Senate to enforce strictly sub judice rule when impeach trial starts

Published March 28, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Vanne Terrazola

Once the Senate – sitting as an impeachment court – starts to hear the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice on-leave Maria Lourdes Sereno, no one – senators or the parties involved – will be allowed to publicly comment on the merits of the case, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said.

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

Under the Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials, the sub judice rule mandates that while the Senate must be open to the public “at all times” during the trial, senator-judges, prosecutors, lawyers, witnesses, and the person impeached must “refrain from making any comments and disclosures in public pertaining to the merits of the pending impeachment trial.”

Learning from the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, Pimentel said they would be stricter this time.

Senators, he reiterated, would be banned from commenting on the merits of the case before the media.  The same rule applies to the prosecution and defense teams.

However, unlike senators, parties may be cited for contempt should they violate the sub judice rule.

“Not on the merits. (We will) define the merits. But you can tell, you can announce to the public what happened but not the weight of the evidence, and tell that it will convince the court,” Pimentel reminded.

“Factual lang. Do not give your opinion. Because if you opined (about the merits) sometimes you get carried away that this will surely convince senators. Mako-contempt ka namin kasi pinangunahan mo kami,” he warned.

Parties can report to the Senate erring individuals.

Pimentel said they would designate a spokesperson to officially talk about the trial.

The impeachment court secretariat, on the other hand will monitor statements being released to the media.

Pimentel said the Senate is expected to convene as an impeachment court in July, after the House of Representatives transmits to them the articles of impeachment against Sereno.