Lawyer expresses regret, quits prosecution team
MANILA VOLUNTEER lawyer Vitaliano Aguirre has quit the prosecution panel in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona and has apologised for making Senator Miriam Santiago blow her top with his gesture of covering his ears with his hands while she was berating prosecutors.
Prosecution spokesman Representative Miro Quimbo of Marikina told a news conference that Aguirre had informed them of his decision to resign as private prosecutor.
“He realised that the situation has become difficult for him. Anyway, he has already apologised for the incident. We thank him for his volunteer work, for which he spent time and money,” Quimbo said.
Aguirre incurred Santiago’s ire when he covered his ears with his hands while the senator, who will soon sit in the International Court of Justice, was lecturing prosecutors in a raised voice.
When Senator Jinggoy Estrada confronted the volunteer lawyer, Aguirre said he could no longer take Santiago’s lecture.
Quimbo said the incident ‘was entirely unexpected on our part and it would have been better had it not happened.’ “As public prosecutors, we have become used to being lectured by Senator Miriam. We take it as part of the process and we set aside our sense of pride for the higher goal of expediting the trial and getting the Chief Justice convicted,” he said. He said there were times when Santiago ‘was kind to the prosecution.’ “Despite the incident, we are sure that she’ll be fair and objective when she casts her vote on the Corona impeachment case,” he added. He also said Aguirre would abide by the decision of the impeachment court on the penalty it would impose on him for his contemptuous behaviour even if he would quit the prosecution panel.
“But we hope the impeachment court would give him leeway, considering that he has already apologised,” he said.
He said Santiago’s labeling of prosecutors as ‘gago (stupid)’ was uncalled for. “It was good that it was deleted from the record of proceedings,” he said.
It was deputy lead prosecutor Represen-tative Rodolfo Farinas of Ilocos Norte who moved for the deletion of Santiago’s remark.
The Senate acting as impeachment court will decide in a caucus on Tuesday what sanction would be imposed on Aguirre.
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile admitted that he would often lower the volume of his earpiece because floor debates can become ‘too loud.’ Enrile, a veteran trial lawyer, said he understands Santiago’s outburst. “I understand Miriam’s frustration,” he said.
“Seeing our fellow lawyers fumbling can be frustrating.”