Court drama: Prosecution's Aguirre cited in contempt for 'disrespect'

(UPDATE) Feisty Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has found her match in private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre.

Apparently tired of Santiago's tirades against the prosecution, Aguirre covered his ears while Santiago was at the podium.
 
“Totoo po 'yon sapagkat nasasaktan ang tenga ko,” Aguirre told Senator Jinggoy Estrada who admonished the prosecutor for covering his ears while Santiago fumed.
 
“Mula nang tumayo at natapos si Senator Miriam sa pagsasalita ay nakatakip ang inyong tenga. Kabastusan ho iyon,” Estrada said.

Santiago then took the stand and moved to cite Aguirre for contempt, “You cannot make those contemptuous gestures and get away with it!”

Senator Judge Miriam Defensor Santiago is seen during the Day 26 of the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate in Pasay City, south of Manila, on 29 February 2012. (Bernard Testa/Interaksyon.com/Senate Pool/NPPA Images)

But Aguirre pointed out, “This is the first time I've experienced in my 40 years of practice that judge lectures lawyers. Hindi po tama yung ganun.”
 
“Kung ayaw mo pakinggan, umalis ka sa korte!” Santiago told Aquirre.
 
“Aalis na nga po ako eh,” the prosecutor replied, to which the senator agreed, “Go ahead!”
 
But Aguirre continued debating, “Kung nagdedemand ka ng respeto, dapat respetuhin mo rin yung mga abogado. Walang ng human dignity...”
 
“Now you're lecturing me? Naghahamon ka talaga eh!” an irked Santiago answered.

Santiago, who has hypertension, was then led to her seat by her co-Senators as she tried to regain calm. Aguirre was meanwhile led outside the hall.
 
This prompted Senate Juan Ponce Enrile to suspend the trial and with the impeachment court, decided to hold Aguirre for contempt. Enrile said they will discuss Aguirre's penalty in a caucus.
 
“I cannot tolerate disrespect of this court and to any member of this court. If you do not believe in the dignity of this court or jurisdiction over you, if you think you’re better than us, you are entitled to your opinion but we’ll enforce rules of procedure,” Enrile said.

'Waah and Gago'

Santiago earlier hit the prosecution for withdrawing five articles of the impeachment complaint, noting that it is a very unusual move.
 
“Yesterday, we were struck by a lightning bolt. I have never heard where the lawyer suddenly says to the judge, 'I'm sorry I made a mistake.' In my entire career as judge, I've never seen a lawyer withdraw a case. This is unprecedented!” she said.
 
“What are you doing? Ano kayo naglalaro? Now all of a sudden there's a complete turnaround?! Nagbibiro ba kayo?” Santiago told the prosecution.
 
The senator further accused the House panel of misleading the court and falsely declaring a “victory.”
 
“You've been misleading the court! I'm very concerned that prosecution has been in bad faith all along. You've been saying to media, 'Panalo na kami.' Kami ang magdedesisyon niyan, hindi kayo. Ang yayabang niyo! Mga gago naman!” Santiago said.
 
“You are prejudging the case! Are you conducting trial by publicity? This is not a direct democracy and we are not in Athens! The people are not going to decide this case. It is the Senate alone!” she added.
 
Santiago noted that even if the prosecution is intending a trial by publicity, the senator-judges will not be swayed. “The entire capacity of tsunami waves at Manila Bay can fall upon this court but we'll not be affected by what you say in public!”
 
“When I heard this news, I felt like creeping back into bed and adopting a fetal position. I no longer know what universe I'm in. I have never seen such a parody of justice in my entire adult life. I want to leave a legacy that when presented with this anomaly, in trials like this, I rose to condemn it,” she stressed.
 
Santiago concluded her manifestation saying, “I request the secretary to record in journal that I said 'Waah!'”
 
Lead prosecutor Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., however, clarified that their claim on winning the case is just a “stand for their advocacy” and not a prejudgement of the case.
 
Ilocos Norte Rep. Farinas also moved to strike out Santiago calling the prosecution “gago” to which the she did not object.
 
“Baka pwede matanggal yung salitang ‘gago’ sa record. Ang pangit kasi na tatawagin ang prosekusyon na ganon,” Farinas said.
 
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero noted that the withdrawal of the five articles of impeachment is equivalent to amending the complaint.

"Did prosecutors consult with complainants of the case? This is a substantial amendment. It's not purely prosecutorial decision to just drop the five articles of impeachment," Escudero told the prosecution.

"We did not have a formal consultation with the 188 signatories but we consulted with the House speaker and majority leader," Tupas replied.

Enrile ruled to give the prosecution two days or until Friday to submit their formal offer of evidence while the defense was given five days or until March 7 to reply.
 
The trial will resume on March 12 for the defense’s turn to present evidence.

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