Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Two findings highlighted the March 2012 survey of Pulse Asia on the impeachment trial of Philippine Chief Justice Renato Corona: First, nearly 7 in 10 Filipinos (69 per cent) expect the senators to be fair and impartial in the performance of their duties as judges when they decide on the impeachment case; second, 58 per cent think that Filipinos will accept and respect the Senate impeachment court's decision, whether most of the people like it or not.
These findings augur well for a non-turbulent outcome of the trial, barring a disruption of the impeachment process. They indicate that most of the people have been impressed by the way the trial was conducted in its initial stages, that the people have been given a demonstration that institutional approaches (such as the impeachment court) to right the wrongs of governance are working, and that the people now seem disposed to accept a fair outcome of the trial on the basis of evidence.
This is a positive development of the trial.
These two issues are closely related to each other, meaning that the second is premised on the people's perception that the trial is fair-a condition that is all-important to the acceptance of the outcome (the verdict). The first finding represents the majority sentiment in all geographic areas (63 per cent to 74 per cent) and socioeconomic groupings (66 per cent to 71 per cent).
Only 22 per cent say the senator-judges will not be fair-a view more pronounced in Mindanao (30 per cent ) than in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon (18 per cent to 19 per cent). Less than 1 in 10 Filipinos is undecided.
The second finding (acceptance of the verdict) is also shared by majorities in all geographic areas (53 per cent to 68 per cent) and every socioeconomic class (53 per cent to 63 per cent). The Visayas is the exception, where only 40 per cent say that whatever decision is made by the Senate, whether the majority of Filipinos like it or not, will be respected and accepted by them, with 41 per cent saying that most Filipinos will accept only the decision that they favour.
Nationwide, 34 per cent of Filipinos say that most Filipinos will accept and respect only the decision that they favour.
The survey was conducted from February 26 to March 9, before the defence presented its evidence in the impeachment court. The trial started on January 16.
The two findings cited above mirror public confidence in the impeachment process, where the presiding judge and several of the senator-judges demonstrably tried hard to conduct a fair trial and evenhandedness according to the rules of court.
The results on the above issues have been less controversial than the other results of the survey. For instance, public opinion is split on whether or not members of the House of Representatives fast-tracked the impeachment process.
While 38 per cent of Filipinos do not think members of the House fast-tracked the impeachment of Corona, 32 per cent say otherwise.
Twenty per cent of Filipinos are undecided. Forty-six per cent of Manilans say the impeachment process was fast-tracked in the House, while 44 per cent in the rest of Luzon believe otherwise.
While 47 per cent of Filipinos think Corona is guilty of the charges filed against him, 43 per cent are undecided. Only 5 per cent believe he is innocent. Another 5 per cent say they did not have enough basis to make a decision.
Sixty-six per cent of the respondents who say Corona is guilty formed their opinion in the course of the trial, while 34 per cent say their opinion was formed even before the trial began.
Among the regions, Mindanao accounted for the biggest percentage of the respondents (54 per cent) who found Corona guilty. Corona was also found guilty by the majority of those in the ABC socioeconomic class (53 per cent), which is made up of the affluent and middle class, presumably the educated and best-informed citizens.
Half of the respondents in Metro Manila, the best informed and most exposed to the mass media, say Corona is guilty. The guilty opinion is shared by 48 per cent of respondents in the rest of Luzon, 37 per cent in the Visayas, 48 per cent among Class D, and 45 per cent among Class E, with both classes embracing the poor and the poorest.
Those who say Corona is innocent are broken down as follows: 1 per cent among Class ABC, 3 per cent among Class E and in the rest of Luzon, 4 per cent in Metro Manila, and the Visayas; 6 per cent among Class D and 9 per cent in Mindanao. Most Filipinos (84 per cent) followed developments in the trial, with 80 per cent following developments through television and 12 per cent through radio. Only 4 per cent got their information on the trial from newspapers and 1 per cent from the Internet.
It is not clear whether or not the evidence presented by the prosecution prior to the presentation of the defence and the heavy demolition campaign staged by the president outside the court influenced the results of the poll survey showing that 47 per cent of the respondents hold Corona guilty.
However, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the presiding judge, was far from impressed. He said the evidence, and not poll surveys, would decide the guilt or innocence of Corona.
"I will look at the evidence. If we use surveys to convict or not to convict a person charged in the courts, then we don't need courts. All we have to do is conduct surveys whenever somebody is charged," Enrile said.
He said he was not preoccupied with surveys because the job of the impeachment court was to administer justice.
Clearly, the critical message of the survey is: Most Filipinos want a fair trial, nothing less.
COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK