Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How the Supreme Court Set Up That Silly Impeachment Initiation Rule

EVER SINCE the Supreme Court issued a ruling to protect its own Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. from an impeachment complaint already signed by more than the required number of Congressmen in 2003, the House of Representatives has been stuck with the silliest conceivable rule on the initiation of impeachment proceedings against Constitutional officers. Under this rule, as soon as anybody files an impeachment complaint and it is endorsed by a single Congressman, impeachment proceedings are deemed initiated and brings into play the Constitutional provision that "No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year." The rule dictated by the Supreme Court on the House subverts the clear intention of the Constitution to assign to the Political Branch of Government the SOLE and EXLUSIVE power to remove Constitutional Officers. But let's take a look at the whole enchilada on Public Accountability and the removal of Constitutional Officers in the 1987 Constitution.:
Section 1. Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.

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 or 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.
Daily Tribune editorial relates what happened succinctly (if exasperatedly):
Davide and a couple of other justices were facing two impeachment complaints, the first of which was sat upon by the House, while the second one, which had the required signatories, focused solely on Davide in the matter of the misuse of the judiciary development fund.

To evade an impeachment trial and to save the prostituted hide of Davide, the high court’s interpretation of Article XI, Section 3 (5) which states that no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once a year, was that the proceedings meant the filing of only one complaint a year, thus opening wide the doors of instant immunization of the impeachable officers through the filing of a yearly bogus complaint.

One must not forget either that the prostituted House of Representatives helped to strengthen this Davide Court ruling, by ensuring that the bogus complaint is accepted, while amended complaints that have substance are immediately killed, without benefit of the presentation of evidence.

This unconstitutional ruling by the high court has been used to the hilt by Gloria Arroyo and her allies in the House, to immunize herself from impeachment proceedings, then, now and up till her term ends — and by the simple expedient of getting someone to file a bogus impeachment complaint yearly which will then be endorsed by one of her congressional allies.
Ever since then, I've come to the conclusion that what has really happened here is that the Supreme Court USURPED the House of Representatives exclusive power to impeach Constitutional Officers (Section 3) the the Senate's sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment (Section 6) and the Congress power to make the rules for such process. (Section 8).

The clear intent of the Constitution is to shield Constitutional officers from the nuisance of multiple impeachment suits, but not the House and Senate from properly exercising their EXCLUSIVE and SOLE powers to impeach, try, and adjudge all cases of impeachment.

Related Philippine Commentary:
What Is Fair Has Just Priority Over What Is Good
Our Bantay Salakay Supreme Court and the Separation of Powers
Update: The Political Junkie looks at this issue in greater detail. (Hat tip to John)


john marzan said...

here's my contribution

DJB Rizalist said...

Thanks for that John!

You see how far ahead of the pack you are? It's only now people are even realizing how bad that stuff was that Davide did when he was impeached. It's truly disgusting. The Congress power to impeach has been severely constrained and damaged by the SC. They don't even have the discretion to improve on a complaint as it goes along the process within the House so that if they do decide to impeach they don't send a flawed case to the Senate.

john marzan said...

Thanks for that John!

You see how far ahead of the pack you are?

haha thanks, but i just quoted most of the stuff from your old posts. pinagsama sama ko lang sila lahat into one single post and i added my own commentaries to it.

but i did email you about the CONCOM deliberations of davide and christian monsod re what it takes to initiate impeachment.

It seems to me that Hilario Davide knew exactly what "initiating an impeachment proceeding" meant and required... but he's changing his tune now, isn't he? but guess who was one of it's main proponents (to "lower the bar") during the 1986 Con Com deliberations:

Mr. Davide: "So the thrust of the report is really to relax impeachment as a process. I notice, however, that the proposal now requires a majority vote of all the members of the House to initiate if we are going to relax impeachment, we should retain the one-fifth requirement to initiate impeachment and perhaps even reduce the requirement for conviction."

Mr. Monsod: "We were looking at the past where, in the 1973 Constitution, a vote of 20 percent (or one-fifth) of the membership of the House, and in the 1935 Constitution, a vote of two-thirds of the membership of the House were required to initiate impeachment proceedings

So ganyan ang pagkakaintindi nila commish davide at monsod dati.

but nowadays, all it takes is for anybody (lozano, pulido) to file a verified complait to initiate impeachment. ASTEEG!

DJB Rizalist said...

how funny talaga...all this sh*t happened so long ago it seems like a previous blog life, i can hardly remember what we wuz all writing about back then. it's such a blur na but it's all coming back with a vengeance. Our politicians, like a herd of swine in the dark always finding the steepest ravine to cast themselves into.

manuelbuencamino said...

a timely reminder DJ.

I wonder if there's anything Congress can do about the Davide bakuna? Is it now written in stone?

DJB Rizalist said...

The Davide Bakuna is written in the stone of that decision preventing the impeachment of Hilario Davide. It can be reversed by any future Supreme Court however, but I don't see how or when, only why, and that with a crystal clear reminder now from John Marzan of what so many thought about it back when it happened.

It really ties the hands of Congress and is part of the general thesis I've been working on that the Supreme Court is responsible for a discombobulation of the Separation of Powers and has dangerously unbalanced the Ship of State.

Rene said...

And look how Davide was punished by his action - a plum pst in the UN's New York HQ.

crime does pay in the GMA regime.

DJB Rizalist said...

... must we bear our chains in abashed silence!