KOLONIA, Pohnpei – The Impeachment Resolution against Attorney General (AG) Edwel Santos sits for now at the Pohnpei State Judiciary as it waits for the Edwel Santos versus 6th Pohnpei State Legislature case to unfurl in all its power-struggling glory.
Santos is technically still the state’s AG, but has been on administrative leave since his impeachment on the eve of Thanksgiving, less than two months ago. Santos filed his own countersuit with the state’s highest court on November 28. Santos is the second consecutive AG to be impeached by the Legislative branch. Although nothing formal has been introduced, the state’s 6th legislative body – according to locally published sources – through the Committee on Judicial and Government Operations chaired by Sokehs Senator Peter Lohn, is also considering an impeachment of Pohnpei Governor Johnny David. The 6th PSL is currently in the midst of its first regular session of 2007.
Another impeachment attempt by the 6th Legislature would be historic. It would be the first impeachment of a Governor – in any FSM state – and it would also be the third high-level impeachment in a row by the Legislature. Santos’ predecessor was also impeached (the Judiciary later nullified the impeachment attempt.)
Santos, representing himself in the case against the 6th PSL, makes two primary claims in his Injunction, both resting within the realm of civil rights. The first is that the law gives unequal power to the Legislature to impeach a government official. The second is that the impeachment law requires a “preponderance of the evidence” in order to successfully carry out an impeachment, as opposed to proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a much higher standard of proof.
According to Santos, the Legislature in 2003 amended the law from beyond reasonable doubt to preponderance of the evidence in order “to get out my predecessor.” The law therefore, claims Santos, needs to be revisited. Santos calmly reiterated in a brief interview at his residence the views made in his court filings that the impeachment law is heavily stacked in favor of the Legislature versus any potential impeached official. He calls it “unequal treatment between the LC and any impeached official.”
“It’s (the impeachment process) government funded. It should be fair,” stated Santos, seated beneath a couple of parrots, or Serehds, the Pohnpei State Bird, as they ate remnants of a peanut butter sandwich. “The impeachment law is unconstitutional because there is no due process,” he added.
Meanwhile, the 6th PSL remains committed to the 16-count impeachment against the AG, filing a Motion to Dismiss the Santos Injunction on December 29th, arguing partially within the motion that the Trial Court is not the proper venue for an Impeachment, but rather that it should be moved in front of an Impeachment Panel to decide.
The Court ruled that it is in fact the proper venue and has set a date of January 16 as the next hearing date to determine the outcome of the present motion to dismiss the Santos vs. Legislature case. Should the Legislature prevail, the pending Impeachment Resolution will move forward with the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. If the AG prevails and his Injunction is not dismissed, then the case will move up to the Appellate Court to argue the Constitutionality of the Impeachment Law.
“The question is,” Santos said, speaking about recent meetings with Governor David on the impeachment issue, “who will be affected next? And when will it end?”