Ralph Recto, 2 former soldiers: Gregorio Honasan II and Antonio Trillanes IV; and a broadcast journalist: Loren Legarda. 
  • Sen Panfilo Lacson is the only former policeman among the senators. He joins Honasa and Trillanes, however, in the cluster of Philippine Military Academy alumni. 

HOW WILL THEY VOTE? Of the 23 senators, 4 are actors, 3 have backgrounds in business, 2 are former soldiers, 1 is a former policeman, 1 is a broadcast journalist 

Role in previous impeachment moves

  • 7 senators were senator-judges in the aborted impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada. They are Defensor-Santiago, Drilon, Ponce-Enrile, Honasan, Legarda, Osmeña and Sotto. Of these, 4 voted against the opening of the 2nd envelope from Equitable-PCIbank which triggered the prosecutors’ walkout: Defensor-Santiago, Ponce-Enrile, Honasan and SottoWINNERS AND LOSERS. Incumbent senator-judges who played roles in the Estrada impeachment and how they fared in the 2001 elections
  • One senator, Joker Arroyo, served as prosecutor during the Estrada trial, while another senator, then House Speaker Manuel Villar Jr., played a key role in quickly elevating the complaint to the Senate.
  • Senator Francis Escudero was a staunch defender of Estrada and was among those who tried to block his impeachment. He was a signatory, however, in the impeachment complaint against former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. 



Those who were able to watch the hearings of the Estrada trial from December 2000 to January 2001 would recall that the senators extended until late in the evening. In contrast, the hearings on the Corona trial usually ended early; one hearing ended at 4:30 pm – on Valentine’s Day, which happened to be the 88th birthday of Enrile.

There are those who suspect that the frequent early suspension of the hearings has something to do with age:

  • 10 senators may be legally classified as senior citizens: they include Villar (62); Honasan, Lacson, and Sotto who are all 63 years old; Defensor-Santiago and Drilon who are both 66; Osmeña (68); Angara (77); and 2 octagenarians: Arroyo (85) and Enrile (88).

SENIORS ALL. Ten of the senator-judges are senior citizens. Two are octagenarians

  • 9 senators are in their 40s: Estrada, Pangilinan, and Recto (all 48 years old); Pimentel (47); Revilla and Pia Cayetano (both 45); Escudero (42), Alan Cayetano (41), and the youngest is 40-year old Antonio Trillanes III.


  • The remaining 4 senators are in their 50s: Guingona, Lapid, Marcos and Legarda.



  • 6 senators supported President Aquino when he ran for president in 2010: Drilon, Escudero, Guingona, Pangilinan, Recto, and Osmeña. However, not all of them supported his running mate, Manuel Roxas II. Escudero supported Vice President Jejomar Binay.
  • 3 senators are members of the Nacionalista Party. They include Aquino’s biggest rival during that race, Manuel Villar Jr. and his partymates, the Cayetano siblings.
  • Legarda was Villar’s running mate during the 2010 elections, but she is also associated with the bloc of Angara who, incidentally, also supported Villar in 2010.
  • Enrile is the former boss of Honasan. Both were implicated in coup attempts against Aquino’s mother, then President Corazon Aquino. Honasan, for his part, was also regarded as a mentor by another senator, fellow soldier Antonio Trillanes IV. 


Political future

Actions by some senators in the widely televised Estrada impeachment trial affected the outcome of their reelection bids in 2001. Defensor-Santiago and Enrile both lost their respective reelection bids after voting against the opening of the second envelope from Equitable-PCIBank.

Arroyo and Villar, on the other hand, capitalized on their roles in the Estrada impeachment to launch their Senate bids.

    • 6 senators may run for reelection in May 2013:

REELECTIONISTS. These senators may still run for reelection when their terms end in 2013: Koko Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes IV, Loren Legarda, Gregorio Honasan, Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero

  • 5 will also end their term that year but are barred from running again: Angara, Arroyo, Lacson, Pangilinan and Villar.

WHERE WILL THEY GO NEXT? Senators Kiko Pangilinan, Manny Villar, Edgardo Angara, Panfilo Lacson and Joker Arroyo will "graduate" from the Senate in 2013

On the other hand, 12 senators may not be swayed much by tactical considerations for now, since they will remain in office until 2016. They are: Pia Cayetano, Defensor-Santiago, Drilon, Estrada, Enrile, Guingona, Lapid, Marcos, Osmeña, Recto, Revilla and Sotto. – (Illustrations by Emil Mercado)


View the Profiles of the Senator-judges here:

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Person, Human, Sleeve


Gemma B. Mendoza

Gemma Mendoza leads Rappler’s multi-pronged efforts to address disinformation in digital media, harnessing big data research, fact-checking, and community workshops. As one of Rappler's pioneers who launched its Facebook page Move.PH in 2011, Gemma initiated strategic projects that connect journalism and data with citizen action, particularly in relation to elections, disasters, and other social concerns.