No consensus needed on ‘standard of proof’

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Enrile says senators 'might not be interested to hear any evidence and just make a decision'

MANILA, Philippines – Senator-judges might end up not following a single standard of proof in deciding the innocence or guilt of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding officer of the impeachment court, told reporters on Friday, January 27, that he was not inclined to bring the senators to a consensus on this matter.

Until now, senator-judges and members of the defense and prosecution panels disagree on what standard of proof must be used in the impeachment trial.

Enrile himself has repeatedly said that “clear, convincing evidence” is needed to convict Corona, while Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago proposed “overwhelming preponderance of evidence.”

The prosecution panel, however, likens the trial to an administrative case, which would only require “substantial evidence” of wrongdoing committed by a public official.

The defense claims it should be treated like a criminal case and is asking for “proof beyond reasonable doubt.” 

No caucus

Lawyers earlier told Rappler that the lack of consensus on what standard of proof would be followed in the trial has caused confusion in the proceedings.

UP Law Prof. Theodore Te said, “It’s amazing that we could proceed to trial with 3 different theories…the Senate has not really defined what they’re looking for.”

He recommended that Enrile take the “extra step” of calling on his colleagues to “step back and see if we’re all on the same page.” Te said it would be “futile” in the end if the prosecution presents evidence that the Senate is not looking for.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago herself proposed the holding of a caucus to settle the issue.

But Enrile did not appear interested. “They’re not bound by any standard,” Enrile said. “For all I know, they might not be interested to hear any evidence and just make a decision. I cannot tell them how to decide.”

Meanwhile, Enrile reminded his fellow senator-judges to stay calm during the proceedings.

“I would like to caution my colleagues to exercise greater civility in dealing with the witnesses, with the lawyers on both sides, as well as with one another in the Senate,” said Enrile. He was referring to Santiago’s outburst last Thursday.

But he added he understands her situation. “She is suffering from some ailment. If you are in that condition, your threshold of stress is very shallow.” –

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