Press Release
February 15, 2011

Transcript of Sen. Santiago's interview

On the Supreme Court decision allowing the House to pursue the impeachment complaint against the Ombudsman

I haven't read the decision yet, but it sounds to me like good law because if the Supreme Court issues any kind of restraining order against an impeachment complaint, in effect that will negate the power of the Congress to try and actually decide impeachment cases. Of course, you will all have to wait before the decision of the Supreme Court becomes final and executory. I believe the Ombudsman has 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration, and the Supreme Court can take as long as three months to decide. Even assuming for the sake of argument that the Supreme Court reiterates its original decision, then the House of Representatives would have about three months. So we're looking at about six months before the case comes to the Senate.

Remember that in the House of Representatives, the enemies of the Ombudsman will need at least ¼ vote of all the members. And here in the Senate, which will act as the judge of the case, the enemies of the Ombudsman will need at least 2/3 of all the members of the Senate. Such a very very tough procedure, one-thirds in the House, and two-thirds in the Senate, will be very hard to muster. Remember that President Estrada was impeached, but he was never found guilty. The question was decided in the streets and we note that all these street demonstrations that have resulted in the ouster of certain heads of State--in Indonesia, and most recently, in Egypt. So we don't know the status of the Filipinos. It was said a few years ago that the Filipinos developed People Power fatigue. But we will see.

Anyway, as I've said, I don't have any basis yet for criticizing the decision of the Supreme Court. We have to grant it that official duty was regularly performed. I think that as a Constitutional scholar, it's absolutely good law because the Supreme Court invents reasons for stopping the mere filing of an impeachment complaint. That already will be a derogation or diminution of the power of the House to start an impeachment complaint, and yet, at the same time, we must recall that there is a strict requirement of at least one-third of the entire House, and there is two-thirds in the Senate to impeach. If we cannot muster these votes, sometimes, it's just a waste of the resources of our country that could otherwise be spent on other economic and policy matters.

Are you excited to hear the case of the Ombudsman here in the Senate?

No, because impeachment is not a regular function of the legislature. Our main function is to pass laws. Other members of Congress, of both chambers, are not even aware of what the obligations are during an impeachment trial because they are not lawyers. They cannot be blamed, but then, you have to come from a very extensive background to be able judge a case correctly according to the standards set by the legal system and by the long experience of our judicial precedents. Sometimes it's very dangerous to give the power of impeachment to people who have never had the experience with our judicial system.

So walang choice si Gutierrez kung 'di harapin ang impeachment proceedings?

Yes. As I've said, she can file a motion for reconsideration. She cannot file a second motion, that is not allowed. Then the Supreme Court will have as many as three months to decide the motion for reconsideration. But thereafter, after the motion for reconsideration, if it has been filed, she (the Ombudsman) just has to guard herself and answer the complaint.

Can the Ombudsman still perform her duties pending the decision of the Supreme Court?

Yes, as long as there is no TRO (temporary restraining order). She can only be deprived of the position after she has been found guilty by the Senate. It will take a long long time, maybe two years, she'll still be there.

On President Aquino's statement that he knows the principal culprits behind the AFP budget scam

As he said, he may have some raw reports, but, he will have to depend upon the capacity of the secretary of justice to gather evidence that will be acceptable in court.

Can they allege gross negligence on the part of the Ombudsman and include it in the impeachment complaint?

The grounds for impeachment are: culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of the public trust. Considerably, you can subsume that under the category of betrayal of public trust or other high crimes.

Can the House of Representatives change the rules on impeachment?

As long as the process is internal to the House, they can change their articles of impeachment anytime before they give it up here to the Senate.

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