‘Bribing’ senator-judges

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Monday, February 24, 2014

AT LEAST three senators--Jinggoy Estrada, Miriam Santiago and Chiz Escudero--don't believe the pork barrel funds received by senator-judges because of the impeachment trial was a bribe.

The three lawmakers said that if the senators voted according to the evidence, they were not bribed. It's the "effect" that matters: if the senator-judge is not "affected" by the extra pork, he's not bribed. Or so the argument runs.

That distorts interpretation of what "bribe" is in the standard dictionary and the anti-graft law. Under the senator's theory, a senator-judge can claim he voted against Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona because he believed the jurist was guilty. And the senator-judge is absolved of sin on his mere say-so.


Other public officials and employees who are not senators have been taught that seeking or receiving a favor constitutes bribery even if they do their job right. What is punishable is the favor sought, granted or promised.

Senator-judges were in a more sensitive position: any suspicion they were given or would get a favor from the president who wanted Corona hanged would blight their vote.

The surplus pork might not be illegal but it was not due the senators. Even assuming that it didn't change their vote, the suspicion still casts a long and stubborn shadow. The senators failed even under the common bar set for government workers.


This talk about the extra pork being no bribe must bother court judges. May they, ordinary judges, justify accepting a favor, as senator-judges did, by seeing it as an "incentive" that won't affect their decision based on evidence and law?


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 25, 2014.


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