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IMPEACHMENT FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

 

What are the grounds for filing the complaint for the impeachment of President Estrada?

 

Why eleven (11) prosecutors?

 

What are the powers and functions of the Chief Justice as the Presiding Officer of the impeachment trial? 

 

When may a majority vote of all the Members of the Senate overrule the decision of the Presiding Officer?

 

May the articles of impeachment still be amended or revised?

 

How shall the Senators conduct themselves during the trial?

 

What is the rule on sub judice and how is it applicable to the impeachment trial?

 

Can the President be compelled to appear in the impeachment trial?

 

How do you get a witness who is abroad to testify in the impeachment trial?

 

 May a witness be issued a hold-departure order during the trial?

 

When is evidence substantial?

 

What is the difference between “testimonial evidence” and “physical evidence”? When is testimonial evidence sufficient?

 

What is the difference between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence?

 

 

May the ledger presented by Gov. Singson be used as evidence?

 

May the tape recordings presented by Gov. Singson be used as evidence?

 

May bank transactions be used as evidence?

 

Is acquittal in an earlier case for impeachment a bar for the filing of another impeachment case?

 

Can a separate criminal case be filed against the person to be impeached regardless of the decision in the impeachment trial?

 

If the President were convicted of impeachment, how will the transition take place?

 

 Q:            What are the grounds for filing the complaint for the impeachment of President Estrada?

 

  A:            Under the 1987 Constitution, any of the following grounds may be alleged in order to file a complaint for impeachment against, among others, the President of the Republic: culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust (Sec. 2, Art. XI).

 

Among these, four (4) were alleged as grounds for the filing of the impeachment complaint against President Estrada:

 

(1)                Bribery – for allegedly receiving protection money from jueteng lords;

(2)                Graft and Corrupt Practices – for allegedly misappropriating for personal use  P130 million from the P200 million in revenues from the implementation of R.A. 7171 or the “Virginia Tobacco Industry Development Act”.

(3)                Betrayal of Public Trust – for allegedly violating his self-imposed policy of “walang kamag-anak, walang kumpadre, walang kaibigan” in his administration.

(4)                Culpable violation of the Constitution – for allegedly violating the constitutional prohibition of appointing Cabinet officials to more than one government position.

 

Q:            Why eleven (11) prosecutors?

 

                While none of the present officials in the House of Representatives was able to confirm this fact, it is highly probable that the House merely adopted the same number under the Rules of Impeachment of the U.S. House of Representatives which, since the first impeachment trial in 1796, has required eleven impeachment managers (or prosecutors) for the trial.

  

Q:            What are the powers and functions of the Chief Justice as the Presiding Officer of the impeachment trial?

 

 

A:            The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has the following powers and functions when sitting as the Presiding Officer of an impeachment trial in the Senate:

 

(1)   Administer the oathtaking of the Members of the Senate as jurors in the trial (Rule III);

(2) Issue and enforce all authorized and necessary  rules (Rule IV);

(3) Oversee the whole impeachment trial(Rule VI, par. 1);

(4) Admit and decide over all questions regarding admission of evidence (Rule VI, par. 2); and

(5) Hear and decide all motions and questions regarding the procedure in the trial (Rule XIV).

 

 Q:            When may a majority vote of all the Members of the Senate overrule the decision of the Presiding
                Officer?

 

 

A:            A majority vote of all the Members of the Senate may overrule the decision of the Presiding Officer when the decision pertains to the materiality, relevancy, competency or admissibility of evidence and incidental questions (2nd par, Rule VI).

 

This power of the majority of the Senate may be used after a view contrary to the decision of the Presiding Officer is expressed. On the other hand, the Presiding Officer may at his/her option, in the first instance, submit any such question to a vote of the Members of the Senate.

 

 

  

Q:            May the articles of impeachment still be amended or revised?

 

A.           While there are no laws prohibiting the amendment or revision of the articles of impeachment, existing laws

                and regulations would make such a move detrimental to the speedy resolution of the impeachment case.

 

Under our Constitution, the power to initiate an impeachment case by endorsing a verified complaint is vested in the House of Representatives (Sec. 3, Article XI). It follows that any move to amend or revise the articles of impeachment must go through the process of approving and endorsing the articles in the House of Representatives.

 

Q:            How shall the Senators conduct themselves during the trial?

 

 

A:            If a Senator wishes to put a question to a witness, he shall do so within two minutes. A Senator may likewise put a question to a prosecutor or the person impeached (Rule XVII).

 

Likewise, in making a vote on the articles of impeachment, a Senator may explain his answer for not more than two minutes (Rule XXI).

 

Q:   What is the rule on sub judice and how is it applicable to the impeachment trial?

 

 

A:         In legal terms sub judice refers to the policy of forbidding media and the public from commenting on pending litigation, on the principal ground that it might interfere with the administration of justice (People v. Alarcon, 69 Phi. 265).

 

However, most of the personalities who were punished for contempt by the Supreme Court were made liable not merely for violating the rule on sub judice but for making derogatory remarks against the courts (Seen re Sotto, 46 O.G. 2570; In Re Laureta, G.R. No. 68635, March 12, 1987; In re Tulfo, A.M. No. 90-4-1545-0, April 17, 1990; at In re Jurado, G.R.-A.M. No. 92-7-360-0, April 6, 1995).

In other words, while the Senate may tolerate public comments during the impeachment trial, it is worthy to remember that Senate is empowered under the Rules on Impeachment to summarily punish all forms of contempt, including making derogatory remarks against the impeachment court (Rule V).

 

Q:            Can the President be compelled to appear in the impeachment trial?

 

 

A:            The President does not enjoy any privilege from obeying any lawful order of the court in relation to a case or investigation, unless the order pertains to the disclosure of any military secret which may affect the  national security (Almonte v. Vasquez, G.R. No. 95367, May 23, 1995).

 

On the other hand, the Senate has the power to summarily punish for contempt any disobedience to its lawful orders (Rule V).

 

Nevertheless, the Senate through its Rules on Impeachment has already waived its power to compel the attendance of the President in the trial when it pronounced that trial shall proceed nevertheless as upon a plea of not guilty upon the failure of the person to be impeached to appear or answer the summons (Rule VII).

 

Q:   How do you get a witness who is abroad to testify in the  impeachment trial?

  

A.  A witness who is abroad does not need to go home to testify in the trial (Sec. 4[c][2], Rule 23, Revised
Rules of Court).

The testimony of such person may be taken, at the instance of any party, by deposition upon oral examination or written interrogatories  (Sec. 1, Rule 23, Revised Rules of Court). Examination and cross-examination of the deponent may proceed as permitted at the trial under the Rules on Evidence (Sec. 2).

 In a foreign state or country, depositions may be taken (a) on notice before a secretary of embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice-consul, or consular agent of the Republic of the Philippines; (b) before such person or officer as may be appointed in the order (Sec. 11, Rule 23, Revised Rules of Court).

 

Q:   May a witness be issued a hold-departure order during the trial?

 

A:            It depends. One of the rights given to witnesses is the right to be detained under the court’s custody only so long as the interest of justice requires it (Sec. 3[2], Rule 132, Revised Rules of Court).

 

On the other hand, the 1987 Constitution ensures every individual the right to travel, subject only to the interest of public security and public health (Sec. 6, Art. III).

 

At present, the power to issue hold-departure orders is vested only to Regional Trial Courts who may only issue such order in relation to a criminal case under its jurisdiction (Sec. 1, Supreme Court Circular No. 39-97).

 

 Q:             When is evidence substantial?

 

A:               In the hierarchy of evidentiary values, the highest is proof beyond reasonable doubt, followed by
                   preponderance of evidence, and substantial evidence, in that order.

In a criminal case, the accused is entitled to an acquittal, unless his guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind (Sec. 2, Rule 133, Revised Rules of Court).

In civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. In determining where the preponderance or superior weight of evidence on the issues involved lies, the court may consider all the facts and circumstances of the case, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon the trial. The court may also consider the number of witnesses, though the preponderance is not necessarily with the greater number (Sec. 1, Rule 133, Revised Rules of Court).

In cases filed before administrative or quasi-judicial bodies, a fact may be deemed established if it is supported by substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion (Sec. 5, Rule 133, Revised Rules of Court; In re: Letters to Mrs. Maria Coronel, 238 SCRA 618).

           Q.         What is the difference between “testimonial evidence” and “physical evidence”? When is
                        testimonial evidence sufficient?

 

A:           Testimonial evidence refers to the declaration made by a witness under oath or affirmation,
               while physical evidence refers to the object directly addressed and presented to the senses of
               the court (Sec. 1, Rule 130, Revised Rules of Court).

Physical evidence is the highest form of evidence, considered having far greater value than one hundred testimonies  (People v. Parcilla, 167 SCRA 722).

The weight and relevancy of a testimony is based on the credentials of the witness giving it, that is why one party to a case is given the opportunity to impeach the witnesses of the other party.  Nevertheless, religious or political belief, interest in the outcome of the case, or conviction of a crime unless otherwise provided by law, shall not be a ground for disqualification of witnesses  (Sec. 20, Rule 130, Revised Rules of Court).

 

Testimonial evidence is considered sufficient if: (1) there are no physical evidencepresented, at (2) there are no other testimonial evidence to controvert it.

 

Q.           What is the difference between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence?

 A:           Direct evidence is one which proves the fact in dispute without the aid of any inference or presumption (People v. Leangsiri, G.R. No. 112659, January 24, 1996).

 

On the other hand, circumstantial evidence is one which goes to prove a fact or series of facts other than the facts in issue, which, if proved, may tend by inference to establish the fact in issue (People v. Modesto, 25 SCRA 40 [1968]).

 

Circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if:  (a) There is more than one circumstance; (b) The facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (c) The combination of all the circumstances' is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. (Sec. 4, Rule 133, Revised Rules of Court).

 

Q:            May the ledger presented by Gov. Singson be used as evidence?

 

 

A:           The ledger may be used as evidence if the original copy is to be presented.

 

When the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself, except in the following cases: (a) when the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror; (b) when the original is in the custody or under the control of the party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable notice; (c)  when the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot be examined in court without great loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general result of the whole; and (d) when the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office. (Sec. 3, Rule 130, Revised Rules of Court).

 

Q:            May the tape recordings presented by Gov. Singson be used as evidence?

 

 

A:           Tape recordings cannot be used as evidence unless the consent of all persons in the recorded conversation is obtained (Sec. 4, R.A. 4200).

 

Q:   May bank transactions be used as evidence?

 

 

A:           According to Republic Act No. 1405 or the “Secrecy of Bank Deposits Law”, bank transactions and bank deposits may be inspected and used as evidence in an impeachment case (Sec. 2).

 

Q:   Is acquittal in an earlier case for impeachment a bar for the filing of another impeachment case?

 

 

A:            What is prohibited under the 1987 Constitution is the institution of more than one impeachment case against the same official in the same year (Sec. 3[5], Art. XI).

 

Nevertheless, even if one year has already lapsed, the defendant may avail of the doctrine of res judicata to challenge any new impeachment case if such case would be grounded on the same allegations as the earlier impeachment case. This doctrine is similar to the doctrine of double jeopardy enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution.

 

Under the doctrine of res judicata, a prior judgment shall bar any subsequent case if the following requisites are present: (1) the court having jurisdiction over the prior case has rendered final judgment based on the merits and not mere technicalities; and (2) the prior and subsequent case have identity of parties, subject matter and action (Ysmael & Co. Inc. v. Deputy Executive Secretary, 190 SCRA 673 [1990]).

 

Q:            Can a separate criminal case be filed against the person to be impeached regardless of the decision in the impeachment trial?

 

 

A:           Yes. An impeachment case is a mere political trial where establishing certainty of facts is not a primary  objective. The 1987 Constitution provides that judgment in an impeachment trial shall not be a bar for the institution of separate criminal cases against the person impeached (Sec. 3[7], Art. XI), especially if probable cause to institute criminal cases has been established in the trial.

 

In case of acquittal, the institution of separate criminal cases shall depend on the establishment of probable cause, or the existence of facts which would lead a discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed (Crisostomo v. Pamaran, 74 O.G. 6663).

 

Q:            If the President were convicted of impeachment, how will the transition take place?

 

 

A:           According to the 1987 Constitution, in case of removal from office of the President, the Vice-President shall become the President to serve the unexpired term (Sec. 8, Art. VII).

 

For the resulting vacancy in the Office of the Vice-President, the new President shall nominate a Vice-President from among the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation of a majority vote of all the Members of both Houses of the Congress, voting separately. (Sec. 9, Art. VII).

 

 

 

 

Last updated December 23, 2000, 5:00 PM
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