Santiago accuses private prosecutor of provoking her
MANILA — Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said lawyer private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre, who was cited in contempt Wednesday, may have been planted in the court room to provoke her.
Aguirre was cited in contempt for covering his ears while Santiago was berating him and other prosecutors. He admitted doing so on purpose because the senator’s voice was “shrill”.
But Santiago, in a press statement Wednesday afternoon, said Aguirre “might have been part of a deliberate plot to provoke me.”
“The provocation could have been intended to raise my hypertension to an even higher level, precipitating either a stroke or a heart attack. Or, the provocation could have been intended to make me deliberately lose my temper and make a spectacle of myself,” said the senator, who has had to miss trial dates due to hypertension.
She said an unnamed member of her staff told her that Aguirre usually sat in the gallery, where “every time I spoke, he would sneer at me very loudly, intending to make him heard by those around him.”
But Wednesday afternoon, Aguirre was seated with the rest of the prosecutors. He was caught on television and on Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano’s smart phone covering his ears throughout Santiago’s tirade against the prosecution.
His attention was called by Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, who told Aguirre that the act was disrespectful of the impeachment court.
“What if you were the one speaking and we did that?” Estrada said.
Aguirre did not deny covering his ears, saying “my ears hurt.” He said Santiago should also show respect to lawyers as she demands respect from them.
He added that in his 40 years of practice, this was the first time that he saw a judge lectured a lawyer. He then left the court after Santiago told him to leave if he wishes to.
This, however, did not sit well with Santiago, who said the counsel “cannot just make those contemptuous gestures in front of the judge and get away with it.”
Santiago even raised her voice and referred to the prosecutors as “gago” (fools) for deciding to withdraw five articles of impeachment lodged against Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“The TV news service of a TV station known to be partial to the administration deliberately panned over this lawyer so that he could be seen on nationwide TV,” she said, but did not name the TV station.
“To assure conviction of the defendant, I have been specifically targeted for character assassination and other forms of self-destruction by the culprits. The more my enemies try to persecute and intimidate me, the more I will continue with my present mode of behavior in the impeachment court,” she said in her statement.
But the prosecution panel believes Aguirre has the right to express his feelings over the scathing comments of the senator.
“It’s not that we’re tolerating the actions of Aguirre but we believe that he has the right to say or show what he feels,” Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III, one of the spokespersons for the prosecution panel, told reporters in a news briefing after Wednesday’s impeachment trial.
“With all due respect to the impeachment court, although it was stricken off the records, I don’t think a judge calls a fellow member of the bar ‘gago’. We have to respect the feelings of Atty. Aguirre,” he added.
Santiago has been critical of the prosecution panel and has scolded them repeatedly, often with reference to their supposed lack of knowledge of the law.
Among the prosecutors who have been scolded by the senator, an elected judge of the International Criminal Court, are Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., Northern Samar Representative Raul Daza, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares, and private prosecutor Arthur Lim.
She has also referred to a member of the House who supposedly lied while testifying under oath and has scored the prosecution spokesmen for discussing developments in the case.
“You’re so arrogant, but, really, you are fools,” she said Wednesday.
Santiago’s motion to cite Aguirre in contempt Wednesday went unopposed. It was Senator Pia Cayetano who seconded the motion.
Presiding officer and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he “cannot tolerate any disrespect of this court and to any member of this court.”
Speaking for the prosecution, Representative Rodolfo Farinas apologized to the impeachment court.
The senators will discuss what penalties to impose on Aguirre in a caucus Tuesday next week.
The private prosecutor will be banned from appearing before the impeachment court in the meantime.
Aguirre served as the lead counsel for Hubert Webb’s defense team. Webb was found guilty in the controversial Vizconde massacre.
He also served as legal counsel for now Supreme Court Chief Justice Bienvenido Reyes in an administrative investigation over a GSIS vs Meralco case.
According to his profile provided by the prosecution, Aguirre was also a legal counsel for Senator Panfilo Lacson and Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City.
Aguirre, 65, graduated valedictorian at San Beda College. He passed the 1971 bar examinations with a rating of 85.25 percent.
Aguirre was a managing partner for Aguirre Cacho & Tuazon Law Firm, Acosta Aguirre & Fernandez Law Firm, Ricafrente Aguirre Sanvicente & Cacho Law Firm, and Robles Ricafrente Nachura & Aguirre Law Firm. (Sunnex)
Short URL: http://leytesamardaily.net/?p=25065