Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Battle lines | Inquirer Opinion

Battle lines | Inquirer Opinion

"x x x.

It’s a Catch-22. Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno may not be subpoenaed by the impeachment court because, as Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago pointed out with a degree of lividness that makes even ballistic sound pale, that sets the impeachment court on a collision course with the Supreme Court. But even if Sereno wants to appear in the impeachment court voluntarily, she still may not. That is because the Supreme Court has banned anyone from its ranks from appearing there.

What can I say? I know it requires levels of exceptional courage and fortitude, but Sereno should defy it. Let Santiago get more livid if she wants to. But just to be sure, let’s prepare to march to the Senate in case Sereno does resolve to do so and Santiago tries to bamboozle her colleagues into dismissing her. The way she and the usual suspects dismissed Erap’s second envelope from the pile of evidence.

For some days now, the Supreme Court has been thumbing down Sereno’s swearing in before the impeachment court, proffering strange arguments for it. Justice Roberto Abad says Sereno already broke the rule on confidentiality when she spoke to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima: “The court’s deliberations are confidential because the court realizes that only by making it so can the justices freely discuss the issues before it. Broadcasting such discussions to the public would have a chilling effect on those who take part in it. One would be careful not to take unpopular positions or make comments that border on the ridiculous. If our deliberations cannot remain confidential, we might as well close down business.”

That’s the very reason Sereno ought to.

It’s not as if she commented on the judiciousness or ridiculousness of the justices’ arguments in voting for the TRO. It’s not as if she revealed how the justices comport themselves, who tends to talk too loud and too long, or go along meekly with the others. It’s not even as if she exposed the darkest secrets of the justices, including their marital, if not financial, infidelities. All she did was talk about their chief, Renato Corona, bending the high court’s own rules to favor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

That is not a betrayal, that is a public service. Abad’s argument is not an argument against ethics-flouting, it is an argument against whistle-blowing. Confidentiality applies to other offices as well, government or private. True, you do not parade dirty linen in public—but only when dirty linen has to do with personal hygiene, not when it has to do with public health. Where it stands to harm the public, you can, and are obliged, to expose it. You can, and are obliged, to help the public get rid of it. Jun Lozada did not betray his calling when he exposed the NBN-ZTE deal, he lived up to it. He did not harm the public when he exposed immoderate greed, he did it a service.

So has Sereno. So will Sereno.

Why in God’s name should the justices worry about taking the unpopular position if their deliberations were made public? Indeed, why should the justices be chilled to the bone by having the public watch how they think and act? The principled among them would revel at it. They would have the chance to show the courage of their convictions. They would have the opportunity to demonstrate the prodding of conscience. Justices are supposed to possess those in greater abundance than other people. They are not there to vote on the strength of popularity, they are there to vote on the strength of their beliefs. They are not there to seek acclamation, they are there to seek justice. They are not there to do what is acceptable, whether or not the public gets to know about it, they are there to do what is right, whether or not the public gets pleased with it or not.

Of course, some things are unpopular simply because they are unjust. Some things are unconscionable simply because they lack conscience. Why shouldn’t reopening a case you’ve thrice ruled upon with finality in favor of flight attendants not stoke the flight attendants to heights of fury? Why shouldn’t helping Arroyo escape not stoke the public to heights of fury? You’re chilled to the bone by that reaction, you ought to be. You invited it. You deserve it.

If your deliberations cannot stand the test of public scrutiny, you should close shop.

We’ve seen the same pass again these past weeks. The impeachment court already gave in to the Supreme Court’s TRO forbidding it from opening Corona’s dollar accounts. Now it is giving in to the Supreme Court’s TKO knocking down the possibility of Supreme Court personnel coming out to swear to what they know. That sounds familiar? It should be. Arroyo employed the same tack in her time, forbidding any public official from testifying against her without her permission. The person under indictment is free to decree the rules. The institution under suspicion is free to set the law.

P-Noy has a point: It’s time we spoke our mind about the judiciary as it has turned out to be. It’s time we spoke our mind about the impeachment court as it is turning out to be. It’s time we exercised People Power. What collision course? The Senate and Supreme Court are not fiefdoms to be guarded ferociously by jealous warlords. They are extensions of the people, they exist to carry out the people’s will. There is no Gordian knot where there is Alexander’s sword. There is no collision course where there is People Power.

It is not taking the law into our own hands. That is where the law belongs. Not summoning People Power in the face of all this is allowing them to take the law into their own hands. Which is where it does not belong. Not by our experience of history, not by our struggle to end tyranny, not by our capacity to finally make ourselves free.

Time to gear up for battle.

x x x."

Ruling: Judge's homosexuality not immoral -

Ruling: Judge's homosexuality not immoral -

"x x x.

MANILA, Philippines, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- A judge who says he is a homosexual shouldn't be presumed to be dishonest, the Philippine Supreme Court determined.

The Supreme Court dismissed administrative cases of immorality and dishonesty filed against Eliseo Campos, a retired municipal court judge in Bayugan City by his estranged wife and son, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

The court ruled, however, that Campos was guilty of misconduct for registering his then-minor son as the owner of a piece of property that was part of couple's separation and annulment cases.

The cases arise from an annulment petition filed by Campos in July 2008, a year before he retired. He said he was homosexual. He said his wife had affairs with other men that he neither stopped nor questioned, the Inquirer said.

His wife denied the accusations and said the judge wanted the marriage annulled to pursue marriage with another woman. She opposed the annulment and filed for a legal separation instead.

The high tribunal affirmed an investigating judge's findings that there was no proof that Campos had a relationship with another woman or was immoral because he was a homosexual.

"With respect to respondent's alleged homosexuality, such issue is for the determination of the trial court wherein the [annulment case] is pending. Thus, we also agree in absolving [him] from the charge of dishonesty," the opinion said. "The fact that [he] got married and had children is not proof against his claim of homosexuality. As pointed out, it is possible that [he] was only suppressing or hiding his true sexuality."

Read more:

x x x."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RA 10071; national prosecution service - salaries, qualifications, retirement - A.M. No. 11-10-7-SC

A.M. No. 11-10-7-SC

"x x x.

On April 8, 2010[,] Republic Act No. 10071[,] otherwise known as “An Act Strengthening and Rationalizing the National Prosecution Service[,]” was signed into law. It took effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in the Philippine Star on May 13, 2010. Under Section 16 thereof, it provides the qualifications, ranks and appointments of prosecutors and other prosecution offices, as follows:

Sec. 16. Qualifications, Ranks and Appointments of Prosecutors and other Prosecution Officers. – x x x

Prosecutors with the rank of Prosecutor IV shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, category, prerogatives, salary grade and salaries, allowances, emoluments and other privileges, shall be subject to the same inhibitions, and disqualifications, and shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of a Judge of the Regional Trial Court.

Prosecutors with the rank of Prosecutor III shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, category, privileges, salary grade and salaries, allowances, emoluments and other privileges, shall be subject to the same inhibitions and disqualifications, and shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of a Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court.

Prosecutors with the rank of Prosecutor II shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, category, privileges, salary grade and salaries, allowances, emoluments and other privileges, shall be subject to the same inhibitions and disqualifications, and shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of a Judge of the Municipal Trial Court in cities.

Prosecutors with the rank of Prosecutor I shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, category, privileges, salary grade and salaries, allowances, emoluments and other privileges, shall be subject to the same inhibitions and disqualifications, and shall enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those of a Judge of the Municipal Trial Court in municipalities.”

In relation to the above, Section 24 of the aforesaid Law reads:

“Sec. 24. Retroactivity – The benefits mentioned in Section[s] 14 and 16 hereof shall be granted to those who retired prior to the effectivity of this Act.(underscoring supplied)

Prior to the enactment of R.A. No. 10071, Assistant Provincial Fiscals do not enjoy the same qualifications for appointment, rank and privileges as those of a Judge. While the law provided for a retroactive application specifically for the benefits under Sections 14 and 16 as mentioned above, the same are granted only to those who retired prior to the effectivity of R.A. [No.] 10071, which does not apply to the case of Justice [Guevara]-Salonga.

x x x."

Estafa; when proof of deceit, bad faith not required - G.R. No. 199150

G.R. No. 199150

"x x x.

The Issue

The petitioner raises the sole issue of whether the CA committed a reversible error in affirming the judgment of the RTC finding her guilty of estafa beyond reasonable doubt.

The petitioner prays for her acquittal for the prosecution’s failure to prove the element of deceit. She argues that her actions prior to, during and after the filing of theestafa case against her negated deceit, ill-motive and/or bad faith to abscond with her obligation to the private complainant. She cites the cases of People v. Singson[6] andPeople v. Ojeda[7] where the Court acquitted the accused for the failure of the prosecution to prove the element of deceit.

The Court’s Ruling

Except for the penalty imposed, we find no reversible error in the CA’s decision.

First, the offense of estafa, in general, is committed either by (a) abuse of confidence or (b) means of deceit.[8] The acts constituting estafa committed with abuse of confidence are enumerated in item (1) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended; item (2) of Article 315 enumerates estafa committed by means of deceit. Deceit is not an essential requisite of estafa by abuse of confidence; the breach of confidence takes the place of fraud or deceit, which is a usual element in the other estafas.[9] In this case, the charge against the petitioner and her subsequent conviction was for estafacommitted by abuse of confidence. Thus, it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove deceit as this was not an element of the estafa that the petitioner was charged with.

Second, the cases cited by the petitioner are inapplicable. Our pronouncements inSingson and Ojeda apply to estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(d) where the element of deceit was necessary to be proven.

Nevertheless, we find the modification of the penalty imposed to be in order to conform to the prevailing jurisprudence. The second paragraph of Article 315 provides the appropriate penalty if the value of the thing, or the amount defrauded, exceeds P22,000.00:

1st. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is over 12,000 pesos but does not exceed 22,000 pesos; and if such amount exceeds the latter sum, the penalty provided in this paragraph shall be imposed in its maximum period, adding one year for each additional 10,000 pesos; but the total penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years.

The minimum term of imprisonment imposed by the CA and the RTC does not conform with the Court’s ruling in People v. Temporada,[10] where we held that the minimum indeterminate penalty in the above provision shall be one degree lower from theprescribed penalty for estafa which is anywhere within the range of prision correccional,in its minimum and medium periods, or six (6) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and two (2) months. In this case, the minimum term imposed by the CA and the RTC ofsix (6) years and six (6) months of prision mayor is modified to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, consistent with the prevailing jurisprudence.

x x x."

Reconveyance based on fraud and constructive trust.- G.R. No. 189647

G.R. No. 189647

"x x x.

An action for reconveyance is proper in this case.
A private individual may bring an action for reconveyance of a parcel of land even if the title thereof was issued through a free patent since such action does not aim or purport to re-open the registration proceeding and set aside the decree of registration, but only to show that the person who secured the registration of the questioned property is not the real owner thereof.[30]
In Roco, et al. v. Gimeda,[31] we stated that if a patent had already been issued through fraud or mistake and has been registered, the remedy of a party who has been injured by the fraudulent registration is an action for reconveyance, thus:
It is to be noted that the petition does not seek for a reconsideration of the granting of the patent or of the decree issued in the registration proceeding. The purpose is not to annul the title but to have it conveyed to plaintiffs. Fraudulent statements were made in the application for the patent and no notice thereof was given to plaintiffs, nor knowledge of the petition known to the actual possessors and occupants of the property. The action is one based on fraud and under the law, it can be instituted within four years from the discovery of the fraud. (Art. 1146, Civil Code, as based on Section 3, paragraph 43 of Act No. 190.) It is to be noted that as the patent here has already been issued, the land has the character of registered property in accordance with the provisions of Section 122 of Act No. 496, as amended by Act No. 2332, and the remedy of the party who has been injured by the fraudulent registration is an action for reconveyance. (Director of Lands vs. Registered of Deeds, 92 Phil., 826; 49 Off. Gaz. [3] 935; Section 55 of Act No. 496.)[32]
In the same vein, in Quiñiano, et al. v. Court of Appeals, et al.,[33] we stressed that:
The controlling legal norm was set forth in succinct language by Justice Tuason in a 1953 decision, Director of Lands v. Register of Deeds of Rizal. Thus: “The sole remedy of the land owner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another's name is, after one year from the date of the decree, not to set aside the decree, as was done in the instant case, but, respecting the decree as incontrovertible and no longer open to review, to bring an ordinary action in the ordinary court of justice for reconveyance or, if the property has passed into the hands of an innocent purchaser for value, for damages."Such a doctrine goes back to the 1919 landmark decision of Cabanos v. Register of Deeds of Laguna. If it were otherwise the institution of registration would, to quote from Justice Torres, serve "as a protecting mantle to cover and shelter bad faith ...." In the language of the then Justice, later Chief Justice, Bengzon: "A different view would encourage fraud and permit one person unjustly to enrich himself at the expense of another." It would indeed be a signal failing of any legal system if under the circumstances disclosed, the aggrieved party is considered as having lost his right to a property to which he is entitled. It is one thing to protect an innocent third party; it is entirely a different matter, and one devoid of justification, if [deceit] would be rewarded by allowing the perpetrator to enjoy the fruits of his nefarious deed. As clearly revealed by the undeviating line of decisions coming from this Court, such an undesirable eventuality is precisely sought to be guarded against. So it has been before; so it should continue to be.[34] (citations omitted)
Here, the respondent, in filing the amended complaint for annulment of documents, reconveyance and damages, was not seeking a reconsideration of the granting of the patent or the decree issued in the registration proceedings. What the respondent sought was the reconveyance of the subject property to the heirs of the late Tabayag on account of the fraud committed by the petitioner. Thus, the lower courts did not err in upholding the respondent’s right to ask for the reconveyance of the subject property. To hold otherwise would be to make the Torrens system a shield for the commission of fraud.
That the subject property was not registered under the name of the heirs of Tabayag prior to the issuance of OCT No. 1786 in the name of the petitioner would not effectively deny the remedy of reconveyance to the former. An action for reconveyance is a legal and equitable remedy granted to the rightful landowner, whose land was wrongfully or erroneously registered in the name of another, to compel the registered owner to transfer or reconvey the land to him.[35]
It cannot be gainsaid that the heirs of Tabayag, by themselves and through their predecessors-in-interest, had already acquired a vested right over the subject property. An open, continuous, adverse and public possession of a land of the public domain from time immemorial by a private individual personally and through his predecessors confers an effective title on said possessors whereby the land ceases to be public, to become private property, at least by presumption.[36] Hence, the right of the heirs of Tabayag to ask for the reconveyance of the subject property is irrefutable.

At this juncture, we deem it necessary to reiterate our disquisition in Naval v. Court of Appeals,[37] thus:
The fact that petitioner was able to secure a title in her name did not operate to vest ownership upon her of the subject land. Registration of a piece of land under the Torrens System does not create or vest title, because it is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein. It cannot be used to protect a usurper from the true owner; nor can it be used as a shield for the commission of fraud; neither does it permit one to enrich himself at the expense of others. Its issuance in favor of a particular person does not foreclose the possibility that the real property may be co-owned with persons not named in the certificate, or that it may be held in trust for another person by the registered owner.[38](citations omitted)
x x x."

Only government, thru OSG, upon recommendation of Director of Lands, may bring action for REVERSION of free patent fraudulently issued.

G.R. No. 189647

"x x x.

A fraudulently acquired free patent may only be assailed by the government in an action for reversion.

Nonetheless, a free patent that was fraudulently acquired, and the certificate of title issued pursuant to the same, may only be assailed by the government in an action for reversion pursuant to Section 101 of the Public Land Act.[24] In Sherwill Development Corporation v. Sitio Sto. Niño Residents Association, Inc.,[25] this Court pointed out that:

It is also to the public interest that one who succeeds in fraudulently acquiring title to a public land should not be allowed to benefit therefrom, and the State should, therefore, have an even existing authority, thru its duly-authorized officers, to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the issuance of any such title, to the end that the Republic, thru the Solicitor General or any other officer who may be authorized by law, may file the corresponding action for the reversion of the land involved to the public domain, subject thereafter to disposal to other qualified persons in accordance with law. In other words, the indefeasibility of a title over land previously public is not a bar to an investigation by the Director of Lands as to how such title has been acquired, if the purpose of such investigation is to determine whether or not fraud had been committed in securing such title in order that the appropriate action for reversion may be filed by the Government.[26]

In Kayaban, et al. v. Republic, et al.,[27] this Court explained the reason for the rule that only the government, through the OSG, upon the recommendation of the Director of Lands, may bring an action assailing a certificate of title issued pursuant to a fraudulently acquired free patent:

Since it was the Director of Lands who processed and approved the applications of the appellants and who ordered the issuance of the corresponding free patents in their favor in his capacity as administrator of the disposable lands of the public domain, the action for annulment should have been initiated by him, or at least with his prior authority and consent.[28]

x x x."

Free patent (land title); when and how issued; requisites - G.R. No. 189647

G.R. No. 189647

"x x x.

A Free Patent may be issued where the applicant is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines; is not the owner of more than twelve (12) hectares of land; has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of agricultural public land subject to disposition, for at least 30 years prior to the effectivity of Republic Act No. 6940; and has paid the real taxes thereon while the same has not been occupied by any person.[19]

Once a patent is registered and the corresponding certificate of title is issued, the land covered thereby ceases to be part of public domain and becomes private property, and the Torrens Title issued pursuant to the patent becomes indefeasible upon the expiration of one year from the date of such issuance.[20] However, a title emanating from a free patent which was secured through fraud does not become indefeasible, precisely because the patent from whence the title sprung is itself void and of no effect whatsoever.[21]

On this point, our ruling in Republic v. Heirs of Felipe Alejaga, Sr.[22] is instructive:

True, once a patent is registered and the corresponding certificate of title [is] issued, the land covered by them ceases to be part of the public domain and becomes private property. Further, the Torrens Title issued pursuant to the patent becomes indefeasible a year after the issuance of the latter. However, this indefeasibility of a title does not attach to titles secured by fraud and misrepresentation. Well-settled is the doctrine that the registration of a patent under the Torrens System does not by itself vest title; it merely confirms the registrant’s already existing one. Verily, registration under the Torrens System is not a mode of acquiring ownership.[23] (citations omitted)

x x x."

Question of law vs. question of fact; explained - G.R. No. 189647

G.R. No. 189647

"x x x.

Primarily, Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court categorically states that the petition filed shall raise only questions of law, which must be distinctly set forth. A question of law arises when there is doubt as to what the law is on a certain state of facts, while there is a question of fact when the doubt arises as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts. For a question to be one of law, the same must not involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any of them. The resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides on the given set of circumstances. Once it is clear that the issue invites a review of the evidence presented, the question posed is one of fact.[11]

x x x."

Opinion of expert witness not necessarily binding on the court - G.R. No. 189647

G.R. No. 189647

"x x x.

In any case, the CA aptly ruled that a handwriting expert is not indispensable to prove that the signature of Tabayag in the questioned deed of sale was indeed a forgery. It is true that the opinion of handwriting experts are not necessarily binding upon the court, the expert’s function being to place before the court data upon which the court can form its own opinion. Handwriting experts are usually helpful in the examination of forged documents because of the technical procedure involved in analyzing them. But resort to these experts is not mandatory or indispensable to the examination or the comparison of handwriting. A finding of forgery does not depend entirely on the testimonies of handwriting experts, because the judge must conduct an independent examination of the questioned signature in order to arrive at a reasonable conclusion as to its authenticity.[14]

x x x."

Moral damages; purpose of - G.R. No. 189647

G.R. No. 189647

"x x x.

Moral damages are not intended to enrich the complainant at the expense of the defendant. Rather, these are awarded only to enable the injured party to obtain “means, diversions or amusements” that will serve to alleviate the moral suffering that resulted by reason of the defendant’s culpable action. The purpose of such damages is essentially indemnity or reparation, not punishment or correction. In other words, the award thereof is aimed at a restoration within the limits of the possible, of the spiritual status quo ante;therefore, it must always reasonably approximate the extent of injury and be proportional to the wrong committed.[17]

x x x."

The true nature of the impeachment court; Answerable only to the people | Inquirer Opinion

Answerable only to the people | Inquirer Opinion

"x x x.

Answerable only to the people

0shareNew 0

I am writing in reaction to the editorial titled “Haunting question.” (Inquirer, 2/19/12)

When the Senate convenes and sits as an impeachment court, it performs not a legislative function but a separate, distinct and totally unique duty mandated by the Constitution: to hold accountable a select group of high public officials for specific grave offenses which threaten the very existence of the state and its democratic institutions. (Sec. 2, Article XI, 1987 Constitution) The members of Congress or of the Cabinet were not included in this select group of impeachable officers because they can easily be removed and/or sanctioned by Congress, the Judiciary, the Civil Service Commission or the Ombudsman, as the case may be, for a wide range of violations of existing laws, rules and regulations.

It is well-settled that the impeachment court, by its nature, is a class of its own, with its proceedings considered as political. Rightly so, for the sole and exclusive power of the impeachment court is derived from the sovereign will of the people when they ratified the Constitution. Because of its sole and exclusive power to try and decide all cases of impeachment, the impeachment court is imbued with the following inherent powers and attributes:

1. Rule-making powers. It is mandated by the Constitution to promulgate its own rules of procedure, its own rules of evidence, including the admissibility and inadmissibility thereof. It can also specify the persons or entities that may prosecute and defend impeachment actions, prescribe the requisite proof for conviction, and even promulgate rules of procedure entirely different from the Rules of Court issued by the Supreme Court. For example, it may prescribe that even non-lawyers may appear as prosecutors or defense counsels, or a mere anonymous letter may be given weight or, if it so desires, add to its own exclusions to the hearsay rule other than those provided by the Rules of Court.

Unfortunately, the present impeachment court has not promulgated its own exhaustive rules on procedure and instead applies the present Rules of Court as suppletory. This gives the public the impression that the impeachment court is just the same as an ordinary court of law where lawyers hold sway and where the search for truth is restricted by the technical rules prescribed by the Rules of Court. Thus, as we see it now, its proceedings are similar to an ordinary court even though it has all the powers to issue its own rules to abbreviate and facilitate the proceedings.

2. Supreme, absolute arbiter. The decision, rulings and interlocutory orders of the impeachment court can never be subject to judicial review. By its very nature, it is not a branch or instrumentality of the government covered by the expanded power of judicial review under the Constitution. In the exercise of this function, it is the supreme and absolute arbiter, just like the Supreme Court when it interprets the law. The Supreme Court may err in its interpretation of the law, but its rulings form part of jurisprudence and in effect, the law of the land. No other branch or instrumentality can reverse or modify such ruling except the Supreme Court itself. The only check to an abuse by a member of the Supreme Court is through an impeachment proceeding.

In like manner, the rulings and decision of an impeachment court, including its interpretation of the Constitution and laws, however erroneous they may seem, can never be reviewed by the Supreme Court. If the impeachment court chooses to do so, it may even disregard previous decisions of the Supreme Court. The only check to the impeachment court is the sovereign will of the people through the ballot. Simply stated, if our people think that a member of the impeachment court abused his discretion and prerogatives, then he can be easily booted out of office come election time. Thus, in the interplay of checks and balances in our democracy, the members of the Supreme Court can be checked and held accountable by the impeachment court, and in turn, the members of the impeachment court can be checked and held accountable by our people.

3. Unrestricted. Any law, ruling or directive that tends to limit, infringe and diminish its powers and prerogatives is contrary to the spirit and intent of the Constitution and, therefore, would be null and void. In the hierarchy of interests, the accountability of impeachable officials is of the highest and supreme order because this concerns not just an ordinary offense and an ordinary public official. The impeachable offenses enumerated by our Constitution strike at the very soul, heart and life of our nation. Considering the vital significance of its mandated duty, the impeachment court should be unfettered by any prohibition in the conduct of its proceedings to ferret out the truth.

That being so, it has the absolute power to look into records, papers or documents in the course of the impeachment proceedings, notwithstanding any law to the contrary. Hence, any law, ruling or directive that prohibits disclosure of records should be construed as not binding on the impeachment court. Moreover, it is further submitted that any branch or instrumentality of government, including the Supreme Court, which refuses to disclose information required by the impeachment court may be held in contempt for refusing its orders and obstructing its proceedings.

4. Separate and distinct from Senate. In the exercise of its functions, the impeachment court ceases to be the Senate or to be a lawmaking body. Accordingly, the principle of inter-parliamentary courtesy no longer applies to the Senate. Thus, the impeachment court can subpoena any official of the government, including members of Congress and the Supreme Court to testify and produce documents in the course of its proceedings.

Therefore, the impeachment court is answerable to no one but only to the Constitution and to our people.

Rodel M. Batocabe represents AKO Bicol (AKB) Party List in the House of Representatives.

x x x."