Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Extra-judicial killing, LIVE

The Philippine Constitution prescribes certain modes to prepare an impeachment case. The preparation process is referred to as the impeachment proceedings. Basically, there are two modes provided.

The FIRST MODE is covered by paragraphs (1), (2) and (3) of Sec. 3 of Article XI which is somehow the equivalent of the preliminary investigation stage of a criminal prosecution in the Philippines (or the grand jury trial in the US) where the object is to reach the prosecutorial decision to charge or not to charge, what acts to charge, and whether a case can be won based on the verified complaint and certain evidentiary matters that might be gathered in support thereof.

The SECOND MODE of initiating impeachment proceedings is covered by paragraph (4), Sec. 3 of Article XI. All that is required under this mode is that the verified complaint or resolution of impeachment be filed by at least one-third of all the Members of the House; then the complaint or resolution shall constitute the Articles of Impeachment. This is rather an abbreviated procedure.

The first mode requires the determination of what could be the equivalent of “probable cause.” When the prosecutor is confident that the evidence at hand shows a convincing picture of the respondent’s guilt, then he has determined the existence of probable cause to file the necessary complaint in court.

Now, in the instant impeachment case, is there, for example, a probable cause of betrayal of public trust (the specific accusation: that President Arroyo “appointed Virgilio Garcillano as COMELEC Commissioner and interfered with and manipulated the official election duties of the latter to orchestrate and implement electoral fraud” and that “During the 2004 election period, [Arroyo] engaged in unlawful correspondence with Commissioner Garcillano . . . wherein she directed/countenanced/abetted the commission” of various “electoral frauds”) when at or about the “election period” Arroyo actually called Garciliano and then she subsequently admitted to such “lapse in judgment”? Or do the killing and torture of hundreds of civilians under the watch of the President as the nation’s chief law enforcer (the specific charge is that “she has allowed, abetted and countenanced the assassination and summary executions of 690 political dissenters and 42 media practitioners, the involuntary disappearance of some 176 persons, the torture of 320 persons in the hands of government authorities”) a probable cause of “a national failure of justice”? This is the stage of the proceeding the House is currently at and at which it is supposed to determine: Is President Arroyo probably guilty of the offenses enumerated in the complaint such as the two causes of action aforesaid?

The second mode dispenses with the quantum of probability required in the first mode to charge (impeach) a public official as the determination of probable cause (in the former) of the commission of an impeachable offense is presumed from the immediate attainment of the required number to charge. It is under this procedure Estrada has been indicted.

Just to reiterate, in an impeachment, the House serves as the prosecutor (the fiscal) and the Senate as the Impeachment Court with the Chief Justice of the SC as the non-voting presider when the President of the Philippines is on trial.

It is at the Senate trial that formal presentation, offer, objection and admission of evidence take place; and upon weighing the evidence admitted, the Senate, as the Impeachment Court, shall give the verdict of guilt or innocence of the impeached (charged) public official.

The House Rules on impeachment, it should be underscored, are supposed to be remedies intended “to effectively carry out the purposes” of the constitutional provisions. Needless to say, to use the House Rules for purposes of impeding the effective operation of the provisions of the constitution is to trifle with the rule of law.

Momentarily, the whole nation will be witness to another extra-judicial killing.


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