Bongbong: Being a judge was never my ambition

Posted at 03/30/2012 8:44 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has worn many hats – presidential son, governor, congressman and now senator. He may even run for president like his late father, the former President Ferdinand Marcos.

One position that has never interested him is that of a judge.

“Yung governor, in-ambisyon ko yan e. Yung congressman, in-ambisyon ko yan e. Yung senador in-ambisyon ko pero yung judge, never sa buong buhay ko na inambisyon ko. So I was a little bit, I was surprised to find myself in this situation…but once you get over the initial surprise and the novelty of the thing, wow, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” he said in an interview on ANC’s Tamano Perspective.

Marcos is one of 23 senators sitting as judges in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. The trial started last January 16 and is now on a 6-week break. It will resume on May 7.

Marcos said he experienced “withdrawal symptoms” after the impeachment proceedings went on break. 

“The first couple of days I couldn’t believe I didn’t have to study the night before because of the impeachment but yes, I am getting used to it. Right now, I am catching up with the legislative agenda,” he said.

The senator said the trial has brought legislative work in the Upper Chamber to a crawl, leaving high-profile bills such as the Reproductive Health and Freedom of Information bills hanging.

He said other important measures such as new congressional districts and cityhoods also need to be tackled since it will have an effect in the 2013 elections.

Marcos said one problem with the trial is that it is taking a lot of time. “It is not just the time that we sit down to listen to both parties but the study and the research in the evenings and the mornings because the last thing you want is not knowing what’s going on and not being prepared,” he said.

Lessons learned

The former First Son said he has learned many things during the course of the impeachment trial including the value of conducting a pre-trial.

He said the lack of a pre-trial bogged down the proceedings since both the prosecution and the defense did not submit their list of witnesses and evidence at the start of the trial. He admitted the Senate impeachment court was “bumbling around” in the beginning until they finally got their rhythm.

“We hear sui generis a lot and yes, impeachment is a strange kind of creature but without any order, we can’t get to the facts,” he said.

“It’s a lesson we learned. The pre-trial process, a part of it should be adopted during impeachment,” he added.

Marcos said the senators had to agree on what quantum of evidence to use in the impeachment trial since there is no existing jurisprudence on the matter.

He said the impeachment court was divided on using “evidence beyond reasonable doubt” or “preponderance of evidence” in the trial.

“The quantum of evidence for a criminal case was deemed too high while for an administrative case, preponderance of evidence, was a little too weak. We were trying to find something in between,” he said.

In the end, he said the senators agreed to leave the quantum of evidence up to each individual senator since they did not have to explain their final vote.

Polls, politics weigh on senators

Marcos said two factors may have an effect on senator-judges: politics and the 2013 elections.

He noted political forces have been at work even before the trial started. He also noted that the senator-judges cannot completely shut out the political developments happening outside the trial.

“None of us are completely immune to the political discussions surrounding the impeachment trial. We try. We are human beings. We cannot put our thoughts in boxes and separate them so exactly,” he said.

He added: “As far as I can tell, all of the senators are trying very hard to be objective, to look at the facts before them and come to a conclusion but to pretend that the political goings-on around the trial…will have no effect on us, we try but of course it’s out there and we know about it.”

Marcos admitted that he reads the opinions of lawyers and pundits about the trial. He also takes copious notes about what is said in the trial and weighs the evidence.

“It’s a very thin line that you have to tread. You cannot be ignorant of what’s going on. It’s a precarious balancing act. I have my own leanings. It’s important to know what people are thinking and what pundits and commentators are thinking,” he said.

The senator said he is also thankful that he is not running for re-election in the 2013 polls.

He said some of the senators running for re-election would probably take a closer look at the current popularity surveys as the next election nears.

“If I were a candidate for 2013, I would probably be taking a closer look at those surveys than those who are not running. It’s about political survival,” he said.

However, he said it is clear to him that the impeachment trial should be decided on the evidence and not the current surveys.

“I try very hard not to look at the surveys. I get the general thing and see it in the newspaper but it is very clear in my mind that surveys are not part of the trial. It’s part of our political life but not the trial,” he said.