Pangilinan wants Merci impeachment rules amended

March 31, 2011

Kimberly Jane Tan
March 31, 2011

Senator Francis Pangilinan has filed a resolution seeking amendments on the approved rules of procedure for the impeachment trial of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who is accused of betrayal of public trust.

Senate Resolution 441 seeks to amend Resolution 432 or the Rules of Procedures on Impeachment Trials to allow senators to vote on whether the impeachment is sustained after every presentation of evidence and arguments once an article of impeachment is completed.

“If the impeachment shall not be sustained by the votes of two-thirds of all the members, the presentation of evidence for the next article of impeachment shall commence accordingly,” said the new resolution.

Article XI, Section 3 of the Philippine Constitution specifically states that “no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.”

But Pangilinan explained that since Gutierrez can be removed from office even if she is proven guilty on only one article, his proposal will make the impeachment trial “more efficient” in the usage of both time and resources of the Senate.

“Based on records of previous impeachment trial, it took the Senate nearly three months to cover two of four articles. With six articles, it is possible that the trial could drag on for a year, thereby affecting the entire legislative performance of the Senate,” he said.

Senator Francis Escudero, however, opposed Pangilinan’s proposal, saying that the Senate can just decide the matter in plenary without having to make any formal amendments.

“Tututol ako sa pag-aamyenda ng rules kung yan lang ang aamyendahan (I will oppose amending the rules if that is the only amendment),” he said at a weekly forum at the Senate on Thursday.

He likewise said that coming out with an amended version of the impeachment rules will delay the trial further because they would have to deliberate on it again and have it published before it can be implemented.

Under Resolution 432, “the Senate shall specify the date and time for the consideration of such articles. Unless the Senate provides otherwise, it shall continue in session from day to day (except Saturdays, Sundays, and non-working holidays) until final judgment shall be rendered, and so much longer as may, in its judgment, be necessary.”

The House of Representatives had earlier identified the six allegations against Gutierrez, which will constitute the articles of impeachment against her:

(1) the Office of the Ombudsman has performed dismally as shown by the low conviction rate achieved by the office;

(2) the unreasonable failure to take prompt and immediate action on complaints filed against various public officials, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and (husband) Jose Miguel Arroyo regarding the NBN-ZTE broadband project;

(3) the inexcusable delay of the Ombudsman in conducting and concluding its investigation into the wrongful death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño aboard a Philippine navy vessel;

(4) inaction in the matter of the Fertilizer Fund Scam;

(5) inaction in the matter of the Mega Pacific deal; and

(6) inaction in the matter of the “Euro Generals” issue.

The Senate is expected to convene as an impeachment court when Congress resumes session on May 9.

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