Friday, March 23, 2012

Listen With Deaf Ears or Else ...

Judges are not gods. They are also humans like the ordinary person you see or meet in the streets. The only difference is that they have been appointed by the President from a list of three persons of supposedly unquestionable morals and integrity, which list had been prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council after a serious and rigorous process of application, qualification and interviews. The presumption therefore is that, by being selected, they are a cut above the rest, at least insofar as knowledge of the law is concerned.

Since judges are also humans, they are also prone to commit mistakes and are apt to behave in a manner totally unbecoming or least unexpected of a judge.

When Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre was cited in contempt of court for covering his ears because of what he refers to as the "shrill" voice of Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago, I felt that something was wrong somewhere.

While the act of covering ones ears may be interpreted by most people as a sign of disrespect (manifesting a clear lack of interest in what the Senator-Judge had to say), one cannot help but wonder and ask: Wasn't the Senator-Judge's "sermon" -- which consisted of a barrage of insults to the prosecution panel -- equally a sign of disrespect which merits punishment or sanction?

I believe the answer to be in the affirmative.

Nobody would want himself to be called "gago" in public or to be referred to as a person lacking in "neuron activity". Nobody would want to be shouted at. Even parents are advised not to shout at their children when the latter is in the wrong and when they do, some children will, in defiance, cover their ears. Moreso if the person being shouted at is not a child anymore but an adult in the practice of law.

Further, isn't the Philippines supposed to be a democratic country where everyone is guaranteed the right to liberty? Can't one choose what one wants to hear? Can't one choose not to listen? I believe that a person should not be punished for choosing not to listen. If the only way for a person to not listen is to cover his ears, I also believe, he should not be faulted or punished for doing so.

Furthermore, aren't judges supposed to behave in a certain way in court? While Senators, acting as impeachment court judges, are different from ordinary judges in that no less than the people of the Republic of the Philippines appointed them to sit as such judges through the Constitution, they are similarly bound by the Code of Judicial Conduct which, I believe, applies to all judges. In fact, more is expected of Senator-Judges.

Thus, we further ask: Aren't Judges prohibited from using intemperate or foul language in court? Didn't the words used by the honorable Senator-Judge fall short of the standard imposed by the Code of Judicial Conduct?

Well, I believe it did. It fell way way below the imposed standard considering the circumstances that Senator Defensor-Santiago has been a Regional Trial Court Judge, that she is, at present, a Senator-Judge and that she had just been recently appointed/chosen to be a justice of the International Court of Justice.

Unfortunately for Atty. Aguirre, and everybody in the impeachment tribunal agreed, nobody can choose to cover one's ears without being cited in contempt even against a Senator-Judge's "shrill" voice which uses foul, intemperate and personally insulting language. Sadly, as it happened, one can only choose to listen with deaf ears.

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