Press Release
January 8, 2012

Trillanes: All references point to impeachment as political process

In order to guide him on how he should eventually make a decision, Senator Antonio "Sonny" F. Trillanes IV said he researched on the true nature of impeachments, focusing on the US version of the impeachment that is a virtual copy of our own.

"True enough, what I found out was, there is not a single book or reference I encountered that says that impeachment is a judicial trial solely based on evidence. To the contrary, all of these references defined or referred to impeachment as a political process," Trillanes said.

Trillanes cited numerous books and references to justify the point that the impeachment process is a political process, such as Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 65, Matthew J. Franck's The Supreme Court and the Politics of Impeachment and Charles Gardner Geyh's When Courts and Congress Collide:The Struggle for Control of America's justice System.

Offering a hint as to how he will vote, Trillanes said the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona should be treated as a political process where the parties are expected to battle for public opinion and political acceptability.

Trillanes, one of the senator-judges in Corona's trial, said he won't decide based purely on the evidence that the prosecution and defense panels will present but on the basis of what would be best for the country.

"Having established that impeachment is a political process, therefore, my verdict should not be based solely on evidence as it now becomes a matter of public policy," Trillanes said in a speech delivered at a forum hosted by the University of the Philippine National College of Public Administration and Governance.

He added: "And the over-arching policy issue in this whole impeachment episode is whether the conviction or acquittal of Chief Justice Renato Corona would be good for our country. To resolve this, I intend to use political acceptability as the sole criterion to evaluate the projected outcomes of either policy alternative of conviction or acquittal."

Trillanes, however, said this did not mean the evidence should be completely disregarded, noting that the "strength or weakness of the evidence, and how they are presented could very well affect the political acceptability of either policy alternative."

"Having said this, it would help if the prosecutors and defense counsels would not to be too technical in their presentations. Ultimately, they would have to win the hearts and minds of the people," he pointed out.

In determining political acceptability, Trillanes said he intended to use policy research tools - as such as quantitative and qualitative researches and stakeholder analysis - and extensive consultations. He said both methods "could very well filter the noise of the mob and undue media influence from the true will of the people."

His position runs counter to that of most distinguished lawyers, political analysts and opinion columnists who said that just like in any other "judicial trial" the judgment on Corona's impeachment case must be determined solely by evidence.

The young lawmaker cited the impeachment trial of former United States President Bill Clinton, who was acquitted by the Senate dominated by his Democratic allies despite overwhelming evidence that he committed perjury and obstruction of justice.

In the Philippines, Trillanes said the fact the power to impeach was given to Congress, and not to the Supreme Court, made the entire process political.

"Moreover, if an impeachment trial were meant to be solely evidence-based, then why didn't our constitutional framers just give that power to the Supreme Court whose members are supposed to be experienced judges?" Trillanes asked.

The senator also struck down the proposal to conduct a referendum to find out the pulse of the people on the impeachment case against the country's chief magistrate.

He said the senators, as representatives of the people, were "entrusted with the authority to decide on our own what is in the best interest of the public."

"Our country is not a direct democracy. We are, in fact, a representative democracy wherein the people indirectly govern their country through elected representatives. It is the representative's discretion whether to consult his constituents or assume that he is omniscient. More importantly, referendum is not the procedure stated in our Constitution," he explained.

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