Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Senators as Judges


Senators as Judges – The importance of voting properly

In a country where elections can be described as a circus and where the electoral process is tainted with vote buying, accusations of electoral fraud, cheating and various contentions by both the winning and losing sides, it’s quite a leap of faith to take our elected officials seriously.
Our senators are a hodgepodge of popular, infamous, questionable, qualified, scandalous and downright corrupt politicians. Many come from a long line of political families, while others have come from various appointed positions or other areas of government.
There are those who are well qualified, whereas there are those who won because of sheer popularity. Then there are those who are currently holding office through whatever means possible.
No one who voted for the current roster of senators could have foreseen that they would eventually be voting for the very judges who would be presiding over the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court.
Many simply have voted for specific people because they are the spouses of someone famous, they have high name recall, they have had a string of movie hits, they are the progeny of political families or they have had high media exposure prior to the elections. Some are the tried and tested. Others remain questionable.
The ongoing impeachment trial has therefore put a spotlight on the people we have elected, most especially in the senate. Suddenly, being a senator is so much more than drafting laws, debating on bills or getting elected. Now, they have the responsibility of determining the fate of one man, and perhaps changing thecourse of our history.
Obviously, when people vote for a senator, the last thing they think about is how the person will conduct himself during an impeachment proceeding. However, because it’s better in the Philippines, we make our senators work!
Various things have been observed about the senators since the impeachment began.

Enrile

First, the senate president certainly knows his laws. He has been repeatedly praised as to his handling of the proceedings. He has been fair and he is even able to explain or argue points of the law. He is also doing everything to help expedite the proceeding so they can all go back to business. He is human yet engaging and intelligent.
In an interview with Karen Davila, Senator Jinggoy Estrada himself said that he doesn’t want to take over presiding the impeachment proceedings. Enrile is a tough act to follow.
When the dust settles, Enrile will come out on top, having earned the respect of his peers and the Filipino people. It doesn’t matter if he was a one time Marcos crony, was instrumental in EDSA I or if he never writes another law again. His demeanor and the intelligence, credibility and strong ability shown during the impeachment proceedings will be what people remember.

Other senators

Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s own father underwent an impeachment trial a decade ago. He has said that although he feels Corona is one of the people that went after his father, Pres. Erap Estrada, he can still be impartial in this trial.
Senator Chiz Escudero has shown that he can cut to the heart of the matter. He is able to ask or phrase things in a way that the common layman can understand. He has repeatedly commented on the improper and rushed writing of the impeachment complaint.
Senator Franklin Drilon has been accused of being biased in favor of the prosecution. He was asked to inhibit, but of course, he is still on board. He does help ensure that everything is done thoroughly so that the truth can be revealed.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago took to the headlines for giving the prosecution a good dressing down. Although she has claimed she has every right to yell at anyone she wants, it still would have been better if she acted with a bit more restraint. Her absence during the proceedings is due to her hypertension. Now she has asked the Impeachment Court to reconsider its decision to subpoena the bank accounts of Chief Justice Corona.
Senator Koko Pimentel, who recently claimed his senate seat after Sen. Miguel Zubiri stepped down due to an electoral protest, even offered to give the prosecution some brotherly advice on how to handle the case.
When Senator Lito Lapid took to the microphone, people were surprised that he was able to ask an intelligent question. However, his own wife is undergoing her own trial in the US for illegally bringing in large sums of money in her check in luggage. Kind of hard to take a guy seriously when the actions of his own family members are illegal.

Good work so far

It’s good to see the senators actually participating and coming to trial prepared. Also, the senators have the advantage of being able to ask questions that the prosecution or defense lawyers may not be able to do. No one objects when it’s his or her turn on the microphone. They have also been able to dumb things down and keep it real for the audience.
The senators’ actions are all coming under scrutiny and are affording the public a better perspective of their competence and intelligence. The lawyer senators or those with a legal background are obviously better equipped to deal with the technicalities of the case.
Does this mean we should only vote for lawyers? Of course not.
While having a legal background can be a boon, it doesn’t make or break a political career, nor does it determine if a senator will perform his duty well, especially with regards to the impeachment proceedings.
What is surfacing to be more important is credibility and impartiality, aside from capability.

Questions raised

Are they present at the proceedings? Do they come to court having studied the evidence? Do they ask intelligent questions? Are they biased? Are they able to grasp and truly understand what is going on? Are they able to contribute something that will help uncover the truth? Are they wasting the court’s time asking inane questions? Are they wasting the court’s time simply arguing with the counsel? Are they sitting in the background the whole time and letting everyone else do the tedious work? Are they still doing the law making work as senators alongside with handling the impeachment proceedings?
The public should pay attention to the answers to these questions. In their hands lies the fate of CJ Corona, as well as the future of the Philippines.
Regardless of how this trial goes, the public should remember how these judges have acted, if they have acted in the best interest of the Filipinos, or if politics, Palace pressure or party pressure played a role.
The trial should also serve as a reminder that voting for elected officials is a big deal and should be done with some research, soul searching and done on a decision based on credible information, rather than popularity, emotions and other non-issues. It should certainly not be done because the vote was purchased for a few bucks.
How these judges vote, whether for or against the defendant should be remembered by the public. It is one more way we can keep our public officials accountable to their word and actions, so that next time, we don’t have to waste our time with an impeachment and simply do the work to help propel the country forward.
It’s easier to not vote for someone, rather than to vote incorrectly then try to remove the person from office. Although CJ Corona is an appointed official, the president who appointed him was elected, as well as the people who are now hearing his case.
If we had all voted for the right, qualified, capable and honest people in the first place, we would never have to deal with an impeachment proceeding ever.


Originally posted at Blogwatch.ph

VOTERS' PLEDGE

I am a Responsible and Principled Citizen.

I will educate myself and others about the issues at hand so that my vote is a meaningful and relevant exercise of my right of suffrage.

I pledge to vote for candidates who will abide by the duly constituted rules on campaigning because I understand that those who refuse to obey the law in the little things are not likely to obey the law in the more important things;

I pledge to vote for candidates who, by word and action, renounce violence, coercion, vote-buying, and corruption as means for getting elected;

I pledge to vote for the candidates who listen to their constituents and are responsive to the needs and aspirations of those they seek to represent;

I pledge to vote as my conscience dictates in all elections.

I make these promises freely and upon my honor.

(This Voter Pledge was read at the Unity Walk of 13 January 2013, by COMELEC Commissioner Elias R. Yusoph)

SOURCE: NAMFREL