Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Philippine Senate IS the Supreme Court of Public Accountability

Nowhere in the Constitution is the grand principle of the Separation of Powers through Checks and Balances in a tripartite government as clearly defined as a geological formation than in 1987 ARTICLE XI ACCOUNTABILITY OF PUBLIC OFFICERS. For here is described the sole and exclusive JUDICIAL power of the Congress over Constitutional Officers.
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.
THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT employs well over a million people, but a very special group of "Constitutional Officers" enjoys immunity from civil and criminal suits while in office and may only be removed prematurely by IMPEACHMENT under the 1987 Constitution (Art XI Accountability of Public Officers)—
15 Supreme Court Justices.
7 Comelec Commissioners.
3 COA Commissioners.
3 CSC Commissioners.
1 Ombudsman
1 Vice President
1 President
Note that the Congress has NO impeachable officers. All Senators and Congressmen are directly accountable to the people through regular elections and the Justice system.

THE PALACE was saying all day yesterday: "Leave it to the Courts and the Rule of law."

Well, I've got news for them. Under the 1987 Constitution the Philippine Senate IS the Supreme Court of Public Accountability—the Rule of Law for kicking out impeachable officers like the President before their time is up for high crimes and misdemeanors like knowingly signing corrupt deals disadvantageous to the government.

Since we are now talking about REGIME CHANGE again, it is time to review the basics.

There are five and exactly five ways under the 1987 Constitution by which the term in office of a duly elected President ENDS:

1. The President completes the six year term in office.
2. The President dies.
3. The President becomes permanently incapacitated.
4. The President resigns.
5. The President is impeached, convicted, removed from and permanently barred from public office.

Notice that the first four things just sort of happen. The Public does not really have to do anything for one of them to happen. The regular six year term will pass with time, unless Grim takes the President first or fries his brain. The President could also quit for any reason whatsoever (including people power, but wish again.)

IMPEACHMENT is unique. It is the only legal weapon provided by the Constitution for the enforced removal of a President by the People acting through their Congress.

IMPEACHMENT is a JUDICIAL power and process exercised by the POLITICAL Branch of the Government, the Congress, which is the only department without ANY impeachable officers.

IMPEACHMENT is the closest thing to a JURY system that we have. In IMPEACHMENT the People themselves become the jury through the Senator-judges. Unlike the secret processes of deliberation in the Judiciary (which is called Judicial Privilege), impeachment is a nationally televised affair.

IMPEACHMENT is the SOLE and EXCLUSIVE jurisdiction of the Congress, no particle of which is shared with either the Judiciary or the Executive Branch.

Nowhere does it say that the Supreme Court Chief Justice can appear like a Jack-in-the-Box from out of nowhere and suddenly swear in the Vice President without verifying that one of the five conditions above obtains, or an election has been held for a new president. In 2001, GMA became President on the false premise that Erap was "permanently incapacitated" a claim she made herself to them in a faxed message. The Justices knew this was NOT TRUE. Erap was NOT "permanently incapacitated" on Saturday, 20 January 2001. Davide had previously agreed to do it in a breakfast meeting with Cardinal Sin, Cory Aquino, Chief Justice Davide and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, "in order to prevent violence." Actually it was to prevent the valid acquittal of Joseph Estrada at his Senate Impeachment Trial, which had not yet even heard the Defense. Despite the strenuous objections of then Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma, the Court allowed the swearing in and ruled on Monday, 22 January 2001 that the Chief Justice Hilario Davide had the authority to swear in the Vice President. Morally that is not any different than GMA signing the ZTE deal even if she knew it was flawed because by Saturday afternoon, a shell-shocked but self-evidently NOT permanently incapacitated Joseph Estrada was televised nationally leaving the Palace. Months later, in March 2001, the Supreme Court issued its historic decision, Estrada v. Arroyo, saying Erap had actually resigned despite the incongruity of his continuing denials [sic!]. They construed things based mainly on Ed Angara's diary hurriedly put together and published in a newspaper. Edsa Dos was actually a military backed judicial coup d'etat. So much for the Edsa Dos People Power Revolution. The Constitution is not a mere technicality that inconveniences moralists. It is a Machine that our liberal fascists just don't understand and is perilous to be fooling around with, like the Ark of the Covenant.

1987 ARTICLE XI ACCOUNTABILITY OF PUBLIC OFFICERS ought to be read and understood by all who stand by the Consitution in this particular time of crisis. Nowhere is the Principle of Separation of Powers made more clear than here because here the JUDICIAL function of initiating and deciding with complete finality, a case of impeachment, is seen to be the SOLE and EXCLUSIVE power of the Congress. The Supreme Court does not even have the power of judicial review over such a decision of the Senate Impeachment Court. Not even the Powers of Executive Clemency can touch the verdict in any case of impeachment. It is crystal clear to me that whenever it is convened, the Senate Impeachment Court IS the Supreme Court of Public Accountability.

The public debate and court cases over Executive Privilege and Congress' Right to Information in aid of legislation AND oversight should be informed by the Principle of Separation of Powers inherent in the concept of Public Accountability as enforced by the political branch of the government. Here it is crystal clear: the Political Branch is given supreme judicial authority over these very special and important persons who are the highest "public officers" of the land in the sense that they can only be impeached to remove them prematurely from office. A Senator or Congressman, on the other hand, can be arrested and tried by the ordinary courts for serious enough offenses.

Such a sole and exclusive power, as potent as impeachment is, would not be granted to the Congress if the implied duty of JUDICIAL OVERSIGHT over the Officers of the Constitution were not considered co-equal in importance to its main LEGISLATIVE function.


Floyd Buenavente said...

“To those who said let GMA finish her term… To those who said let the rule of law work for her impeachment… To those who said theres’ no better alternative than GMA… Need I say more?” - RIP EDSA 1 (1986-2008)

cvj said...

DJB, thanks for the live audio-streaming of the Senate hearing! I'm able to listen in from Singapore.

DJB Rizalist said...

yeah that was neat i thought. good you found it useful!

Anonymous said...

Wow, ok din itong audio streaming ng interview in gma mula sa am radio. Talaga, pagka kinati ka, kakamut ka. Tamo itong si gloria galit daw siya sa kati kaya siguro lagging bitchy siya dahil lagi siyang kinakati.

Ano kaya nasa isip ni gloria na paniwalaang makakalusot sa sambayanan ang mababaw niyang paliwanag.

Ang galing ng website mo DJB.

Siyanga pala, makatanong ako sandali, ha. HIndi ba si Dr. Jose Rizal ay may lahing Chinese? Sa pagka ala-ala ko mayroon pa nga siyang monumento sa isang probinsya sa Mainland China!

True or False?