By Gel Santos Relos
Is she just a passionate advocate of the rule of law or did she cross the line? Should she be removed from the International Criminal Court as some Fil-Am leaders are now petitioning the ICC? The nation is divided...
Even those who admired Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago's genius expressed disappointment over her rage in the august chamber of the Senate, after she blurted the offensive and demeaning word “gago,"which was directed to the prosecution. It was deemed as totally inappropriate, especially from a Senator-Judge like her.
They said the medium has now became the message, and that we are now talking about her “wha” wrath, instead of her argument on the weakness, and the frivolity of the prosecution, in making its case against Chief Justice Corona.
Her critics argued that Santiago had been demanding respect from the prosecutors, but her behavior, they said, made her unworthy of respect, as she herself violated Rule 3.04 of the Republic of the Philippines Code of Judicial Conduct:
“A judge should be patient, attentive, and courteous to lawyers, especially the inexperienced; to litigants, witnesses and others appearing before the court. A judge should avoid unconsciously falling into the attitude of mind that the litigants are made for the courts, instead of the courts for the litigants.”
A known Jesuit theologian, Fr. Catalino Arevalo, was quoted by the Inquirer as saying: “If you call anybody ‘you fool,’ you are worthy of the fires of hell. And she called them (prosecutors) “gago,” which is Filipino for fool, before millions of people.”
Even some of our kababayans here in America were disturbed by Santiago’s behavior. Because of this, the group US Pinoys for Good Governance wrote a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for its reconsideration and rejection of the election of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
The US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) is a group of Fil-Am leaders who supported the campaign of President Aquino in 2010, but has since carried on the advocacy of making sure good governance is attained by the different branches government in the Philippines.
The USP4GG said they were bringing to the ICC's attention "a serious matter that affects the image and reputation of the Philippines and, potentially, the image and reputation of the International Criminal Court."
The petition further states:
“We submit that a person who is emotionally or psychologically unstable, prone to fits of uncontrollable rage, lacking in patience and empathy, ruthless with the feelings of fellow human beings, bereft of civility and uncaring about decorum does not deserve a place in your honorable court.
We further submit that an individual who has admitted to having publicly lied and who has demonstrated partiality, prejudice, lack of principles and questionable integrity as a public official does not deserve to be a judge, much less a judge of the International Criminal Court.
In this regard, we regret to inform you that such an undeserving individual has been elected to the International Criminal Court, in a lapse of good judgment on the part of the government of the Republic of the Philippines.
We are referring to Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a member of the Philippine Senate, who has been elected to the International Criminal Court and is shortly scheduled to take her oath of office.
We are bringing this matter to your attention for fear that you may construe her uncivilized behavior and her loose ethics as epitomizing the Filipino people. While, ironically, it should be a source of pride for Filipinos to have one of our own elected to your honorable court, we are embarrassed by the ill-considered nomination of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Far from representing the best of us, she typifies the worst. We fear that her presence in the International Criminal Court will make us the laughing stock of the world.”
But there are also those who support Senator Santiago despite her controversial rage.
Senator Enrile said he understood Miriam’s outbursts in court for calling the prosecution “gago” or stupid as acts of frustration and exasperation, as he felt the same way each time the prosecution came to the impeachment court unprepared.
Enrile said even with Santiago's outbursts, the prosecution should still consider themselves lucky.
“The veteran and good judges would shame them in front of other lawyers so they will learn...If they had met the old judges that I have encountered, they might have cried.”
Enrile was referring to the likes of judges Arsenio Solidum, Al Buendia, Roberto Capulan, and Bienvenido Tan Antonio Mojica. He pointed out that Senator Santiago’s demeanor paled in comparison to the way they treated counsels in court.“Well, you really have to learn, you’ll be forced to learn the law,” Enrile said.
Santiago doubted that the prosecutors “acted in good faith” when they told the impeachment court in a legal compliance submitted in January that they would present evidence and witnesses for eight articles. She berated the prosecutors for making public those eight charges, yet now refusing to prove five of them in court. Santiago said the prosecutors had compromised Corona’s “moral position.”
"Let me remind you gentlemen, [of] the lawyer’s oath: I will do no falsehood, not promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit or aid or consent to the same,” she said.
She also scolded the prosecution team for engaging in trial by publicity. “I am very concerned that the prosecution has been acting in bad faith all along, because you tell so many things to media when you can file an official manifestation in this court. You insist you are already winning the court battle because you have proof beyond reasonable doubt. Good grief, that is contempt of court,” Santiago argued.
Santiago slammed the prosecutors for “playing games” with senator-judges. “I was not born yesterday. We will be studied generations from now. This is a travesty.”
Other kababayans who were able to go past the “gago” word even admired Miriam’s passion about the rule of law, and said every argument she presented was very important and that her valid points truly characterized the way the prosecutors have been making a mockery of the court.
They expressed disappointment and asked why the prosecution had to be in a rush to file the impeachment case. They said the trial has proven so far how rushing has resulted in the badly written articles of impeachment. They feel that the prosecution's bungling of the impeachment case might have compromised our quest for truth and justice.