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On Santiago's motion, impeachment court cites prosecution lawyer in contempt

MANILA, Philippines (Mar 1, 2012) - On a motion of Senator-judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago seconded by Senator Pia Cayetano, the impeachment court cited a private prosecution lawyer in comtempt yesterday for what Santiago claimed was a show of disrespect to her and the entire court when the lawyer covered his ears while Santiago was lashing at the prosecution team.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding judge of the impeachment court, ordered the citing for contempt of lawyer Vitaliano Aguirre.

Enrile said that the court will discuss on a caucus next week the penalty that will be imposed on Aguirre.

"From here on, all concerned must take note of this, we no longer tolerate behavior like this," he said.

"We were taught to practice a professional behavior of utmost control and respect to the dignity of the court before whome we appear... I cannot tolerate any disrespect of this court and to any member of the Court as a presiding officer," Enrile added.

Senator-Judge Pia Cayetano earlier cited that the possible penalty for someone who is cited for contempt is a fine of P2,000 or an imprisonment of up to 10 days.

Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor Santiago moved to cite for contempt Aguirre for covering his ears while she was lecturing on the prosecution team.

Aguirre, one of the private prosecutors of the House prosecution team, when asked to stand up by Senator-Judge Jinggoy Estrada admitted that he purposely covered his two ears while Santiago was verbally beating the prosecution team.

Aguirre told the court that his ears were hurting from Santiago's verbal attack against the prosecution.

Estrada said that what the lawyer did was disrespectful.

The lawyer, however, said that as a senator-judge, Santiago should also show some respect to the lawyers and the prosecution.

Enrile pleaded for calm and suspended the trial for several minutes after Santiago moved to cite Aguirre for contempt.

Earlier, Santiago called the prosecution team "gago" as she was reprimanding them for dropping five out of the eight articles of impeachment they filed against Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The senator said that the prosecution should not have made pronouncements in the media that even with only three articles, they can convince the Senate impeachment court to vote in their favor.

"Kung anu-ano pinagsasabi ninyo sa media [na] manalo na kami... You are engaging in a public discourse on the merit of the case... Ang yayabang ng nagsasalita nang ganyan, gago naman... Ang kagaguhan is a ground for contempt of court," she said.

"Sasabihin nyo na panalo na kami sa tatlong articles of impeachment...kami ang nagddesisyon nyan hindi kayo... Ang yayabang nyo!" Santiago added.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, meanwhile, asked the court to strike out from the record the remarks of Santiago calling the prosecution team as "gago."

Santiago did not pose any objections to the request. (From