(UPDATE) Only a very small percentage of the population thinks embattled Chief Justice Renato Corona is innocent, a pollster claimed Tuesday.
In fact, only one percent believes that Corona is "definitely innocent", while four percent believes he is "probably innocent", survey firm Pulse Asia said.
According to a survey it conducted among 1,200 respondents on February 26 to March 9, some 15 percent are convinced that Corona is guilty while another 33 percent told Pulse Asia they felt Corona is “probably guilty.”
Close to half of the people surveyed—43 percent—have yet to form an opinion, Pulse Asia found.
The Pulse Asia survey also claims that 38 percent of respondents did not believe the House of Representatives rushed Corona’s impeachment while 32 percent did.
According to the survey, 69 percent of respondents trust that the Senate impeachment court will be fair when it decides on Corona’s case.
The survey was conducted just as the House prosecution panel wrapped up its presentation of evidence against Corona. From the original eight articles of impeachment, the Prosecution decided to rest its case on three charges.
They are Corona’s alleged non-disclosure of his assets, his partiality in granting a temporary restraining order that would have allowed Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave the country, and “allowing” the Supreme Court to flip-flop on decisions.
Corona’s lawyers only began presenting their evidence on March 12, days after the survey was conducted.
A similar survey conducted by a student organization in UP Diliman found that 74 percent of those surveyed had lost trust in Corona as Chief Justice. Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Alan Peter Cayetano saw the survey as an attempt to influence the impeachment court.
“If you are true actual persons, you do not deserve to be in UP!” Santiago said then, hinting the survey may have been the idea of a PR firm.
Corona was impeached on December 12, the same day that an impeachment complaint against him was signed by 188 members of the House. Under the Constitution, complaints endorsed by one-third of the 286-member House are sent straight to the Senate and do not need to go through committee hearings.
Some senator-judges claim unaffected by any survey and claim that they will decide based on evidence presented in court.
“Basta ako, ebidensya lang ang pagbabasehan ko. I'm not concerned about surveys when they concern the administration of justice,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told reporters.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III likewise said he would only focus on what is happening inside the impeachment court.
“Madaling magsalita at mag-imbento kapag hindi under oath. Kaya mas mabuting makinig dito sa impeachment court, kung ano ang kalalabasan, iyon dapat ang basis ng decision ng isang senator-judge,” Sotto noted.
As for Senator Gregorio Honasan, he said, “The culpability of the accused chief justice will not be determined by surveys or by public opinion. It will be decided by the senator-judges individually and collectively.”
Prosecutors: We did our job
As the results were apparently in favor of the House panel, prosecutors said it only shows that most Filipinos were convinced that they presented overwhelming evidence to remove the chief justice from office.
“Despite the criticisms we received in the course of presenting our evidence, this shows that the prosecution did its job in presenting evidence that the impeachment judges should consider when the time comes,” prosecution spokesperson Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada said.
Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo also stressed the importance of determining public opinion since the impeachment case was filed by the House of Representatives on behalf of the “People of the Philippines.”
“The chief justice is accused of betrayal of public trust and the operative word there is the public, and it is important how we see the public in a snap shot,” Quimbo said.
Defense: Impeachment not a popularity contest
The defense, however, emphasized that the trial is a “matter of law and evidence” and not a popularity contest.
“I would be very cautious against citing surveys as the basis for the outcome as you know from our point of view, this is a matter of law and evidence,” defense lawyer Jose Roy III said.
The defense team has yet to begin its presentation of evidence when the survey was conducted.
Roy noted that since they started presenting evidence, the tide is now in their favor. “I think that the trend has been steadily in favor of the acquittal of the chief justice,” he said.
“We are carefully presenting the basis for the acquittal and we expect that we will be able to present a credible explanation for what seems to be unclear to a lot of people. That is all that the defense is trying to do,” Roy added.