MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, one of only 3 senators who voted to acquit former chief justice Renato Corona in the Senate impeachment court last May 29, is confident that history would judge the former chief magistrate and the senator-judges’ handling of the impeachment trial.
Santiago said she had accepted the results of the recently concluded impeachment trial, recognizing that the process is a game of numbers.
“In my belief, even if we lost in numbers, it does not mean that the majority is right. It just happened that they have the numbers. As to who is right, history would judge all of us,” she told radio dzBB.
Santiago voted for Corona’s acquittal along with Senators Joker Arroyo and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during the historic impeachment trial.
She said that people could not downplay the fact that politics played a role in Corona’s guilty verdict. She pointed out that there may have been political considerations as the administration’s support in the midterm elections next year was seen as critical, same with the release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
She explained, however, that when she said politics was involved in the Corona verdict it might have different meanings for every person.
“Quasi-political, meaning you consider what the public sentiments are or if you will follow the law or what your constituents say,” she explained.
“When I say half politics, some may say it’s about being corrupt, some will say it’s weighing the will of my constituents,” Santiago said.
“Now what is the reaction of the public? This is not about the reaction of the politician… but the reaction of the man on the street… We follow the rule of the majority… (In the end) history will make the final judgment,” Santiago added.
“You have to think of the long term judgment, not only of the people, but also of history itself,” she said, apparently also in explaining her vote, which went against the majority of 20 of her colleagues.
Santiago said Corona was right when he used the foreign currency law which provides absolute confidentiality of foreign currency accounts as defense on why he did not place $2.4 million in accounts in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) from 2002 to 2010.
Questions of law
As a result, Santiago said the Senate and the House of Representatives should act on the questions of law highlighted during the Corona trial.
Santiago revealed that she was not privy to the meeting between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and other senators at the house of Sen. Loren Legarda on Sunday last week, two days before the court convicted Corona for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
She said she remains baffled about what was discussed during the meeting, which was unusual because the Senate impeachment court had caucus every Monday before the trial.
“Ano kaya ang sinabi? (What was said?) That will be the great mystery of the impeachment process,” Santiago said.
Legarda maintained yesterday that the meeting among Enrile, Senators Vicente Sotto III, Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan, Manny Villar and Ramon Revilla Jr. was some sort of a “bonding among friends.”
“There was no consensus what happened that evening. JPE never told us to vote as one. We were left to vote on our own. We didn’t decide to convict that night. He never influenced us,” Legarda told The STAR.
As far as Santiago is concerned, she expects that some groups will subject her to character assassination because of her vote.
“So in effect my role as a lightning rod will necessary attract the venom of character assassins or people who simply cannot stand me because of my personality,” Santiago said.
Prior to the voting, Santiago said there were reports of the many ways to ensure Corona would be convicted.
In an interview over Tamano Perspective hosted by lawyer and STAR columnist Adel Tamano, Enrile expressed belief that his roles in the Corona impeachment trial and the 1986 revolution were among his major contributions to the country.
“Never before in our history did we have an impeachment trial that was completed,” the Senate president said.
“Not only a model but a lesson, an exemplification of what we have been saying that everybody is equal under the law. It applies to high and mighty as well as ordinary employees of government,” Enrile said.
“Mind you, to impeach the highest magistrate of the land is not easy. He is the epitome, the representation of the highest intellectual instrument in the government to interpret the Constitution and the laws of this country. What they say is the Constitution. What they say in a given law is the law. Their pronouncement immediately becomes the legal system of the country, unless reversed later on,” Enrile added.
“So to me it was something that I never expected and relish but it came into my lap, and I tried to do it in a manner to create not with an image that connotes a purview for the country but rather an image that will enhance the respect of the world, not only of our people but of the world in their governments,” he added.
“We Filipinos know how to handle the administration of justice in our land, so that they will build their confidence in us if they will come here, they will expect fair treatment whenever they run afoul with our laws,” Enrile said.