It can be argued that this answer has supposedly “joined the issues” and boxed or cornered the opposition into just making do with the suppossedly weak Lozano complaint instead of the “much improved” amended complaint now being prepared by a battery of lawyers.
There is no provision in the old impeachment rules that provides for an answer. As a matter of fact, even the 1987 Constitution did not provide for such possibility.
Apparently, this ploy relies on two things:
1. The alleged inherent weakness of the Lozano complaint
2. The principle of “joining the issues”
“Joining the issues” occurrs when the allegations in a complaint have been answered. When this happens, a complaint cannot be amended anymore as a matter of right, and only with the court’s permission. The Rule 10 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure states:
Sec. 2. Amendments as a matter of right.
A party may amend his pleading once as a matter of right at any time before a responsive pleading is served or, in the case of a reply, at any time within ten (l0) days after it is served.
Sec. 3. Amendments by leave of court.
Except as provided in the next preceding section, substantial amendments may be made only upon leave of court. But such leave may be refused if it appears to the court that the motion was made with intent to delay. Orders of the court upon the matters provided in this section shall be made upon motion filed in court, and after notice to the adverse party, and an opportunity to be heard.
But will this stop the opposition from amending the impeachment complaint?
In my opinion, it will not because of the following:
1. Since the Lozano complaint has been filed when Congress was not in session, it can be safely pressumed that such has not been formally served upon respondent. Hence, the supposed answer is premature.
2. The current legal framework does not provide for the effect of filing an answer and the above-quoted provisions of the Rules of Court cannot be applied in an impeachment case. Even the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure on Preliminary Investigation cannot apply.
3. A premature answer, I think, has no effect in both Civil and Criminal proceedings. Moreso in impeachment which is neither civil nor criminal. In impeachment proceedings, there is not even a provision of service to respondent in this stage and the President (respondent) only gets to participate therein once trial by the Senate gets underway.
In any case, however, it will still be Congress that will decide on how to deal with this answer and define its effects on the amended complaint. Let’s just see how this monkey wrench will be used by the Administration…