Forty-four days and so many millions of pesos later, I still would like to think that there is more to learn about the recently concluded impeachment trial that ousted the head of the Judiciary branch of this Republique.
Considering how much time, energy, attention and money given to the live coverage of the trial, then there must be something more to all this. Those afternoons spent glued on the tv set should be worth so much more than to watch bungling congresspeople grope with the procedures of law. Those hours should offer so much better than provide a sampling of various ways of making a fool of one's self with the hope of still winning a higher public office in the next elections.
It cannot just be another hatchet job to get rid of some unpopular official who is a roadblock to the Yellow Brick Road of Righteousness.
Too bad that Auntie Merceditas backed out before her rites of Senate exorcism began. We missed out on the chance to have her grilled by Miriam and interrogated by Big Bear Frankie.
So wasn't it just wonderful that the (Ex-)Chief Justice Renato Corona had the guts and gumption to put up a fight? He could have just quit right at the start --- but he decided to appear on the balcony of the Supreme Court and re-enact my favorite scene from the Webber and Rice musical, Evita without singing a single line from the chorus of Don't Cry for Me, Ermita. Complete with very polite tears, mind you.
I should have known that the theatrics would begin right there and then. Let the games begin!
Many would have been very disappointed if he buckled down to pressure like Auntie so thank God that CJ Renato complied with the demands of the script that was supposedly the blueprint of history. Besides, he looked like he was in a fighting mood --- perhaps thanks to the support he received from the members of the judiciary ... and most especially because he was well represented by my favorite spokesperson (definitely more camera-friendly, charming and even oh-so-cute) Midas Marquez.
(I mean, Midas has become more of a personality than anybody immediately recognizable in those august halls. If I were asked to name as many members of the Supreme Court as I can rattle off all the provinces in the archipelago randomly, I'd fall flat on my face. But I can never forget, lest ignore --- Midas. After all, in this day and age, how many people do you know who are named Midas, right?)
Between anyone who does the talking for the President in Malacanang --- and our idol Midas --- he wins the Outstanding Charmer for a Spokesperson Award.
Well, that's maybe because all those who does the speaking for the president look like they are in dire need of Milk of Magnesia --- or any other form of over-the-counter laxative. They present themselves as being all too uptight --- like they were suffering from some kind of terminal constipation. You just want them to loosen up a bit, let their hair down and learn the art of sense of humor. You want to overfeed them with yogurt.
The battle to wipe our graft and corruption must be sooooo exasperating that it drains anyone involved in this Holy Crusade of all forms of humor. They are so unlike their boss.
And there are many of us who really feel bad that Midas is co-terminus with (Ex) CJ Renato C. We feel even worse that we have just concluded Telenovela ng Bayan entitled Coronang Tinik sa Lalamunan. It has been practically a week since the final telecast and we still feel lost --- the same way kind of cold turkey we experienced when Santino finally went up to heaven with Bro and met up with the Blessed Virgin Mary in the person of Dear Ate Charo.
After getting used to the same kind of lazy afternoon entertainment like Flor de Luna or Gulong ng Palad, it is hard to adjust to the reality that we now only have PBB Teen Edition 4 to satisfy our penchant for voyeurism.
But very much unlike the Finale of American Idol, this week's big media showdown at the Senate was more of an expected conclusion --- just like a Star Cinema movie. When the overwhelming 20-3 Guilty Verdict was proclaimed by the Superb Senate President JPE, everyone already knew it was a foregone conclusion. If it swung any other way, we would have blurted, "Weh!"
As I said, it was just like a Star Cinema movie: you already know it is going to be somebody's happy ending and you still want to feel pleasantly surprised and even jubilant. Just like what happened to Coco and Angeline. Or John Lloyd and Sara. Or Sam and Toni. That is because, despite all obstacles and castigations of Miriam --- love will always find its way. In this case, replace the world love with ephemeral justice.
We will never be happy with the outcome not unless it is a happy ending. Happy for the people at the Palace, that is.
So let's leave it at that.
OK. OK. It was the beginning of a new chapter of Philippine political history. This is a reason for celebration --- so much so that it can be cause enough for the APO Hiking Society to have a reunion and write another song to herald a turning point of political events. Perhaps it can be a song entitled Bring a Yellow Army Around the Poor SC ...or something like that.
After all, this is the very first time that an impeachment trial really concluded without the middle class gathering at EDSA for yet another ritual of public indignation turning into a street party-dash-flash mob.
If the event should be so important, then let us enumerate the lessons that we have all learned here:
(1) Senators do not necessarily look good in crimson robes. This was the idea of my favorite Senator, The Dame Miriam.
Well, yeah, if you primp the twenty-three in black togas, they will look like mutant emperor penguins or the faculty members of the History and Social Sciences Department of some university that has yet to be accredited by the minions of Brother Luistro. But the choice of maroon (or dried blood red, as some described it) made them look like devotees of the Nazareno of Quiapo waiting for the procession to pass by MOA then filter to the Senate premises in Roxas Boulevard.
Although the toga looked good on some (Oh, anything Pia and Loren wear can look fabulous with the right accessories, said a very excited fashion stylist who is into Experimental Goth) and ill-fitting on others (Well, yeah --- it is really hard to find a style that will agree with such a wide range of physical types --- from Drilon to Trillanes). There are some senators who were just literally drowned by that shade of maroon adding aggravation to the fact that, well, they have no distinct personalities.
But I guess the main reason why they chose the deep red togas was because it was definitely more telegenic.
It was as innovative as Conchita Morales Carpio coming in her palaban red suit when she testified ... or no less than the (Ex) Chief Justice who came to court in a baby pink tie. I mean, try to beat that fashion statement. I do not think even Ping Lacson would dare wear a pink tie to face his twenty-two other senators ... but (Ex)CJ's style would have looked equally spiffy on Ralph Recto. Or especially Bong Revilla, di ba??
(2) There is a substantial difference between age and vintage. Truly smart people are like wine that evolve into higher forms of taste while mediocre ones just turn into vinegar.
Let it be put on record: when I turn 88 years old, I want to be like Juan Ponce Enrile. Let me put it in another record, I am also in awe of Retired Justice Serafin Cuevas. Add Conchita Morales to the list.
These people are not Senior Citizens: they are Jedis.
If I come close to eight decades of human existence and possess such sharpness, keenness and broadness of thought and mind, then I know God placed me here on this planet with Purpose and not out of bored whim.
Right this very moment I want to interview all three illustrious personas to ask what sort of regimen or diet they followed. Whereas people half their age in that court literally pissed in their pants and bungled in a manner that added new definition to the word "nincompoop", Enrile and Cuevas were literally dancing figure-eights right on the foreheads of people less than half their ages.
One thing proven by the trial is that this prejudice against old people --- especially the young ones who think that being old is equated to being useless --- should be whacked right on their heads.
Read my lips, Kids: Being young does not give you all the excuses to prove to the world that you are better --- and that you can replace the old guards with equal competence and candor. If Enrile, at age 88, can comb through the Law and throw those balls right into the faces of the stuttering young congressmen, one really has very valid reasons to worry.
Are these the lawmakers who will eventually inherit the mantle of running our country?
As an avid student of Philippine history said, gone are the days of the Titans of Filipino politics. Gone are the Carlos P. Romulos, the Lorenzo Tanadas, the Claro M. Rectos.
Shall it ever reach a point in our country that in the kingdom of the blind ... the one-eyed man gains the right to be king? Scary thought, isn't it?
(3) Everyone wants his spot in the limelight.
There is a really ugly-sound word from the streets to best describe the incessant need on the part of people to have the camera directed at their faces. The term is epal (which really sounds somewhat indecent although it is not.)
As the impeachment trial unfolded, I do not blame the more knowledgeable senators to be not only impatient ...but infuriated.
In that delicious attempt to perform in front of the camera in order to prove to the audience (which can also be read as voters for the midterm elections), some of our lawmakers did not only succeed in shooting their feet while attempting to dance. They received a series of tongue lashings from the more credible and experienced senior senators as if to prove once and for all that you have to look before you leap ... most especially when you can't even spell parachute.
The art of epal is not and was never limited to the boys and girls of the Lower House. The senators are equally guilty ... but then again, there should be a substantial difference between somebody who is merely umeepal from someone who indulges in a heart wrenching, nerve wracking mind-boggling soliloquy that can create havoc down to the level of the tectonic plates.
This leads us to ...
(4) There can only be ONE and ONLY ONE Miriam Defensor-Santiago!
Oh, come let's face it. You either love her or hate her. There's no such thing about being ambivalent about this senator.
You love her for the following reasons:
(4.1) You marvel at her extraordinary vocabulary --- because her polysyllabication is like an adventure into Thesaurus Wonderland. It helps a lot that she has this accent that is either endearing or disturbing --- but either which way, when she talks --- you better listen because ...
(4.2) You have no other option but to listen to her. She never merely states: she declares. There is nothing lukewarm about her because she is passionate --- and that is why you either passionately love her or you despise her because ...
(4.3) You are in awe with the brutality of her frankness. You are sometimes shocked out of your wits with the way she calls a spade a spade ... or fifteen synonyms referring to all the other suits of a deck of cards. And you have known that right from the very beginning of her career in public office. No one can outdo her when it comes to eloquence more so if ...
(4.4) You admire her because she says it as it is and not to please anybody else but to serve the purpose of truth. And sometimes truth can hurt --- especially if that is not exactly what you want to hear.
Some people only listen to what they want to hear --- and when Miriam smacks them right on the face with This is How It is --- they automatically accuse her of being insane.
Maybe there is something insane about her ways but she is never going to take the popular side just for the sake of the applause meter. When she voted to acquit (Ex) CJ Renato, the other side raised their brows, chuckled, whispered invective against her, tweeted that she was insane, etc., etc. But then let us see.
She was equally castigated when she chose to side with Erap during that first attempt at a Senate impeachment trial: she was against the opening of that magic envelope --- and people hated her for choosing the unpopular side. Whereas it spelled the death of some political careers --- certainly not Miriam's. She is still very much around --- and kicking and fighting.
There are actually very definite reasons why people hate her: one feels this way because ...
(4.5) You can't stand her guts. You actually think she talks too much --- and when she goes on a roll, you have this strange desire to call Dial-a-Jesuit to exercise the rites of exorcism. You cannot stand the way she shoves herself into people's faces and not believing in the principles of privacy of space. Worse than than that ...
(4.6) You can't stand the way she foists her intelligence ...making everybody look stupid. You somehow have a feeling that she sucks the living breath out of people the moment she sees them cowering to her verbal attacks, emphasizing on their stupidity or mediocrity to highlight her superiority. Moreover ...
(4.7) You really think she is a bully. Just because she can get away with it, she will get away with it and you cannot stand that. When JPE suggested that she conclude her talk justifying her decision whether to convict or acquit the (Ex) CJ, Miriam flashed a look at the direction of the Senate President and said, "I thought I was unlimited."
Half the world somersaulted with laughter and cheers --- for only Miriam --- yes, only Miriam --- is capable not only of doing that but saying it in that fashion.
The other half of the world grit their teeth, fumed with anger and certified that the senator was insane. They were only too glad that she is about to exit the halls of the Senate to work for an international court.
But regardless of what you think and how you feel about her, you must admit: there can be nobody and there will be nobody, nobody like her!
( Note: Let's see if the people who hate her so much will still have the same seething aversion for the Most Verbose and Vociferous Lady Senator the moment the discussion of the RH Bill is brought to the floor of the Upper House. Tingnan nga natin kung ilan ang mabubuwisit sa kanyang pagkalukis ... o ilan ang makikipalakpakan. The saga continues.)
(5) Dramas do not necessarily work. Better yet, if you choose to turn an event into an episode of a telenovela, make sure you have a well-structured and well-planned script. Otherwise, you'd just be another sad story.
Who ever concocted that scenario for (Ex) CJ Corona the day he decided to take the witness stand should be given lobotomy ... through the foot.
When the ex-Chief Justice returned to the halls of the Senate, impeccably dressed (and that pink tie!) to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth --- he actually could have turned the tables to his advantage.
When he dramatically signed a waiver, giving access to all the government agencies (including all those curious, malicious, vociferous, cantankerous and doubting), the moment was his. Suddenly, there was stunned silence because people thought he meant business, throwing the books right at the faces of the Prosecution.
But when named his conditions --- and demanded that waivers were also signed by the 188 lawmen who want him ditched --- including Big Bear Frankie --- everything went downhill all the way. (Days later he would come back, erase the conditions he set but that was already after the fact). His hope to create drama simply backfired --- because people who never trusted him had the bullets stuffed to their guns and accused him of merely bluffing.
No, no, no, Sir! The moment he said, "The Chief Justice would like to excuse himself ..." and stood up and left --- that was the end of the game.
The confusion that followed was not really one of chaos or mayhem. As a matter of fact, it sealed the deal.
Whoever still had hope that Corona would be acquitted threw in the towel.
Whether or not the judges would stick to the tenets of the law to keep or oust the man, his behavior somewhat betrayed a flaw in character that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court could not possibly possess much less flaunt. As a good friend of mine said, "If the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court could not respect the rules and protocol of any court, what right has he to be the head of all judges?"
Let us give the man the benefit of the doubt: he may indeed be very sick --- or even sickened by his situation. But the exit was too pat, too scripted, too contrived. In other words, it was just so badly staged. Or just badly acted out.
This is blunder at its best --- and all because Pinoys think a little drama here and there can create wonderful sound bytes and visual testimony. A dramatic walkout would go down the annals of Philippine history as the highlight of an event that would
top the Nielsen Ratings. Well, after all, this is a tv show, di ba?
What should have been a monumental episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya? ended up being a very bad episode of Banana Split.
If for one second the authors of that scenario believed that the people would buy that sort of drama even on a soap opera afternoon --- the answer is: Not!
And that is because ...
(6) This is a political exercise. This is not only about legality but a showcase of politics.
Granted such, senators will not necessarily vote according to legality alone --- but according to the barometer of public opinion. My Mama would shout, "Naturalmente!"
Assuming you are senator/judge and you are made to decide under the brutal scrutiny and magnifying glass eyes of the public, would you really dare to go against the current of opinion?
After the man walked out on your most sacred home upright, proud and erect ... only to claim he was having a diabetic attack, wheeled back on a wheelchair --- uhm, politicians are not exactly remembered to be ever-forgiving living saints, right?
If you know that the very machinery of the government is working to oust this man --- and that media has practically masticated this fellow, then you need to be Joker Arroyo, Bongbong Marcos or Miriam Defensor to cast a vote against the tsunami of prejudgment.
This leads me to my final realization while watching the impeachment:
(7) Senators love to talk about themselves while trying to decide the fate of others.
When each of the senator/judges approached the podium to give their verdict on Article 2 of the trial, the illustrious senators all found ways to relate their assessment based on their personal experiences.
That cannot be helped. Jinggoy and Alan related the events to their fathers. Mr Villar talked about how he was so maliciously and viciously maligned during the most recent presidential elections (ceaselessly saying that he has forgiven and forgotten but nonetheless still remembering and recounting).
Of course, the three who voted acquittal were the ones most remembered --- with Miriam topping the charts with a speech that may well become an oratorical piece to be recited, repeated and resurrected in inter-school elocution contests. Joker was wry and straight to the point. And Bongbong was still being mercilessly judged not for what he said but for what his father did.
Ah, well ... as I said earlier: it was, after all, a political exercise.
At the end of the day, the government got what it wanted. Everybody was just too happy that it was all over ... because if the (Ex) CJ was acquitted, there were threats that there will be another filing for impeachment as soon as the grace period of the year was over.
Panginoon kong Lord, maraming salamat at natapos na ito! Another season for congressmen cross-examining witnesses like they were trial lawyers undergoing their summer OJT can be so exasperating --- and after two weeks --- definitely boring.
Besides we did not elect these senators to star in a daily afternoon soap opera.
Can we please let them go back to what they are supposed to be doing? Like interrogating and investigation whatever-whoever for the aid of legislation?
Oh, there should be an eighth learning added here somewhere. Perhaps this is equally important:
(8) It is all about public perception. It is all about how media conditions people to react to an issue, to have an opinion about a person and his character and to decide on what to do or think.
The next time a Big Somebody is threatened with impeachment, he should not hire a lawyer first. He should look for a PR man who can spin things with media so that the public is not clouded with an overload of information --- about 80% of which are as credible as the gossip among fish wives.
It is all about what people are made to think --- rather than what is necessarily true. It is all about what people feel --- and believe. And what media makes people think is real is not necessarily true. But that is the way it works.
And that's how it is and will be. People would like to believe they are thinking. But somewhere along the way, somebody conditioned their minds to think they are actually thinking.