I was already worried when Senator Miriam Santiago joined for the first time the impeachment court on January 25, but her outburst yesterday in the Senate confirms my apprehension that the lady senator is mentally challenged. She is an embarrassment to the International Criminal Court which sits her as one of the jurists of that body that prosecutes world thugs and criminals unless of course that body is an assembly of self-righteous demagogues and quacks, then she could be in a very comfortable company. My only concern is that she looks like she is not even competent to run after the local thugs of the judiciary.
Senator Miriam Santiago is not exactly my expert on constitutional law, because she rambles her thought on that piece of document and she thinks that her previous years sitting as a judge of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City and her having a doctorate degree in law from Michigan University makes her competent on the constitution; the rules on procedure, and on every topic under the sun.
The Senate had already ruled that the prosecution can present evidence on the ITR, (alpha lists) and other real estate acquisitions of the Chief Justice and his wife Carina pursuant to the two sub-pars of Article II of Impeachment which was innocuously captioned “Non Disclosure of SALNs,” of the Chief Justice. However, her taking the floor to upbraid private prosecutor Lim and demanded from him to read the said Article II and to point out which of these allegations constitute violation of the graft and corrupt practices act was an effort to grandstand on the floor. Parliamentary courtesy was thrown out the door and she turned the Senate into a pit of brawling mob and indecent people instead of an emporium of satesmen and honorable elected representatives of the sovereign people. She riled against the private prosecutor who is not a member of Congress arguing with her but she does not have any problem with defense lawyer S. Cuevas, who likewise is not a member of Congress arguing with anyone in the chamber.
She literally acted like a spoiled brat in tantrum and screaming at the top of her lungs because her lollipop fell on the gutter and washed away by the water under.
She purposely provoked herself into fighting her own bogeymen and started the fight with her combative request to the prosecutor to read the articles of impeachment like a grade school teacher would ask her nervous young student to enlighten her of the nature of the pleadings when it was obvious that her motive was to scold the Private Prosecutor on how sloppy the particular article was written. The entire Senate had already passed judgment on that article and had liberally construed it to enable BIR Commissioner Kim Henares to testify and have the documents she brought to the Senate be marked as evidence, but Senator Santiago chose to speak out of sync.
In another corner, Joker Arroyo looked like a spurned suitor blabbering hilariously in a pitch which was incredibly inaudible telling the Senate that unless the documents marked by the prosecution are offered and accepted by the body, these papers remain useless piece of documents because they are not public documents. You can give defense counsel S. Cuevas credit when he corrected the octogenarian solon that the admission of Congress of the documents would not lend any extra character to what was already considered a public document. He said that if it was notarized and/or subscribed before someone authorized to administer an oath, the document is considered public document. Please take note that the SALNs, and sales documents of real properties in the name of the Coronas or their children/in-laws are notarized and under oath and therefore they are considered public documents that are entitled to the presumption of being regular and duly executed pursuant to law.
I would add that all documents filed in various government offices charge with duty to keep and accept these documents are considered public documents and therefore accorded with the prima facie presumption of regularity. The papers brought to the Senate by Commissioner Henares are public documents and they enjoy the presumption of being faithful evidence of the transactions contained therein unless a contrary evidence is presented to overcome that presumption. Their being accepted or rejected by the Senate does not alter their character as public documents.
Accordingly, I find the attempts of some Senators, Joker Arroyo most specially, to downgrade the value of these documents before the eyes of the public without presenting contrary testimony or documents to discredit them as very dishonest and revolting.
On a lighter note, I find it refreshing though that Senators Lacson and Guingona, correctly addressed the public aspect of the proceeding and reminded their colleagues that the public are part of the proceedings and are looking into whatever documents are being shown and marked on the floor unless the proceeding is made closed-door.
The public however are not interested in the character of the documents. They are more interested in their contents.
The attempt of some senators and the defense to “judicialize” the proceeding and lecture the public and the prosecutors of what are competent and admissible evidence is a charade meant to cushion the damage caused by the documents to the Coronas. Whatever attempt at legalese is lost in the minds of the public who saw the entire process in the Senate as a simple case of arithmetic and not Wigmore’s treatise on what constitutes as competent and admissible evidence in the courts of law.
Is there an accusation that CJ Corona is a thief? If there is, then his SALNs, ITR (alpha list), and real property acquisitions are material and relevant in proving such accusation. The public are interested in his income to see if those income can sustain those expensive realty acquisitions by the Coronas. Any contrivance or lawyerly trick to prevent these otherwise relevant evidence from being entered into the records of the Senate deserves the highest public contempt.
Did CJ Corona betray a public trust?
Perhaps Senator Santiago should consider this accusation as not part of those offenses enumerated in the anti-graft and corrupt practices act (RA 3019). This is a political offense like those offenses considered as “high crimes and other misdemeanors” in the U.S. jurisprudence and therefore need not be alleged as a violation of specific provision of statutory law.
I have to go back to my primer on impeachment just to show that Senator Santiago was wrong on her meanderings of the impeachment process as a “quasi-judicial proceedings” instead of the process being purely “political” and I have go to back to the text of the constitution to show that other acts not constituting a violation of statutory laws are impeachable offenses as long as they fall under the broad category of “betrayal of public trust.”
And since impeachment was not intended to punish the erring official but to protect public interest, it is my submission that the degree of evidence required for conviction is only substantial proof and not proof beyond reasonable doubt as proposed by the defense.
These are what David Barton has compiled in his primer on “Restraining An Overactive Judiciary: Impeachment:”
“Because criminal acts by an official already had a forum for prosecution (the regular courts of law), impeachment covered the non-criminal offenses, yet even though designed primarily for non-criminal acts, the grounds for impeachment may also include statutory offenses since Art. II, Sec. 4 par 1, specifically cites treason and bribery as grounds for impeachment (although at the time bribery was included in the Constitution, it was not a statutory offense). Understanding them, the original grounds for impeachment, it is not surprising that impeachment … in the century-and-a-half following the ratification of the Constitution usually revolved around a non-statutory and non-criminal charges rather than today’s standard of a direct violation of statutory law.”
“What evidence supports the assertion that today’s standards do not comport with the historical standards – that impeachments were not to be limited solely to criminal or statutory violations? Notice, for example, Alexander Hamilton’s succinct declaration:”
“The subjects of its jurisdiction are … of a nature which may be peculiar propriety denominated “political.”
Professor John R. Tucker similarly explained:
“The process of impeachment is a political proceeding, against the accused as an officer of the government, to protect the government from present or future incumbency of a man whose conduct has proved him unworthy to fill it… The impeachment power was intended to cleanse the government from the presence of worthless and faithless officials”.
“In his Commentaries, William Rawle similarly confirmed that impeachment was for “political offenses,” and Justice Story declared the same in numerous locations throughout his Commentaries on the Constitution. Notice:”
“The jurisdiction is to be exercised over offenses which are committed by public men in violation of their public trust and duties. Those duties are, in many cases, political. Strictly speaking, then (impeachment) partakes of a political character as it respects injuries to the society in its political character.”
“The offenses which the power of impeachment is designed principally to reach are those of a political or of a judicial character. The offenses to which the remedy of impeachment has been and will continue to be principally applied are of political nature. There are many offenses, purely political, which had been held to be within the reach of .. impeachments, not one of which is in the slightest manner alluded to in our statute book. And, indeed political offenses are of so various and complex a character, so utterly incapable of being defined or classified, that the test of positive (statutory) legislation would be impracticable if it were not almost absurd attempt to it.”
“There is also much force in the remark that an impeachment is a proceeding purely of political nature. It is not so much designed to punish an offender as to secure the state against gross official misdemeanors. It touches neither his person nor his property, but simply divests him of his political capacity.”
“The offences to which the power of impeachment has been and his ordinarily applied as a remedy are ” what are aptly termed political offences growing out of personal misconduct, or gross neglect or usurpation, or habitual disregard of the public interests.”
“There is much additional evidence to prove that impeachment was not to be limited to the current narrow scope of criminal acts. For example, George Mason, the Father of the “Bill of Rights” explained that impeachment was for attempts to subvert the Constitution, and Alexander Hamilton declared that impeachment was to be used for “the abuse or violation of some public trust.. (or for) injuries done immediately to the society itself. Constitutional Convention delegate Elbridge Gerry considered “mal-administration” as grounds for impeachment, and William Rawle included the inordinate extension of power, the influence of party and of prejudice as well as attempts to infringe the rights of the people. Justice Story in addition to his reasons given above, also listed “unconstitutional opinions” and “attempts to subvert the fundamental laws and introduce arbitrary power. Very simply, impeachment was the recourse when judges attempted to disregard public interests, to affront the will of the people or to introduce arbitrary power by seizing the role of policy-maker.” (Restraining An Overactive Judiciary, p. 16-17).”
I will take issue too against Senator Santiago’s meanderings of the provision of the constitution that the Senate can impose reprimand or suspension of the impeached official on trial.
Sec. 2 of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution provides:
“The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.”
The provisions speaks of “maybe removed” from office through impeachment. It did not say that part of the penalty could be suspension or reprimand. Senate may removed the impeached official or may acquit him. One cannot read from the text of the constitution that the Senate can impose sanction like “reprimand or suspension.”
Further, Sec. 7 of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution states:
“Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines, but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to prosecution, trial, and punishment, according to law. ”
The text of the constitution puts removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippine as the only penalty that can be imposed by the Senate against the impeached official and no others, and it was meant as a limitation of power to impose the penalty like imprisonment which is a function of the regular court and it was not an enumeration of series of possible sanction like reprimand and suspension from office as the lady Senator had erroneously mused.
That since any political perception of “misbehavior in office” not resulting to a crime punished by the statute can be a ground for impeachment, it necessarily follows that the evidence required is not beyond reasonable doubt, but enough evidence to convince the the Senate that the officer has misbehaved.
“(I)n 1926, federal judge George W.English was impeached for judicial high-handedness and profanity, in 1933, federal judge Harold Louderback was impeached for seeking to hide his assets during a personal divorce proceedings; and in 1936, federal judge Halsted L. Ritter was impeached for corruption and income tax evasion. The evidence is irrefutable; the basis for most impeachments was non-criminal and non-statutory. “
“Perhaps the broadest scope of what constitutes an impeachable offense was given by Representative, later President Gerald Ford when proposing the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice William Douglas. Ford explained:
“An impeachable offense is what majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history; conviction results from whatever offense or offenses two-thirds of the other body considers to be sufficiently serious to require removal of the accused from office.”
“Ford like Joseph Story before him, had buttressed his conclusion by a detailed analysis of each impeachment brought before Congress to that point. Consequently many legal scholars correctly concluded that the “high crimes and misdemeanors” clause should not be interpreted in a manner which limited it to criminal or legal offenses. For example, the learned legal commentator Raoul Berger stated:”
“Judges are not thus removable (by election); and their tenure “during good behavior: (Art. III, Sec. 1) indicates that the Framers did not intend to shelter those who indulged in disgraceful conduct short of “great offenses.” This is not to import the standards of “good behavior: into high crimes and misdemeanors” but to indicate that serious infractions of “good behavior,” though less than great offenses,” may yet amount to “high crimes and misdemeanors.”(ibid, p. 23-24).
I believe the text in our the constitution that says “betrayal of public trust” as a ground for impeachment is subsumed in the terms “other misdemeanors” in the great American jurisprudence which we unquestionably adopt in our local jurisprudence.
It follows, I suppose that the required evidence should not be “beyond reasonable doubt” but only enough evidence to convince the members of the Senate that the official concerned had failed to discharge the burden of good behavior while in office.