Senate 'must finish impeachment before year end'-A A +A
Sunday, April 17, 2011
THE Senate might have to abandon the impeachment trial of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez if it cannot dispose of the case by year-end, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Sunday.
She said if the impeachment trial drags on until March 2012, there will be little point in continuing the proceedings.
"Why should we keep going if she'll be retiring soon, anyway?" she said.
Santiago said she expects Gutierrez's defense lawyers to try to delay the proceedings, a common tactic in court cases.
"Usually, if you're the respondent, you'll try to delay. That is an accepted fact of life," she added.
Senator Francis Pangilinan has filed a resolution to amend the impeachment rules to allow senator-judges to vote on each article of impeachment before going on to the next.
He said this would save time because the prosecution only needs to get Gutierrez convicted on one article to get her removed from office.
In a radio interview on dzBB Sunday, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the Senate can discuss Pangilinan's proposal if it gets support from a majority of the senators. He said, however, that he thinks there is no need to amend the rules adopted by the Senate in March.
He said amending the rules will only move the trial back further. The Senate is set to convene as an impeachment court on May 9, but if Pangilinan's resolution is passed, Enrile said the trial might not start until June.
He said the Senate will have to publish the amended rules and also give Gutierrez time to respond to the summons the impeachment court will send her. She will have 10 days to respond.
The House prosecution panel will then have five days to counter her response.
"By then, we'll go into sine die (adjournment)," he said.
When Congress is on sine die adjournment, it cannot hold hearings nor do other legislative work.
The measure was intended to keep the impeachment trial from dragging on for a year, but the Senate President has promised that he will not allow dilatory tactics to derail the proceedings.
"How will the trial take that long? How does he know? I wonder if these people have handled any case in their lives," Enrile, a lawyer, said.
Santiago, who handled cases as a trial judge, said time will be very tight for the impeachment process.
"It will be a race for time. The problem there will be, can we administer justice if we are racing against time?" she said. (Sunnex)