Editor-in-chief, Dyaryo Magdalao

1.      Impeachment Court is the HIGHEST COURT of the country, higher than the Supreme Court when it comes to issues of impeachment.  

When it begins its life, the impeachment court cannot be supplanted by the Supreme Court.   Any party who feels aggrieved by the orders or decisions of the Impeachment Court has no remedy except to appeal to any senator-juror to pose a motion for reconsideration on their behalf.  

Why it is the highest court, refer to the article attached hereto as ANNEX “A.”

2.      Once voting among Senators-Jurors is done, in either the decision or interlocutory issues, it is FINAL AND CANNOT BE APPEALED or CANNOT BE MOVED FOR RECONSIDERATION.

A motion for reconsideration can be allowed only on interlocutory issues decided by the Presiding Officer.  But once a vote is called in and given for such interlocutory issue, the result is final and not one senator-juror can contest it.

Since the decision is by voting, it necessarily follows that the result cannot be asked for reconsideration.

And if the Impeachment Rules allows only a motion for reconsideration from a senator-juror and limited only on the rulings of the presiding juror, then the respondent or the prosecutor cannot move for reconsideration.

The only hope is when the vote does not prejudice the same issue or issues when tackled anew in the succeeding stages of the impeachment trial proceedings.

The trial jury in the United Kingdom, in the US, Canada, Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan votes only once in every decision. There is no reconsideration. The only remedy for the aggrieved party is appeal to the higher court, but the appeal is limited on questions of law and not of fact.

The jury’s decision on factual matters is always final.

3.     THE REAL JUDGES ARE THE PEOPLE.  So that it is a MUST that every senator must endeavor to know what is the judgment of the people. 

Let it begin that the senators are named by the Constitution as the exclusive jurors of the Impeachment Court.

This is so because of all the elected officials, it is the senators who are the most vulnerable to the people’s desires.   It is the senators who they can dictate the most.  

So that if a senator fails to vote with the side of what the people want, he is endangered of losing in any succeeding election the senator will join.

So that this nature of vulnerability to the people is the connection to reveal why the Impeachment Court is the People’s Court and that the senators, practically or in theory, have no discretion on how to judge, for conviction or for acquittal.  The discretion on deciding for the guilt or innocence rests on the people alone, the senators are just their willing pawns as their agents.

There is no clear legal justification or logic for this, but the PRACTICAL LOGIC dictates.

The theory that the Impeachment Court is a People’s Court and that the Real Judges are the People is more understood when we revisit what happened with the SECOND ENVELOPE that was voted by the senators then not to be opened just because it was a bank account subject to the secrecy law and that it was argued to be irrelevant to the plunder accusations forming part of the Articles of Impeachment.

So that it is actually NEAR WHAT IS CORRECT for the good senator, Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV, to state clearly that HE INTENDS TO USE POLITICAL ACCEPTABILITY AS THE SOLE CRITERION TO DECIDE for the conviction or acquittal of CJ Corona.

However, a word of caution for each of the senators is this: IT IS A BIG RISK TO MAKE A DECISION.  On the judgment day, any senator is to choose only two on a 1 is to 2 probability.  He or she hopes that his or her decision is also the decision of the majority of the people.

Another word of caution: A senator who is running for an elective post in 2013 can test the acceptability of his decision only by the results of his votes.  If his votes increase compared to the last time he or she ran, then he is assured he decided correctly.  If his votes decreased, regardless he or she wins, that means that his or her decision is not acceptable and the senator concerned should feel guilty. 

In other words, the nearer the senator’s decision to the judgment of the majority of people, the nearer he or she approximates to what is the TRUE JUDGMENT OF THE PEOPLE.

These statements are based on the experience from the Erap Impeachment Trial.

4.     US impeachment setting is different although Philippines copied its own from Americans.

The difference between the senators of the USA and that of the Philippines is the fact that the US senators are voted with two from each of the 50 states while the Philippine senators are VOTED AT LARGE.

The effect of the people’s sentiment is less in terms of impact on the senators in the case of the USA than the impact on the senators in the Philippines.

The reasons are obvious: (a) the US senators are voted by states; and (b) the Philippine senators are voted at large from the entire country’s electorate.

Thus, it can be said that the command of the people country-wide is more direct to the Philippine senators than to the USA’s senators.

As such, it can be said that the USA senators should decide more on the basis of evidence than the Philippine senators based on the experience from Erap Impeachment Trial.

It can also be said that the Philippine senators’ discretion in voting in an impeachment trial is less than that of the American senators’.

Stated otherwise, the voters’ will is more compelling to the Philippine senators voting in an impeachment trial than to the US senators.

In the US, the partisanship in every state is different in colors.  Each US senator gauges what do the people in his state want.   In the Philippines, each Philippine senator gauges what do the people in the ENTIRE COUNTRY want.

In the US, they do not have “betrayal of public trust” as a ground for impeachment.  In the Philippines, it can actually be the be-all of all the grounds because everything will boil down to the trust of the majority of people.

This is based upon the theory that THE PEOPLE ARE THE REAL JUDGE.

5.     Even evidence LESS THAN SUBSTANTIAL is enough to vote for the removal of a justice or the Chief Justice.

If we are wondering why there is no fixed degree of evidence set as the criterion to adjudge for conviction or acquittal, this is because the quantum is dictated by conscience of times, the mood of the people, the desire of the majority, and the position at stake.  Nonetheless, all these are based on what really the majority feel and what the majority demand for particular positions at stake.

Now, we talk of trust of the people because it is the be-all of all the grounds of impeachment.  Even if what would be found as charged are evidence of culpable violation of the Constitution, or of graft and corruption, or bribery, or of treason, or of other high crimes, it all boils down to loss of trust.

If what is put on trial is the President or the Vice-President, the yardsticks of the people as to the degree of evidence to convict far higher than that of the standard of evidence that may be used for convicting an impeached Commissioner or Chairman of the Commission on Audit, or an impeached Commissioner or Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, where the nature of office is more on specialized aspects of governance that demand more of professionalism while the former demands more of political acceptability.

The degree of evidence might be lower in the case of the impeached Ombudsman because the nature of the office has more direct impact on its efficiency in controlling corruption in government agencies and corruption is always a top concern of the people.

The degree of evidence required to convict might even be slightly lower in the case of impeached Commissioner or Chairman of the Commission on Elections because he or she holds the responsibilities in the office where the future of the country begins.  To this, the people always demand clean elections for they know it is the only best way to prosperity and strength of the nation.

The quantum of evidence might be the lowest in the case of impeached Justice or Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.   This is dictated by the fact that almost all facets of the people’s lives and governance are affected by issues of justice or the lack of it. 

The Supreme Court can correct, prohibit or direct the President, the Vice-President, the Constitutional Commissioners and the Ombudsman.  The reverse is not true.   If the people cannot get what they want from all others, they go to the Supreme Court as their only last chance to correct, prohibit or direct even the President, the Vice-President, the Constitutional Commissioners and the Ombudsman.

In other words, the people’s trust or the public trust is betrayed depending on how much premium they put on the position involved.

Now, since the concerned respondent is the Chief Justice, IT IS WITHOUT ISSUE that the people DEMAND NO LESS THAN THE highest expectations of competence, independence, probity and integrity from the Chief Justice. Any slight failure to live up to these expectations is good as zero.  Any inaccuracy to these expectations, trust is as good as nil or null.

The Chief Justice is the Chief Judge, the Primus Inter Pares in the Supreme Court, the Face of the Judiciary to the People, and the Head of the Branch regarded by the people as THE LAST BULWARK to defend their prejudiced rights. 

Justice is the soul of the nation.  The body may be dirty but the soul must be clean and pure.  The greatness of a nation and its people are adjudged by the international community more on the face and weighing scale of justice.

High-caliber justices of a nation represent the civility and maturity of the people therein. A Supreme Court that vows to the despot’s wills and wants is a proof of ignorance and cowardice of its people.

Along with this, there is always that indispensable need to erect the strongest and the most invincible CITADEL OF JUSTICE.  The only way to achieve this is to put the Supreme Court at the HIGHEST EDIFICE of honesty, morality, independence, impartiality, probity and competence.

There is also no dispute that even the slightest doubt cast on the Chief Justice’s independence, honesty, morality or impartiality is enough to remove him.  This is because there is always a need to remove even the slightest doubt hovering like a Sword of Damocles on the Supreme Court.    That need to remove on that slightest evidence of discomfort is dictated that the people cannot afford a Supreme Court lingering in even the slightest suspicions.  This is demanded by the fact that for all issues outside impeachment, the Supreme Court is the FINAL ARBITER. 

There is therefore that command that cannot be bent to erect the walls of honesty, morality, independence, probity and competence to protect the High Court for the people and for it to in turn truly protect the people from the abscesses, abuses, impunity and arrogance of the mighty despots.

And the only way to obey this command or to achieve perfectness is to put in that highest seat of justice a man or a woman that is BEYOND SLIGHTEST SUSPICION.

Ergo, even the slightest evidence of indecency, dishonesty or partiality is enough to remove a Justice or the Chief Justice.

6.      The general rule of evidence is: allow everything the prosecutor and defense want.

Since the Impeachment Court is the People’s Court, the people as the real judges are mad at every rule of evidence that prohibits presentation.

This is also the reason that the Rules of Impeachment even in the US has no rules of evidence that are technical for the people to understand and bear with.

The people do not look at irrelevancy or immateriality.  This is proven by the Second Envelope in Erap’s case.  The people do not look at the technical rule of writing the pleading or the Articles of Impeachment.   Being not knowledgeable of the rules of evidence, the people do not know “legal presumptions” that are, in reality, not true in all cases. 

Thus, many in the people are disgusted when the Impeachment Court barred the prosecution from presenting evidence on ill-gotten wealth simple because of the technicality compounded by the words “suspected” and “reported” that preceded in material allegations in Article 2.4.

In allowing or disallowing evidence the Impeachment Court should do away from using rules of objections.  THERE MUST BE NO OBJECTIONS THAT WILL BE ALLOWED.  Witnesses who can be presented only in five minutes were to be presented for two days. 

After all, the Impeachment Court can systematize by not allowing objections to direct-examination, cross-examination, re-direct-examination or re-cross-examination.  And then, the Court can direct all counsel to just note down all their objections and reserve them to the memoranda to be submitted after the witness is presented.   Based on the memoranda submitted, the senators-judges can decide thereon whether to admit or disallow those being objected.

7.      The Offer of Exhibits stage may be used for Offer of Testimonies where objections can be ruled upon.

Proceeding from Paragraph 6 above, the prohibition of objections can speed up the trial and those objections may also be followed up during the period for the Offer of Evidence by the Prosecutor where the defense will be allowed to object with all vigor anything they want to object, testimonial or documentary.

Then, during the turn of the Defense to offer their evidence, the prosecutor will be allowed to object anything they want, testimonial or documentary evidence.

8.      The Final Argument allows everything the prosecutor and defense wants to object, to present their final theory and etc.
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