Impeachment

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Constitutional basis

The power of impeachment is provided in Sections 2 and 3, Article XI (Accountability of Public Officers) of the 1987 Constitution, which reads in full:

SECTION 2. The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office, on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.
SECTION 3. (1) The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.
(2) A verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter. The Committee, after hearing, and by a majority vote of all its Members, shall submit its report to the House within sixty session days from such referral, together with the corresponding resolution. The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within ten session days from receipt thereof.
(3) A vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House shall be necessary either to affirm a favorable resolution with the Articles of Impeachment of the Committee, or override its contrary resolution. The vote of each Member shall be recorded.
(4) In case the verified complaint or resolution of impeachment is filed by at least one-third of all the Members of the House, the same shall constitute the Articles of Impeachment, and trial by the Senate shall forthwith proceed.
(5) No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.
(6) The Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment. When sitting for that purpose, the Senators shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the Philippines is on trial, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside, but shall not vote. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.
(7) Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines, but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to prosecution, trial, and punishment according to law.
(8) The Congress shall promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the purpose of this section.


Impeachable officers

Existing laws provide for the grounds and procedure to remove any public officer. None of these laws, however, could be used to remove the following government officials from office:[1]

This public officials in this list, which list is exclusive in nature, are the only ones that may be the subject of an impeachment. Conversely, all other public officers and public employees cannot be removed by impeachment.

See Impeachable officers.


Impeachable offenses

The Constitution (Article XI, Section 2) enumerates the offenses that may be used as ground for an impeachment proceeding, to wit: (1) culpable violation of the Constitution; (2) treason; (3) bribery; (4) graft and corruption; (5) other high crimes; and (6) betrayal of public trust. Two of grounds, i.e., other high crimes and betrayal of public trust, elude a precise definition. In fact, an examination of the records of the 1986 Constitutional Commission shows that the framers could find no better way to approximate the boundaries of betrayal of public trust and other high crimes than by alluding to both positive and negative examples of both, without arriving at their clear cut definition or even a standard therefor.[2]

See Impeachable offenses.


Stages and Procedure

The case of Francisco, Jr. vs. House of Representatives,[3] provides a discussion of the steps and procedures in impeachment. The impeachment proceeding is initiated at the House of Representatives, ending as an impeachment case at the Senate.

Impeachment proceeding

Only the House of Representatives, and no other body, has the "exclusive power" to initiate all cases of impeachment. The impeachment proceeding takes place in the House of Representatives and consists of several steps:

  • (1) there is the filing of a verified complaint either by a Member of the House of Representatives or by a private citizen endorsed by a Member of the House of the Representatives;
  • (2) there is the processing of this complaint by the proper Committee which may either reject the complaint or uphold it;
  • (3) whether the resolution of the Committee rejects or upholds the complaint, the resolution must be forwarded to the House for further processing; and
  • (4) there is the processing of the same complaint by the House of Representatives which either affirms a favorable resolution of the Committee or overrides a contrary resolution by a vote of one-third of all the members.

If at least one third of all the Members upholds the complaint, Articles of Impeachment are prepared and transmitted to the Senate. It is at this point that the House "initiates an impeachment case." It is at this point that an impeachable public official is successfully impeached. That is, he or she is successfully charged with an impeachment "case" before the Senate as impeachment court.

Impeachment case; Senate acting as Impeachment Court

An "impeachment case" is the legal controversy that must be decided by the Senate.[4] See Impeachment court.


Limitations on the power to impeach

The power of the House of Representatives to exclusively initiate impeachment cases has several limitations, as embodied in Section 3(2), (3), (4) and (5), Article XI of the Constitution. These limitations include the manner of filing, required vote to impeach, and the one year bar on the impeachment of one and the same official.[5]

Manner of filing of the impeachment complaint

The manner of filing an impeachment complaint is provided in Article XI, Sec. 3(2) of the Constitution: "A verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter. The Committee, after hearing, and by a majority vote of all its Members, shall submit its report to the House within sixty session days from such referral, together with the corresponding resolution. The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within ten session days from receipt thereof."

Required vote to impeach

The Constitution (Article XI, Sec. 3[3]) requires that a vote of at least one-third (1/3) of all the members of the House of Representatives shall be necessary either to affirm a favorable resolution with the Articles of Impeachment of the committee, or override its contrary resolution. However, in case the verified complaint or resolution of impeachment is filed by at least one-third (1/3) of all the members of the House of Representatives, it shall constitute the Articles of Impeachment, and trial by the Senate shall forthwith proceed (Article XI, Sec. 3[4]).

One-year ban in initiating an impeachment complaint

Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution provides for a limitation on the impeachment proceedings: "No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year." To compute the 1-year period, it is thus crucial to determine when the impeachment proceedings is "initiated".

The word "initiate" appears in Sections 3(1) and 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution. The word "initiate" refers to two objects, "impeachment case" and "impeachment proceeding." The common verb in these two provisions is "to initiate," which refers to two different objects - "cases" and "proceedings" - which must be distinguished.

Impeachment proceeding. Section 3(5) reads: "No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year." The object is "impeachment proceeding." Before a decision is made to initiate a case in the Senate, a "proceeding" must be followed to arrive at a conclusion. A proceeding must be "initiated." To initiate, which comes from the Latin word initium, means to begin. A proceeding, which is a progressive noun, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It consists of several steps. The "impeachment proceeding" is not initiated when the complaint is transmitted to the Senate for trial because that is the end of the House proceeding and the beginning of another proceeding, namely the trial. Neither is the "impeachment proceeding" initiated when the House deliberates on the resolution passed on to it by the Committee, because something prior to that has already been done. The action of the House is already a further step in the proceeding, not its initiation or beginning.
Impeachment Case. Section 3(1), on the other hand, reads: "The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment." The object is "impeachment case," which is the legal controversy that must be decided by the Senate. The provision provides that the House, by a vote of one-third of all its members, can bring a case to the Senate. It is in that sense that the House has "exclusive power" to initiate all cases of impeachment. No other body can do it.

An impeachment proceeding is not a single act. It consists of a beginning, a middle and an end. The end is the transmittal of the articles of impeachment to the Senate. The middle consists of those deliberative moments leading to the formulation of the articles of impeachment. The beginning or the initiation is the filing of the verified complaint and its referral to the Committee on Justice.[6] This is when the 1-year period begins to run. This is reiterated in Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives[7], wherein the Supreme Court stated that the term "initiate" means to file the complaint and take initial action on it. The initiation starts with the filing of the complaint which must be accompanied with an action to set the complaint moving. It refers to the filing of the impeachment complaint coupled with Congress' taking initial action of said complaint. The initial action taken by the House on the complaint is the referral of the complaint to the Committee on Justice.

The initiation of the impeachment proceedings is NOT reckoned from: (1) the Committee on Justice report or recommendation to the House plenary; (2) the disposition of the complaint by the vote of at least 1/3 of all the members of the House of Representatives; or (3) the act of transmitting the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.[8] It is better understood by way of this illustration:

x x x The filing of an impeachment complaint is like the lighting of a matchstick. Lighting the matchstick alone, however, cannot light up the candle, unless the lighted matchstick reaches or torches the candle wick. Referring the complaint to the proper committee ignites the impeachment proceeding. With a simultaneous referral of multiple complaints filed, more than one lighted matchsticks light the candle at the same time. What is important is that there should only be ONE CANDLE that is kindled in a year, such that once the candle starts burning, subsequent matchsticks can no longer rekindle the candle.[9]

In Francisco, Jr. vs. House of Representatives,[10], the first complaint against Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. was filed on 2 June 2003 and referred to the House Committee on Justice on 5 August 2003. The second impeachment complaint, which is covered by the 1-year ban according to the Supreme Court, was filed only on 23 October 2003. In Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives[11] the first complaint was filed on 22 July 2010 and the second complaint on 3 August 2010. The two complaints were simultaneously referred to the Justice Committee.

Promulgation of the Rules on Impeachment

Section 3(8), Article XI of the Constitution directs that "Congress shall promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the purpose of this section." Congress has the prerogative to adopt its old rules and there is no requirement that the Rules of Impeachment be published.[12]

In Gutierrez,[13] the petitioner argued that she was deprived of due process since the Impeachment Rules was published only a day after the House Committee on Justice ruled on the sufficiency of form of the complaints. The Committee on Justice, on the other hand, argued that "promulgation" refers to "the publication of rules in any medium of information, not necessarily in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation."

The Supreme Court noted that publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation is but one avenue for Congress to make known its rules. It is within the discretion of Congress to determine on how to promulgate its Impeachment Rules. The Supreme Court cannot tell a co-equal branch of government how to promulgate when the Constitution itself has not prescribed a specific method of promulgation.

Indeed, there is a statutory difference in the usage of "promulgation" and "publication". The Constitution notably uses the word "promulgate" twelve (12) times. For instance:

In promulgating rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice and procedure in all courts, the Supreme Court has invariably required the publication of these rules for their effectivity. As far as promulgation of judgments is concerned, however, promulgation means "the delivery of the decision to the clerk of court for filing and publication."
Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution contains a similar provision directing Congress to "promulgate its rules for the canvassing of the certificates" in the presidential and vice presidential elections. When Congress approved its canvassing rules for the 14 May 2010 national elections, Congress made the canvassing rules effective upon its adoption.
In the case of administrative agencies, "promulgation" and "publication" take on different meanings as they are part of a multi-stage procedure in quasi-legislation. The publication of implementing rules occurs after their promulgation or adoption.

Since the Constitutional Commission did not restrict "promulgation" to "publication," the former should be understood to have been used in its general sense. "Promulgation" in this instance is used in the context in which it is generally understood — that is, to make known.


Power of Review by the Supreme Court

The propriety of certiorari and prohibition as a remedy to question impeachment proceedings have been raised in a number of cases. In Gutierrez, it was argued that the House of Representatives Committee of Justice was not exercising any judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial function in taking cognizance of the two impeachment complaints as it was exercising a political act that is discretionary in nature, and that its function is inquisitorial that is akin to a preliminary investigation.[14]

The Constitution itself provides for several limitations, discussed above, to the exercise of the power to impeach. The judicial power expressly granted to the Philippine Supreme Court under the Constitution is not just a power but also a duty, and it was given an expanded definition to include the power to correct any grave abuse of discretion on the part of any government branch or instrumentality.[15]


Instances of impeachment proceedings/case

There have been a number of impeachment proceedings, and one instance of impeachment case (as of 2011), from the effectivity of the 1987 Constitution.

President Joseph E. Estrada

The facts surrounding the impeachment of President Estrada are summarized in the case of Estrada vs. Desierto.[16].

On 4 October 2000, Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson went on air and accused President Estrada of receiving millions of pesos from jueteng lords. The next day, 5 October 2000, Senate Minority Leader Teofisto Guingona, Jr. took the floor and delivered a fiery privilege speech entitled "I Accuse." He accused the President of receiving some P220 million in jueteng money from Governor Singson from November 1998 to August 2000. He also charged that the President took from Governor Singson P70 million on excise tax on cigarettes intended for Ilocos Sur. The privilege speech was referred by then Senate President Franklin Drilon to the Blue Ribbon Committee (headed by Senator Aquilino Pimentel) and the Committee on Justice (headed by Senator Renato Cayetano) for joint investigation.

On the other hand, the House of Representatives also decided to investigate the exposé of Governor Singson. Representatives Heherson Alvarez, Ernesto Herrera and Michael Defensor spearheaded the move to impeach the petitioner. In a tumultuous session on 13 November 2000, House Speaker Manuel Villar transmitted the Articles of Impeachment signed by 115 representatives, or more than 1/3 of all the members of the House of Representatives to the Senate. On 20 November 2000, the Senate formally opened the impeachment trial of the petitioner. Twenty-one (21) senators took their oath as judges with Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., presiding.

On 7 December 2000, the impeachment trial started. Standing as prosecutors were then House Minority Floor Leader Feliciano Belmonte and Representatives Joker Arroyo, Wigberto Tañada, Sergio Apostol, Raul Gonzales, Oscar Moreno, Salacnib Baterina, Roan Libarios, Oscar Rodriguez, Clavel Martinez and Antonio Nachura. They were assisted by a battery of private prosecutors led by Hernando Perez, who later became Justice Secretary, and Simeon Marcelo, who later became Ombudsman. Serving as defense counsel were former Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, former Solicitor General and Secretary of Justice Estelito P. Mendoza, former City Fiscal of Manila Jose Flamiano, former Deputy Speaker of the House Raul Daza, Atty. Siegfried Fortun and his brother, Atty. Raymund Fortun.

The day to day trial was covered by live TV and during its course enjoyed the highest viewing rating. During the trial on 16 January 2001, the senator-judges, by a vote of 11-10, ruled against the opening of a second envelop which allegedly contained evidence showing that petitioner held P3.3 billion in a secret bank account under the name "Jose Velarde." The public and private prosecutors walked out in protest of the ruling. Senator Pimentel resigned as Senate President in disgust. The ruling made at 10:00 p.m. was met by a spontaneous outburst of anger that hit the streets of the metropolis. By midnight, thousands had assembled at the EDSA Shrine.

On 17 January 2001, the public prosecutors submitted a letter to Speaker Fuentebella tendering their collective resignation. They also filed their Manifestation of Withdrawal of Appearance with the impeachment tribunal. Senator Raul Roco quickly moved for the indefinite postponement of the impeachment proceedings until the House of Representatives shall have resolved the issue of resignation of the public prosecutors. Chief Justice Davide granted the motion.

The impeachment case never resumed, overtaken by events which is now referred to as EDSA 2. At about 12:00 noon of 20 January 2001, Chief Justice Davide administered the oath to then Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as President of the Philippines.

Ombudsman Aniano Desierto

On 6 November 2001, another complaint for impeachment was filed against Ombudsman Aniano Desierto for alleged bribery, violation of the Constitution and betrayal of the public trust. The complainant, Atty. Ernesto Francisco, claimed that in the latter part of 1997, his client, Bank of Southeast Asia, "gifted" the Ombudsman a video equipment, complete with accessories, worth about P283,000 and P500,000 in cash. This is allegedly to let the "Petronscam" investigation "die down". The complaint was also dismissed by the House of Representatives.[17]


Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr.

The history of the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Davide may be found in the case of Francisco, Jr. vs. House of Representatives.[18] On 22 July 2002, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution, sponsored by Representative Felix William D. Fuentebella, which directed the Committee on Justice "to conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the manner of disbursements and expenditures by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF)."

On 2 June 2003, former President Joseph E. Estrada filed an impeachment complaint (first impeachment complaint) against Chief Justice Davide and seven Associate Justices of the Supreme Court for "culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of the public trust and other high crimes." The complaint was endorsed by Representatives Rolex T. Suplico, Ronaldo B. Zamora and Didagen Piang Dilangalen, and was referred to the House Committee on Justice on 5 August 2003. The House Committee on Justice ruled on 13 October 2003 that the first impeachment complaint was "sufficient in form," but voted to dismiss the same on 22 October 2003 for being insufficient in substance. To date, the Committee Report to this effect has not yet been sent to the House in plenary.

Four months and three weeks since the filing on 2 June 2003 of the first complaint, or on 23 October 2003, a day after the House Committee on Justice voted to dismiss it, the second impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Davide was filed with the Secretary General of the House by Representatives Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. (First District, Tarlac) and Felix William B. Fuentebella (Third District, Camarines Sur), founded on the alleged results of the legislative inquiry initiated by above-mentioned House Resolution. This second impeachment complaint was accompanied by a "Resolution of Endorsement/Impeachment" signed by at least one-third (1/3) of all the Members of the House of Representatives.

In a subsequent petition questioning the filing of the second impeachment complaint, the Supreme Court declared that the second impeachment complaint is barred pursuant to the provision of Section 5 of Article XI of the Constitution that "[n]o impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year."

Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez

A succinct history of the impeachment proceedings/case against Ombudsman Gutierrez may be gleaned from the petition for certiorari/prohibition[19] that she filed before the Supreme Court, challenging the Resolutions of September 1 and 7, 2010 of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice. Two groups filed separate impeachment complaints, both of which allege culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust:

On 22 July 2010, before the 15th Congress opened its first session on 26 July 2010, private respondents Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo Lim, and spouses Felipe and Evelyn Pestaño ("Baraquel group") filed an impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Gutierrez, upon the endorsement of Party-List Representatives Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello. On 27 July 2010, a day after the opening of the 15th Congress, the impeachment complaint was transmitted to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., who directed the Committee on Rules to include it in the Order of Business.
On 3 August 2010, Renato Reyes, Jr., Mother Mary John Mananzan, Danilo Ramos, Edre Olalia, Ferdinand Gaite and James Terry Ridon ("Reyes group") filed another impeachment complaint. It was transmitted on the same day to Speaker Belmonte who also directed the Committee on Rules to include it in the Order of Business.

The two complaints were included in the Order of Business for the plenary session on 11 August 2010, during which the House of Representatives simultaneously referred both complaints to its Justice Committee.

The Justice Committee, after conducting a hearing and by Resolution of 1 September 2010, found both complaints sufficient in form, which complaints it considered to have been referred to it at exactly the same time. Ombudsman Gutierrez tried to file a motion to reconsider the 1 September 2010 Resolution, but the Justice Committee refused to accept the motion for prematurity. Ombudsman Gutierrez was advised to await the notice for her to file an answer to the complaints.

After hearing, the Justice Committee, by Resolution of 7 September 2010, found the two complaints sufficient in substance. Ombudsman Gutierrez was served also on 7 September 2010 a notice directing her to file an answer to the complaints within 10 days. Six days following her receipt of the notice to file answer, or on 13 September 2010, Ombudsman Gutierrez filed a petition with application for injunctive reliefs. The following day, or on 14 September 2010, the Supreme Court en banc issued a status quo ante order. In a Decision promulgated on 15 February 2011, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition.

In the early hours of 22 March 2011, Tuesday, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was impeached by the House of Representatives after a marathon plenary discussions that lasted almost seven hours.[20] The House of Representatives approved (212 in favor, 46 against, 4 abstentions) the articles of impeachment, contained in House Justice Committee Report No. 778, against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez for her alleged betrayal of public trust due to the low conviction rates during her term and her supposed inaction on five high-profile cases.


See also


External Links


References

  1. Constitution, Art. XI, Sec. 1
  2. Francisco, Jr. vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 160261, 10 November 2003
  3. Franciso, Jr. vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 160261, 10 November 2003
  4. Franciso, Jr. vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 160261, 10 November 2003
  5. Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, 15 February 2011
  6. Franciso, Jr. vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 160261, 10 November 2003
  7. Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, 15 February 2011
  8. Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, 15 February 2011
  9. Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, 15 February 2011
  10. Franciso, Jr. vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 160261, 10 November 2003
  11. Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, 15 February 2011
  12. Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, 15 February 2011
  13. Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, 15 February 2011
  14. Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, 15 February 2011
  15. Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, 15 February 2011
  16. Estrada vs. Desierto, G.R. Nos. 146710-15, 2 March 2001
  17. Philippine Star, Impeachment case vs Desierto not likely to prosper, Villar says, 7 November 2001
  18. Franciso, Jr. vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 160261, 10 November 2003
  19. Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, 15 February 2011
  20. Philippine Daily Inquirer, House impeaches Merci for betrayal of public trust, 22 March 2011
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