Mila’s Gallery

Patricia Evangelista

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Reporter Patricia Evangelista speaks to the visiting public who fill the session hall gallery daily to witness the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

MANILA, Philippines – Mila Pangilinan wears a green scarf to the Senate.

She is 59, mother of two children, and a former nurse. She commutes almost daily from Las Piñas City to Pasay, where she gets a pass to sit in the public gallery of the second floor of the Philippine Senate for the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Mila is a cancer survivor, and wraps the green scarf around her head. Her husband, an electrician for the Senate building, is also suffering from cancer. He refuses chemotherapy, after he witnessed how his wife suffered.

Sometimes Mila goes to the Senate alone, sometimes with her best friend Carina. The pair have been friends for a decade and are neighbors in Las Piñas. They argue in the gallery because Mila is a Marcos loyalist, and Carina Tan is a supporter of the Aquino family. Mila says the Chief Justice is a good man. She has seen him in public corridors, and says he seems like a kind man. Carina, 65, says it does not matter if he is a good man. Even good men who make wrong decisions are still guilty men.

Mila is hoping for an acquittal. Besides, she says, the properties attributed to the Chief Justice belong to the Coronas’ children.

Carina is expecting a conviction. She counts the reasons. Corona, she says, is one of the midnight appointees of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He was involved in the acquittal of 19 controversial cases involving Arroyo, including the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order. He is also, according to Carina, part of the “politically-tainted decision” on the Philippine Airlines case against its employees.

Feeling involved

Carina says she watches because she is a Filipino. “We’re here because we want to know the truth. Aside from that, you react with the people. It’s not like watching it on television. You’re the only one watching; you’re the only one reacting.”

Mila is interested in the process. “I want to see the real action. Watching it in the Senate also feels like you’re really involved. You really care about what’s happening in your country because you took the time and effort to watch it in the Senate.”

She believes more people do not attend the hearings not because they are uninterested, but because they do not feel welcome.

“Maybe the public, especially the masses, feel the hearing in the Senate is exclusively for the politicians and celebrities only.”

She is happy to say it is not. –

With reporting by Aiah Fernandez.

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