MANILA. Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday scolded the House impeachment prosecutors for coming unprepared during the 5th day of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Speaking to ANC, Santiago noted that the House prosecution team failed to submit their memorandum on why Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares and other witnesses and evidence should be presented in the trial to support Article 2 of the Impeachment complaint against Corona.
“Prosecution should have been ready with their memorandum. They know that when there is a contentious issue during and in the course of the trial, the normal habit is to submit memoranda,” she told ANC.
“Dapat handa na sila kaya ako mabagsik sa prosecuition dahil sa tingin ko, hindi nila ina-anticipate. Hindi nila iniisip kung ano bang magiging kasunod. Kung batid na abugado yan, may trial brief kung ano ang gagawin niya,” she added.
She said the House prosecution team also failed to say how many witnesses they will present in the trial, which would have ruled out any surprise witnesses in the hearing.
Santiago chastised the prosecutors for asking the Senate impeachment court for a more liberal application of the rules in the trial. She said that as lawyers, “you cannot make this kind of general request or appeals to your judge.”
“You say it in a specific term. Can we please introduce hearsay evidence that is no allowed under the rules of court but this is a different court, this is an impeachment court. This is sui generis, a class by itself. Can you please allow us to do that? Then the senator-judges will decide.’
“But it was general. Please be liberal. Liberal in what way? Because you know there are so many shades of liberal but we are guided by the provision in the rules of court that the rules of court shall be liberally construed meaning to say if it is pursuit of the truth and does not substantially prejudice a constitutional right of the person involved, then we should allow it.”
The senator-judge said the Senate is unanimously behind Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s conduct of the trial.
“I don’t think you can fault the presiding officer. I think it is more a case of the prosecution is not at its best yet. I hope it reaches that point soon, preferably tomorrow,” she said.
No standard of proof
Santiago noted that the Senate impeachment court has yet to set the standard of proof for the impeachment trial. During Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors said the standard of proof in the impeachment trial should be substantial evidence while the defense panel said it should be proof beyond reasonable doubt.
The senator, however, proposed that the impeachment court use overwhelming preponderance of evidence as the standard of proof.
“Defense wants proof beyond reasonable doubt because that is very high and it will absolve their client. On the other side, they want substantial evidence, which is very, very low. One to two pieces of evidence pwede na. Preponderance of evidence is kung sino ang mas nakaangat kaunti lang panalo na siya. Overwhelming preponderance of evidence is ang dami-dami niyang ebidensya kaya overwhelming,” she said.
Santiago said she is for a liberal application of the rules insofar as the admission of evidence in the impeachment trial, a lesson she learned in the aborted impeachment trial of then-President Joseph Estrada.
“Kapag hindi natin pinayagan na ipakita ang SALN na ito, baka sabihin na naman ng publiko na may tinatagao. Ay itong Senado na ito, pampulitika lang pala dahil mayroon namang ebidensya na tax returns ayaw naman ipakita sa publiko. Sabi ko, dapat hanggat maari basta’t ebidensya tanggapin na lang natin,” she said.
The lawmaker explained that defense lawyers are blocking the presentation of evidence and witnesses about Corona’s alleged ill-gotten wealth since it is not included in the eight Articles of Impeachment.
Asked her position if the defense moves to block the BIR chief’s testimony, she said: “My position is we can simply rule, di na kailangang i-amend ang complaint and BIR chief Henares can take the stand.” (ABS-CBN News)
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