Impeachment For Dummies: A Primer

An impeachment is a statement of “verified” charges filed by at least one third (95) of Congressmen. It is not a conviction. Like an indictment in a criminal case, the accused still has to be tried.

The President, VP, Supreme Court Justices, Members of a Constitutional Commission and the Ombudsman can be impeached for “culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes or violation of public trust”. Only Erap and Ombudsman Gutierrez have ever been impeached.

“Culpable violation of the Constitution” is “the willful disregard of the fundamental law”.

“Other high crimes” are “offenses so serious as to affect the orderly workings of Government” (Ex-Justice Isagani Cruz).

“Betrayal of the public trust” denotes any act unbecoming of a public official such as abuse of authority or neglect of duty.

The other charges are self-explanatory.

The prosecution is represented by 11 Congressmen called Representative-Prosecutors.

An impeachment is a political process not a legal one. Thus, the accused may be “convicted” even if he has not committed a crime: The Senators may simply deem he is unfit to hold his office. Erap was detained because of a Sandiganbayan decision, not because of the impeachment trial.

Two, the prosecutors and Senators are not bound by court rules of procedure and evidence. However they must be fair and consistent.

Three, the Senators, most of them non- lawyers, are expected to vote based on public interest, not necessarily on the law. Their verdict is not appealable.

THE CHARGES

The Articles of Impeachment charge Corona with eight counts:
1. For being partial in cases involving GMA.
2. For non-disclosure of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
3. For flip-flopping decisions in final and executory cases (e.g. the PAL Union matter), for his wife holding a Government position and for discussing with litigants cases pending in the SC.
4. For breaching the Constitutional separation of powers by issuing a status quo ante in the impeachment against the Ombudsman Gutierrez.
5. For arbitrariness and for resurrecting decided cases involving the status of 16 newly created cities and promotion of Dinagat Island into a province.
6. For partiality in granting the TRO and related decisions in the GMA travel matter.
7. For improperly exculpating Justice del Castillo in the plagiarism case.
8. For not adequately accounting for the Judiciary Dev. Fund and Special Allowances.

THE DEFENSE

The case for the defense has so far been:
1. The Articles are defective because they have not been “verified” by the 188 signatories as constitutionally required. “Verification” means reading the complaint and affirming the charges based on the evidence.
2. The SC is a collegial body in which the Chief Justice is only one of 15 votes.
3.  As with the other Justices, the CJ has administratively if not “publicly” disclosed his SALNs. Only two, Carpio and Sereno, have publicly disclosed theirs.

“Conviction” on any one charge is sufficient to remove the CJ.

What is the likely outcome of the trial?

A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to ‘convict”. Since there are only 23 Senators (P-Noy vacated his seat to become President), the magic number is 16 even though, arithmetically, it is 15.33.

Theoretically, the Senators should vote based on the evidence. In fact they will also be swayed by their political affiliations, horse-trading with Malacanang, their financial sponsors (with SC cases), and for those seeking re-election in 2013, P-Noy’s support; and public opinion.

The public seems to favor a conviction because it sees Corona as an extension of GMA.

Below are the 23 Senators (* denotes those to be re-elected in 2013) and the possible body count:

Likely to convict (Administration bloc):
1. Drilon (LP)-
2. Recto (LP)-
3. Guingona III (LP)-
4. Pangilinan* (LP)-

Leaning to convict:
1. Trillanes IV*- Could use P-Noy’s endorsement in 2013.
2. Estrada*- His family and GMA have been at odds.
3. Osmeña III- Investigating reported GMA cronies.
4. Pimentel III*- Believes he was cheated in the 2007 elections.
5. Lacson*- Feuding  with FG.

“Undecided”:
1. Enrile- Will show impartiality as Presiding Officer.
2. Arroyo*- Associated with the opposition NP bloc but you never can tell.
3. Escudero- A past P-Noy ally, he cherishes his independence.
4. Revilla- As far as the public, he can do whatever he wants.
5. Santiago- Administration supported her bid at the International Court but she ran  under the NP in 2010.
6. Sotto- Majority leader of bloc with Enrile, Estrada, Honasan, Trillanes and Lacson. Will they vote as one?
7. Honasan* – Could use P-Noy’s endorsement next year.
8. Angara* – His son, Sonny, is one of the prosecutors.
9. Lapid- Hails from Pampanga.

Leaning to acquit (Opposition NP bloc)-
1. A. Cayetano* – Senate Minority leader
2. P. Cayetano –
3. Marcos-
4. Legarda*-
5. Villar*- Losing presidential contender.

Whatever their inclinations, the Senators will all want to appear open-minded and politically correct. More important, each would secretly love to be the swing vote.

On the above (amateur) handicapping there are 9 likely to convict, 9 undecided, and 5 unlikely. Only 8 are needed to acquit. If the Opposition votes together and, say,  brings in Lapid, Arroyo and Santiago, the game is over unless public opinion is so strong they will have to retreat.

The key to the public, the one they understand and the easiest to prove if at all, is the case for ill-gotten wealth even though, ironically, it is not specified in the Articles. If this is bullet-proof then we will have a new Chief Justice. Otherwise a conviction is challenging unless the CJ resigns.

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About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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10 Responses to Impeachment For Dummies: A Primer

  1. the author says:

    I don’t think the Villar group, except for Marcos, is leaning to acquit. More likely they are open to offers, and could be the swing group.

    I think leaning to acquit are Defensor-Santiago, Arroyo, Revilla (Lakas chair), Lapid and Marcos. I also think Osmena III is a meverick, thus undecided.

    But one can really never tell, as you said.

  2. The Nutbox says:

    I don’t think the Villar group, except for Marcos, is leaning to acquit. More likely they are open to offers, and could be the swing group.

    I think leaning to acquit are Defensor-Santiago, Arroyo, Revilla (Lakas chair), Lapid and Marcos. I also think Osmena III is a meverick, thus undecided.

    But one can really never tell, as you said.

  3. Marie Phillips Wirth says:

    The outcome of this impeachment will show where the country and “powers that be” really stands!

    • johnny lin says:

      Absolutely correct on the people as the ultimate power.
      On the other if agreement is based on argument presented by both sides, let us look at one of the arguments of Corona defense. Accordingly said was on Impeachment Article dealing with Cityhoods flopping and Camarines Sur gerrymandering, Dean Angelrs asked why are the House/Prosecutors complaining that Corona and majority approved the petition when the AUTHORS of the Laws were THEY themselves. Following this logic, the same question could be posed that how come Corona is opposing the Impeachment when the AUTHORS are same House/Prosecutors. Touche!
      Of course the other rationale is the same as Corona argument when he accused president PNoy that he prodded his House allies on impeachment for his Dictatorial propensity which on the same wavelength of reasoning, that president GMA induced her House allies to divide Camarines to benefit his son. “what is good for the gander should be good for the goose”

      • johnny lin says:

        “her son” correction.

        Also there are constitutional law similarities. In opposing SC decision on Cityhoods and Camarines opposition was based on constitutional law, passage of them by Congress facilitated by controlled GMA allies condoned by SC, whereas Impeachment of Corona was based on consitutional ban of midnight appointment violated by GMA. if the Corona best defense is best anchored on “authorship of the laws”, I am not a lawyer but their legal ploy is very weak on simple reasoning.

  4. johnny lin says:

    Impeachment is a poliitical process guided by judiciary rules, yet the senator/judges are not bound to follow the rules but would rely on personal political survival for the ultimate jurors are the people, the basic reason impeachment is solely reposed to Congress because multisectoral, regional and national representatives and senators are the direct representatives of the people. The judiciary could not intervene at all on any course of impeachment. The constitutional wordings on impeachment process are also plain and simple for easy interpretation by ordinary men so that they could not be tricked by vocally gifted lawyers and salesmen of snake medicines.

    Election is on 2013, if the senators want to commit political suicides then go against public clamor which at the moment is unfavorable to Corona. Since Corona and his defense team are all lawyers professionally depending on precedence of decisions of court cases, the best proven precedence on re-election are senators Tito Sotto and Tessie Aquino who lost in 2007 because of their affiliation with GMA and Senators Coseteng and Enrile allied to Erap impeachment.
    Deja Vu!

    • johnny lin says:

      ENRILE is impeachment presiding officer, Villar and Angara are voting:

      Guaranteed, on 2013 his son campaign slogan would be:
      “KAY ENRILE – HAPPY KA PA RIN”

      Villar and Angara sons would second, “AKO RIN”

  5. johnny lin says:

    Logic why these Senators will vote conviction on Article II SALN/ Ill Gotten Wealth: has the greates value on substance and understanding by the people. Pictures and millions cost of acquired property in less than a decade does not only tell a story but also hatred by the people on greed.
    Consistent national survey, 7 out of 10 hoping Filipinos and counting, like me, could not be taken for granted by Senators.

    Marcos: to polish family national image on graft and corruption that his father and the rest of the family did not loot the nation’s treasure compared to GMA and allies.

    Lapid: he needs Aquino party to endorse his candidacy for Pampanga Gov against Lilia Pineda, its macho thing avenging family defeat because Pineda run against his son, aside from proving to Ombudsman that he is also against corruption plus pork barrel. GMA has no clout anymore who dissuaded him to run for Senator instead of Gov last 2010.

    Revilla: he needs pork barrel for reasons people know, aside from rebuilding his image damaged by exposed family problem with killing of Ramgen. Also image fighting graft and corruption

    Legarda: she lost VP because of cheating by GMA by corrupting Comelec. Payback to her puppetry on Corona is to convict latter on corruption. Aside from reelectionist.

    Allan Cayetano: re electionist, can’t afford to condone corruption
    Pia Cayetano: for her brother’s sake and maintaining clean family image.
    Honasan reelectionist, learned his lesson when he lost in 2004 as vestige of Erap impeachment
    Escudero: could not afford to go against people if he wants to stay in national politics. Last time, his action was the cause of image erosion.
    Villar, Angara, Enrile: sons will run for senator aside from image against corruption
    Sotto: anti corruption image and Lesson from lost in 2007.
    ————————————————————————————————————
    Miriam: indebted to GMA on her spouse government position and Pnoy endorsement to IC, will abstain or official leave of absence due to IC

    That leaves Joker, the lone ranger: he will acquit due to superlative complex; he abhors PNoy because he could not believe he became president because of his intelligence. Of course, just to spite, “Here is the Rub” is a greater reason lately.

    Voting on the rest of the Articles would be immaterial since only one needed for conviction.

  6. Tragic that the Senate would vote along political interest line and not on the evidence… neither they would vote on the interest of the greater good… but on their personal ambitions and interests… But such is politics… so what else is new!!!

    • Johnny lin says:

      Oh, yes something good and new will happen if Corona is convicted,. For the first time, politicians have the guts to convict their counterpart thru constitutional peaceful process, the highest magistrate, sending a message to public officials. Better than nothing. We have to start somewhere followed by vigilance and unrelenting pressure on corrupt others by an exemplary leader.

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