Press Release
March 22, 2011

Transcript of interview with Senator Santiago

We are going on caucus so we can discuss privately among ourselves what should be the amendment to the present Senate rules on impeachment, which is virtually only a copy of the United States Senate manual on impeachment. So my first recommendation is palitan na lang ang Ingles dahil masyadong luma na ang gamit nilang Ingles.

With respect to the rules themselves, these are my proposed amendments:

Number one, we must accept that the impeachment is a very serious process. Remember, when we were impeaching a president, we are not only removing him from office and disqualifying from entering any future office, but we are also rescinding the will of the electorate that put him in office. In the political aspect, what should govern the impeachment process in the Senate should be, among others, the provision in the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials which says we should observe political neutrality. So I humbly propose that the rule should be principled political neutrality. We must expound on the political aspect by teaching our senators they should observed principled political neutrality.

With respect to the judicial aspect of the proceedings, I propose to my colleagues that we should adopt the rules of evidence which are part of the Rules of Court. You cannot just say "We admit any kind of evidence" because that will confuse the proceedings. You cannot even say that the technical rules should not be applied, only those that are not technical. You cannot make that kind of distinction. Remember the grave mistake made during the Estrada impeachment trial? They wanted to open the second envelope. They walked out because the second envelope was not opened. When it was opened, there was nothing incriminatory, and all I was trying to do there was to say that under the Rules of Court, and especially the rules of procedure, you cannot admit evidence in the second envelope unless it is included in the complaint.

Third point that I would like my colleagues to discuss this evening is that there should be no coaching from the sidelines with respect to the senators. I remember during the Estrada impeachment trials several senators receiving text messages or promptings, or in other words tutorials, from their legal advisors. Precisely, we are not constituted as a group of lawyers but as a group of citizens, an ordinary group of persons and lay persons because we want the proceedings to be understandable to the public and we don't want to go into erudite legal points. If we are going to be judges, we should be independent, we should not be dictated upon by other lawyers who will never be accountable for their questions or the consequences of their interpellation. I hope that will be acceptable to my colleagues.

I also have a proposed rule that the media be completely free but only to cover the event. If possible there should be no opinions because it is possible that if the media pressure is very strong then the senators might react to the opinions, and they will turn these proceedings not into a trial for justice or the truth but a contest for popularity. So there should be no surveys, no circuses, no calls. The judges should be free to act on what they read about the impeachment.

Another rule should be that as much as possible the senators should ask the questions themselves and no longer have it go through the Senate President. And there should be no colloquy--a lecture or discourse of a senator. Huwag na lang silang maglecture, hindi naman sila authorities e. Magtanong na lang sila para madali ang proseso. There should be no colloquy on the part of the senator, even with their parties or counsel.

And then there should be silence and proper order in the gallery. We cannot have people clapping, for example, or expressing their reactions to what is taking place in the court room. This is a very serious proceeding. I, for one, would take it very seriously because an impeachment is traumatic not only for the accused or the suspect, but it is also traumatic for the nation itself.

On the proposed gag order for the senators

The view on the evidence--because it is the evidence that will determine the conclusion or the judgment--will depend from day to day. You cannot say, for example, that the evidence is strong or weak for the whole trial, you can only say that for a particular day. If ever a senator unburdens himself of his opinion or his evaluation of the evidence, everyday he would succeed in confusing the witness. For example, a regional trial court judge is prohibited from going outside his courtroom and giving interviews while a case is pending because it might indicate bias, partiality, or prejudgment on his part. It will also indicate that he is susceptible to pressure from external sources. So I think just to be able to keep our gravitas or sense of seriousness of what we are doing, we should not talk to the press about the merits of the trial. At best we can talk to the press what is happening or what is taking place. So we must make a distinction between factual reports and the merits of the case.

Allow Blue Ribbon committee partial report on the Garcia plea bargain

Whether it would be admissible is a no brainer--we will admit it--but whether we shall give it wait, and if so what kind of weight, will depend on the conscience of every senator.

How do you expect senators who are not lawyers to perform in the impeachment proceedings?

In the words of Professor Charles Black of Yale University who is considered by the entire Western world as the foremost authority on impeachment, anyone must look into his own conscience and reflect on the evidence. You do not need to be a lawyer as long as you are doing your job in good faith. Now, if you are doing it to gain media mileage, if you are a reelectionist, if you are going to do what you should be doing in the impeachment so you can gain brownie points from the President or the incumbent administration, if you are performing in front of the cameras with an ulterior motive, that is not the proper attitude to take.

Can the senators Tweet or update their Facebook during the impeachment trials?

No because we should pay full concentration on what is taking place. You should not be acting in a social network, you should not be networking with your friends or the whole Philippines. You are trying to se it that justice is done, and then you can let the heavens fall.

How about the spectators?

No, that is a completely alien concept in impeachment. If so, then everyone would have their say. The question there is how intelligent are these people, or how intelligent are their hearts. It is not only with your mind that you think, you have to think with your heart what will happen to our country. The impeachment is a very traumatic experience. That is why I want a sober attitude, not a circus attitude.

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