Why we need to be so hard on the prosecutors (Part 1/2)


Since the impeachment proceedings began, or perhaps as soon as they filed the complaint, the Prosecution team has gotten as much media attention as the man on trial, Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

However, the media attention isn’t always in their favor. In fact, oftentimes, the attention they have been getting in and out of the halls of Senate is often quite critical. From the way they hastily drafted the impeachment complaint, to the way they seem unprepared for Court, the Prosecution team, led by Rep. Niel Tupas, has been getting a dressing down left and right.

Do they deserve it?

It’s not easy to impeach a person

As the last few weeks have shown, it’s not that easy to impeach someone. Just because the president doesn’t like the Chief Justice because he was appointed by his predecessor doesn’t mean that it’s that easy to get the perceived bad guy out. Even with the very strong and vocal backing of the Executive branch of office, it’s still not a clear victory for the Prosecution team.

The way many congressmen file impeachment complaints left and right, you’d think that getting someone removed from office is as easy as changing your shirt for the day.

The recent proceedings have gone a long way in educating both these people who drafted, signed and are now handling the impeachment complaint, as well as the public that is watching these proceedings is that there is such a thing as due process.

What the Prosecution team seems to have realized is that it’s not enough to come up with allegations or to have suspicions or to even simply believe that someone is corrupt and doesn’t deserve his seat in public office.

You need to present cold hard evidence. You need to present credible testimony. You need to go through due process to present your witnesses. You need to allow the Defense team to see your evidence, hear your testimony and allow them to respond. You need to come to Court prepared and act professionally.

Many issues at the onset


The problem with the Prosecution team’s handling of the impeachment proceedings is that they have been making many gross mistakes left and right. Because the proceedings in the Senate are being televised live, the public is able to see firsthand what is going on. This works both ways. This means that the public is able to witness just how good they are, or just how badly they are failing.

As it is, it’s like watching a sinking ship.

After a few weeks of trial, there were reports that the Prosecution team was breaking at the seams. Seems like the pressure of the trial and the enormity and gravity of what they are actually handling is hitting them. Outside the halls of Congress and when placed in a different arena, their impeachment complaint now doesn’t seem as iron clad as they once thought.

There were reports that the Prosecution team wanted to change their lead prosecutor, Niel Tupas, who has been repeatedly given severe dressing downs by various senators, including Sen. Miriam Santiago, and even the Senate President himself for being unprepared. This has of course been denied. It is more crucial than ever that the Prosecution team shows a united front to the public.

The Prosecution team’s actions in and outside the Court room has also left them open to criticism, from making the trial one by publicity, and for talking to the media about their approach, the witnesses and evidence they have lined up.

The Prosecution team is making many of the problems it is dealing with now.

Hasty drafting of the impeachment complaint


A lot of the Prosecution team’s woes are grounded in the fact that the impeachment complaint has many fundamental problems that they are now having difficulty with. For beginners, it has been said time and again that the impeachment complaint virtually sailed through congress. Minadali.

In their desire to oust Corona quickly, they hastily put together an impeachment complaint that should have been better worded and more carefully written. If they had, then the Defense team wouldn’t have a field day debating the points of each article of impeachment and the complaint would be able to withstand all the technicalities of the law.

From the start, Senator Francis Escudero has reiterated that each impeachable offense should have been listed as one article, rather than citing several examples or instances under each article. This is how it is done in the US to facilitate the proceedings. This would have made the impeachment proceedings move more quickly since it would be easier to go through each article.

Their most recent faux pas with this bit the Prosecution team in the ass when last Tuesday, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile would not admit to court evidence or testimony against Corona and his wife availing of free Philippine Airline tickets for travel at the time that PAL had a pending case.

This is because bribery should have been specifically listed on the third article of impeachment. Since it wasn’t specified, then the PAL witness and evidence was deemed irrelevant to the article that the Prosecution was trying to prove.

The only highlight of that day was that everyone got to go home early.

They are not practicing litigation lawyers


It is very clear that although they may have law degrees, these congressmen who are trying the impeachment are not practicing litigation lawyers. They don’t have the experience or the skill to handle such an important proceeding.

Since day one, it has been clear that the Prosecution team has been outclassed and outranked. Lead Defense counsel Serafin Cuevas knows the law like the back of his hand and is able to object and bring up many technicalities at any given opportunity. It is already intimidating enough to face someone of his caliber. The least the Prosecution should do is come to Court prepared.

To get around this for example, Rep. Niel Tupas would sheepishly ask for leniency of the court. However, when asked to explain exactly what he wanted, he couldn’t even articulate it.

If this were a criminal case, it would have been thrown out the window a long time ago and the Prosecution team would probably be placed in contempt for wasting the court’s time.

Poor choice of private prosecutors

The Prosecution team has also availed of the services of private prosecutors. However their choices haven’t always been welcomed.

For example, there was the public scolding of Sen. Santiago of Atty. Arthur Lim, who specializes in maritime law. His relevance to handling an impeachment proceeding seemed questionable.

The choice of Atty. Marlon Manuel as a private prosecutor has also made the Prosecution team look like a hodgepodge of people with a personal vendetta against the Chief Justice. Manuel is the lawyer that handled the case of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) against PAL. With him onboard, it seems like senate impeachment proceedings are being used to turn against the Supreme Court’s decision on a prior case.

Senator Joker Arroyo has said that this particular choice of private prosecutor is one with a vested interest against the Chief Justice.

This has lent an air of dubiousness as to the credibility of the Prosecution team. All the Prosecution team needs to add to their battalion is President Aquino, who has made no secret of his desire to get Corona out.


Continuation in Part 2


Photo from Philippine Senate. Some rights reserved.