Simplify impeachment rules—Pangilinan

March 31, 2011

Rey T. Salita
Manila Standard
April 1, 2011

SENATOR Francis Pangilinan on Thursday filed a resolution calling for the automatic removal from office of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez once a vote for her conviction is reached in at least one of the six articles of impeachment lodged against her.

In Resolution 441, Pangilinan said: “In the event that the prosecutors from the House of Representatives prove the case against Ombudsman Gutierrez in only one of the six articles, she will be formally removed from public office.”

This proposal will speed up the impeachment process and save time and resources, he said.

Pangilinan’s proposal was similar to the idea first floated last month by Senator Vicente Sotto III who also wanted the senators to vote on the article heard by the impeachment court before another article can be heard and tried.

Senator Franklin Drilon shot down Sotto’s idea and pushed for the adoption of the rules that governed the impeachement trial of Joseph Estrada.

The Senate need not vote on all six articles of impeachment, Pangilinan said. If the Ombudsman has been convicted of one of the articles, he said, the Senate may decide that subsequent vote on the remaining articles is unnecessary.

Pangilinan said that senators will immediately vote on whether or not the impeachment is sustained when the presentation of evidence and arguments by the parties on one article of impeachment is completed; and 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.”

Pangilinan said his proposal will make the impeachment trial of (the) Ombudsman more efficient in the use of 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,” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan’s proposal will mean changes in the rules adopted by the Senate on March 23, 2011.

Any amendment to the rules will be tedious and time consuming, according to Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the justice committee.

Under the present rules, Escudero said the impeachment court will have to hear all of the 6 articles of impeachment and only vote after the conclusion of the whole trial.

Escudero explained that the Ombudsman can be removed from office with only one conviction getting 16 votes out of the 23-man senate impeach court.

“It’s like being charged with 6 counts of murders. One may get acquitted from the 5 killings but if she gets convicted with one murder, then that’s enough for her to be meted by its penalty,” Escudero said.

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