Thursday, August 24, 2006

A matter of substance?

(Note: I posted earlier today the following comments in mlq3 but apparently his site has been inaccessible, so I have decided to repost it here.)

The official announcement of the House’s P-R Group (quoted in full by RG Cruz here) reads in part:
The House vote upheld Committee Report 1886 of the Justice Committee, chaired by Chairman Simeon Datumanong which declared the eighth of the series of impeachment complaints filed against the President as insufficient in substance.

x x x

Under Section 4, Rule III of the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the House of Representatives of the Thirteenth Congress, Datumanong said the requirement of substance “is met if there is a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the Committee.”

(Rep. Antonino) Roman, who earlier quoted some of Datumanong’s procedural references, said that “without a proper recitation of facts, how can the accused, the President, defend herself?”

x x x

“What is required are averments of ultimate facts which ensnare the respondent to the commission of the offense charged, not by mere inference, which is a conclusion, but by statements of actual acts of inculpatory participation,” (Rep. Edcel) Lagman said.
What I have learned from the best Remedial Law experts in the country is that the theory behind the “ultimate facts” requirement in civil action provides that the complaint shall contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the complainant is entitled to relief sought for. Likewise, the defendant in his answer shall state in short and plain language the defenses to the complaint.

However, in actual practice and from my years of experience as a trial lawyer in the Philippines, courts often depart from the strict observance of the ultimate facts requirement in the main pleadings and complaints are not killed (dismissed) on that ground specially where the statements of more than the ultimate facts in the complaint are intended to establish in advance what the complainant proposes to prove at the trial so that the defendant will be prepared to meet those allegation of facts.

In my last entry, I have cited two specific allegations in the impeachment complaint, as follows:

1) 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”;

2) That President Arroyo “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.”

I dare say that only practicing Philippine lawyer not worth his title would claim that the above recital of facts violates the ultimate facts requirement in a pleading.

Can President Arroyo properly prepare to defend herself if the impeachment complaint only stated:

1) That President Arroyo “cheated during the 2004 presidential elections”; and
2) That President Arroyo “allowed extra-judicial killings”?

You be the judge.