Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) pre-filed yesterday a legislative initiative to propose a constitutional amendment to Article II, Section 8 of the NMI Constitution to ensure that the impeachment trial hearing process is initiated without undue delay.
Santos stated in the initiative that the Constitution provides for the impeachment of executive and judicial officers of the Commonwealth and that the process is under the Senate’s jurisdiction, but the Constitution is silent as to when the Senate shall initiate the process to hear the Articles of Impeachment. Santos said the Constitution is also silent on who shall be the presiding judge in the Senate.
She said impeaching a governor is serious, not simply because it may ultimately remove the head of the Commonwealth but also because it amounts to reversing the decision of a majority of the electorate.
Under Santos’ legislative initiative, the Senate shall initiate the impeachment trial hearing process by adopting the Senate Impeachment Rules within 10 working days after receiving the Articles of Impeachment.
The Senate shall then schedule the impeachment trial hearing within 30 calendar days after adopting the impeachment rules.
The NMI Supreme Court chief justice or designee shall preside over the impeachment hearing in the Senate chamber.
Legislative initiatives need the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of each House present and voting before a proposed amendment to the Constitution can be placed before the people for ratification.
Last January, citing the absence of specific constitutional authority or directive, the CNMI Supreme Court declined Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider’s (R-Tinian) request for Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro or his designee to preside over the impeachment trial of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.