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Semantics and history lessons

/ 10:56 PM February 08, 2012

The verbal squabble between the defense and the prosecution in the Corona impeachment trial is a matter of semantics. It concerns the meaning of paragraphs 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4 of Article II of the Articles of Impeachment, as follows:

“2.2.Respondent [Corona] failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth as required by the Constitution.

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“2.3. It is also reported that some of the properties of  Respondent are not included in his declaration of his assets, liabilities, and net worth, in violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.

“2.4. Respondent is likewise suspected and accused of having accumulated ill-gotten wealth, acquiring assets of high values and keeps bank accounts with huge deposits….”

FEATURED STORIES

Defense contends that these paragraphs do not state “ultimate facts” or provable facts because they are merely “reported” to have been committed by Corona, or that he is merely “suspected” and “accused” of having committed them.  There is no categorical declaration that he committed such acts.  A “suspicion” or a mere “report” does not suffice to impeach an impeachable official, so the defense claims.

The public, however, is aware of the saying that a public official “must be above suspicion,” a saying repeated in the Articles of Impeachment.  So to their mind a “suspicion” must be verified, or that a report of wrongdoing by a public official should be investigated to determine the truth thereof.

The investigation does not itself presume guilt.  In criminal cases, a preliminary investigation is conducted to determine prima facie culpability.  In an impeachment case, the conduct of a pre-trial is not necessary, so it has been ruled by the Senate impeachment court. So also in administrative cases. Since an impeachment trial is not a criminal case, the rules of criminal trial ought not to be strictly applied, thus the Senate impeachment court has also ruled.

Suppression of evidence, according to the Rules of Court itself, gives rise to a presumption that the evidence being suppressed is adverse to the party trying to suppress it. This is a common-sense assumption that resulted in the second People Power that ousted President Joseph Estrada when evidence being produced against him was suppressed by the majority of the impeachment court because of defense objection.  A lesson of history that the irrepressible senator-judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago urged her colleagues to learn, as almost all of those who voted to suppress the opening of the second envelope presented against Estrada lost when they ran for reelection.

—MANUEL F. ALMARIO,

spokesman, Movement for

Truth in History,

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mfalmario@yahoo.com

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, corona impeachment, rules of court, Senate impeachment court
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