CJ IMPEACH TRIAL TAKING TOLL ON SENIOR SENATE JUDGES
 

MANILA, FEBRUARY 2, 2012 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, with all the work that it entails, is taking its toll on several “senior” members of the Senate.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, the second most senior senator, manifested yesterday his desire to shorten the impeachment trial to three hours a day, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Arroyo, 84, said it was not the additional work he was complaining about but rather the imbalance between the time spent for the impeachment trial and that spent for legislative work.

He said that he was alarmed at what was happening in the House of Representatives where another impeachment case is being prepared against Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.

[PHOTO - 84-YEAR-OLD JOKER ARROYO]

If ever the impeachment of Del Castillo prospers, Arroyo said this would leave the Senate with almost nothing else to do but to act as a court.

With the way things are going now, the veteran lawmaker noted that the Senate spends 16 hours a week for the impeachment trial and just four hours for legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III admitted that the length of the trial, as well as the two days of sessions, has put a strain on many of the senators.

“This is a heavy load for some of us. It’s (trial) too long. The span of attention is limited. Most of us here are not young anymore,” Sotto said in Filipino.

He said it was agreed that the earlier adjournment of the trial would be left to his discretion, with the approval of the Senate President.

He said that he would evaluate how the trial is going at 5 p.m. and then make a recommendation to the Senate President on whether to continue or adjourn it.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the presiding officer of the impeachment court, said he would leave it up to his colleagues to decide on how long they want the trial to last every day.

“I am amenable to trying it even beyond (5 p.m.) if that is the pleasure of the Senate,” he said.

Enrile, who will be turning 88 this Feb. 14, is the most senior member of the Senate.

The Senate President has shown no signs of slowing down though, sitting patiently through the impeachment trial from start to finish at an average of four and a half hours a day from Monday to Thursday.

Enrile is a bit hard of hearing and has poor eyesight, but this has not hindered him from exercising his duties well and has on many occasions shown that his mind is still very sharp.

Sen. Pia Cayetano said that the trial could move faster if “we can prevent the prosecution from grandstanding.”

Cayetano said that the presentation of witnesses as well as documentary evidence does not have to be riddled with technicalities, which she said only slows down the proceedings.

There are 10 senators, including Enrile and Arroyo, who are over 60 years old.

The other eight are Edgardo Angara, Manuel Villar Jr., Sergio Osmeña III, Panfilo Lacson, Gregorio Honasan, Miriam Defensor- Santiago, Franklin Drilon and Sotto.

Senator Santiago has already fallen ill because of the strain of the trial.

She has long suffered from hypertension and had to take a leave of absence from the Senate at the start of the regular sessions last Jan. 16.

Last Thursday, Santiago’s blood pressure shot up after she admonished private prosecutor Arthur Lim during the trial.

She was forced to leave early upon the advice of the Senate doctor.

She went on sick leave last Monday because of hypertension and has not reported for work as of yesterday.

During yesterday’s session, it was also decided that the regular sessions would be held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays instead of Mondays and Tuesdays.

The change was proposed by Santiago and was adopted by the Senate.

According to Sotto, holding sessions on Mondays, with the impeachment trial in the afternoon, was difficult for a number of senators.

Sotto said that some of the senators were coming from the provinces during the weekend and would have to immediately attend the session, which would be followed by a caucus among senators to prepare for the impeachment trial and then go to trial for five hours in the afternoon.

“We removed it on Monday so that it would be easier to prepare for the impeachment,” Sotto said.

He said the Senate is working double time to fulfill its mandate of crafting laws.

With the limited time left for legislation, Sotto said the Senate is making the most of its time and has in fact passed three bills and taken up six committee reports since it resumed session last Jan. 16.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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