A Primer on the New Rules of Procedure Governing Impeachment Trials in the Senate of the Philippines
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By: ATTY. AMADO F. MARALIT, LLM, MPA, CEO VI (Senate Parliamentary Counselor)
1. What should the Senate do upon receipt of articles of impeachment?
Upon receipt of articles of impeachment:
a) The Senate shall specify the date and time for the consideration of such articles.
b) The Senate President shall inform the House that the Senate shall take proper order on the subject of impeachment and shall be ready to receive the prosecutors on such time and date as the Senate may specify.
c) If it is the Chief Justice that shall preside, notice shall be given to him by the Senate President of the time and place fixed for the consideration of the articles of impeachment, with a request to attend.
d) The Senate shall organize itself as an Impeachment Court.
2. How does the Senate Organize itself into an Impeachment Court?
Before proceeding to the consideration of the articles of impeachment:
The Presiding Officer shall be administered the prescribed oath or affirmation.
The Presiding Officer shall administer the prescribed oath or affirmation to the Members of the Senate then present and to the other Members of the Senate as they shall appear, whose duty it is to take the same.
3. What happens after the organization of the Senate?
A writ of summons shall be issued to the person impeached, reciting or incorporating said articles, and notifying him/her to appear before the Senate upon a day and at a place to be fixed by the Senate and named in such writ, and to file his/her Answer to said articles of impeachment within a non-extendible period of ten (10) days from receipt thereof; to which the prosecutors may Reply within a non-extendible period of five (5) days there from and to stand and abide by the orders and judgments of the Senate.
4. How should the writ of summons be served?
The writ shall be served by personal service. The writ of summons shall be served by such officer or person named in the order thereof, not later than three (3) days prior to the day fixed for such appearance of the person impeached, by delivery of an attested copy thereof to the person impeached.
5. If personal service cannot be done, what other mode of service may be availed?
Service may be made by leaving a copy of the writ of summons with a person of sufficient age and discretion at his/her last known address or at his/her office or place of business.
6. If service of the writ of summons fails, shall the proceedings abate?
No. Further service may be made in such manner as the Senate shall direct.
7. Shall the impeachment trial proceed even if the person impeached fails to appear before the Senate or fails to file his/her answer to the articles of impeachment?
Yes, the trial shall proceed nonetheless as upon a plea of not guilty if, after service, the person impeached shall fail to appear, either in person or by counsel, on the day so fixed or though appearing, shall fail to file his/her Answer to such articles of impeachment.
8. If a plea of guilty is entered, shall trial nevertheless proceed?
No. If a plea of guilty shall be entered, judgment may be entered thereon without further proceedings.
9. What shall the Secretary do upon the date and time designated by the Senate for the return of summons against the person impeached?
The Senate Secretary shall administer the oath or affirmation contemplated under the Rules to the returning officer. This oath or affirmation shall be entered at large on the records.
10. What is the duty of the Secretary upon the hour of the day appointed by the Senate for the trial of an impeachment case?
The Senate Secretary shall give notice to the House of Representatives that the Senate is ready to proceed upon the trial of the person impeached in the Senate Chamber.
11. What is the duty of the Senate President upon the hour of the day appointed by the Senate for the trial of an impeachment case?
The Presiding Officer shall cause the proclamation to be made that the business of the trial shall proceed.
12. What powers may the Presiding Officer exercise?
a) The power to make and issue, by himself or by the Senate Secretary, all orders, mandates, and writs authorized by these Rules or by the Senate; and
b) The power to make and enforce such other regulations and orders in the premises as the Senate may authorize to provide.
13. How long will the impeachment trial last?
Unless the Senate provides otherwise, it shall continue in session from day to day (except Saturdays, Sundays, and nonworking holidays) until final judgment shall be rendered, and so much longer as may, in its judgment, be necessary.
14. Should the Senators observe political neutrality?
Yes, during the course of the impeachment trial. “Political Neutrality” shall be defined as the exercise of a public official’s duty without unfair discrimination and regardless of party affiliation.
15. How shall the proceedings of the impeachment court be recorded and reported?
The Senate Secretary shall record the proceedings in cases of impeachment as in the case of legislative proceedings, and the same shall be reported in the same manner as the legislative proceedings of the Senate.
16. Are the parties on either side entitled to counsel?
Counsel for the parties shall be admitted to appear and be heard upon an impeachment: Provided that counsel for the prosecutors shall be under the control and supervision of the panel of prosecutors of the House of Representatives.
17. To whom shall all motions, objections, requests or applications be addressed?
All motions, objections, requests, or applications whether relating to the procedure of the Senate or relating immediately to the trial (including questions with respect to admission of evidence or other questions arising during the trial) shall be addressed to the Presiding Officer only.
18. Is it necessary that all the motions, objections, requests or applications mentioned above be in writing?
As a general rule these are not required to be in writing. But if the Presiding officer or any Senator shall require it, these shall be committed to writing, and read at the Secretary’s table.
19. May the Senate compel the attendance of witnesses?
20. How shall witnesses be examined and cross-examined?
Witnesses shall be examined by one person on behalf of the party producing them, and then cross-examined by one person on the other side.
21. May a Senator be called as a witness?
Yes. If a Senator is called as a witness, he/she shall be sworn, and give his/her testimony standing in his/her place.
22. If a Senator wishes to put a question to a witness how long may he do so?
The Senator shall put a question to the witness within two minutes. He/She may also offer a motion or order in writing which shall be submitted to the Presiding Officer.
23. May a Senator put a question to a prosecutor or counsel?
Yes. He/She may also offer a motion or order in writing which shall be submitted to the Presiding Officer.
24. Is the impeachment trial open to the public?
At all times while the Senate is sitting upon the trial of an impeachment, the doors of the Senate shall be open to the public. Silence shall be observed by the visitors at all times, on pain of eviction from the trial venue.
25. May the Presiding officer and the Senators make any comments and disclosures in public about the merits of the trial?
They shall refrain from making any comments and disclosures in public pertaining to the merits of a pending impeachment trial.
26. Does the above rule also apply to prosecutors, to the person impeached and to their respective counsel and witnesses?
Yes, they shall also refrain from making any comments and disclosures in public pertaining to the merits of a pending impeachment trial.
27. How long may preliminary or interlocutory questions, and motions be argued?
They may be argued for not exceeding one (1) hour on each side, unless the Senate orders otherwise.
28. How many persons may open the case on each side?
Only one on each side may open the case.
29. How many persons on each side may make the final argument on the merits?
The final argument on the merits may be made by two (2) persons on each side (unless otherwise ordered by the Senate upon application for that purpose), and the argument shall be opened and closed on the part of the House of Representatives.
30. When should Senators vote on the final question (on whether or not the impeachment is sustained)?
The Senators vote on the final question after the trial of all the articles of impeachment shall have been completed.
31. How shall the vote on the final question be taken?
The vote shall be taken on each article of impeachment separately.
32. When shall a judgment of acquittal be entered?
Judgment of acquittal shall be entered if the impeachment shall not, upon any of the articles presented, be sustained by the votes of two-thirds of all the Members.
33. When should the Senate proceed to pronounce judgment of conviction?
The Senate shall do so if the person impeached shall be convicted upon any of the articles of impeachment by the vote of two-thirds of all the Members. A certified copy of such judgment shall be deposited in the Office of the Secretary.
34. Is a motion for reconsideration of the vote of judgment for acquittal or conviction in order?
A motion to reconsider the vote by which an article of impeachment is sustained or rejected shall not be in order.
35. What procedure is to be followed when there is an objection to any order or decision of the Senate?
All orders and decisions may be acted upon without objection. If objection is heard, the orders or decisions shall be voted on without debate by yeas and nays, which shall be entered on the record, subject however, to the operation of Rule VI. In that case, no Senator shall speak for more than once on one question, and not for more than ten (10) minutes on an interlocutory question, and for not more than fifteen (15) minutes on the final question, unless by consent of the Senate, to be had without debate. A motion to adjourn may be decided without the yeas and nays, unless they be demanded by one-fifth (1/5) of the Senators present. The fifteen minutes herein allowed shall be for the whole deliberation on the final question, and not on the final question on each article of impeachment.
36. May the Senate enforce obedience to its orders, mandates, writs and judgments?
37. May the Senate punish for contempt?
The Senate shall have the power to punish in a summary way contempt of, and disobedience to, its authority, orders, mandate, writs, or judgments.
38. Does the Senate have the power to make orders, rules, and regulations?
Yes, it was the power to make such lawful orders, rules, and regulations which it may deem essential or conducive to the ends of justice.
39. Is the Sergeant at Arms allowed to employ aid and assistance for the enforcement and execution of the lawful orders, mandates, and writs of the Senate?
Yes. He may do so under the direction of the Senate President.
40. What type of questions may the Senate President or Chief Justice, when presiding on the trial, rule on?
Either may rule on all questions of evidence including, but not limited to, questions of materiality, relevancy, competency or admissibility of evidence and incidental questions.
41. Shall the ruling of the Senate President or Chief justice on the aforesaid questions stand as the ruling of the Senate?
Yes, unless a Senator shall ask that a formal vote be taken thereon, in which case it shall be submitted to the Senate for decision after one contrary view is expressed.
42. May the Presiding Officer in the first instance throw the question to the Senate?
Yes, he/she may submit any such question to a vote of the Senators.
43. For how long may the motion for a vote on the question and a contrary opinion take?
Said motion and the contrary opinion shall take not more than two (2) minutes each, with a one-minute rebuttal allowed for the proponent of the motion.
44. Will the Rules of Court and the Rules of the Senate find application in the impeachment trial?
The provisions of the Rules of the Senate and the Rules of Court shall apply in a suppletory manner whenever applicable.
45. How is the question put on each article of impeachment?
The Presiding Officer shall first state the question. Thereafter, each Senator, as his/her name is called, shall rise in his/her place and answer: guilty or not guilty.
46. When does the Presiding Officer vote?
The vote of the President of the Senate on each article of impeachment, when acting as the presiding officer, shall be last taken after all the Senators have stated their votes.
47. May a Senator explain his/her vote?
Yes if he/she so wishes, for not more than two (2) minutes.
48. Who shall serve all process?
All process shall be served by the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, unless otherwise ordered by the Senate.
49. May the Senate enforce obedience to its orders, mandates, writs and judgments?
50. If the Impeachment Court fails to sit on the hour fixed for the consideration of the articles of impeachment what may the Senate do?
The Senate may by an order to be adopted without debate, fix a day and hour for resuming consideration.
51. Has the Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials been published?
Yes, in the 26 March 2011 of the Manila Bulletin (p.9) and the Manila Times (p.A7). The Rules can be accessed at the Senate website: www.senate.gov.ph