Thursday, January 12, 2012

175 private citizens allotted seats to impeachment trial of Chief Justice

MANILA, Philippines—Young-looking senior citizens are advised to bring identification cards, preferably the ones with their birth dates indicated, if they wish to avail of the 25 slots allotted to them inside the Senate gallery for the duration of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment trial.

“Because some of the senior citizens look like they’re only 40 years old,” noted retired Brig. Gen. Jose Balajadia, chief of the Office of the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms (OSSAA).

“That’s true,” he insisted at the weekly Kapihan sa Senado forum on Thursday. “Some of them look young.  So if you’re a young-looking senior, please bring your ID,” the Senate security chief appealed.

Like a blockbuster movie with limited seating, Corona’s impeachment trial in the Senate will provide seats to 175 private individuals, including 25 senior citizens inside the session hall.

The session hall has a seating capacity of 361.  However, many of the seats have already been allotted to the staff of senator-judges, House prosecutors and defense lawyers who will participate in the trial.

Even media has not been spared from the limited seating conundrum.

Senate director for print media services Samuel Y. Santos said only 40 seats were allotted for various media entities including print, television, radio that would cover the trial.

Santos said the slots could be raffled off “shortly before lunch” in case more than 40 journalists indicate interest in covering the trial from the session hall.

Balajadia said all tickets for private viewers would be distributed at the police outpost in front of the pedestrian gate of the Senate entrance.

“We will give tickets starting 11 a.m.  We advise everybody to line up early because (the distribution) would be a first-come-first-served basis,” he said.

The impeachment court spokesperson, Atty. Valentina Cruz, stressed that only one pass will be issued to each person at the line.

Balajadia stressed that all cellular phones of private individuals watching the trial should be turned off once they enter the session hall.

“Media can use their cellphones (inside the session hall) but please put them on silent (mode). And talking on the cell phones while the trial is going on (is prohibited). Because the conversations would be heard by senator-judges,” he explained.

Texting by reporters “is okay,” Balajadia said, “but the rest of the people, the public, we expect them to turn off their cell phones.”

Cruz warned in the same forum that all persons, whether private individuals or journalists, “can be evicted” if caught taking photos or videos of the impeachment proceedings.

She also said private citizens wearing shorts, undershirts or slippers would not be admitted to the session hall.

“This is to preserve the dignity of the impeachment trial,” she explained.

Reporters, meanwhile, are required to cover the trial in “appropriate attire.” Men are expected to wear “slacks, pants and suit pants” as well as “collared short or long-sleeved shirts.”  Denim jeans can also be worn as long as these are not faded, torn or “worn with rugged shirts.”

Women can also wear slacks and business suits as well as casual dresses if the hem is “knee length or below the knee.” Sleeveless blouses should be worn with a cardigan, Cruz stressed.

Anthony Samonte, OSSAA security support service director, warned that shirts bearing “propaganda” messages, pins and other paraphernalia would not be allowed inside the session hall.

“Guests will also be restricted to designated areas and will not be allowed to roam around,” he added.

Cruz said the doors to the session hall would be closed at exactly 2 p.m., the beginning of the trial.

“We close doors but they would not be locked. That is how we implement the provision of the rules,” she explained.

By Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Chief Justice Impeachment Trial

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