Over in the Get Real Philippine community Facebook Group, a rather lengthy thread erupted over a statement I had made about Senator Judge Miriam Defensor Santiago being "soooo annoying."
It was just one of those things I blurt out on Facebook, either on my own wall or on the wall of any group that I might be in. It was just a casual observation that welled up and found its way to my fingertips which were at that time on the keyboard of my laptop while I was monitoring the Impeachment Trial yesterday.
Not more than five minutes into another episode of "Miriam Goes Mad", I found myself thinking "Don't people get tired of hearing her grating soliloquy on how she used to be a judge or authority on some legal matter? Don't people get tired of hearing her screaming and howling at someone?"
A number of reporter friends who have covered the Senate say that Miriam adds spice to any proceeding and video of her going bonkers for one reason or another always gets people interested enough to watch.
She is amusing, as some would say. And, that, I think, is the problem. Senators are not supposed to be amusing, they are legislators and they should represent/work for the promotion of the interests of the people. One of the reasons why we have an Upper Chamber, I think, is to safeguard legislature from being too parochial or partisan -- not that it can be completely avoided.
Senator Miriam's outburst, which started with the Prosecution's withdrawal of several Impeachment Complaints and ended with having one of the private prosecutors cited in contempt, took up most of the day. And in the midst of it all, I was wondering if her moment before the camera was actually moving anything forward or was she just preening before the cameras?
I think her previous outbursts was already successful in establishing the public perception that the Prosecution are a bunch of amateurs and that the Impeachment Complaint is faulty. In fact, if there is anyone that can be credited for making Corona's acquittal publicly acceptable, it would be Miriam.
I don't know much about how judges are supposed to conduct themselves, but my impression is that judges decide upon the motions and issues brought before them.
They aren't supposed to attack or lend cause to be perceived to be attacking the case of either the prosecution or a defense in the guise of instilling order or "lecturing" either side on the intricacies of the law or rules of court.
And besides, on the 26th day of the Impeachment Trial, I think it's already a bit too late for any "lecture" to have any remedial value for the prosecution team. As I said, the sight of Miriam lecturing the prosecution was like watching someone beating/flogging a dead horse -- which in simpler terms means what she is doing, apart from being cruel, is also useless.
But then again, maybe it's not so useless.
Miriam is already viewed as being biased, at least according to one survey cited by ABS-CBN News. But what is confusing is exactly on whose side Miriam is:
Is Senator-judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago favoring the prosecution or the defense in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona?
People think she is doing both, according to a national poll.
A survey of 1,500 Filipino adults conducted by Laylo Research Strategies from January 28 to February 6 showed that 18% of respondents believe that Defensor-Santiago is biased against Corona.
She topped the list of senators perceived as favoring the prosecution. The top 3 in the list include Franklin Drilon (11%) and Francis Escudero (5%).
Around 39% said none of the senators favor the prosecutors.
Now, here's the thing. I haven't seen anything in the Senate's Rules of Procedure on Impeachment that talks about how a Senator Judge should conduct himself or herself with respect to either the prosecution or defense that would bar the showing of bias apart from observing "political neutrality" in Section III, Paragraph 3:
Senators shall observe political neutrality during the course of the impeachment trial. “Political neutrality” shall be defined as exercise of public official’s duty without unfair discrimination and regardless of party affiliation or preference.
Let's just hope, when it is the Defense panel's turn, our senator judges will be just as active in scrutinizing their arguments.