MANILA, Philippines - Seven in 10 Filipinos want Chief Justice Renato Corona convicted even as the same number want him to testify in his impeachment trial, results of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed.
The SWS poll, conducted from March 10 to 13, found 73 percent prefer a conviction at this stage of the trial, while 25 percent said they wanted a “not guilty” verdict.
A similar 73 percent of respondents want Corona to personally testify in his own impeachment trial to disprove the charges filed against him, while 26 percent said otherwise.
The survey also showed that a majority or 67 percent of the respondents would accept any verdict that the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, will hand down on the complaint filed against the chief magistrate, while only nine percent said no.
Half of Filipinos (51 percent) were satisfied with the way the impeachment trial has proceeded while 20 percent were dissatisfied, for a “good” net 31 rating, SWS said.
The survey research firm noted that satisfaction was “moderate” in balance Luzon, the Visayas and among non-high school graduates.
Results of the SWS poll were published in the newspaper BusinessWorld yesterday.
The nationwide poll found respondents “neither trusting nor distrusting the Senate to make a fair decision,” which it said indicated public anxiety about the outcome.
With regard to the House of Representatives’ decision to impeach Corona, 53 percent said they were satisfied, against 17 percent who were dissatisfied, for a “good” net rating of 36.
The SWS said satisfaction was “good” in all areas and demographic groups.
Sixty-six percent of Filipinos were satisfied with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s handling of the trial and 11 percent were dissatisfied, giving him a net score of “very good” 55.
Asked about their trust that the Senate impeachment court would issue a fair verdict, 51 percent said they were unsure, 30 percent said they had much trust, and 19 percent had little trust in the chamber.
“The dominance of the middle position, with a near-balance of the positive and negative sides, indicates public anxiety about the ultimate decision of the Senate,” the SWS said.
Nearly half or 49 percent of respondents, meanwhile, said the pace of the trial was too slow, followed by 40 percent who said it was just right and 11 percent who viewed it as hurried.
SWS said the impatience was dominant everywhere except in Mindanao, class E and non-high school graduates.
A majority (69 percent) said the trial was fair to both sides, a “strong perception” in all demographic groups. Nearly two out of 10 or 17 percent claimed it favored the defense team, while 12 percent said the prosecution was being given the advantage.
Asked to choose whether the Chief Justice should resign immediately, about half of the respondents (49 percent) said Corona should wait to be found not guilty then quit; 30 percent said he should resign soon, and 18 percent said he should leave only if convicted and 3.5 percent had no opinion.
The impeachment proceedings, which started on Jan. 16 this year, are currently suspended for a Holy Week break. The trial will resume on May 7, with the defense to continue presenting its case.
The SWS used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults nationwide, with sampling error margins of plus or minus three percentage points for national and plus or minus six percentage points for area percentages.
The prosecution expressed elation over the result of the SWS survey, saying it reflects the people’s sentiment on Corona.
“It’s a reflection of the people’s sentiment,” prosecution spokesman Rep. Miro Quimbo of Marikina said.
“Considering that the survey is consistent with a previous one done by Pulse Asia, the defense should stop questioning the methodology and sampling of these surveys. Instead of shooting the messengers – the survey companies – the camp of CJ Corona should come up with a more credible defense,” he said.
Quimbo said the SWS poll shows that the people are satisfied with the Corona impeachment process in the House of Representatives and with the performance of its prosecution team.
“More importantly, the survey result means that the people believe in the strength of the evidence we have presented against the Chief Justice before the Senate impeachment court,” he said.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, a spokesman for the panel, said the poll showed that the prosecutors were “on the right track.”
“We have discharged our duty to prove a case for betrayal of public trust,” Angara said. “We can only hope that our good senators feel the same way since they will be the ones to decide.”
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the survey also showed that lawmakers were speaking on behalf of the people in calling on Corona to personally testify in his trial.
“We have long been appealing to him to testify,” Belmonte said.
The defense, meanwhile, expressed confidence yesterday that the 23 senator-judges will not be swayed by the results of recent surveys that seem to find Corona guilty of the impeachment charges filed against him.
“Surveys are some sort of observation and guidance but it does not mean that it will be the basis of our senator-judges when they render a decision. They (senators) had declared that. They also said the popularity is like ice cream that melts,” defense lawyer and spokesman Tranquil Salvador III said yesterday.
“The positive thing that you could see here is that they want the whole process to be completed,” Salvador said. “For us, that’s a good indication, that they want to respect the verdict even before the defense started to present their evidence.”
Another defense lawyer, Rico Paolo Quicho, said the latest SWS survey should also be seen not against Corona, but as a measure of the public’s sentiment in wanting to see the case to a conclusion.
“We have a high regard (for) the independence and integrity of the senator-judges, we believe that they will not be swayed by public opinion, specifically by these surveys. At the end of the day, they took an oath that they will be judging this impeachment case based on the evidence that the parties presented and based on the law that is applicable on the matter,” Quicho said.
Salvador also doused anew insinuations for the Chief Justice to merely resign.
He said the prosecutors are the ones calling for Corona’s resignation because the impeachment case is naturally weak.
The Supreme Court (SC) also downplayed the SWS survey.
Just like the recent Pulse Asia survey, SC spokesman Midas Marquez said the new SWS survey showing almost three out of four Filipinos prefer a “guilty” verdict on Corona by the impeachment court is premature.
“As what we have said, it’s premature to conduct surveys at this point because the impeachment case is still pending. We don’t know the basis of the respondents in saying that he’s guilty or innocent. The defense isn’t through yet,” he told reporters in an interview.
He believes the public had a one-sided view of the case since they had not yet heard the defense when they were asked by Pulse Asia about Corona’s guilt or innocence.
Still, the SC official said he could only hope there was no ulterior motive in the release of the surveys.
“I hope it is not taken and released to influence the senator-judges from deciding one way or the other,” he said.
Meanwhile, support for the Chief Justice from his fellow magistrates in the high court continued yesterday with an appointee of President Aquino even sponsoring a Mass for him.
It was the 14th consecutive held at the SC lobby since the defense team started presenting evidence in the impeachment trial.
Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, who sponsored Thursday’s Mass, is one of Aquino’s three appointees to the high tribunal.
Corona attended the Mass along with his wife Cristina. - With Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Edu Punay, Christina Mendez - By Helen Flores