By AKBAYAN Representative Kaka J. Bag-ao
Miriam lays down 3 Crucial Points for the Impeachment Trial
For the first time after a week-long absence, Miriam Defensor-Santiago appeared as a senator-judge in the impeachment trial of embattled Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. The feisty Senator gave her perspective at the beginning of the trial yesterday.
First, Santiago stresses that the impeachment proceedings is not a judicial nor a political process. Rather, it partakes of the nature of a quasi-judicial, quasi-political body. The Senator’s view is somehow parallel to the one taken by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno who explained in his dissenting and concurring opinion in the case of Francisco vs. House of Representatives that the impeachment proceedings is sui generis.
Consequently, Santiago made her second point that the quantum of evidence required in convicting an impeached public officer should be of having an “overwhelming preponderance of evidence”. This differs from the views taken by both the prosecution and the defense panels. On one hand, Rep. Niel Tupas of the prosecution panel said that only “substantial evidence” is needed for conviction. On the other hand, former Justice Serafin Cuevas of the defense panel stated that it should be “proof beyond reasonable doubt”.
“Proof beyond reasonable doubt” which is that degree of proof, excluding the possibility of error, which produces moral certainty. If the facts are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfil the test of moral certainty and, consequently, the innocence of the accused will prevail. This is the evidence required in criminal proceedings, and this is the most difficult to obtain. “Preponderance of evidence” means the weight, credit and value of the aggregate evidence of one party is superior to the other party. The only question is which party has the more convincing evidence? This is usually used in civil cases where there are at least two contending parties. “Substantial evidence” refers to evidence adequate to support the reasonable conclusion that a certain act or omission occurred even if it is possible to draw two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence. This is the evidence required in administrative cases, and is said to be the easiest to obtain.
Santiago went one notch higher by adding “overwhelming” to the phrase “preponderance of evidence”, thereby implying that the evidence presented by the prosecution should be far more greater than that presented by the defense. Santiago pointed out that the framers of the Constitution thought that the penalty given in case of conviction in impeachment trial is not retributory in character; impeachment is not a punishment.
Third, Santiago gave her legal opinion on the imminent issue on whether the impeachment Court should be liberal in the appreciation of evidence. Santiago said that there was no need to go into jurisprudence because the rules expressly provide that a liberal interpretation should be made and technicalities should be brushed aside. A liberal interpretation also implies that any document that is related to a particular article of impeachment (in the case of Article 2, the Income Tax Return of Chief Justice Corona and members of his family) must also be admitted as evidence by the impeachment court. In this way, it would hasten the proceedings of the trial. ###