Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cases of Impeachment and Executive Clemency

Today's topic is the phrase CASE of IMPEACHMENT which is only applicable to certain very important high officials of the Government. By my count, there are exactly 31 impeachable officers under the 1987 Constitution, which provides in Article XI on Public Accountability--
Section 2. The President[1], the Vice-President[1], the Members of the Supreme Court [15], the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, [Comelec=7, CSC=3,CoA=3] and the Ombudsman[1] 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.
What is noteworthy in the above list is that the Judiciary has the most number of impeachable officials. The Congress has NO impeachable officials at all but it therefore makes sense to find the phrase in two more sections of Article XI that--
Section 3. (1) The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.
. . .
(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.
So a CASE OF IMPEACHMENT is therefore a formal Judicial proceeding conducted entirely by the Political Branch of the Government. All cases of impeachment start in the House of Representatives and the Senate Impeachment Court decides the case in a trial.

Thus a major chunk of the JUDICIAL POWER is apparently vested entirely in the House and Senate of the Congress. The Supreme Court has absolutely NO JURISDICTION over all cases of impeachment. The Senate's verdict is final and executory and cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court, in all cases of impeachment.

The other relevant occurrence of the phrase in the 1987 charter is in the provision on Executive Clemency:
Section 19. Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.
This provision reaffirms the statement that the Congress, having no impeachable officials itself, holds the sole judicial power to initiate, try and adjudicate all cases of impeachment, making even the penalty or punishment specified for all cases of impeachment is "impervious" to the power of executive clemency. We have Father Bernas to thank for the formulation in The Prosecutor's Lament
What is there in impeachment cases that is impervious to pardon? We have to go back first of all to the nature of a pardon. “A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed.” From this it is clear that there can be no pardon if no punishment has been imposed. Thus the prohibition regarding cases of impeachment can have applicability only if the impeachment process had ended in the imposition of a punishment, which it did not.

Joseph Estrada received no punishment from the impeachment that was started against him. The impeachment process was never concluded. In fact, even if it had been concluded, the only punishment he could have received would have been removal from office and disqualification from holding office in the government.If the Senate impeachment court never levied any punishment on Joseph Estrada in his Case of Impeachment before them, then there is no "perpetual disqualification from public office" for any pardon to reverse or impose on him?
I find Fr. Bernas' explanation a little disconcerting, though I would not adjudge his conclusions to be wrong, ipso facto. He says the trial of Erap's Case of Impeachment before the Senate was "never concluded" but that is obviously not true and he also says so.

His main point however, is that the only punishment that the provision renders impervious even to the power of granting executive clemency in all cases of impeachment is that of removal from public office and perpetual disqualification from office. This makes some sense because we know that these are the only punishments possible in all cases of impeachment.

But it also means that Fr. Bernas is saying even if an impeachable official is tried and convicted in a case of impeachment, he can still be pardoned in any subsequent CRIMINAL prosecution and conviction that becomes possible after being validly removed through a case of impeachment.

Suppose for example that GMA is impeached, tried and convicted on a charge of BRIBERY, according to my interpretation of Fr. Bernas, it means she can still be pardoned by a future President after she is subsequently tried and convicted in a hypothetical criminal and civil prosecution for bribery that would follow removal from office and perpetual disqualification.

Do you agree that this is the correct interpretation of the Provision on Executive Clemency in cases of Impeachment?

Is the opening clause "Except in cases of impeachment..." merely intended to provide that the President cannot nullify the punishment imposed by the Senate upon final conviction of a high Constiutional officer in a case of impeachment, but can do so in any subsequent criminal case against the same official?

1 comment:


Hi Dean, sorry but this is off topic and thought might interest you.

Couldn't pass this one up and had to blog about it ... received this from a reliable source just this morning.

Most see airport security as a pain. Some deal better than others. Some feel violated, when you watch this movie (posted in my blog), you'll understand why they want your cell phone through the x-ray machine. If you get asked to test your cell phone at the airport, this is the reason. Because cell phone guns have arrived. They are real.

The video clip shows how cell phone guns operate. These phones are not in the U. S. yet, but they are in use overseas. Beneath the digital phone face is a .22 calibre handgun capable of firing four rounds in rapid succession using the standard telephone keypad. European law enforcement officials are stunned by the discovery of these deadly decoys. They say phone guns are changing the rules of engagement In Europe .

Only when you have one in your hand do you realize that they are heavier than a regular cell phone. Be patient if security asks to look at your cell phone or turn it on to show that it works. They have a good reason!

Welcome to the world terrorism has created.