That is not an original line. Our late Nanay used that when any of her offspring tried to coast along, take shortcuts or humiliate people. I’ve had much cause to remember her wise words during the past few weeks.
All the actors in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona are intelligent. Their education pedigrees leave me envious. Their CVs hint at wealth earned by dint of gray matter and, presumably, hard work. And yet week after week, we see them acting like boors or engaging in antics that call into question the definition of “honorable”.
The defense counsels staged a tantrum over charges they could not substantiate, a display of bad taste and judgment matched only by social media bully Judd Roy’s appetite for phallic symbols. The righteous prosecution has no qualms about using illegally obtained information. When in a bind, they peddle tall tales that insult our intelligence.
And then there are the mighty judges of the impeachment court.
We’ve seen the cavalier treatment of witnesses in numerous investigations launched by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The senators have carried this over — exaggerating their cheap theatrics – to the Corona impeachment trial. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada smirks while joking about “half-Filipinos”, a racist reference to the accent of a Megaworld executive. Sen. Franklin Drilon has shown brilliance in catching the prosecution’s wayward balls, but has a bad habit of cutting off witnesses bearing inconvenient versions of the truth.
And then, there’s Sen. Miriam Santiago.
There’s a clear difference between shrill and hectoring. It’s one thing to criticize the prosecution’s litigation tactics — their lack of preparation and penchant for mistaking slogans as proof of evidence. It’s an altogether different story when you treat them likes slaves with no right to usage of their intellect.
Defensor-Santiago is not alone in her frustration. On Facebook and Twitter, you can see even staunch anti-Corona observers expressing disappointment over prosecution blunders, with some dropping strings of curse symbols. But they’re kibitzers, not “honorable” senator-judges. We expect high ethical standards of prosecutors who claim to be white knights in the fight against evil. The same high standards apply to judges who will decide Corona’s fate.
I agree with much of Defensor-Santiago’s criticism of the prosecution. Some days, the feeling comes close to contempt and revulsion. But nothing excuses her paroxysms of rage or the abuse she heaps on fellow lawyers.
It’s tempting to rail when prosecutors try to lead on witnesses or impeach their own. Rep. Niel Tupas wasn’t doing that when she tried to reduce him to the level of a student on the verge of flunking. And no reason on earth justifies calling anyone “gago” (idiot) in the middle of a trial.
This behavior is unfathomable because Defensor-Santiago has a vocabulary that leaves most of us breathless. The former editor of the UP Collegian can weave phrases and spin entire paragraphs in the amount of time it would take us to mutter sweet-Jesus- spare-us –from-the-wrath-of-hell.
I’ve heard jokes about the terrors of law school. Strict is one thing, abusive is another. What kind of lawyers, lawmakers and judges do we churn out if they’re made to live like masochists for years? The abused child most often visits the crime on the next generation. And we wonder why this country keeps slip-sliding like a drunk whose only thought is that of the next thirst-quenching gulp.
Santiago’s acts, however, do not excuse lawyer Vitallano Aguirre. (He has also exhibited less-than-stellar ethics in the scuttled effort to pin Corona on grounds the he tattled confidential court matters — prosecuting on a matter involving his interests and those of his client. He tried to present a very selective version of the truth and, when this could not be arranged, opted for default.)
In the “gago” incident, he was caught covering his ears. When asked, he expressed defiance, presenting himself the protector of his hapless prosecution colleagues — a posture that further reduces Tupas to a sniveling, pitiful waif. That earned him a contempt citation and some of us proclaim him a hero.
I cannot fathom the games people play. How hard is it to stand up and, in polite language, point out Miriam’s unacceptable behavior to the presiding officer and seek redress? Politeness would have shown her up for the bully she is. Instead, Aguirre plays the game of one-upmanship. And we hear the refrain, serves her right.
That’s not what Nanay taught us. There was another line she liked: Those who think themselves enlightened should display matching behavior.
And there’s the major cause of this country’s problems. We rail against injustice. We condemn short-cuts. We fulminate against abuse of power. And then we turn around and do the same things all over again.
It’s very tribal – and that’s an insult to tribes. It reduces our democracy to a battle among playground bullies. Kill all those who won’t come to our side.
We insist on slapstick and simplistic solutions. It’s a never ending settling of IOUs and payback against others. And the saddest thing is we, the Bosses, allow these honorable public servants to drag us into internecine wars for spoils.