Se­nate should gear up for Sereno im­peach­ment trial

Manila Times - - OPINION - AL S. VITANGCOL III allinsight.mani­la­ www.face­ All. In­sight. Manila. Times

THE House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ com­mit­tee on jus­tice has deemed the im­peach­ment com­plaint against Chief Jus­tice Ma. Lour­des Sereno, filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, as “suf­fi­cient in form and sub­stance”. But the same com­mit­tee junked a sec­ond im­peach­ment com­plaint against Sereno filed by the Vol­un­teers Against Crime and Cor­rup­tion (VACC) for be­ing de­fec­tive in form.

Black’ s Law Dic­tionary im­peach­ment as a crim­i­nal pro be­fore a quasi po­lit­i­cal court, ini­ti­ated by a writ­ten ac­cu­sa­tion called “ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment”.

The Con­sti­tu­tion al­lows the through im­peach­ment. This is 2 of Ar­ti­cle IX – Ac­count­abil­ity of mem­bers of the Supreme Court, among oth­ers, may be re­moved

In the Philip­pines, there are only five grounds for which a - peached: 1) cul­pa­ble vi­o­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion; 2) trea­son; 3) bribery, graft and cor­rup­tion; 4) other high crimes; or 5) be­trayal of pub­lic trust.

The Con­sti­tu­tion gives the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives the exclusive power to ini­ti­ate all cases of im­peach­ment. How can an or­di­nary cit­i­zen, like Gadon, it is only House mem­bers who can ini­ti­ate im­peach­ment cases? Well, - upon a res­o­lu­tion or en­dorse­ment by any of the con­gress­men.

The House has al­ready pro­mul­gated its rules on im­peach­ment. The Rules of Pro­ce­dure in Im­peach­ment Pro­ceed­ings, en­acted by the 15tth Congress, is ap­pli­ca­ble, the present Congress. Once an im­peach­ment com­plaint is re­ferred to the com­mit­tee on jus­tice, it will de­ter­mine whether the com­plaint

The re­quire­ment of form is met if the writ­ten com­plaint con­tains the prin­ci­pal nec­es­sary mat­ters, the proper tech­ni­cal terms and phrases and what­ever else is nec­es­sary to make it for­mally cor­rect. It should be ar­ranged in proper and me­thod­i­cal or­der, and ca­pa­ble of be­ing adapted as the House’s ver­sion of its Ar­ti­cles of Im­peach­ment.

The re­quire­ment of sub­stance is met if there is a recital of facts con­sti­tut­ing the of­fense charged. Each and ev­ery ac­cu­sa­tion should be backed by doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence.

All lawyers know that plead­ings fol­low some strict for­mal­i­ties. Ma the higher courts, whether in the Court of Ap­peals or the Supreme Court, are de­nied if they are de­fec­tive in form. It seems that the VACC was not able to get the ser­vices of a tier-one lawyer in pre­par­ing their im­peach­ment com­plaint against the Chief Jus­tice.

Some me­dia ac­counts show that the ques­tions of the com­mit­tee mem­bers fo­cused on the “per­sonal knowl­edge” of the com­plainants they con­cluded that VACC, as a com­plainant, had no per­sonal - tion is not an­chored on the “per­sonal knowl­edge” phrase alone but equally on the “au­then­tic records” phrase.

I al­ways in­clude this state­ment and un­der­stood its con­tents, which are true and cor­rect based on my own per­sonal knowl­edge or on au­then­tic records.” There you are. If you have no per­sonal knowl­edge, then it should be based on au­then­tic records.

But there is more to it than just form and sub­stance. The com­mit­tee also de­ter­mines whether the com­plaint al­leges suf­fi­cient grounds for im­peach­ment. Once es­tab­lished, the com­mit­tee con­ducts hear­ings to re­ceive the tes­ti­mony of wit­nesses, doc­u­ments and other re­lated ev­i­dence. If the cause ex­ists, it then draws up the Ar­ti­cles of Im­peach­ment. Upon ap­proval by at least one-third of the mem­bers of the House, the Ar­ti­cles of Im­peach­ment are en­dorsed to the Se­nate, which will act as im­peach­ment court.

The Se­nate has adopted Res­o­lu­tion No. 39, Rules of Pro­ce­dure on Im­peach­ment Tri­als, which it is bound to fol­low. Since it is the Chief Jus­tice who is be­ing tried, the Pres­i­dent of the Se­nate shall pre­side in the im­peach­ment trial. It is for­tu­nate that Se­nate Pres­i­dent Koko Pi­mentel Jr. is a lawyer. Else, it will be too hard, or even im­pos­si­ble, for a non-lawyer to be the pre­sid­ing judge in an im­peach­ment court. Can you imag­ine the likes of some non-lawyer se­na­tor pre­sid­ing over an im­peach­ment court? It will be a com­edy of er­rors.

Take note that the Se­nate Pres­i­dent when pre­sid­ing in an im­peach­ment trial may rule on all ques­tions of ev­i­dence in­clud­ing, but not limited to, ques­tions of ma­te­ri­al­ity, rel­e­vancy, com­pe­tency or ad­mis­si­bil­ity of ev­i­dence and incidental ques­tions. Such rul­ing shall stand as the judg­ment of the Se­nate. This holds un­less a se­na­tor-judge asks that a for­mal vote be taken on a ques­tion, in which case it would be sub­mit­ted to the body for de­ci­sion.

How is the im­peach­ment sus­tained? The Pres­i­dent of the Se­nate shall state the ques­tion on each ar­ti­cle of im­peach­ment. There­after, each se­na­tor, as his/her name is called, shall rise in his/her place and an­swer: guilty or not guilty. The vote of the Se­nate Pres­i­dent on each ar­ti­cle of im­peach­ment is the last taken af­ter all the se­na­tors have stated their votes. A se­na­tor is al­lowed ex­plain his/her vote for not more than two min­utes.

shall ob­serve po­lit­i­cal neu­tral­ity dur­ing the course of the im­peach­ment trial. ‘ Po­lit­i­cal neu­tral­ity’ - dis­crim­i­na­tion and re­gard­less of

Will this be fol­lowed? I doubt it. My in­sight tells me, based on pre­vi­ous im­peach­ment tri­als, that the se­na­tor-Judges will vote along party lines. Prob­a­bly, a cou­ple of them will vote ac­cord­ing to their con­science. How­ever, the rest will blindly fol­low their po­lit­i­cal par­ties’ pref­er­ence.

The se­na­tors should now gear up and start hon­ing their “judg­ing” and “ques­tion­ing” skills. Or else, we might end up hav­ing an af­ter­noon com­edy of er­rors show.

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