Thoughts on the Impeachment

Earlier today someone on Twitter engaged me in a verbal tussle. Apparently she had come accross my tweets regarding the Petition for a Temporary Restraining Order of PS Bank filed in the Supreme Court to stop the impeachment court from requiring officials from the same bank from presenting information on Chief Justice Renato Corona’s (dollar) bank accounts.

I would later find out that she was a law student and a rabid supporter of the Chief Justice. With that, I had to end the discussion since it would be futile to exchange thoughts with a fanatic.

Aside from PS Bank, the lawyers of the beleaguered Chief Justice have also filed a petition in the Supreme Court which calls for a Temporary Restraining Order on the appearance of the officials from PS Bank and BPI Bank in the impeachment court and the nullification of the impeachment proceedings as a whole.

It is odd that the Corona’s lawyers would seek relief from the same institution with which he is the highest official.

But already the move of Corona’s counsels are met with resistance. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said in a speech today that “There should not be any “judicial review” of impeachment proceedings.  It is not only the courts that can discuss or determine issues of constitutionality.  Congress has final responsibility for impeachment, because it has the responsibility to preserve the forms and precepts of our Constitution.”

I must confess that I have only taken up a couple of years of law school. And my knowledge on the impeachment process is based on what I was able to observe and read on President Estrada’s case (one of our professors required it). But please indulge me in thoughts I fancy and allow me to share some of them here:

  • The Impeachment Court is a class of its own, it can formulate rules as it proceeds or adopt those which are already practiced. But it not governed nor subject to any prevailing law save those which it has adopted and the Constitution.
  • Presentation of evidence and cross examination of witnesses should not be merely viewed if the prosecutor or defense satisfied the standards of law, rather it should include also how the representative of either side conduct themselves or guide their witnesses.
  • An impeachment trial is not all about the law, it is also about public perception of the evidence presented pointing to the accused. And I think this is why “Betrayal of public trust” was added in the 1987 Constitution (when the earlier Constitutions didn’t have it as among the impeachable offenses)

I think that while lawyers (and law students) love to brandish their knowledge on the law and how it supposedly governs ceratain aspects of the impeachment trial, they tend to forget that an impeachment court is not exactly a criminal court nor a civilian court.

I guess when one tries so much to impress others with something one believes very few know about, they tend to forget the substance behind that which they talk much of. They start to forget a saying that my professor always reminded us of back then; that while the letter of the law is important, what is more important is the spirit of the law.

The impeachment process is not merely about provisions of laws. It is also the determination of whether a high ranking government official still has the moral ascendancy to hold office. And I think, how the Senator-Judges will decide on Corona’s fate, should it come to that, will not merely be based on supposed violations of the laws and the Constitution, but also on whether he is still publicly acceptable to lead an important institution in our republican democracy.

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