Thursday, May 31, 2012

Miriam Santiago: Impeachment's Aleng GAGA

I watched the voting by the Senators acting as an Impeachment Court LIVE via video streaming with excitement but very confident of what the verdict was going to be.

In fact, I predicted the outcome so much so that while online on Facebook and watching the impeachment proceedings at the same time, I posted, “At 4:25 p.m. Philippine time, I now project a GUILTY verdict against CJ CORONA! I am now assured that at least 16 would vote GUILTY.”

Facebook friend EQUALIZER POST who was obviously online asked who would be the other Senators voting guilty. What about Revilla and Villar?

I responded immediately saying, “For sure, Enrile, Sotto, Recto, and Trillanes will vote GUILTY. I suspect Villar and Revilla might also vote guilty.”

Of course, all the Senators I mentioned voted GUILTY as I predicted, and history was written.

Caught by the euphoria, I no  longer cared about the 3 Senators who considered CJ Corona NOT GUILTY.

Then, I watched Senator Miriam Santiago again. Not only did she insult legal luminaries in the House (Raul Daza, for example) and in the Senate (Enrile, Angara,Drilon, etc.), but also successful private law practioners and Bar topnotchers who disagreed with her interpretation of the Constitution and pertinent laws.

The truth is, as a lawyer and an interested observer, I also felt insulted by the way he castigated all of us who disagreed with her by describing our views as “kaGAGOhan” or foolishness.

Let us analyze.

1. Future Ex-Senator Miriam Santiago claims that we should apply the general rule of statutory construction called “ejusdem generes” meaning, “where general words follow an enumeration of persons or things, by words of a particular and specific meaning, such general words are not to be construed in their widest extent, but are to be held as applying only to persons or things of the same general kind or class as those specifically mentioned.”

She then quoted the provisions of the Constitution “the President, the Vice President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office, on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”

Applying the ejusdem generes rule that she is proudly invoking actually shows that “betrayal of trust” is not of the same general kind or class as “high crimes” as “treason, bribery and graft corruption” because it was not specifically enumerated following “other high crimes.” Otherwise, “betrayal of public trust” should have been included in the enumeration BEFORE and not AFTER “other high crimes”.

Furthermore it is also fundamental in statutory construction that when the word “OR” is used it is meant as a disjunctive particle and to express as alternative or to give a choice of one among two or more things.

2. Future Ex-Senator Santiago also proudly referred to American authors such as Charles Black of Yale University regarding impeachment views and opinions.

If she really read and studied U.S. impeachment history she must have found out that more than 200 years after the adoption of the Constitution, there had been 18 impeachment cases in the United States; 3 Presidential, 13 Judicial and 2 others.

She also must have found out that in defining impeachable offenses, the Ford Test was enunciated, meaning as stated by Majority Floor Leader Gerald Ford, “an impeachable offense is what the majority of the House of Representatives say what an impeachable offense is”.

This explains why, in impeaching judicial officials in the United States, many of them were removed from office by: “being habitually drunk, showing favoritism on the bench, using judicial power unlawfully, using the office for financial gain, unlawfully punishing people for contempt of court, submitting false expense accounts, getting special deals from parties appearing before the court, bullying people in open court, filing false income tax returns, making false statements while under oath, and disclosing confidential information.”

Take note that Corona is a judicial official who had already admitted, “making false statements while under oath”. In fact, he could be guilty of the other offenses as well.

In the case of the Presidential impeachment cases, however, the offenses were considered more serious to remove the respondent from office.

Why? Because the sovereign people elect the President and Vice President compared to a judicial officer like Justice Corona, and it should not be as easy to undo the people's sovereign will. Justices are mere recommendations of the Judicial and Bar Council and appointed by the President.

3.  Future Ex-Senator also argues that the SALN provision of the Constitution is not self-executing, therefore, is not superior to the Foreign Currency Deposit Act.

Art. XI Sec. 17 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution
“A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth.

“In the case of the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law.”

There are two rules of statutory construction applied here. One is the rule that when the word “shall” is used, it is meant to be imperative, operating to impose a duty, which should be enforced. The Constitution used the word “shall” in both mandatory sentences. Two, if Santiago is in doubt, she should follow the rule: In case of doubt, the Constitution should be considered self-executing rather than non-self-executing, unless the contrary is clearly intended.

4. Both Future Ex-Senator Santiago and Future Ex-CJ Corona claim that the FCDA is the law contemplated by paragraphs 1 and 2 of Art. XI Section 17 of the Constitution.

This is faulty reasoning. One, the first paragraph refers to a law that provides the date and frequency of the submission under oath of SALN. Does the FCDA provide the schedule of SALN submission? Two, the second paragraph refers to the MANNER of submission of the SALN. Does the FCDA provide that?

Most importantly, Republic Act 6713 provides for the DATE and FREQUENCY and the MANNER of submission. It was enacted in 1989 AFTER the adoption of the Constitution in 1987. The FCDA was enacted in 1972, 15 years prior to the 1987 Constitution whose SALN provision it is supposed to enable.

5. Future Ex-CJ Corona claims that there seems to be a conflict between the SALN law and the FCDA. Future Ex-Senator Santiago agrees with him.

Another rule of statutory construction applies: SUPREMA LEX
It is time-honored that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land. It is the law of all laws. Hence, if there is conflict between a statute and the Constitution, the statute shall yield to the Constitution.

Who is GAGO or GAGA now?


  1. Thank you as always! What happened to your Facebook page? Mission accomplished? Another cause to fight for or to act as EQualizer? Let me know. I am a sucker for good causes.:) I miss your page already. BTW thank you for including my BLOG in your EQualizer Post website as a favorite even for one day.:)