Press Release
December 13, 2011

Transcript of interview with Sen. Escudero

PINKY WEBB (PW): Senator Escudero, good morning Sir.

SEN. FRANCIS G. ESCUDERO (FGE): Pinky, magandang umaga sa iyo at sa ating televiewers magandang umaga din. Good morning.

PW: Can you bring us through the process Senator, now that the Senate has formally accepted the Articles of Impeachment from the House of Representatives.

FGE: Trial will then assume Pinky, meaning to say we will require the respondent in this case, Chief Justice Corona to respond, to file his answer to the complaint of the House of Representatives and before that, forgive me, the House will have to choose its panel of prosecutors and they can also engage with services of private counsels and private prosecutors and after this if the answer has been received on the part of the respondent we will be scheduling a public hearing on the letter. We will be adopting the same rules, Pinky, mostly likely subject to some amendments if there is any the one we adopted for the impeachment supposedly of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. In fact 'yung mga robe namin Pinky na hindi namin nagamit nung panahon ni Omb. Gutierrez baka ngayon namin magamit.

PW: But senator from here on like today na natanggap na po ng Senado, what's gonna happen because we understand that, please correct me if I am wrong, it has to be brought first to the Senate Justice Committee and then the Justice Committee can make a report to the plenary, is that true sir?

FGE: Sa Rules Committee na diretso Pinky, hindi na dadaan yan sa Justice Committee ng Senate o ng House. Diretso na 'yan sa Rules Committee to be calendared and after that the Senate has to convene as an Impeachment Court. We have to take our respective oath as judges doon sa impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona.

PW: You talked about the rules that you could possibly adopt, the ones that you were going to use sana against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Senator, there are eight articles of impeachment against the Chief Justice. Are you looking at finishing all eight articles or tackling them one by one and coming to a vote after each and every article of impeachment?

FGE: If I may recall it correctly, Pinky, If I am not mistaken our rules before we would have to proceed on each and every article of impeachment. Kasi according to Annotative 1 Pinky, if we convict him in one, there's no need to proceed to other articles of impeachment, Annotative 1, Removal of Impeachable officer from Office. PW: It saves you time, basically, I mean once there is guilt in one article of impeachment the Chief Justice has to vacate his post.

FGE: Whether it's chronologically Pinky or let the prosecutors choose the best ground or let the complainant or respondent avail on the strongest ground they have so that they would be able to save some time, isa doon could be a conviction. For example they can go through all set of articles and not vote for a conviction but the conviction can be secured on the eighth but what if it is secured on the first we don't need to go to the entire process.

PW: That's right.

FGE: One more interesting fact Pinky is that I haven't seen the complaint yet and I don't want to be accused of prejudging.

PW: Yes sir, I understand.

FGE: But off-hand based on newspaper and media reports, it would be interesting to look up the articles of impeachment, each one of the article if it can be from his actions as chief justice and the actions of the court per se because I think, again, based on media reports there are some articles that contains the court's actions.

PW: As a whole.

FGE: As a whole. I know that prosecutors have to prove being independent and separate act of respondents with these actions made by the court.

PW: Senator, for example, one of the charges was the issuance of a TRO. When you look at that, when you look back at the Supreme Court deciding on the TRO on former president Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, that was a vote, if I'm not mistaken seven, six, seven or eight.

FGE: I'm trying to get think again because the burden of the part of the prosecution is to disprove the independence and separate action of the Chief Justice in connection with the action of the court separate from that of the actions of the justices of the court itself otherwise others should be included to begin with, in so far as these articles are concerned. That would be another strategy and tactic again on the part of the prosecution and another defense on the part of the respondents.

PW: Yes, because that is the common question being asked to be frank about it. Why isolate the Chief Justice on certain charges when other Supreme Court justices may have been guilty of the same time. I mean, I understand with what you're saying you don't want to be prejudged on the case, it's common sense Sir, if the Chief Justice voted for the TRO why not charge the others who voted likewise for the TRO on Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

FGE: Well as I said Pinky, unless they can prove the alleged complaint separate and independent actions on the Chief Justice. The second argument of course where the prosecutors can look forward, impeachment is within the full discretion of the House and nothing prevents them from filing another and separate impeachment complaint against other justices of the commission with similar acts and connection with the action of the court.

PW: Senator, what are you looking at? I mean, what is the process, being judge in an impeachment court. Is this proof beyond reasonable doubt that you have to see? Is it guilt and proof beyond reasonable doubt?

FGE: Well Pinky, once a person is impeached or removed from office via the process of impeachment it carries the penalty of absolute and perpetual disqualification from public office. That is nothing as similar penalty which is an administrative penalty. In general, proof beyond reasonable doubt is only required for criminal offense and penal sanctions and not merely in administrative cases.

PW: I see, okay. It does not seem like you're going to spend a number of days on the rules because you may just have to adopt the rules that you're gonna use against then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

FGE: I think it would be better to adopt the same rules Pinky so that we won't be accused of bias. Besides based on administrative aspects if we would change the rules again we would have to publish it all over again and we could not go on trial until it was republished and back to the completion of publication then we are going to use the rules because it will only be effective 15 days upon the completion of publication of our rules should it be amended by the Senate.

PW: All right, do you have 23 senators right now sir?

FGE: Twenty three possibly, 22 Pinky depending on Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago if she will be called upon by the International Criminal Court. I saw her interview a while ago and I congratulate her of course. It's a pride for our country and this is the first time I think that the Filipino is elected in the ICC.

PW: Right, very great victory, feat for our Filipino people. And of course this is something our senator has wanting and looking into to be a judge in the ICC. Yes sir, she did say that she will take her oath in March but up until a case is given to her that will only be the time that she will leave and resign as a senator of the Republic of the Philippines.

FGE: But hopefully Pinky she will not be called upon soon enough especially the impeachment is a legal process where there is a great need of legal process and wisdom of Senator Miriam Santiago, a former RTC judge herself.

PW: I can imagine the kind of intelligence and points of view of Sen. Santiago that she will impart during the impeachment trial. She will be missed if and when she will have to leave but Senator you may be able convene as an impeachment court by January and if you are going to look at one impeachment trial after the other and vote as well it might not take too long. I mean if guilt is found in one of the charges against the Chief Justice.

FGE: Well Pinky, it came to my mind that there is another impeachment case filed against Chief Justice Del Castillo where in the plenary debate the case was found to be sufficient in substance. I think one the Senate should grapple with is the question of time. Hindi naman pwedeng ito na lang din ang ginagawa namin. Paano kung may iba pang impeachment complaint? We have to budget our time accordingly so that we can still perform our other functions such as passing of bill, conducting inquiries in aid of legislation, and of course the impeachment trial.

PW: But Sir, hypothetically if the House impeaches Associate Justice del Castillo, how do you deal with that? As an impeachment body you have an impeachment case against Chief Justice Corona and another obviously another impeachment case against Associate Justice del Castillo, papano po 'yun?

FGE: That's right Pinky, just like in the other court RTC, CA, Supreme Court, they have separate trial dates for each. So assuming Monday and Wednesday for the impeachment case of Chief Justice , Tuesday and Thursday for Associate Chief Justice. We will have to deal with the time alloted to us. Well at least Pinky sulit 'yung suweldo na binabayad sa amin dahil ang dami naming gagawin sa darating na taon.

PW: But Sir, there are a lot of things which should also be given importance also at the Senate, the Reproductive Health Bill, the Freedom of Information and a lot of other pending bills and of course the primary work of senators is legislation.

FGE: Aside from the things that you have mentioned will be the economic growth, the rationalization of fiscal system, the rationalization of our justice system, just like what's happening in Europe and United States. Even the negative impact of climate change in our region and its effects on the food supply and economic indicators of our country, on top of, in addition to, all over and above the impeachment trial of cases, that's how Senate would be busy.

PW: Senator, when do you resume work?

FGE: Second week of January, if I'm not mistaken January 13.

PW: January 13 and just to give us a rough estimate Sir if you go back to work on January 13, when is the earliest time for you to convene yourself into an impeachment court? Mukhang malabo Sir 'yung January 13, that's a Friday.

FGE: I'm sorry Pinky it's January 16. I stand corrected.

PW: Okay, my question is from the time na bumalik po kayo sa trabaho sa Senado will it take about a week before, I mean gaano ho katagal before you convene yourself into an impeachment body?

FGE: Given that there is a caucus Pinky is that this afternoon and the latest is tomorrow especially if there will be no surprises coming next year given the rules and the schedule that the Senate will adopt.

PW: Okay, Senator Chiz Escudero, Chairman of the Senate House Justice Committee, sir you so much for speaking to us.

FGE: Maraming salamat din Pinky, magandang umaga sa inyo.

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