Hear No Evil: Miriam vs. Aguirre

by Dine Racoma

Upon entering the Senate Hall, there are 13 listed things that cannot be done while inside. Covering your ears while a senator is berating you is not one of them.


The Corona impeachment trial is unfolding in quite an exciting manner. On the 25th day of the impeachment proceeding, the Prosecution team dropped five of the eight articles of impeachment. Now, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago went head on with private prosecutor Vitallano Aguirre.

Once again, the feisty senator gave the Prosecution team a severe dressing down. Senator Santiago was on a roll and resorted to teaching the Prosecution team the basics of trial litigation. Her tirade lasted quite a few minutes and included using some choice words, including gago, which was later stricken out of the record.

While the long and loud tirade was going on, the reaction of private prosecutor Aguirre was caught on camera. While Rep. Niel Tupas seemed inured to the verbal tirade and even had a smile on his face, the private prosecutor was seen covering his ears. He looked like he wanted to hear no evil.

It was Senator Jinggoy Estrada who pointed out the errant behavior of the private prosecutor. As soon as Senator Santiago found out, she once again took the mic and went on another tirade. She has called the Impeachment Court to place Aguirre in contempt.

When given a chance to explain his actions, rather than be cowered down in the face of the anger of Senator Santiago, he went ahead and faced her head on. In fact, he even stood by his actions. When he was given a chance to speak on the mic, he boldly said that he covered his ears because his ears hurt from the shrill voice of Senator Santiago.

He went on to say that the prosecutors deserved respect and that as a trial lawyer, no judge would ever speak to a lawyer in the same manner that Senator Santiago has addressed the prosecutors.

As things were heating up, the Senate President told everyone to calm down and suspended the hearing for a few minutes to give everyone some time to calm down.

Aguirre eventually walked out of the court hearing as soon as the break was declared. This was precisely what he wanted to do as Senator Santiago was manifesting her feelings, but since he couldn’t stand up to do it, he resorted to covering his ears to prove a point.

In an interview with Vic de Lima on DZMM, it was pointed how Aguirre was only after the respect and dignity of the human being. The private prosecutor said that he felt that the members of the Prosecution team deserved to be treated better.

Aguirre admitted that he did not consult with the other prosecutors about his actions and that his physical reaction was his own idea. He was simply fed up with the poor treatment that the Prosecution team has gotten, especially from Senator Santiago.

Senator Pia Cayetano has reiterated the need for respect in the court of law, especially since the Senate Impeachment Court is supposed to be a shining example of the legal practice in the country. She supported the appeal to hold Aguirre in contempt.

Senator Santiago has never been one to mince words. It has even become a running joke with the Prosecution team that they already bring towels, tabo and buckets kasi lagi sila sinasabon sa Impeachment Court. Lead Prosecutor Neil Tupas has taken the brunt of most of Senator Santiago’s tirade, and he has taken it all in with a smile on his face, unfazed by such displays of anger, frustration and downright disrespect.

However, it has been noted since the beginning that while Senator Santiago does have a point and has shown thorough knowledge of the law, she herself has not always acted with the proper decorum in court. She has not held back her temper nor has she taken the time to reign in her words. She certainly has not toned down the volume of her voice.

Even the Senate President has given her respect by allowing her to speak so freely on the mic, even though Enrile himself and all the other senators have spoken so eloquently and with dignity.

In the past, the Prosecution team has said that they have felt hurt with the severity of the tirade of Senator Santiago towards them.

Aguirre is the first prosecutor to react so strongly against the tirade of Senator Santiago. Rather than apologizing for his actions, he even admitted that he was really offended by the actions and words of Senator Santiago. He kept saying how shrill the voice of Senator Santiago was and how his ears hurt. He then kept insisting that the Prosecution team needed to be shown respect.

Aguirre has a point

It is understandable that Aguirre got fed up with the tirade because it’s true – no judge in a trial court would resort to calling the lawyers present names or talk to them in such an insulting and derogatory manner.

The way Senator Santiago addresses the Prosecution lawyers at times is really embarrassing, for these are grown men who are successful in their own right, passed the Bar or are elected representatives of their own districts. How will their own constituents respect them when they see their congressmen being berated on national TV?

This is why Farinas wisely asked the word gago to be stricken off the record. It’s not ok to use such language in the respectable halls of the senate. Farinas has apologized to the court for the actions of Aguirre. This is only proper since the private prosecutor is under the control of the Prosecution panel.

Even though Senator Santiago is a senator-judge, is herself a lawyer, trial judge and judge elect to the world court, she needs to conduct herself in a manner befitting her station. She demands respect, yet she should also show it to the prosecutors, no matter how stupid, inane, unprepared, incompetent or gago she feels they are.

Enrile has said that they will no longer tolerate such misbehavior. He wants to uphold the dignity of the court.

Perhaps he also needs to also remind the lady senator from Iloilo about showing respect to the other participants in the trial.

Both sides to this brouhaha have a point

As a senator judge, it is frustrating to sit through the long and laborious impeachment proceeding. It is also frustrating to watch the Prosecution fumble through their presentation of evidence. However, although the Prosecution team may be making mistakes left and right, they don’t deserve to be talked down to like morons. Senator Santiago has even said in the past that if they were in school, she would have taken a ruler and beat them.

Now, Senator Santiago got incensed beyond belief that someone has shown her disrespect.

There’s a proper, dignified and respectful way to say something without having to resort to yelling, name calling, cussing or insulting someone else, regardless if you are in the halls of senate or anywhere else in the world. All the other Senators do it. Senator Santiago should too.

If you want to be given respect, you need to show respect yourself.

Here are twitter reactions from GMA News.