Press Release
March 2, 2011

Transcript of interview with Senator Santiago

On the impeachment proceeding in the House of Representatives against the Ombudsman and calls for her resignation

There is no law that requires any public official to resign or accede to those who demand noisily their resignation from office. There is no such provision in our legal system. So we can do is make a proposal but you cannot force the person to resign with the threat of so and so and such and such. That would constitute the crime of grave threats. So if the person says "I don't want to resign," that's the end of it. So if you are saying, for example, that the person is guilty that's why she should resign, that is a case of prejudgment. It is difficult for any member of Congress to make such statement or implications in public statements because both the House and the Senate are involved in the impeachment process, and you don't want the public to charge any senator or congressman with prejudgment. After all, the impeachment involves a trial and a judgment.

If the House continues with these proceedings, my thoughts are as follows, but always in the context of the fact that I am a lawyer:

1) Impeachment is a very serious process. We are supposed to use it as a measure of last resort. If we have done everything and we cannot change the situation, and public interest is so acutely affected with what is happening or is not happening with that office, then we have no choice but to impeach that official. Remember that an impeachment simply means a filing of a complaint. It does not mean the removal of a person from the office. It remains to be seen after trial in the senate whether the person is guilty or not.

2) if we are going to distract the resources of the government and the time and energy of our officials in the two houses of Congress from urgent legislative issues, then we may as well be sure that we get the necessary majorities in both the House and the Senate. We better count our noses now. We better be sure we have the numbers because otherwise the country will be appalled at the waste or expense of time, money, and effort, and of mutual recriminations all around which would poison the air of our governance if the impeachment movement will fail for lack of numbers in the House.

Remember that the impeachment is a unique exercise. It has to be understood as a vent for steam that has gathered, that is to say that the public is very angry that you have to impeach the official then we have to impeach the official. But it does not necessarily mean that if you are privately angry over private grievances then you should impeach that official. For example, if you have cases pending before the Ombudsman, you should automatically inhibit yourself. Or if you are significantly related to a person who has a pending case before the Ombudsman then you should inhibit yourself. Because we judges in the trial court--I was in trial court for I think five years--we just automatically inhibit ourselves if a lawyer files a motion to inhibit. I wouldn't even wait for an opposition from the other lawyer.

With respect to the Supreme Court where there might be a motion for reconsideration filed, kami sa trial court basta sabihan kami ng abogado "I am appealing your decision or your order to the appellate court," automatic yan we will suspend the hearings out of sheer courtesy to the Supreme Court. Baka mamaya the actions of the lower court and the higher court or Supreme Court might conflict with each other. We want to avoid that in any cost. You want to give the appellate court all the time necessary in order for it to mitigate the case. Kaya ang rash judgment ng mga ito, para bang hindi sila makahintay. Ano ba talaga at kailangang ngayong ngayon na? And we watch them in television. I am sorry to say, or maybe you should ask the audience, why am I not impressed. Pwede bang magbasa muna tayo tungkol sa impeachment, yung mga legal documents about the impeachment, its contexts and its protocols in political science. We cannot just open our mouths there and let off steam as if we were a volcano about to explode. Law is a very serious matter. It is not a matter of melodrama or theatrics in front of the television cameras. We should make sense. If something is already in the record, you don't have to read it and bore everyone to tears in this Republic. So I'm afraid that the presence of TV is already changing the complexion of the impeachment process. Remember the adage the presence of the observer changes the behavior of the observed. So let us just be sober about this. The impeachment is a very serious process. Let us therefore approach it with all seriousness.

It seems that these people are not even sure what their evidence is. They are talking in generalities. You must take into account the fact that certain discretionary measures are allowed within the discussion of a certain public official, so I cannot question that decision by means of an impeachment complaint. Impeachment should be done when the presence of the public official is so poisonous to governance that that person should be removed from office. That is the intent. It is not to avenge yourself on the Ombudsman because she filed cases against your relative or because you don't like her profile. I have no interest in defending the Ombudsman, but it seems to me that there is no probable case against the Ombudsman. They are just enumerating what are their grievances. But what is the evidence that she has betrayed the trust given to her by the appointing authority. You cannot change the Ombudsman just because you don't like how she decided on a case. You have to show that she decided the cases not on its legal merits. So this is an attempt to avenge themselves on Mrs. Gutierrez because she was appointed by Pres. Arroyo, so let's just call it by its proper name: this is an anti-Arroyo movement--so we can all take sides. But my advice is this: Do not choose a legal issue to cloak or disguise a political issue so that the public will not be misled.

You think the allegations are baseless?

I'm waiting. I'd be more than happy to see the evidence. Where is the evidence? Remember that under the Constitution, the Supreme Court will have power to reverse any official in government if there is grave abuse of discretion. Not just abuse--you have to show grave abuse.

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