Impeachment: What to
By SENATOR PIA S. CAYETANO
As all eyes turn to
the Senate, to watch the impeachment trial unfold, an understanding of
the procedure and the intent of the Constitution would help everyone
understand this process better.
Role of the Senate
Article XI, section 6
of the Constitution states:
The Senate shall have
the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment. When
sitting for that purpose the Senators shall be under oath or
Following the above
mandate, last December 14, 2011, we took our oath as judges of the
impeachment court. A perusal of the Senate’s Rules of Procedure on
Impeachment Trials (“Senate Rules on Impeachment,” for brevity),
reveals that indeed we sit as a trial court with the “power to compel
the attendance of witnesses … punish in a summary way contempts of,
and disobedience to, its authority, orders …” and others. The same
rules further state that witnesses shall be examined and then
cross-examined (Sec. V and XV).
Because we sit as a
trial court, we are not there to use our personal relations nor our
political affiliations. What is required is that we go through the
trial, calling witnesses, listening to their testimonies and the
cross-examinations. We are even allowed to ask questions (Senate Rules
on Impeachment, Sec. XVII). Then as trial judges we are required to
weigh the evidence presented and make a decision.
If the intention of
the framers of the Constitution were to make this a purely political
process, then why go through an impeachment trial? The Constitution
could have then just allowed the President or provided for some other
means to remove the defendant-official subject of the impeachment.
How then are we
suppose to judge the case?
[A]ll suitors are
entitled to nothing short of the cold neutrality of an independent,
wholly free, disinterested and impartial tribunal (Luque v Kayanana,
29 SCRA 178 ).
are described as decisions “on the basis of facts and in accordance
with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences,
inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect,
from any quarter or for any reason” (The impartiality of the judiciary
and the effectiveness of the justice systems, quoting Principle 2 of
the Seven key principles on the independence of the Judiciary.
Wilfried de Wever. Effectius)
Because of the dearth
of materials on the impeachment process, I looked at books authored by
American legal luminaries. Our Constitution is patterned after the US
Constitution and our provisions on impeachment are similar. In
“Impeachment, A Handbook,” author Charles Black, Jr., Sterling
Professor Emeritus at Yale Law School and adjunct professor of law at
Columbia Law School opines that the fact that the senators take a
separate oath emphasizes that the Senate “whether for this occasion
you call it a ‘judicial’ body or not- is taking on quite a different
role from its normal legislative one.”
He further states “The
fact that the Senate is to ‘try’ all impeachments, not simply vote on
them, implies that it takes on the nature of a judicial trial, because
the word to ‘try’ is a word used almost invariably in regard to
all-important question of the impartiality of the judges arise. As
noted by Black, and as I am sure, many are also aware, “senators find
themselves either definitely friendly or definitely inimical to the
[accused]. In an ordinary judicial trial, person in such a position
would of course be disqualified to act, whether as judges or as
And thus Black,
“It cannot have been
the intention of the Framers that this rule apply in impeachments, for
its application would be absurd; a great many senators would
inevitably be disqualified by it, and it might easily happen that
trial would be by a quite small remnant of the Senate. The remedy has
to be in the conscience of each senator, who ought to realize the
danger and try as far as possible to divest himself of all prejudice
Thus, there is no
doubt that when the Senators sit as judges we do so separate from our
function as law makers. We sit as judges in the impeachment trial and
we are required to act with the cold neutrality of a judge, devoid of
bias and partialities.
The Role of Every
provides for various ways in which the citizens can participate in our
democratic process, one of them is the constitutionally guaranteed
freedom of expression. Filipinos have been very vocal about their
support or disdain for anything from public personalities to political
decisions made by incumbent officials. Clearly, we want to have a role
in the impeachment process.
It has been said that
“[O]ne of the demands of a democratic society is that the public
should know what goes on in the courts by being informed by the press
what is happening there, to the end that the public may judge whether
our system of administration of justice is fair and right (Trial by
Publicity, Arsenio Solidum. Philippine Law Journal, September 1959).
What then can our
- Support the process
set out by the Constitution
- Patient but vigilant
- Critical but fair
In the formation of
one’s opinions, Charles Black states:
“We ought to try to
take the same stance of principled political neutrality that we hope
to see taken by the House and the Senate as they go about their work."
Given the above, what
is expected from a senator-judge? That he or she listens to every
single opinion offered by friends, strangers or media? Or that we stay
true to our oath and base our decisions on the evidence presented? I
humbly submit, that despite the interesting theories and conclusions
that will surely come out of this trial, we are required to pass
judgment based on the evidence presented in the impeachment court.
making comments and statements about the impeachment
Like a judge in a
judicial court, Section XVIII of the Senate Rules on Impeachment
requires that the Members of the Senate “refrain from making any
comments and disclosures in public pertaining to the merits of a
pending impeachment trial.”
The same rule applies
“to the prosecutors, to the person impeached, and to their respective
counsel and witnesses.”
And to the public and
those in media. Yes, we each have own opinions. In fact, the press
have their Constitutional guarantees on freedom of the press. Does
that mean we can all say anything we want about the impeachment trial?
As a judge, I need to
shed myself of all impartialities and take on the neutrality of a
disinterested person. In addition I am barred from making any comments
on the merits of the trial.
For every other
citizen, the Constitution and our rules are silent. But if you expect
fairness from your judges, then perhaps the same principle of
political neutrality will go along way in helping each other
understand the issues without being swayed by personal or political
leanings. This will then elevate the discussion and would go a long
way to help the Senators focus on the evidence on hand and not on
If we accept that we
are a democratic society governed by our Constitution and our laws,
then we must submit ourselves to the systems that have been put into
place. And be vigilant about observing it properly and guarding
We all have a role
to perform. If we do it well, we can reach a different level of
political maturity and democracy. And in the process, strengthen our
institutions which will make for a stronger nation.
Police fail in their
obligation to investigate journalist killings
A Statement from the
Asian Human Rights Commission
January 6, 2012
The Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) is deeply concerned by police investigations into
the murder of journalists Christopher "Cris" Guarin and Alfredo "Dodong"
Velarde, Jr. in
General Santos City. Not
only have the Philippines’ police failed in their duty to protect
citizens from harm, but they are compounding this failure by their
indifferent and casual attitude towards holding the killers
Guarin, publisher and
editor-in-chief of a daily community newspaper Tatak News, was shot
dead at 10pm on January 5, 2012 along Conel Road, Barangay Lagao,
General Santos City. He was in his car with his wife, Lyn and
nine-year-old daughter, on their way home, when they were attacked by
gunmen riding on a motorcycle. His wife and daughter were not hurt,
but were deeply traumatized to witness his murder.
followed the murder of another journalist, Velarde, in November 2011.
Circulation manager of another daily community newspaper, Brigada
News, Velarde was shot dead on November 11 in front of his office.
Although the AHRC have learned that the motives for Velarde and
Guarin's murder were related, the police have been more focused on
dispelling public expectations and any sense of urgency, rather than
ensuring proper investigations into the deaths.
A day after Guarin's
murder, Senior Superintendent and city police chief Cedric Train,
concluded that "the motive for the killing was likely not
work-related". Earlier, the police also concluded that Velarde's
murder was nothing more than "an ordinary shooting incident" common in
the city. The police also rejected Velarde's background as related to
journalism or media work.
The AHRC is deeply
concerned that the Philippine National Police (PNP), particularly the General Santos City Police Office (GSCPO),
have completely misunderstood their responsibilities and obligations
in conducting adequate criminal investigations into murder cases.
Whatever the motive of the murder, and whatever the profession of the
victim, it is the police’s responsibility to investigate and hold the
Prior to Guarin's
murder, he had been receiving threats via SMS. In fact, a few hours
before his murder, on air in his radio programme, Guarin read an SMS
he had received warning him he would be killed once he left the radio
station premises. It has become common for radio broadcasters to read
threatening messages on air, not only to share this with their
listeners, but also to alert the police authorities.
Guarin, a veteran
radio broadcaster prior to publishing his newspaper, received similar
threats in the past. His failure to make an official police record of
these threats is not evidence of him ignoring the threats; rather, his
practice of revealing the threats in public reflects the absence any
protection mechanism. Most threats received by local journalists,
newspaper or radio reporters are not taken seriously by the police.
Prior to Velarde's
work as circulation manager of Brigada News, while he was working as a
newspaper dealer to a defunct daily bilingual newspaper in the city,
Super Balita, he did not require body guards or escorts. Staff of a
community newspaper needing body guards to deliver the newspaper has
become a common practice in the city. Those who can afford to pay for
bodyguards or security escorts do so, while others ask for the
issuance of firearms for their protection from the police or military.
The local police have
clearly failed in ensuring that local journalists are given protection
in performing their duties. The routine, widespread and systemic lack
of protection and security in many communities in the Philippines is
such that those who hire killers, premeditate murder or commit crimes,
have a complete disregard for any notions of crime, law and
punishment. They do not fear the police or the law.
confidence in the law and its protection, as well as for the necessary
deterrence of crime and criminals, it is crucial that the Philippines’
police demonstrate their utmost compliance to legal obligations, and
their capacity to ensure crimes are adequately investigated and
perpetrators held to account. Their failure to do so will only
aggravate people’s uncertainty and sense of security.
By FR. ROY
THOUGH we have to face
big issues and bigger challenges this year, especially in the areas of
economy and politics, we should never forget to develop and strengthen
our personal skills in handling temptations. This concern never goes
passé, and it touches a basic, indispensable aspect of our life in all
temptations come to us in the subtlest and trickiest of ways. This can
be due, at least in part, to the increased level of sophistication
both in people’s thinking and in world development, especially in the
area of technology and ideology.
developments, temptations can easily come undetected, and sin can be
committed in most a hidden way and even easily rationalized. How
important therefore it is for us to always grow in humility and
simplicity, finding aggressively practical ways to achieve them! If
not, we would just be lost.
The healthy fear of
God is disappearing. In its place, a most heinous sense of
self-importance is dominating. The criteria to determine what is good
and bad have become blurred. They have gone almost completely
relativistic and subjective, declaring total independence from any
absolute and objective rule or law.
Some psalms can give
us helpful ideas on how to handle temptations.
- “Surrender to God,
and he will do everything for you.” (Ps 36)
- “Turn away from evil
and learn to do God’s will. The Lord will strengthen you if you obey
- “Wait for the Lord
to lead, then follow in his way.”
Truth is, we always
need God in our battle against temptations. We should disabuse
ourselves from the thought that with our good intentions and our best
efforts, we can manage to tame the urges of temptations.
We cannot! That’s the
naked truth about it. We only can if we are with God. And we have to
be with him in a strong, determined way, not in a passive or lukewarm
way. Do flies flock on a hot soup? No. But they do on a cold or
We need to do
everything to be with God. Our mind and heart should be fully and
constantly engaged with him. We always have reason to do so – at
least, we can thank him for what we are having at the moment: health,
food, air, work, etc.
We should never take
things for granted. Remember that our Lord asked the only leper who
returned to him to thank him out of the ten who were cured, where the
other nine were. Our Lord expects us to thank him for everything that
he has given us.
From there, let us try
our best to figure out what his will for us is at any given moment. We
have to have the sensitivity to ask him, even if we are already doing
our duties and responsibilities which are part of his will for us, how
what we are doing at the moment is part of his will, of his abiding
providence over us.
That kind of mentality
helps us greatly in avoiding sin and in keeping our love for him. Just
the same, we should not be surprised that in spite of this attitude,
temptations still come. Jesus himself was not exempted from
temptations also play an important role in our spiritual life. They
point to us where we are weak. They encourage us to develop the
virtues that correspond to them. They remind us to be humble always
and to depend always on God rather than on our powers.
Temptations can come
because of one’s temperament, as in if one is passionate yet weak of
will. He is not well-balanced and energetic. They also come because
one has been reared in love of pleasure or in an atmosphere of pride
and envy. They also come because of God’s providential designs.
We have to be ready
for them. Always with God’s grace which we have to continually ask, we
have to develop the skills and other tricks of our warfare with them.
We should learn to ignore them, reject them outright, never
entertaining them, and even ridiculing them.
We should learn to
pray more intensely, immerse ourselves more in our work and duties and
with greater love. We have to grapple with temptations in the little
things, never allowing them get into our big things or close to the
heart of our spiritual fortress. It might be a good idea too to go to
confession once temptations come.
Lastly, never to
lose hope even when we fall.
Ripping up calendars
By JUAN L. MERCADO, firstname.lastname@example.org
New 2012 calendars
will now be tacked up and those of 2011 shredded. In Year 153 BC, two
Roman consuls then set January 1 as the New Year – for hard-nosed
military reasons. Since then, various customs evolved since to mark
the passing of five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona didn’t get a second more
than Torio, our neighborhood beggar. “Time is the one thing given to
everyone in equal measure,” Seneca wrote.
The optimists, among
us, itch to see the new year in. The pessimists would make sure the
old one finally beat it. “The object of a new year is not that we
should have a new year,” G.K. Chesterton reminds us. “It is that we
should have a new soul”.
Thus, some heed the
ancient counsel: “Be still.” They give thanks in quiet prayer. Many
carom into the usual noise barrage. As dawn breaks, exhausted doctors
in emergency rooms will still be treating those blasted by
firecrackers – and stray bullets.
On January 1,
Catholics mark the “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God”. “Mary is
Islam’s most honored woman,” the Economist points out. She’s the only
one to have a whole chapter named after her in the Koran.
Muslims see, in Mary, an affirmation that there is no limit to the
proximity of God that any human being can attain…Surely, that is
reason enough for people of any faith to feel reverence for history’s
foremost Jewish mother.” She is our fallen nature’s “solitary boast”.
Blogs are the new kids
on Media Avenue. Some now run individual yearend reviews, just as
newspapers, radio and TV traditionally do. These summaries tally the
past year’s issues.
“Life can only be
understood backwards,” Soren Kierkegaard insisted. “But it is best
lived forward.” Crystal bowl features are a standard of yearend media
reports. “In times like these, it is helpful to remember there have
always been times like these”.
Discerning the future
has never been one of mans special strengths. How do you
Crystal-balling is about making educated guesses of what lies beyond
the horizon. From today’s realities, one sifts the trends likely to
endure – and reshape tomorrow. “In today, tomorrow already walks.”
Nonetheless, the drill
to glimpse ahead usually reaches fever pitch on New Year. “If you
could look into the seeds of time / and say, which will grow and which
will not,” Shakespeare wrote.
“Death keeps no
calendar” yearend. Reviews list prominent individuals who passed away
in 2011. That includes Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” leader
Vaclav Havel, the paranoid Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, computer whiz
Steve Jobs to Fr. Fausto Tenorio, the selfless priest of Mindanao
Shouldn’t media do
also a yearend listing of “unfinished business.”?
This is, after all, a
country of few closures. We waffled on the Japanese collaboration
issue. Few were punished for martial law abuses. Look at Imelda.
Among issues that 2011
will leave unresolved are: desaparecidos Jonas Burgos, Shireley
Capadan and Karen Empeno, unresolved murders, such as that of
publicist Bobby Dacer, SVD Fr. Franciskus Madhu, SVD to scores rubbed
out by vigilantes in Davao and Cebu, the coconut levy, tracking down
former General Jovito Palparan, etc.etc. This lack of accountability
will spill into 2012.
The year that was saw
Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales whack a Supreme Court decision that
blinked at Eduardo Cojuangco. He pocketed 16.2 million San Miguel
Corporation shares, by dipping into levies squeezed from indigent
coconut farmers. “The biggest joke to hit the century”, she wrote
Did this Court crack
the “second biggest joke to hit the century? Voting 7-6-2, the
tribunal ruled “with finality” that creation of 16 new cities, didn’t
fracture the Constitution. All 16 flunked tax collection criteria of
P100 million, average for two consecutive years. That’s set by the
Local Government Code (LGC).
The Court cartwheeled
repeatedly, within three years, over a "final decision" that had
become, in its own words, "executory". “Oh No! Not Again!", Inquirer
headlined February’s flip-flop.
By then, vertigo
afflicted everybody. That includes the League of Cities. Its 120
members protested the 16 “upstarts” siphoning their Internal Revenue
allotments. “League of 16” members were also strapped to this
uncoil below the radar screen during delivery or a day maternal death
rates here are triple that of
We won’t meet the Millennium Goal target number 6: to reduce by
three-quarters the number of mothers’ deaths.
death rates are down to 29 today from 59 two decades ago. That is
still behind Malaysia’s 12. Many will not “comb grey hair,” as William
Butler Yeats wrote.
chronic hunger is not the stuff of headlines. Neither are the 700,000
abortions yearly due to lack of family planning alternatives. Few fret
that the country’s capacity to feed itself dwindles as the thin top
soil erodes. “Reversing soil erosion will make fighting insurgency
seem like child’s play,” the late National Scientist Dioscoro Umali
Don’t be fooled by the
calendar,” our grandmother used to say. “You have only as many days as
you can make use of.”
Happy New Year.
PCID welcomes the
appointment of Congressman Mujiv Hataman as ARMM governor
A statement by the
Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy
December 21, 2011
The PCID welcomes the
appointment of former Anak Mindanao party-list Congressman Mujiv
Hataman as the regional governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim
We fully support
Hataman based on his track record in pursuing the Bangsamoro struggle
and background in development work.
legislative work as member of the House Committee on Human Rights
together with then Rep. Benigno Aquino III as chairperson. Hataman led
investigations on the spate of kidnappings in the Basilan and Sulu as
well as sponsored resolutions condemning the killings of Moro
activists and detainees suspected of being Abu Sayyaf. He also
primarily sponsored the declaration of March 18, anniversary of the
Jabidah massacre, as a Bangsamoro historical event.
Hataman has strong
support from the non-Muslims inside and outside of ARMM and is
well-known among civil society groups involved in advocating for
reforms in the ARMM. Thus, his appointment sends a strong signal that
genuine reformists would steer ARMM in less than 20 months before the
May 2013 elections.
Hataman has both the
administrative and legislative background having worked in the
provincial government under Gov. Wahab Akbar and later as a three-term
legislator. The fact that he is President Aquino’s personal choice to
lead the reform process means that Hataman enjoys the trust and
confidence of the President that is precisely needed by an OIC
regional governor. He is seen as a non-trapo with progressive Left
leanings where he can well appreciate the dysfunctions of clan and
congratulates the appointment of Bainon Karon as ARMM Regional
Vice-Governor. A well known civil society leader and MNLF leader,
Bainon has served as ARMM Secretary for Social Welfare. She will be
able to support the Regional Governor in ensuring that the basic needs
of the people of ARMM are served and that the Millennium Development
Goals are attained.
Impeachment of chief
justice is watershed for judicial accountability
A Statement by the the
Asian Human Rights Commission
December 20, 2011
The Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) welcomes the commencement of impeachment proceedings
on the Philippines' Chief Justice Renato Corona. We view this as a
constitutional process that protects the independence of the judiciary
rather than a process that constitutes an attack of the independence
of the judiciary. We are also pleased that he has submitted himself to
the impeachment process but express concerns at some of his comments
that distort the Constitutional intention of the very process.
There is no other way
for Corona, whose credibility and integrity have already been
questioned in the impeachment complaint, to be held accountable than
to have him impeached as required by the 1987 Constitution. The
Philippine congress complied with this Constitutional provision after
the votes required were obtained to approve the articles of
impeachment on December 12, 2011. This anticipated impeachment trial
in January 2012 would rather strengthen the Filipino people's
confidence of an independent judiciary as they would see that indeed,
it is possible to hold court justices to account.
The country's 1987
Constitution protects judicial independence, not only from undermining
by other branches of the government, but also from its own people who
are part of the judiciary from abuse of their power. Like the
country's president, the chief justice is also not immune from being
held to account from allegations of wrongdoing in the performance of
his judicial duty by way of an impeachment. They cannot occupy a
judicial position on assumption that whatever they do – either as an
individual judicial officer or as part of the judicial institution –
are all absolutely accordingly to law.
allegations in the articles of impeachment on
have no basis or are politically motivated, it is for him to defend
himself; and for the Senate's impeachment court to decide base on
facts and merit. Thus, those who sit as judges in the impeachment
proceedings must also prove themselves as independent and impartial in
deciding the case. Senators who will sit as judges but who have
already openly supported or questioned the merit of the impeachment,
must seriously considers their withdrawal as judges in the trial if
the trial is to be credible.
While it is true that
procedurally, under the impeachment trial, judges are not confined to
the strict rules of judicial process as in courts. But this trial is
beyond the issue of procedural matter. It is about the substantive
rights of Corona, a person who now stands accused of committing
wrongdoing in performing his duties. He is entitled to a fair and
impartial trial like any other individual defending their self in any
court of law. The Senate must eliminate itself of any molecule of
doubt of its independence and impartiality in dealing with Corona's
impeachment case if their decision is to be acceptable and legitimate
to comply with the fundamental rights of an individual to a fair
The allegation on
Corona is not entirely unique for him as some of the members of
Philippine judiciary have been for many years also accused of having
been involved in judicial corruption, incompetence and impartiality in
their decisions. However, even though this has been common knowledge,
there have been negligible numbers of court judges and their personnel
who were held to account to the serious allegations of wrongdoing.
There is a variety of reasons as to why this is so.
does not mean the absolute immunity by members of the judiciary or the
institution they are attached to when there are factual and
meritorious evidence that they committed wrong doing. However, due to
the lack of clarity and substantive discourse in the ongoing legal
debate on what 'judicial independence' means there is a taboo if not
assumptions that the impeachment of Corona and for any other members
of the judiciary in future is itself already a form of an attack
against judicial independence. This is wrong. Those who stand accused
for any wrongdoing should also refrain from dragging the judicial
institution to their defence.
To hold court judges
accountable is a matter of great importance. It would have a
consequence in their individual's capacity to make impartial and
independent decisions in making judgements; however, when there is
doubt as to their credibility and fairness in deciding cases, then
this should require a rather more stringent measures to ensure
impeachment proceedings or prosecution of court judges are not done in
abuse or mere retaliation in their exercise of judicial duties. Thus,
it is utmost to ensure that due process and fair trial is observed in
Corona's impeachment proceeding.
The AHRC therefore
urges the public to be thorough and observant in the substance and
merits of the impeachment complaint on
They should also be cautious on any attempt that is divisive to the
Filipino people, particularly the legal community that is presently
divided on this issue. It is expected for anyone charge of serious
allegations to make his own defence; however, they should not be to
the extent of ignoring or undermining the Constitutional process of
impeachment. Also, public discourse on this matter should not be
distorted on pretext of protecting the independence of judiciary.
Corona, like any other
ordinary individual, has the fundamental right to be presumed innocent
and has the right to be heard. This does not mean that it would be
justifiable that the impeachment trial is itself already biased or
taking place purely for political reasons before they could even
perform their Constitutional process of hearing the complaint. This
argument is particularly dangerous as a court judge would be assumed
to be invincible and given an unjustifiable immunity from any
allegations of wrong doing. In which case there would not be any way
to hold any court justices accountable and no other way to resolve the
conflict between three branches of government.
In cases involving
persons occupying high positions in the government it is inevitable
that politics is involved; however, this notion should not be used as
justification to get away with serious allegations of judicial
corruption, nepotism, political patronage and abuse of authority. In
any impeachment trial, it is the individual and not necessarily the
judicial institution that is being tried. Again, the Senate
impeachment court must observe the fundamental principles of fair
trial and due process if they want the impeachment trial to be
credible and legitimate.