Posted by: stu robbins | March 1, 2012

Civility and Sanity

Hear No Evil

All of civility depends on being able to contain the rage of individuals.

-Joshua Lederberg

I come from a profession which has suffered greatly because of the lack of civility. Lawyers treat each other poorly and it has come home to haunt them. The public will not tolerate a lack of civility. 

-James E. Rogers

We are all aware of who Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre is and why he figured in the news yesterday and newspaper headlines today as well. He was the private prosecutor who was cited in contempt by the Impeachment Court (courtesy of Madam Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago) for exhibiting disrespect when he covered his ears while the Senator Judge was berating the Prosecution Panel for dropping five of the eight Articles of Impeachment. To spice that up further, when Senator-Judge Jinggoy Estrada asked the private prosecutor why he did such a thing, he blatantly admitted that he was irritated at the lady Senator-Judge’s voice which he described as “shrill”.

Most observers found his reaction to be somehow aggressive and in an act of defiance perhaps due to the fact that the lady Senator-Judge called them “gago” or idiots regarding the issue of the said Articles of Impeachment.

In a tele-novela cultured society like ours, some or majority of us will find this acceptable or perhaps might even sympathize with Atty. Aguirre. But only a few will ascertain that even in the wrath of chaos, civility should be present.

I must agree that the Senator Judge Santiago had her reasons for lecturing the prosecution panel in quite an exasperated manner; here are lawyers slash lawmakers that are expected to know their case very well. They ought to expect some unexpected and always have a contingency plan if needed. The problem here is that the Articles of Impeachment was railroaded in an effort to please someone. How have these 188 signatories read the Articles in a short period of time? The flow of the Impeachment Trial can best describe the flaws and blunder that should have been reconciled in the first place.

I do sympathize with the prosecution panel because it sure is embarrasing to be scolded on national television (live coverage at that) especially that these are gentlemen of a “dignified” stature. No one deserves to be called or accused to be “gago” or an idiot (this was afterwards motioned by Cong. Farinas to be stricken out of record to which the lady senator did not object to) because it is simply not a proper term of usage in a formal proceeding. Then it was this that perhaps got Atty. Aguirre to act in an uncivilized manner by covering his ears every time the Senator-Judge took the podium.

Presiding Officer Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said it right on the basis of the charge of contempt for the private prosecutor. Law practitioners are expected to be in their best behavior always; no matter how uncontrollable the situation is. I hope that this can also be said to the Senator-Judge Santiago since there are times that she could just go a little over the top that most would cease to understand the point she is driving at and instead observe and savor (if not loathe) the emotions she is going through.

I understand that we are a people of emotional “smarts”. We use body language and gesticulations to arrive at a point. Take this for instance: an angry boss confronts his employee about something that he should have done. He says things to describe how disappointed he is over the situation and dragging the anger along, he could spew out some expletives. The message just gets colorful with facial expressions or body language. In the end, we know how the employee reacts; it’s pretty sure that he didn’t digest what he did wrong but instead digested the anger part and most especially the colorful words accented by facial and body expression. In the end, all he understood was that his boss was very mad at him and secretly wishes him evil and things I suppose only God can hear.

On the part of the employee, it could be difficult to simplify and accept the main issue at hand. It would be a god-like display of character to respond to the Devil-of-a-boss in a dignified manner. But this is the challenge: to be sane and civilized even in the most darn-est circumstances. Unfortunately, the pre-civilization behavior got the hold of the private prosecutor and uncontrollably went the wrong way.

Perhaps, this could serve to be a lesson on both sides. Your voice and body language will define if you are worth listening or watching to. Perhaps the distinguished Senator-Judge could use more of anger management to focus on what needs to be conveyed to the other party. As for the Private Prosecutor, he should learn how to take in the cudgels and spit it out in private circumstance.

The Impeachment Trial can be frustrating at times; some show their bias stature, some could be terribly annoying. Only two personalities stand out in this undefined chaos: Defense Counsel Serafin Cuevas and Presiding Officer Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. These two try their best to instill order and fluidity in the process; Defense Counsel never gets tired of using “Your Honor, please…” in addressing the Impeachment Court. As for the Presiding Officer, he tries his best to keep his sanity intact by being quite liberal in granting the prosecution’s requests and candidly reminding them of their duties and responsibilities.

It has been more than a month since this trial began and we await the Defense to prove their case next week. It is funny that outside the courtroom, we have been hearing of  so-called verdicts concerning State-funded universities even when the defense has not presented their case yet. It is just like a teacher punishing an ill-reputed student only after listening to the alleged victim and happened to be the most behaved student in class. this occurrence merely hammers down the reality of our gossip-monging society and hot-blooded culture as well.

One thing is for sure. This trial will be over before Lent (?) and a verdict will be meted out.

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