Just when we thought the Defense would come out blazing with a professional and thoughtful case, it disappointed.
Its opening gambit was to present Rep. Tobias Tiangco to prove the impeachment was railroaded through the House. Somebody forgot to tell them they are selling last year’s product.
The Senate had rendered their argument academic when it proceeded with the trial. For the Defense to now tell the Senators they have been beating a dead horse all along was not only an affront to their intelligence and self worth; but a waste of their time. No wonder Sen. Enrile told them to can it.
The Defense then proceeded to reveal the CJ earned P21 MM in salaries, allowances and bonuses over the last ten years to justify his portfolio of properties and dispel claims of ill-gotten wealth.
The Defense had successfully moved heaven and earth to kick out hidden wealth as a cause of action when first introduced by the Prosecution in Sec. 2.4 of Article 2 of the Impeachment; so for it to re-introduce the subject is weird. The Prosecution can reasonably argue the matter is now fair game and revisit the space and everything that comes with it.
Disclosing the CJ’s ten-year compensation served no useful purpose. First, it failed to connect it to the man’s disclosed SALNs which is what is in contention. Second, it allows hidden wealth to be re-introduced into the agenda. Three, it opens up the CJ to a tax investigation for any unpaid taxes on his allowances, gifts and bonuses. In fact, the Prosecution may seek to sub-poena the CJ’s tax returns to a) confirm his multi-million peso income and b) to reconcile it with his SALNs.
On a broader level the Defense as of late seems to be singing with two voices not always in sync with each other. The first is Chief Counsel Cuevas’, the other the CJ’s. The former wants to keep it simple, technical, in tune and in the courtroom; the other wants to go off key, expand the repertoire and take it to the public.
We first got a whiff of this two-voice disharmony when the defense team, ex-Cuevas, accused Malacanang of trying to buy the Senators’ votes. The Lead Counsel apparently wanted nothing to do with this tack and, as it turned out, rightly so.
Again, in a surprise move, the CJ announced his intention to soon disclose his dollar accounts. When asked about this, Cuevas answered something to the effect he must have been asleep when this was all happening. He was clearly caught off-guard.
Lastly, the CJ has gone off on a personal crusade against the President, accusing him of payback for Luisita and of trying to impose one-man rule. It is unclear whether Cuevas agrees with this angle of attack.
For one, few quite believe the line.
Secondly, it diminishes the CJ’s stature to that of a petty politician.
Lastly, the CJ with a low double digit popularity is taking on a man with a high double digit popularity. The numbers are not there. As Lyndon Johnson would say: “That dog won’t hunt”.
By going mano-a-mano with P-Noy, the CJ is transforming the issue from an impeachment that he has a reasonable chance of beating; to a referendum between him and the President in which the public is asked to choose. The outcome is a no-brainer, the CJ will lose this battle every time.
What has prompted the CJ to go off-piste is an interesting question. Perhaps he believes the advise of those who have an ax to grind against the President; or his hubris is getting the better of him; or he is feeling the pressure; or he actually believes the story. Offense may be the best form of defense but this foray seems ill-conceived.
I suspect his Chief Counsel feels likewise but he is not (and has never been) in charge. In frustration, he could well be tearing out what is an otherwise interesting hair arrangement.
In the coming days the Defense has promised to connect all the dots of what has so far been a scattered presentation.
The CJ has decided to bring his case to the public. As with his former mentor who now sits in a hospital awaiting trial, it is easy to be swayed by the whisperings of sycophants and the gathering of a few thousand; and believe the nation is listening to what one has to say.
For his sake, one hopes he has gauged the public mood right.