Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

G.R. No. 193459               February 15, 2011

MA. MERCEDITAS N. GUTIERREZ Petitioner,
vs.
THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE, RISA HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL, DANILO D. LIM, FELIPE PESTAÑO, EVELYN PESTAÑO, RENATO M. REYES, JR., SECRETARY GENERAL OF BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN (BAYAN); MOTHER MARY JOHN MANANZAN, CO-CHAIRPERSON OF PAGBABAGO; DANILO RAMOS, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF KILUSANG MAGBUBUKID NG PILIPINAS (KMP); ATTY. EDRE OLALIA, ACTING SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE NATIONAL UNION OF PEOPLE'S LAWYERS (NUPL); FERDINAND R. GAITE, CHAIRPERSON, CONFEDERATION FOR UNITY, RECOGNITION AND ADVANCEMENT OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES (COURAGE); and JAMES TERRY RIDON OF THE LEAGUE OF FILIPINO STUDENTS (LFS), Respondents.
FELICIANO BELMONTE, JR., Respondent-Intervenor.

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

The Ombudsman, Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez (petitioner), challenges via petition for certiorari and prohibition the Resolutions of September 1 and 7, 2010 of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice (public respondent).

Before the 15th Congress opened its first session on July 26, 2010 (the fourth Monday of July, in accordance with Section 15, Article VI of the Constitution) or on July 22, 2010, private respondents Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo Lim, and spouses Felipe and Evelyn Pestaño (Baraquel group) filed an impeachment complaint1 against petitioner, upon the endorsement of Party-List Representatives Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello.2

A day after the opening of the 15th Congress or on July 27, 2010, Atty. Marilyn Barua-Yap, Secretary General of the House of Representatives, transmitted the impeachment complaint to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.3 who, by Memorandum of August 2, 2010, directed the Committee on Rules to include it in the Order of Business.4

On August 3, 2010, private respondents Renato Reyes, Jr., Mother Mary John Mananzan, Danilo Ramos, Edre Olalia, Ferdinand Gaite and James Terry Ridon (Reyes group) filed another impeachment complaint5 against petitioner with a resolution of endorsement by Party-List Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares, Teodoro Casiño, Rafael Mariano, Luzviminda Ilagan, Antonio Tinio and Emerenciana de Jesus.6 On even date, the House of Representatives provisionally adopted the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 14th Congress. By letter still of even date,7 the Secretary General transmitted the Reyes group’s complaint to Speaker Belmonte who, by Memorandum of August 9, 2010,8 also directed the Committee on Rules to include it in the Order of Business.

On August 10, 2010, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, as chairperson of the Committee on Rules,9 instructed Atty. Artemio Adasa, Jr., Deputy Secretary General for Operations, through Atty. Cesar Pareja, Executive Director of the Plenary Affairs Department, to include the two complaints in the Order of Business,10 which was complied with by their inclusion in the Order of Business for the following day, August 11, 2010.

On August 11, 2010 at 4:47 p.m., during its plenary session, the House of Representatives simultaneously referred both complaints to public respondent.11

After hearing, public respondent, by Resolution of September 1, 2010, found both complaints sufficient in form, which complaints it considered to have been referred to it at exactly the same time.

Meanwhile, the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 15th Congress was published on September 2, 2010.

On September 6, 2010, petitioner tried to file a motion to reconsider the September 1, 2010 Resolution of public respondent. Public respondent refused to accept the motion, however, for prematurity; instead, it advised petitioner to await the notice for her to file an answer to the complaints, drawing petitioner to furnish copies of her motion to each of the 55 members of public respondent.

After hearing, public respondent, by Resolution of September 7, 2010, found the two complaints, which both allege culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust,12 sufficient in substance. The determination of the sufficiency of substance of the complaints by public respondent, which assumed hypothetically the truth of their allegations, hinged on the issue of whether valid judgment to impeach could be rendered thereon. Petitioner was served also on September 7, 2010 a notice directing her to file an answer to the complaints within 10 days.13

Six days following her receipt of the notice to file answer or on September 13, 2010, petitioner filed with this Court the present petition with application for injunctive reliefs. The following day or on September 14, 2010, the Court En Banc RESOLVED to direct the issuance of a status quo ante order14 and to require respondents to comment on the petition in 10 days. The Court subsequently, by Resolution of September 21, 2010, directed the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to file in 10 days its Comment on the petition

The Baraquel group which filed the first complaint, the Reyes group which filed the second complaint, and public respondent (through the OSG and private counsel) filed their respective Comments on September 27, 29 and 30, 2010.

Speaker Belmonte filed a Motion for Leave to Intervene dated October 4, 2010 which the Court granted by Resolution of October 5, 2010.

Under an Advisory15 issued by the Court, oral arguments were conducted on October 5 and 12, 2010, followed by petitioner’s filing of a Consolidated Reply of October 15, 2010 and the filing by the parties of Memoranda within the given 15-day period.

The petition is harangued by procedural objections which the Court shall first resolve.

Respondents raise the impropriety of the remedies of certiorari and prohibition. They argue that public respondent 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,16 and that its function is inquisitorial that is akin to a preliminary investigation.17

These same arguments were raised in Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives.18 The argument that impeachment proceedings are beyond the reach of judicial review was debunked in this wise:

The major difference between the judicial power of the Philippine Supreme Court and that of the U.S. Supreme Court is that while the power of judicial review is only impliedly granted to the U.S. Supreme Court and is discretionary in nature, that granted to the Philippine Supreme Court and lower courts, as expressly provided for in 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.

There are also glaring distinctions between the U.S. Constitution and the Philippine Constitution with respect to the power of the House of Representatives over impeachment proceedings. While the U.S. Constitution bestows sole power of impeachment to the House of Representatives without limitation, our Constitution, though vesting in the House of Representatives the exclusive power to initiate impeachment cases, provides for several limitations to the exercise of such power as embodied in Section 3(2), (3), (4) and (5), Article XI thereof. 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.

Respondents are also of the view that judicial review of impeachments undermines their finality and may also lead to conflicts between Congress and the judiciary. Thus, they call upon this Court to exercise judicial statesmanship on the principle that "whenever possible, the Court should defer to the judgment of the people expressed legislatively, recognizing full well the perils of judicial willfulness and pride."

But did not the people also express their will when they instituted the above-mentioned safeguards in the Constitution? This shows that the Constitution did not intend to leave the matter of impeachment to the sole discretion of Congress. Instead, it provided for certain well-defined limits, or in the language of Baker v. Carr,"judicially discoverable standards" for determining the validity of the exercise of such discretion, through the power of judicial review.

x x x x

There is indeed a plethora of cases in which this Court exercised the power of judicial review over congressional action. Thus, in Santiago v. Guingona, Jr., this Court ruled that it is well within the power and jurisdiction of the Court to inquire whether the Senate or its officials committed a violation of the Constitution or grave abuse of discretion in the exercise of their functions and prerogatives. In Tañada v. Angara, in seeking to nullify an act of the Philippine Senate on the ground that it contravened the Constitution, it held that the petition raises a justiciable controversy and that when an action of the legislative branch is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it becomes not only the right but in fact the duty of the judiciary to settle the dispute. In Bondoc v. Pineda, this Court declared null and void a resolution of the House of Representatives withdrawing the nomination, and rescinding the election, of a congressman as a member of the House Electoral Tribunal for being violative of Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution. In Coseteng v. Mitra, it held that the resolution of whether the House representation in the Commission on Appointments was based on proportional representation of the political parties as provided in Section 18, Article VI of the Constitution is subject to judicial review. In Daza v. Singson, it held that the act of the House of Representatives in removing the petitioner from the Commission on Appointments is subject to judicial review. In Tañada v. Cuenco, it held that although under the Constitution, the legislative power is vested exclusively in Congress, this does not detract from the power of the courts to pass upon the constitutionality of acts of Congress. In Angara v. Electoral Commission, it ruled that confirmation by the National Assembly of the election of any member, irrespective of whether his election is contested, is not essential before such member-elect may discharge the duties and enjoy the privileges of a member of the National Assembly.

Finally, there exists no constitutional basis for the contention that the exercise of judicial review over impeachment proceedings would upset the system of checks and balances. Verily, the Constitution is to be interpreted as a whole and "one section is not to be allowed to defeat another." Both are integral components of the calibrated system of independence and interdependence that insures that no branch of government act beyond the powers assigned to it by the Constitution.19 (citations omitted; italics in the original; underscoring supplied)

Francisco characterizes the power of judicial review as a duty which, as the expanded certiorari jurisdiction20 of this Court reflects, includes the power to "determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government."21

In the present case, petitioner invokes the Court’s expanded certiorari jurisdiction, using the special civil actions of certiorari and prohibition as procedural vehicles. The Court finds it well-within its power to determine whether public respondent committed a violation of the Constitution or gravely abused its discretion in the exercise of its functions and prerogatives that could translate as lack or excess of jurisdiction, which would require corrective measures from the Court.

Indubitably, the Court is not asserting its ascendancy over the Legislature in this instance, but simply upholding the supremacy of the Constitution as the repository of the sovereign will.22

Respondents do not seriously contest all the essential requisites for the exercise of judicial review, as they only assert that the petition is premature and not yet ripe for adjudication since petitioner has at her disposal a plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the course of the proceedings before public respondent. Public respondent argues that when petitioner filed the present petition23 on September 13, 2010, it had not gone beyond the determination of the sufficiency of form and substance of the two complaints.

An aspect of the "case-or-controversy" requirement is the requisite of ripeness.24 The question of ripeness is especially relevant in light of the direct, adverse effect on an individual by the challenged conduct.25 In the present petition, there is no doubt that questions on, inter alia, the validity of the simultaneous referral of the two complaints and on the need to publish as a mode of promulgating the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the House (Impeachment Rules) present constitutional vagaries which call for immediate interpretation.

The unusual act of simultaneously referring to public respondent two impeachment complaints presents a novel situation to invoke judicial power. Petitioner cannot thus be considered to have acted prematurely when she took the cue from the constitutional limitation that only one impeachment proceeding should be initiated against an impeachable officer within a period of one year.

And so the Court proceeds to resolve the substantive issue ─ whether public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing its two assailed Resolutions. Petitioner basically anchors her claim on alleged violation of the due process clause (Art. III, Sec. 1) and of the one-year bar provision (Art. XI, Sec 3, par. 5) of the Constitution.

Due process of law

Petitioner alleges that public respondent’s chairperson, Representative Niel Tupas, Jr. (Rep. Tupas), is the subject of an investigation she is conducting, while his father, former Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas, Sr., had been charged by her with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act before the Sandiganbayan. To petitioner, the actions taken by her office against Rep. Tupas and his father influenced the proceedings taken by public respondent in such a way that bias and vindictiveness played a big part in arriving at the finding of sufficiency of form and substance of the complaints against her.

The Court finds petitioner’s allegations of bias and vindictiveness bereft of merit, there being hardly any indication thereof. Mere suspicion of partiality does not suffice.26

The act of the head of a collegial body cannot be considered as that of the entire body itself. So GMCR, Inc. v. Bell Telecommunications Phils.27 teaches:

First. We hereby declare that the NTC is a collegial body requiring a majority vote out of the three members of the commission in order to validly decide a case or any incident therein. Corollarily, the vote alone of the chairman of the commission, as in this case, the vote of Commissioner Kintanar, absent the required concurring vote coming from the rest of the membership of the commission to at least arrive at a majority decision, is not sufficient to legally render an NTC order, resolution or decision.

Simply put, Commissioner Kintanar is not the National Telecommunications Commission. He alone does not speak and in behalf of the NTC. The NTC acts through a three-man body x x x. 28

In the present case, Rep. Tupas, public respondent informs, did not, in fact, vote and merely presided over the proceedings when it decided on the sufficiency of form and substance of the complaints.29

Even petitioner’s counsel conceded during the oral arguments that there are no grounds to compel the inhibition of Rep. Tupas.

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

Well, the Committee is headed by a gentleman who happened to be a respondent in the charges that the Ombudsman filed. In addition to that[,] his father was likewise a respondent in another case. How can he be expected to act with impartiality, in fairness and in accordance with law under that matter, he is only human we grant him that benefit.

JUSTICE MORALES:

Is he a one-man committee?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

He is not a one-man committee, Your Honor, but he decides.

JUSTICE MORALES:

Do we presume good faith or we presume bad faith?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

We presume that he is acting in good faith, Your Honor, but then (interrupted)

JUSTICE MORALES:

So, that he was found liable for violation of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, does that mean that your client will be deprived of due process of law?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

No, what we are stating, Your Honor, is that expectation of a client goes with the Ombudsman, which goes with the element of due process is the lack of impartiality that may be expected of him.

JUSTICE MORALES:

But as you admitted the Committee is not a one-man committee?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

That is correct, Your Honor.

JUSTICE MORALES:

So, why do you say then that there is a lack of impartiality?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

Because if anything before anything goes (sic) he is the presiding officer of the committee as in this case there were objections relative to the existence of the implementing rules not heard, there was objection made by Congressman Golez to the effect that this may give rise to a constitutional crisis.

JUSTICE MORALES:

That called for a voluntary inhibition. Is there any law or rule you can cite which makes it mandatory for the chair of the committee to inhibit given that he had previously been found liable for violation of a law[?]

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

There is nothing, Your Honor. In our jurisprudence which deals with the situation whereby with that background as the material or pertinent antecedent that there could be no violation of the right of the petitioner to due process. What is the effect of notice, hearing if the judgment cannot come from an impartial adjudicator.30 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Petitioner contends that the "indecent and precipitate haste" of public respondent in finding the two complaints sufficient in form and substance is a clear indication of bias, she pointing out that it only took public respondent five minutes to arrive thereat.lawphi1

An abbreviated pace in the conduct of proceedings is not per se an indication of bias, however. So Santos-Concio v. Department of Justice31 holds:

Speed in the conduct of proceedings by a judicial or quasi-judicial officer cannot per se be instantly attributed to an injudicious performance of functions. For one’s prompt dispatch may be another’s undue haste. The orderly administration of justice remains as the paramount and constant consideration, with particular regard of the circumstances peculiar to each case.

The presumption of regularity includes the public officer’s official actuations in all phases of work. Consistent with such presumption, it was incumbent upon petitioners to present contradictory evidence other than a mere tallying of days or numerical calculation. This, petitioners failed to discharge. The swift completion of the Investigating Panel’s initial task cannot be relegated as shoddy or shady without discounting the presumably regular performance of not just one but five state prosecutors.32 (italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Petitioner goes on to contend that her participation in the determination of sufficiency of form and substance was indispensable. As mandated by the Impeachment Rules, however, and as, in fact, conceded by petitioner’s counsel, the participation of the impeachable officer starts with the filing of an answer.

JUSTICE MORALES:

Is it not that the Committee should first determine that there is sufficiency in form and substance before she is asked to file her answer (interrupted)

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

That is correct, Your Honor.

JUSTICE MORALES:

During which she can raise any defenses she can assail the regularity of the proceedings and related irregularities?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

Yes. We are in total conformity and in full accord with that statement, Your Honor, because it is only after a determination that the complaint is sufficient in form and substance that a complaint may be filed, Your Honor, without that but it may be asked, how is not your action premature, Your Honor, our answer is- no, because of the other violations involved and that is (interrupted).33 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Rule III(A) of the Impeachment Rules of the 15th Congress reflects the impeachment procedure at the Committee-level, particularly Section 534 which denotes that petitioner’s initial participation in the impeachment proceedings – the opportunity to file an Answer – starts after the Committee on Justice finds the complaint sufficient in form and substance. That the Committee refused to accept petitioner’s motion for reconsideration from its finding of sufficiency of form of the impeachment complaints is apposite, conformably with the Impeachment Rules.

Petitioner further claims that public respondent failed to ascertain the sufficiency of form and substance of the complaints on the basis of the standards set by the Constitution and its own Impeachment Rules.35

The claim fails.

The determination of sufficiency of form and substance of an impeachment complaint is an exponent of the express constitutional grant of rule-making powers of the House of Representatives which committed such determinative function to public respondent. In the discharge of that power and in the exercise of its discretion, the House has formulated determinable standards as to the form and substance of an impeachment complaint. Prudential considerations behoove the Court to respect the compliance by the House of its duty to effectively carry out the constitutional purpose, absent any contravention of the minimum constitutional guidelines.

Contrary to petitioner’s position that the Impeachment Rules do not provide for comprehensible standards in determining the sufficiency of form and substance, the Impeachment Rules are clear in echoing the constitutional requirements and providing that there must be a "verified complaint or resolution,"36 and that the substance requirement is met if there is "a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee."37

Notatu dignum is the fact that it is only in the Impeachment Rules where a determination of sufficiency of form and substance of an impeachment complaint is made necessary. This requirement is not explicitly found in the organic law, as Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution basically merely requires a "hearing."38 In the discharge of its constitutional duty, the House deemed that a finding of sufficiency of form and substance in an impeachment complaint is vital "to effectively carry out" the impeachment process, hence, such additional requirement in the Impeachment Rules.

Petitioner urges the Court to look into the narration of facts constitutive of the offenses vis-à-vis her submissions disclaiming the allegations in the complaints.

This the Court cannot do.

Francisco instructs that this issue would "require the Court to make a determination of what constitutes an impeachable offense. Such a determination is a purely political question which the Constitution has left to the sound discretion of the legislature. Such an intent is clear from the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission. x x x x Clearly, the issue calls upon this court to decide a non-justiciable political question which is beyond the scope of its judicial power[.]"39 Worse, petitioner urges the Court to make a preliminary assessment of certain grounds raised, upon a hypothetical admission of the facts alleged in the complaints, which involve matters of defense.

In another vein, petitioner, pursuing her claim of denial of due process, questions the lack of or, more accurately, delay in the publication of the Impeachment Rules.

To recall, days after the 15th Congress opened on July 26, 2010 or on August 3, 2010, public respondent provisionally adopted the Impeachment Rules of the 14th Congress and thereafter published on September 2, 2010 its Impeachment Rules, admittedly substantially identical with that of the 14th Congress, in two newspapers of general circulation.40

Citing Tañada v. Tuvera,41 petitioner contends that she was deprived of due process since the Impeachment Rules was published only on September 2, 2010 a day after public respondent ruled on the sufficiency of form of the complaints. She likewise tacks her contention on Section 3(8), Article XI of the Constitution which directs that "Congress shall promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the purpose of this section."

Public respondent counters that "promulgation" in this case refers to "the publication of rules in any medium of information, not necessarily in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation."42

Differentiating Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations43 which held that the Constitution categorically requires publication of the rules of procedure in legislative inquiries, public respondent explains that the Impeachment Rules is intended to merely enable Congress to effectively carry out the purpose of Section 3(8), Art. XI of Constitution.

Black’s Law Dictionary broadly defines promulgate as

To publish; to announce officially; to make public as important or obligatory. The formal act of announcing a statute or rule of court. An administrative order that is given to cause an agency law or regulation to become known or obligatory.44 (emphasis supplied)

While "promulgation" would seem synonymous to "publication," there is a statutory difference in their usage.

The Constitution notably uses the word "promulgate" 12 times.45 A number of those instances involves the promulgation of various rules, reports and issuances emanating from Congress, this Court, the Office of the Ombudsman as well as other constitutional offices.

To appreciate the statutory difference in the usage of the terms "promulgate" and "publish," the case of the Judiciary is in point. In promulgating rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice and procedure in all courts, the 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."46

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. Notably, when Congress approved its canvassing rules for the May 14, 2010 national elections on May 25, 2010,47 it did not require the publication thereof for its effectivity. Rather, Congress made the canvassing rules effective upon its adoption.

In the case of administrative agencies, "promulgation" and "publication" likewise take on different meanings as they are part of a multi-stage procedure in quasi-legislation. As detailed in one case,48 the publication of implementing rules occurs after their promulgation or adoption.

Promulgation must thus be used in the context in which it is generally understood—that is, to make known. Generalia verba sunt generaliter inteligencia. What is generally spoken shall be generally understood. Between the restricted sense and the general meaning of a word, the general must prevail unless it was clearly intended that the restricted sense was to be used.49

Since the Constitutional Commission did not restrict "promulgation" to "publication," the former should be understood to have been used in its general sense. It is within the discretion of Congress to determine on how to promulgate its Impeachment Rules, in much the same way that the Judiciary is permitted to determine that to promulgate a decision means to deliver the decision to the clerk of court for filing and publication.

It is not for this Court to tell a co-equal branch of government how to promulgate when the Constitution itself has not prescribed a specific method of promulgation. The Court is in no position to dictate a mode of promulgation beyond the dictates of the Constitution.

Publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation is but one avenue for Congress to make known its rules. Jurisprudence emphatically teaches that

x x x in the absence of constitutional or statutory guidelines or specific rules, this Court is devoid of any basis upon which to determine the legality of the acts of the Senate relative thereto. On grounds of respect for the basic concept of separation of powers, courts may not intervene in the internal affairs of the legislature; it is not within the province of courts to direct Congress how to do its work. In the words of Justice Florentino P. Feliciano, this Court is of the opinion that where no specific, operable norms and standards are shown to exist, then the legislature must be given a real and effective opportunity to fashion and promulgate as well as to implement them, before the courts may intervene.50 (italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied; citations omitted)

Had the Constitution intended to have the Impeachment Rules published, it could have stated so as categorically as it did in the case of the rules of procedure in legislative inquiries, per Neri. Other than "promulgate," there is no other single formal term in the English language to appropriately refer to an issuance without need of it being published.

IN FINE, petitioner cannot take refuge in Neri since inquiries in aid of legislation under Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution is the sole instance in the Constitution where there is a categorical directive to duly publish a set of rules of procedure. Significantly notable in Neri is that with respect to the issue of publication, the Court anchored its ruling on the 1987 Constitution’s directive, without any reliance on or reference to the 1986 case of Tañada v. Tuvera.51 Tañada naturally could neither have interpreted a forthcoming 1987 Constitution nor had kept a tight rein on the Constitution’s intentions as expressed through the allowance of either a categorical term or a general sense of making known the issuances.

From the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, then Commissioner, now retired Associate Justice Florenz Regalado intended Section 3(8), Article XI to be the vehicle for the House to fill the gaps in the impeachment process.

MR. REGALADO. Mr. Presiding Officer, I have decided to put in an additional section because, for instance, under Section 3 (2), there is mention of indorsing a verified complaint for impeachment by any citizen alleging ultimate facts constituting a ground or grounds for impeachment. In other words, it is just like a provision in the rules of court. Instead, I propose that this procedural requirement, like indorsement of a complaint by a citizen to avoid harassment or crank complaints, could very well be taken up in a new section 4 which shall read as follows: THE CONGRESS SHALL PROMULGATE ITS RULES ON IMPEACHMENT TO EFFECTIVELY CARRY OUT THE PURPOSES THEREOF. I think all these other procedural requirements could be taken care of by the Rules of Congress.52 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The discussion clearly rejects the notion that the impeachment provisions are not self-executing. Section 3(8) does not, in any circumstance, operate to suspend the entire impeachment mechanism which the Constitutional Commission took pains in designing even its details.

As against constitutions of the past, modern constitutions have been generally drafted upon a different principle and have often become in effect extensive codes of laws intended to operate directly upon the people in a manner similar to that of statutory enactments, and the function of constitutional conventions has evolved into one more like that of a legislative body. Hence, unless it is expressly provided that a legislative act is necessary to enforce a constitutional mandate, the presumption now is that all provisions of the constitution are self-executing. If the constitutional provisions are treated as requiring legislation instead of self-executing, the legislature would have the power to ignore and practically nullify the mandate of the fundamental law. This can be cataclysmic. That is why the prevailing view is, as it has always been, that —

. . . in case of doubt, the Constitution should be considered self-executing rather than non-self-executing . . . . Unless the contrary is clearly intended, the provisions of the Constitution should be considered self-executing, as a contrary rule would give the legislature discretion to determine when, or whether, they shall be effective. These provisions would be subordinated to the will of the lawmaking body, which could make them entirely meaningless by simply refusing to pass the needed implementing statute.53 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Even assuming arguendo that publication is required, lack of it does not nullify the proceedings taken prior to the effectivity of the Impeachment Rules which faithfully comply with the relevant self-executing provisions of the Constitution. Otherwise, in cases where impeachment complaints are filed at the start of each Congress, the mandated periods under Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution would already run or even lapse while awaiting the expiration of the 15-day period of publication prior to the effectivity of the Impeachment Rules. In effect, the House would already violate the Constitution for its inaction on the impeachment complaints pending the completion of the publication requirement.

Given that the Constitution itself states that any promulgation of the rules on impeachment is aimed at "effectively carry[ing] out the purpose" of impeachment proceedings, the Court finds no grave abuse of discretion when the House deemed it proper to provisionally adopt the Rules on Impeachment of the 14th Congress, to meet the exigency in such situation of early filing and in keeping with the "effective" implementation of the "purpose" of the impeachment provisions. In other words, the provisional adoption of the previous Congress’ Impeachment Rules is within the power of the House to promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the avowed purpose.

Moreover, the rules on impeachment, as contemplated by the framers of the Constitution, merely aid or supplement the procedural aspects of impeachment. Being procedural in nature, they may be given retroactive application to pending actions. "It is axiomatic that the retroactive application of procedural laws does not violate any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected, nor is it constitutionally objectionable. The reason for this is that, as a general rule, no vested right may attach to, nor arise from, procedural laws."54 In the present case, petitioner fails to allege any impairment of vested rights.

It bears stressing that, unlike the process of inquiry in aid of legislation where the rights of witnesses are involved, impeachment is primarily for the protection of the people as a body politic, and not for the punishment of the offender.55

Even Neri concedes that the unpublished rules of legislative inquiries were not considered null and void in its entirety. Rather,

x x x [o]nly those that result in violation of the rights of witnesses should be considered null and void, considering that the rationale for the publication is to protect the rights of witnesses as expressed in Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution. Sans such violation, orders and proceedings are considered valid and effective.56 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Petitioner in fact does not deny that she was fully apprised of the proper procedure. She even availed of and invoked certain provisions57 of the Impeachment Rules when she, on September 7, 2010, filed the motion for reconsideration and later filed the present petition. The Court thus finds no violation of the due process clause.

The one-year bar rule

Article XI, Section 3, paragraph (5) of the Constitution reads: "No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year."

Petitioner reckons the start of the one-year bar from the filing of the first impeachment complaint against her on July 22, 2010 or four days before the opening on July 26, 2010 of the 15th Congress. She posits that within one year from July 22, 2010, no second impeachment complaint may be accepted and referred to public respondent.

On the other hand, public respondent, respondent Reyes group and respondent-intervenor submit that the initiation starts with the filing of the impeachment complaint and ends with the referral to the Committee, following Francisco, but venture to alternatively proffer that the initiation ends somewhere between the conclusion of the Committee Report and the transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. Respondent Baraquel group, meanwhile, essentially maintains that under either the prevailing doctrine or the parties’ interpretation, its impeachment complaint could withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Contrary to petitioner’s asseveration, Francisco58 states that the term "initiate" means to file the complaint and take initial action on it.59 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.

Petitioner misreads the remark of Commissioner Joaquin Bernas, S.J. that "no second verified impeachment may be accepted and referred to the Committee on Justice for action"60 which contemplates a situation where a first impeachment complaint had already been referred. Bernas and Regalado, who both acted as amici curiae in Francisco, affirmed that the act of initiating includes the act of taking initial action on the complaint.

From the records of the Constitutional Commission, to the amicus curiae briefs of two former Constitutional Commissioners, it is without a doubt that the term "to initiate" refers to the filing of the impeachment complaint coupled with Congress' taking initial action of said complaint.

Having concluded that the initiation takes place by the act of filing and referral or endorsement of the impeachment complaint to the House Committee on Justice or, by the filing by at least one-third61 of the members of the House of Representatives with the Secretary General of the House, the meaning of Section 3 (5) of Article XI becomes clear. Once an impeachment complaint has been initiated, another impeachment complaint may not be filed against the same official within a one year period.62 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The Court, in Francisco, thus found that the assailed provisions of the 12th Congress’ Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings ─ Sections 1663 and 1764 of Rule V thereof ─ "clearly contravene Section 3(5) of Article XI since they g[a]ve the term ‘initiate’ a meaning different from filing and referral."65

Petitioner highlights certain portions of Francisco which delve on the relevant records of the Constitutional Commission, particularly Commissioner Maambong’s statements66 that the initiation starts with the filing of the complaint.

Petitioner fails to consider the verb "starts" as the operative word. Commissioner Maambong was all too keen to stress that the filing of the complaint indeed starts the initiation and that the House’s action on the committee report/resolution is not part of that initiation phase.

Commissioner Maambong saw the need "to be very technical about this,"67 for certain exchanges in the Constitutional Commission deliberations loosely used the term, as shown in the following exchanges.

MR. DAVIDE. That is for conviction, but not for initiation. Initiation of impeachment proceedings still requires a vote of one-fifth of the membership of the House under the 1935 Constitution.

MR. MONSOD. A two-thirds vote of the membership of the House is required to initiate proceedings.

MR. DAVIDE. No. for initiation of impeachment proceedings, only one-fifth vote of the membership of the House is required; for conviction, a two-thirds vote of the membership is required.

x x x x

MR. DAVIDE. However, if we allow one-fifth of the membership of the legislature to overturn a report of the committee, we have here Section 3 (4) which reads:

No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.

So, necessarily, under this particular subsection, we will, in effect, disallow one-fifth of the members of the National Assembly to revive an impeachment move by an individual or an ordinary Member.

MR. ROMULO. Yes. May I say that Section 3 (4) is there to look towards the possibility of a very liberal impeachment proceeding. Second, we were ourselves struggling with that problem where we are faced with just a verified complaint rather than the signatures of one-fifth, or whatever it is we decide, of the Members of the House. So whether to put a period for the Committee to report, whether we should not allow the Committee to overrule a mere verified complaint, are some of the questions we would like to be discussed.

MR. DAVIDE. We can probably overrule a rejection by the Committee by providing that it can be overturned by, say, one-half or a majority, or one-fifth of the members of the legislature, and that such overturning will not amount to a refiling which is prohibited under Section 3 (4).

Another point, Madam President. x x x68 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

An apparent effort to clarify the term "initiate" was made by Commissioner Teodulo Natividad:

MR. NATIVIDAD. How many votes are needed to initiate?

MR. BENGZON. One-third.

MR. NATIVIDAD. To initiate is different from to impeach; to impeach is different from to convict. To impeach means to file the case before the Senate.

MR. REGALADO. When we speak of "initiative," we refer here to the Articles of Impeachment.

MR. NATIVIDAD. So, that is the impeachment itself, because when we impeach, we are charging him with the Articles of Impeachment. That is my understanding.69 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Capping these above-quoted discussions was the explanation of Commissioner Maambong delivered on at least two occasions:

[I]

MR. MAAMBONG. Mr. Presiding Officer, I am not moving for a reconsideration of the approval of the amendment submitted by Commissioner Regalado, but I will just make of record my thinking that we do not really initiate the filing of the Articles of Impeachment on the floor. The procedure, as I have pointed out earlier, was that the initiation starts with the filing of the complaint. And what is actually done on the floor is that the committee resolution containing the Articles of Impeachment is the one approved by the body.

As the phraseology now runs, which may be corrected by the Committee on Style, it appears that the initiation starts on the floor. If we only have time, I could cite examples in the case of the impeachment proceedings of President Richard Nixon wherein the Committee on the Judiciary submitted the recommendation, the resolution, and the Articles of Impeachment to the body, and it was the body who approved the resolution. It is not the body which initiates it. It only approves or disapproves the resolution. So, on that score, probably the Committee on Style could help in rearranging the words because we have to be very technical about this. I have been bringing with me The Rules of the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress. The Senate Rules are with me. The proceedings on the case of Richard Nixon are with me. I have submitted my proposal, but the Committee has already decided. Nevertheless, I just want to indicate this on record.

Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.70 (italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied)

[II]

MR. MAAMBONG. I would just like to move for a reconsideration of the approval of Section 3 (3). My reconsideration will not at all affect the substance, but it is only with keeping with the exact formulation of the Rules of the House of Representatives of the United States regarding impeachment.

I am proposing, Madam President, without doing damage to any of its provision, that on page 2, Section 3 (3), from lines 17 to 18, we delete the words which read: "to initiate impeachment proceedings" and the comma (,) and insert on line 19 after the word "resolution" the phrase WITH THE ARTICLES, and then capitalize the letter "i" in "impeachment" and replace the word "by" with OF, so that the whole section will now read: "A vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House shall be necessary either to affirm a resolution WITH THE ARTICLES of impeachment OF the committee or to override its contrary resolution. The vote of each Member shall be recorded."

I already mentioned earlier yesterday that the initiation, as far as the House of Representatives of the United States is concerned, really starts from the filing of the verified complaint and every resolution to impeach always carries with it the Articles of Impeachment. As a matter of fact, the words "Articles of Impeachment" are mentioned on line 25 in the case of the direct filing of a verified complaint of one-third of all the Members of the House. I will mention again, Madam President, that my amendment will not vary the substance in any way. It is only in keeping with the uniform procedure of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress.

Thank you, Madam President.71 (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

To the next logical question of what ends or completes the initiation, Commissioners Bernas and Regalado lucidly explained that the filing of the complaint must be accompanied by the referral to the Committee on Justice, which is the action that sets the complaint moving. Francisco cannot be any clearer in pointing out the material dates.

Having concluded that the initiation takes place by the act of filing of the impeachment complaint and referral to the House Committee on Justice, the initial action taken thereon, the meaning of Section 3 (5) of Article XI becomes clear. Once an impeachment complaint has been initiated in the foregoing manner, another may not be filed against the same official within a one year period following Article XI, Section 3(5) of the Constitution.

In fine, considering that the first impeachment complaint was filed by former President Estrada against Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., along with seven associate justices of this Court, on June 2, 2003 and referred to the House Committee on Justice on August 5, 2003, the second impeachment complaint filed by Representatives Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. and Felix William Fuentebella against the Chief Justice on October 23, 2003 violates the constitutional prohibition against the initiation of impeachment proceedings against the same impeachable officer within a one-year period.72 (emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied)

These clear pronouncements notwithstanding, petitioner posits that the date of referral was considered irrelevant in Francisco. She submits that referral could not be the reckoning point of initiation because "something prior to that had already been done,"73 apparently citing Bernas’ discussion.

The Court cannot countenance any attempt at obscurantism.

What the cited discussion was rejecting was the view that the House’s action on the committee report initiates the impeachment proceedings. It did not state that to determine the initiating step, absolutely nothing prior to it must be done. Following petitioner’s line of reasoning, the verification of the complaint or the endorsement by a member of the House – steps done prior to the filing – would already initiate the impeachment proceedings.

Contrary to petitioner’s emphasis on impeachment complaint, what the Constitution mentions is impeachment "proceedings." Her reliance on the singular tense of the word "complaint"74 to denote the limit prescribed by the Constitution goes against the basic rule of statutory construction that a word covers its enlarged and plural sense.75

The Court, of course, does not downplay the importance of an impeachment complaint, for it is the matchstick that kindles the candle of impeachment proceedings. 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.

A restrictive interpretation renders the impeachment mechanism both illusive and illusory.

For one, it puts premium on senseless haste. Petitioner’s stance suggests that whoever files the first impeachment complaint exclusively gets the attention of Congress which sets in motion an exceptional once-a-year mechanism wherein government resources are devoted. A prospective complainant, regardless of ill motives or best intentions, can wittingly or unwittingly desecrate the entire process by the expediency of submitting a haphazard complaint out of sheer hope to be the first in line. It also puts to naught the effort of other prospective complainants who, after diligently gathering evidence first to buttress the case, would be barred days or even hours later from filing an impeachment complaint.

Placing an exceedingly narrow gateway to the avenue of impeachment proceedings turns its laudable purpose into a laughable matter. One needs only to be an early bird even without seriously intending to catch the worm, when the process is precisely intended to effectively weed out "worms" in high offices which could otherwise be ably caught by other prompt birds within the ultra-limited season.

Moreover, the first-to-file scheme places undue strain on the part of the actual complainants, injured party or principal witnesses who, by mere happenstance of an almost always unforeseeable filing of a first impeachment complaint, would be brushed aside and restricted from directly participating in the impeachment process.

Further, prospective complainants, along with their counsel and members of the House of Representatives who sign, endorse and file subsequent impeachment complaints against the same impeachable officer run the risk of violating the Constitution since they would have already initiated a second impeachment proceeding within the same year. Virtually anybody can initiate a second or third impeachment proceeding by the mere filing of endorsed impeachment complaints. Without any public notice that could charge them with knowledge, even members of the House of Representatives could not readily ascertain whether no other impeachment complaint has been filed at the time of committing their endorsement.

The question as to who should administer or pronounce that an impeachment proceeding has been initiated rests also on the body that administers the proceedings prior to the impeachment trial. As gathered from Commissioner Bernas’ disquisition76 in Francisco, a proceeding which "takes place not in the Senate but in the House"77 precedes the bringing of an impeachment case to the Senate. In fact, petitioner concedes that the initiation of impeachment proceedings is within the sole and absolute control of the House of Representatives.78 Conscious of the legal import of each step, the House, in taking charge of its own proceedings, must deliberately decide to initiate an impeachment proceeding, subject to the time frame and other limitations imposed by the Constitution. This chamber of Congress alone, not its officers or members or any private individual, should own up to its processes.

The Constitution did not place the power of the "final say" on the lips of the House Secretary General who would otherwise be calling the shots in forwarding or freezing any impeachment complaint. Referral of the complaint to the proper committee is not done by the House Speaker alone either, which explains why there is a need to include it in the Order of Business of the House. It is the House of Representatives, in public plenary session, which has the power to set its own chamber into special operation by referring the complaint or to otherwise guard against the initiation of a second impeachment proceeding by rejecting a patently unconstitutional complaint.

Under the Rules of the House, a motion to refer is not among those motions that shall be decided without debate, but any debate thereon is only made subject to the five-minute rule.79 Moreover, it is common parliamentary practice that a motion to refer a matter or question to a committee may be debated upon, not as to the merits thereof, but only as to the propriety of the referral.80 With respect to complaints for impeachment, the House has the discretion not to refer a subsequent impeachment complaint to the Committee on Justice where official records and further debate show that an impeachment complaint filed against the same impeachable officer has already been referred to the said committee and the one year period has not yet expired, lest it becomes instrumental in perpetrating a constitutionally prohibited second impeachment proceeding. Far from being mechanical, before the referral stage, a period of deliberation is afforded the House, as the Constitution, in fact, grants a maximum of three session days within which to make the proper referral.

As mentioned, one limitation imposed on the House in initiating an impeachment proceeding deals with deadlines. The Constitution states that "[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."

In the present case, petitioner failed to establish grave abuse of discretion on the allegedly "belated" referral of the first impeachment complaint filed by the Baraquel group. For while the said complaint was filed on July 22, 2010, there was yet then no session in Congress. It was only four days later or on July 26, 2010 that the 15th Congress opened from which date the 10-day session period started to run. When, by Memorandum of August 2, 2010, Speaker Belmonte directed the Committee on Rules to include the complaint in its Order of Business, it was well within the said 10-day session period.81

There is no evident point in rushing at closing the door the moment an impeachment complaint is filed. Depriving the people (recall that impeachment is primarily for the protection of the people as a body politic) of reasonable access to the limited political vent simply prolongs the agony and frustrates the collective rage of an entire citizenry whose trust has been betrayed by an impeachable officer. It shortchanges the promise of reasonable opportunity to remove an impeachable officer through the mechanism enshrined in the Constitution.

But neither does the Court find merit in respondents’ alternative contention that the initiation of the impeachment proceedings, which sets into motion the one-year bar, should include or await, at the earliest, the Committee on Justice report. To public respondent, the reckoning point of initiation should refer to the disposition of the complaint by the vote of at least one-third (1/3) of all the members of the House.82 To the Reyes group, initiation means the act of transmitting the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.83 To respondent-intervenor, it should last until the Committee on Justice’s recommendation to the House plenary.84

The Court, in Francisco, rejected a parallel thesis in which a related proposition was inputed in the therein assailed provisions of the Impeachment Rules of the 12th Congress. The present case involving an impeachment proceeding against the Ombudsman offers no cogent reason for the Court to deviate from what was settled in Francisco that dealt with the impeachment proceeding against the then Chief Justice. To change the reckoning point of initiation on no other basis but to accommodate the socio-political considerations of respondents does not sit well in a court of law.

x x x We ought to be guided by the doctrine of stare decisis et non quieta movere. This doctrine, which is really "adherence to precedents," mandates that once a case has been decided one way, then another case involving exactly the same point at issue should be decided in the same manner. This doctrine is one of policy grounded on the necessity for securing certainty and stability of judicial decisions. As the renowned jurist Benjamin Cardozo stated in his treatise The Nature of the Judicial Process:

It will not do to decide the same question one way between one set of litigants and the opposite way between another. "If a group of cases involves the same point, the parties expect the same decision. It would be a gross injustice to decide alternate cases on opposite principles. If a case was decided against me yesterday when I was a defendant, I shall look for the same judgment today if I am plaintiff. To decide differently would raise a feeling of resentment and wrong in my breast; it would be an infringement, material and moral, of my rights." Adherence to precedent must then be the rule rather than the exception if litigants are to have faith in the even-handed administration of justice in the courts.85

As pointed out in Francisco, the impeachment proceeding is not 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. Rather, the proceeding is initiated or begins, when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the Committee on Justice for action. This is the initiating step which triggers the series of steps that follow."86

Allowing an expansive construction of the term "initiate" beyond the act of referral allows the unmitigated influx of successive complaints, each having their own respective 60-session-day period of disposition from referral. Worse, the Committee shall conduct overlapping hearings until and unless the disposition of one of the complaints ends with the affirmance of a resolution for impeachment or the overriding87 of a contrary resolution (as espoused by public respondent), or the House transmits the Articles of Impeachment (as advocated by the Reyes group),88 or the Committee on Justice concludes its first report to the House plenary regardless of the recommendation (as posited by respondent-intervenor). Each of these scenarios runs roughshod the very purpose behind the constitutionally imposed one-year bar. Opening the floodgates too loosely would disrupt the series of steps operating in unison under one proceeding.

The Court does not lose sight of the salutary reason of confining only one impeachment proceeding in a year. Petitioner concededly cites Justice Adolfo Azcuna’s separate opinion that concurred with the Francisco ruling.89 Justice Azcuna stated that the purpose of the one-year bar is two-fold: "to prevent undue or too frequent harassment; and 2) to allow the legislature to do its principal task [of] legislation," with main reference to the records of the Constitutional Commission, that reads:

MR. ROMULO. Yes, the intention here really is to limit. This is not only to protect public officials who, in this case, are of the highest category from harassment but also to allow the legislative body to do its work which is lawmaking. Impeachment proceedings take a lot of time. And if we allow multiple impeachment charges on the same individual to take place, the legislature will do nothing else but that.90 (underscoring supplied)

It becomes clear that the consideration behind the intended limitation refers to the element of time, and not the number of complaints. The impeachable officer should defend himself in only one impeachment proceeding, so that he will not be precluded from performing his official functions and duties. Similarly, Congress should run only one impeachment proceeding so as not to leave it with little time to attend to its main work of law-making. The doctrine laid down in Francisco that initiation means filing and referral remains congruent to the rationale of the constitutional provision.

Petitioner complains that an impeachable officer may be subjected to harassment by the filing of multiple impeachment complaints during the intervening period of a maximum of 13 session days between the date of the filing of the first impeachment complaint to the date of referral.

As pointed out during the oral arguments91 by the counsel for respondent-intervenor, the framework of privilege and layers of protection for an impeachable officer abound. The requirements or restrictions of a one-year bar, a single proceeding, verification of complaint, endorsement by a House member, and a finding of sufficiency of form and substance – all these must be met before bothering a respondent to answer – already weigh heavily in favor of an impeachable officer.

Aside from the probability of an early referral and the improbability of inclusion in the agenda of a complaint filed on the 11th hour (owing to pre-agenda standard operating procedure), the number of complaints may still be filtered or reduced to nil after the Committee decides once and for all on the sufficiency of form and substance. Besides, if only to douse petitioner’s fear, a complaint will not last the primary stage if it does not have the stated preliminary requisites.

To petitioner, disturbance of her performance of official duties and the deleterious effects of bad publicity are enough oppression.

Petitioner’s claim is based on the premise that the exertion of time, energy and other resources runs directly proportional to the number of complaints filed. This is non sequitur. What the Constitution assures an impeachable officer is not freedom from arduous effort to defend oneself, which depends on the qualitative assessment of the charges and evidence and not on the quantitative aspect of complaints or offenses. In considering the side of the impeachable officers, the Constitution does not promise an absolutely smooth ride for them, especially if the charges entail genuine and grave issues. The framers of the Constitution did not concern themselves with the media tolerance level or internal disposition of an impeachable officer when they deliberated on the impairment of performance of official functions. The measure of protection afforded by the Constitution is that if the impeachable officer is made to undergo such ride, he or she should be made to traverse it just once. Similarly, if Congress is called upon to operate itself as a vehicle, it should do so just once. There is no repeat ride for one full year. This is the whole import of the constitutional safeguard of one-year bar rule.

Applicability of the Rules on Criminal Procedure

On another plane, petitioner posits that public respondent gravely abused its discretion when it disregarded its own Impeachment Rules, the same rules she earlier chastised.

In the exercise of the power to promulgate rules "to effectively carry out" the provisions of Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution, the House promulgated the Impeachment Rules, Section 16 of which provides that "the Rules of Criminal Procedure under the Rules of Court shall, as far as practicable, apply to impeachment proceedings before the House."

Finding that the Constitution, by express grant, permits the application of additional adjective rules that Congress may consider in effectively carrying out its mandate, petitioner either asserts or rejects two procedural devices.

First is on the "one offense, one complaint" rule. By way of reference to Section 16 of the Impeachment Rules, petitioner invokes the application of Section 13, Rule 110 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure which states that "[a] complaint or information must charge only one offense, except when the law prescribes a single punishment for various offenses." To petitioner, the two impeachment complaints are insufficient in form and substance since each charges her with both culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. She concludes that public respondent gravely abused its discretion when it disregarded its own rules.

Petitioner adds that heaping two or more charges in one complaint will confuse her in preparing her defense; expose her to the grave dangers of the highly political nature of the impeachment process; constitute a whimsical disregard of certain rules; impair her performance of official functions as well as that of the House; and prevent public respondent from completing its report within the deadline.

Public respondent counters that there is no requirement in the Constitution that an impeachment complaint must charge only one offense, and the nature of impeachable offenses precludes the application of the above-said Rule on Criminal Procedure since the broad terms cannot be defined with the same precision required in defining crimes. It adds that the determination of the grounds for impeachment is an exercise of political judgment, which issue respondent-intervenor also considers as non-justiciable, and to which the Baraquel group adds that impeachment is a political process and not a criminal prosecution, during which criminal prosecution stage the complaint or information referred thereto and cited by petitioner, unlike an impeachment complaint, must already be in the name of the People of the Philippines.

The Baraquel group deems that there are provisions92 outside the Rules on Criminal Procedure that are more relevant to the issue. Both the Baraquel and Reyes groups point out that even if Sec. 13 of Rule 110 is made to apply, petitioner’s case falls under the exception since impeachment prescribes a single punishment – removal from office and disqualification to hold any public office – even for various offenses. Both groups also observe that petitioner concededly and admittedly was not keen on pursuing this issue during the oral arguments.

Petitioner’s claim deserves scant consideration.

Without going into the effectiveness of the suppletory application of the Rules on Criminal Procedure in carrying out the relevant constitutional provisions, which prerogative the Constitution vests on Congress, and without delving into the practicability of the application of the one offense per complaint rule, the initial determination of which must be made by the House93 which has yet to pass upon the question, the Court finds that petitioner’s invocation of that particular rule of Criminal Procedure does not lie. Suffice it to state that the Constitution allows the indictment for multiple impeachment offenses, with each charge representing an article of impeachment, assembled in one set known as the "Articles of Impeachment."94 It, therefore, follows that an impeachment complaint need not allege only one impeachable offense.

The second procedural matter deals with the rule on consolidation. In rejecting a consolidation, petitioner maintains that the Constitution allows only one impeachment complaint against her within one year.

Records show that public respondent disavowed any immediate need to consolidate. Its chairperson Rep. Tupas stated that "[c]onsolidation depends on the Committee whether to consolidate[; c]onsolidation may come today or may come later on after determination of the sufficiency in form and substance," and that "for purposes of consolidation, the Committee will decide when is the time to consolidate[, a]nd if, indeed, we need to consolidate."95 Petitioner’s petition, in fact, initially describes the consolidation as merely "contemplated."96

Since public respondent, whether motu proprio or upon motion, did not yet order a consolidation, the Court will not venture to make a determination on this matter, as it would be premature, conjectural or anticipatory.97

Even if the Court assumes petitioner’s change of stance that the two impeachment complaints were deemed consolidated,98 her claim that consolidation is a legal anomaly fails. Petitioner’s theory obviously springs from her "proceeding = complaint" equation which the Court already brushed aside.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The assailed Resolutions of September 1, 2010 and September 7, 2010 of public respondent, the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, are NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL. The Status Quo Ante Order issued by the Court on September 14, 2010 is LIFTED.

SO ORDERED.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
(No Part)
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.*
Associate Justice
ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
Associate Justice
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice
ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice
MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
Associate Justice
ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice
JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
Associate Justice
JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Associate Justice

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I hereby certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice


Footnotes

* No part.

1 Rollo, pp. 93-111.

2 Id. at 91-92.

3 Id. at 561.

4 Id. at 562.

5 Id. at 136-169.

6 Id. at 133-135.

7 Id. at 563.

8 Id. at 564.

9 Rules of the House of Representatives, Rule IX, Sec. 27, par. (ss).

10 Rollo, p. 565.

11 Journal of the House of Representatives (15th Congress), Journal No. 9, August 11, 2010 (rollo, p. 576).

12 As gathered from the pleadings, the two impeachment complaints are summarized as follows:

First Complaint Second Complaint

A. Betrayal of Public Trust:

1. The dismal and unconscionable low conviction rate of the Ombudsman from 2008 onwards

 

1. gross inexcusable delay in investigating and failure in prosecuting those involved in the anomalous Fertilizer Fund Scam despite the COA & Senate findings and the complaints filed against them.

2. The failure to take prompt and immediate action against PGMA and FG with regard to the NBN-ZTE Broadband project

 

2. she did not prosecute Gen. Eliseo de la Paz for violating BSP rules[12] that prohibit the taking out of the country of currency in excess of US$10,000 without declaring the same to the Phil. Customs, despite his admission under oath before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee

3. The delay in conducting and concluding an investigation on the death of Ensign Andrew Pestaño aboard a Philippine Navy vessel

 

3. gross inexcusable delay or inaction by acting in deliberate disregard of the Court’s findings and directive in Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines v. Comelec

4. The decision upholding the legality of the arrest and detention of Rep. Hontiveros -Baraquel by the PNP in March 2006.

   

5. The failure to conduct an investigation regarding the P1M dinner at Le Cirque Restaurant in New York

   

B. Culpable Violation of the Constitution:

6. The repeated delays and failure to take action on cases impressed with public interest

 

4. through her repeated failure and inexcusable delay in acting upon matters, she violated Sec. 12 and Sec. 13, pars. 1-3 of Art. XI and Sec. 16 of Art. III of the Constitution which mandates prompt action and speedy disposition of cases

7. The refusal to grant ready access to public records like SALNW

   

13 Rollo, p. 261.

14 Id. at 262-263. Justices Carpio, Carpio Morales, and Sereno dissented; Justices Nachura, Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, and Mendoza were on official business.

15Id. at 623-625.

16 Reyes Group’s Memorandum, pp. 5-8 (rollo, pp. 1064-1067).

17 The Committee’s Memorandum, pp. 22-25 (id. at 915-918).

18 460 Phil. 830 (2003).

19 Id. at 889-892.

20 Id. at 883, which reads: "To ensure the potency of the power of judicial review to curb grave abuse of discretion by ‘any branch or instrumentalities of government,’ the afore-quoted Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution engraves, for the first time into its history, into block letter law the so-called ‘expanded certiorari jurisdiction’ of this Court[.]"

21 Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 1.

22 Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil. 139, 158 (1936).

23 The Committee’s Memorandum, p. 28 (rollo, p. 921).

24 Lozano v. Nograles, G.R. No. 187883, June 16, 2009, 589 SCRA 356, 358.

25 Guingona Jr. v. Court of Appeals, 354 Phil. 415, 427-428 (1998).

26 Casimiro v. Tandog, 498 Phil. 660, 667 (2005).

27 G.R. No. 126496, April 30, 1997, 271 SCRA 790.

28 Id. at 804.

29 The Committee’s Memorandum, p. 36 (rollo, p. 929).

30 Transcript of Stenographic Notes (TSN), Oral Arguments, October 5, 2010, pp. 47-50.

31 G. R. No. 175057, January 29, 2008, 543 SCRA 70.

32 Id. at 89-90.

33 TSN, Oral Arguments, October 5, 2010, pp. 54-55.

34 Section 5. Notice to Respondents and Time to Plead.– If the committee finds the complaint sufficient in form and substance, it shall immediately furnish the respondent(s) with a copy of the resolution and/or verified complaint, as the case may be, with written notice that he/she shall answer the complaint within ten (10) days from receipt of notice thereof and serve a copy of the answer to the complainant(s). No motion to dismiss shall be allowed within the period to answer the complaint.

The answer, which shall be under oath, may include affirmative defenses. If the respondent fails or refuses to file an answer within the reglementary period, he/she is deemed to have interposed a general denial to the complaint. Within three (3) days from receipt of the answer, the complainant may file a reply, serving a copy thereof to the respondent who may file a rejoinder within three (3) days from receipt of the reply, serving a copy thereof to the complainant. If the complainant fails to file a reply, all the material allegations in the answer are deemed controverted. Together with their pleadings, the parties shall file their affidavits or counter-affidavits, as the case may be, with their documentary evidence. Such affidavits or counter-affidavits shall be subscribed before the Chairperson of the Committee on Justice or the Secretary General. Notwithstanding all the foregoing, failure presenting evidence in support of his/her defenses.

When there are more than one respondent, each shall be furnished with copy of the verified complaint from a Member of the House or a copy of the verified complaint from a private citizen together with the resolution of endorsement by a Member of the House of Representatives and a written notice to answer and in that case, reference to respondent in these Rules shall be understood as respondents. (underscoring supplied)

35 Petitioner’s Memorandum, pp. 66-73 (rollo, pp. 829-836).

36 Vide Constitution, Art. XI, Sec. 3 (2).

37 Vide Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings, Rule III, Sec. 4.

38 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. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

39 Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives, supra at 913.

40 Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star.

41 230 Phil. 528 (1986).

42 The Committee’s Memorandum, p. 58 (rollo, p. 951).

43 G.R. No. 180643, March 25, 2008, 549 SCRA 77; and September 4, 2008, 564 SCRA 152, 230, where the Court resolved: "The language of Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution requiring that the inquiry be conducted in accordance with the duly published rules of procedure is categorical. (emphasis in the original; underscoring supplied).

44 Black’s Law Dictionary (6th ed.), p. 1214.

45 The words "promulgate" and "promulgated" appear in the following sections: a) Preamble; b) Section 2 of Article V; c) Section 4 of Article VII (twice); d) Section 18 of Article VII; e) Section 5 of Article VIII; f) Section 6 of Article IX-A; g) Section 3 of Article IX-C; h) Section 2 of Article IX-D; i) Section 3 (8) of Article XI; j) Section 13 (8) of Article XI; and k) Section 8 of Article XIV.

46 Heritage Park Management Corp. v. CIAC, G.R. No. 148133, October 8, 2008, 568 SCRA 108, 120, citing Neria v. Commissioner on Immigration, 23 SCRA 806, 812.

47 <http://www.congress.gov.ph/download/elections2010/acr.signed.05262010.pdf> [Last visited November 22, 2010].

48 National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reform v. Energy Regulatory Commission, G.R. No. 163935, February 2, 2006, 481 SCRA 480, 522.

49 Marcos v. Chief of Staff, AFP, 89 Phil. 239 (1951).

50 Sen. Defensor Santiago v. Sen. Guingona, Jr., 359 Phil. 276, 300 (1998).

51 Supra note 41.

52 II Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 372 (July 28, 1986).

53 Manila Prince Hotel v. GSIS, 335 Phil. 82, 102 (1997).

54 Cheng v. Sy, G.R. No. 174238, July 7, 2009, 592 SCRA 155, 164-165.

55 De Leon And De Leon, Jr., The Law On Public Officers And Election Law (2003 ed.), p. 467, citing SINCO, Philippine Political Law, 11th ed. (1962), p. 374.

56 Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, supra at 231.

57 1) Rule III, Section 4 thereof, on the finding of insufficiency in form, where petitioner prayed that the complaint be returned to the Secretary General within three session days with a written explanation of the insufficiency, who shall, in turn, return the same to the complainants together with the written explanation within three session days from receipt of the committee resolution.

2) Rule VII, Sec. 16 thereof, on the applicability of the rules of criminal procedure, where petitioner invokes the rule against duplicity of offense under Section 13, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court.

58 460 Phil. 830 (2003).

59 Id. at 927.

60 Francisco, supra at 932.

61 In case of a direct filing by at least one-third (1/3) of all the members of the House of Representatives under paragraph (4), Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution, there occurs an abbreviated mode of initiation wherein the filing of the complaint and the taking of initial action are merged into a single act.

62 Francisco, supra at 932-933.

63 Section 16. Impeachment Proceedings Deemed Initiated. ─ In cases where a Member of the House files a verified complaint of impeachment or a citizen files a verified complaint that is endorsed by a Member of the House through a resolution of endorsement against an impeachable officer, impeachment proceedings against such official are deemed initiated on the day the Committee on Justice finds that the verified complaint and or resolution against such official, as the case may be, is sufficient in substance, or on the date the House votes to overturn or affirm the finding of the said Committee that the verified complaint and or resolution, as the case may be, is not sufficient in substance.

In cases where a verified complaint or a resolution of impeachment is filed or endorsed, as the case may be, by at least one-third (1/3) of the Members of the House, impeachment proceedings are deemed initiated at the time of the filing of such verified complaint or resolution of impeachment with the Secretary General. (emphasis, underscoring and italics supplied)

64 Section 17. Bar Against Initiation of Impeachment Proceedings. −Within a period of one (1) year from the date impeachment proceedings are deemed initiated as provided in Section 16 hereof, no impeachment proceedings, as such, can be initiated against the same official. (emphasis, underscoring and italics supplied)

65 Francisco, supra at 933.

66 Petitioner’s Memorandum, pp. 30-36 (rollo, pp. 793-799).

67 II Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 376 (July 28, 1986).

68 Id. at 279-280.

69 Id. at 374-375.

70 Id. at 375-376.

71 Id. at 416.

72 Francisco, supra at 940.

73 Francisco, supra at 931.

74 Section 3. x x x

(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.

x x x x

75 Vide Gatchalian, etc. v. COMELEC, 146 Phil. 435, 442-443 (1970).

76 x x x An impeachment case is the legal controversy that must be decided by the Senate. Above-quoted first 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. However, before a decision is made to initiate a case in the Senate, a "proceeding" must be followed to arrive at a conclusion. x x x (Francisco, supra at 930-931).

77 Francisco, supra at 931.

78 Petitioner’s Memorandum, p. 55 (rollo, p. 818).

79 Rules of the House of Representatives, Rule XIII, Sec. 96.

80 <http://www.rulesonline.com/rror-05.htm> (visited: November 12, 2010), which further explains:

"The Object of the motion to refer to a standing or special committee is usually to enable a question to be more carefully investigated and put into better shape for the assembly to consider, than can be done in the assembly itself. Where an assembly is large and has a very large amount of business it is safer to have every main question go to a committee before final action on it is taken." (underscoring supplied).

81 Vide Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings, Rule II, Sec. 2. Note also that Section 3 (2), Article XI of the Constitution did not use the terms "calendar days" or "working days."

82 Respondent Committee’s Memorandum, p. 78 (rollo, p. 971).

83 Respondent Reyes group’s Memorandum, p. 26 (id. at 1085).

84 Respondent-Intervenor’s Memorandum, p. 22 (id. at 1131).

85 Quinto v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.

86 Francisco, supra at 931.

87 It was made of record that "whenever the body will override the resolution of impeachment of the Committee, it is understood that the body itself will prepare the Articles of Impeachment." [II Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 416 (July 29, 1986)].

88 To respondents Committee and Reyes Group, any House action of dismissal of the complaint would not set in the one-year bar rule.

89 Petitioner’s Memorandum, p. 38 (rollo, p. 801), citing the Separate Opinion of Justice Adolf Azcuna in Francisco.

90 II Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 282 (July 26, 1986).

91 TSN, October 12, 2010, p. 212.

92 Citing Rules of Court, Rule 2, Sec. 5 & Rule 140, Sec. 1.

93 Or by the Committee if the question is first raised therein.

94 This is not to say, however, that it must always contain two or more charges. In Santillon v. Miranda, et al, [121 Phil. 1351, 1355 (1965)], it was held that the plural can be understood to include the singular.

95 Petitioner cites that the Committee stated that "although two complaints were filed against petitioner, the two were in effect merged in one proceeding by their referral on the same day to the Committee." (TSN, Committee Hearing, September 1, 2010; rollo, p. 528-529).

96 Id. at 48.

97 Vide San Luis v. Rojas, G.R. No. 159127, March 3, 2008, 547 SCRA 345, 367.

98 The Committee’s Comment, p. 29 (rollo, p. 430).


The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

CONCURRING OPINION

CARPIO, J.:

On 22 July 2010, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo D. Lim, Felipe Pestaño and Evelyn Pestaño (Baraquel, et al.) filed an impeachment complaint (First Complaint) against Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez (petitioner) based on the following grounds:

I. Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez betrayed the public trust.

i. The dismal and unconscionably low conviction rates achieved by the Office of the Ombudsman from 2008 onward indicate a criminal level of incompetence amounting to grave dereliction of duty which constitutes a clear betrayal of public trust.

ii. The unreasonable failure of the Ombudsman to take prompt and immediate action, in violation of its own rules of procedure, on the complaints filed against various public officials including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and her husband Jose Miguel T. Arroyo with regard to the NBN-ZTE Broadband Project constitutes betrayal of public trust.

iii. The inexcusable delay of the Ombudsman in conducting and concluding its investigation into the wrongful death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño aboard a Philippine Navy vessel constitutes a betrayal of public trust.

iii. The decision of the Ombudsman upholding the "legality" of the arrest and involuntary detention of then Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel by the Philippine National Police in March 2006 in violation of the explicit rules provided in the Revised Penal Code and as established by jurisprudence constitutes a betrayal of public trust.

iv. The failure of the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation into the possible wrongdoing or impropriety with regard to the P1,000,000.00 dinner for the Presidential Party at Le Cirque Restaurant in New York in August 2009 despite widespread media coverage and media clamor, and a formal letter from Representative Walden F. Bello calling for an inquiry constitutes betrayal of public trust.

II. Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez performed acts amounting to culpable violation of the Constitution.

vi. The repeated failure of the Ombudsman to take prompt action on a wide variety of cases involving official abuse and corruption violates Article XI, Section 12 and Article III, Section 16 of the Constitution, which mandate prompt action and speedy disposition of cases.

vii. The refusal of the Ombudsman to grant ready access to public records such as the Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) required of all public officers under Republic Act No. 6713 constitutes a culpable violation of Article XI, Section 13(6) and Article III, Section 7 of the Constitution.

The First Complaint was endorsed by AKBAYAN Party-list Representatives Kaka Bag-ao and Walden Bello.

On 3 August 2010, Renato Reyes, Secretary General of BAYAN, Mo. Mary John Mananzan of PAGBABAGO, Danilo Ramos, Secretary General of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Atty. Edre Olalia, Acting Secretary General of National Union of People's Lawyers, Ferdinand Gaite, Chairperson of COURAGE, and James Terry Ridon, Chairperson of League of Filipino Students (Reyes, et al.) filed a Verified Impeachment Complaint (Second Complaint) against petitioner on the following grounds:

I. Betrayal of Public Trust

1. Ombudsman Gutierrez committed betrayal of public trust through her gross inexcusable delay in investigating and failure in prosecuting any one of [those] involved on the anomalous transactions arising from the Fertilizer Fund Scam despite the blatant anomalous transactions revealed in the COA findings, Senate Committee Report 54 and the complaints filed with respondent on the "Fertilizer Scam."

(2) Ombudsman Gutierrez committed betrayal of public trust when she did not prosecute Gen. Eliseo De la Paz for violating BSP Circular 98 (1995), as amended by BSP Circular 507 (2006), in relation to Republic Act 6713, which prohibits the taking out of the country of currency in excess of US $10,000.00 without declaring the same to the Philippine customs, despite the fact that Gen. Eliseo De la Paz publicly admitted under oath before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that he took out of the country currency in excess of US $ 10,000.00 without declaring the same with the Philippine Customs.

(3) Ombudsman Gutierrez betrayed the public trust through her gross inexcusable delay or inaction by acting in deliberate disregard of the Supreme Court's findings and directive in its decision and resolution in Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines, et al. v. Commission on Elections, et al.

II. Culpable violation of the Constitution

The Second Complaint was endorsed by Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares, Teodoro A. Casiño, Rafael V. Mariano, Luzviminda C. Ilagan, Raymond V. Palatino, Antonio L. Tinio, and Emerenciana A. De Jesus.

On 3 August 2010, the House of Representatives Committee on Justice (Committee on Justice) provisionally adopted the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the Fourteenth Congress (Rules of Procedure).

On 11 August 2010, the First and Second Complaints were referred by the Plenary to the Committee on Justice.

On 1 September 2010, the Committee on Justice found the First and Second Complaints sufficient in form by a vote of 39 in favor and 1 against, and 31 in favor and 9 against, respectively.

On 2 September 2010, the Rules of Procedure was published.

On 7 September 2010, the Committee on Justice, voting 40 in favor and 10 against, affirmed that the First and Second Complaints were sufficient in form. Thereafter, the Committee on Justice found the First and Second Complaints sufficient in substance, by a vote of 41 in favor and 14 against and 41 in favor and 16 against, respectively. Petitioner was directed to file an answer to the complaints within 10 days from receipt of notice.

On 13 September 2010, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition1 before this Court seeking to enjoin the Committee on Justice from proceeding with the impeachment proceedings. The petition prayed for a temporary restraining order. The petition is based on the following grounds:

I. In gross and wanton disregard of the rudimentary requirements of due process of law, the Committee acted with indecent and precipitate haste in issuing its assailed Resolutions, dated 1 September 2010 and 7 September 2010 which found the two (2) impeachment complaints filed against petitioner Ombudsman sufficient in form and substance.

II. The Rules of Procedure in impeachment proceedings lack comprehensive standards in determining as to what amounts to sufficiency in form of an impeachment complaint and gives the members of the Committee unfettered discretion in carrying out its provisions. Thus, it contravenes the Constitution and violates petitioner Ombudsman's cardinal and primary right to due process, thereby tainting the hearing conducted before the Committee on 1 September 2010 in relation to the sufficiency in form of the two (2) impeachment complaints with illegality and nullity.

III. The Committee's finding that the two (2) impeachment complaints filed against petitioner Ombudsman are sufficient in form violate Section 3(5), Article XI of the 1987 Constitution which provides that no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one (1) year. In the Francisco case, the Honorable Court reckoned the start of the one (1) year bar on the impeachment of an impeachable officer from the date of the filing of the complaint. In the instant case, the first complaint was filed on 22 July 2010. Thus, the filing of the second complaint on 3 August 2010, a mere twelve (12) days after the filing of the first complaint, violates the one (1) year bar under the 1987 Constitution. The second complaint should, therefore, not have been accepted and referred to the Committee for action.

IV. The contemplated consolidation of the two (2) impeachment complaints constitutes a contravention of the one (1) year bar. If the Committee would follow through on such course of action, it would be arrogating unto itself the power to alter or amend the meaning of the Constitution without need of referendum, a power denied to it by the 1987 Constitution and its very own rules. The Committee would also be allowed to to wantonly exercise unbridled discretion in carrying out the letter and spirit of the Constitution and to arbitrarily wield the two (2) impeachment complaints as instruments of harassment and oppression against petitioner Ombudsman.

V. The Rules of Procedure in impeachable proceedings do not prescribe the form or standards in order for an impeachment complaint to be deemed sufficient in form. However, Section 16, Rule VII of the same rules provides that the Rules of Criminal Procedure under the Rules of Court shall, as far as practicable, apply to the impeachment proceedings before the House. In this regard, Section 13, Rule 110 of the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure mandates that a complaint must charge only one (1) offense. The Committee, in finding that the two (2) impeachable complaints charging petitioner Ombudsman with the offenses of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust sufficient in form, violated the cardinal rule that a complaint must charge only one (1) offense. Thus, the two (2) impeachment complaints cannot be sufficient in form.

VI. The two (2) impeachment complaints filed against petitioner Ombudsman do not meet the standards laid down by the Committee itself for the determination of "sufficiency of substance."

A. Assuming as true the allegations of the two (2) impeachment complaints, none of them can be deemed of the same nature as the other grounds for impeachment under the Constitution.

B. There is no legal right on the part of the complainants to compel petitioner Ombudsman to file and prosecute offenses committed by public officials and employees. On the other hand, there is no legal duty on the part of petitioner Ombudsman to file an Information when she believes that there is no prima facie evidence to do so. Thus, there can be no "violation of any legal right of the complainants" to speak of that can be the basis of a finding of "sufficiency in substance" of the two (2) impeachment complaints.

The following day, during the en banc morning session of 14 September 2010, over the objections of Justices Carpio, Carpio Morales and Sereno who asked for time to read the petition, the majority of this Court voted to issue a status quo ante order suspending the impeachment proceedings against petitioner. The petition, with Urgent Motion for Immediate Raffle, was filed at 9:01 a.m. of 13 September 2010. I received a copy of the petition only in the afternoon of 14 September 2010, after the en banc morning session of that day. The petition consists of 60 pages, excluding the annexes. All the Justices should have been given time, at least an hour or two as is the practice in such urgent cases, to read the petition before voting on the issuance of the status quo ante order. Unfortunately, this was not done.

Section 3(5), Article XI of the 1987 Constitution provides that "(n)o impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year." There are two impeachment complaints filed against petitioner, filed within days from each other. The First Complaint was filed on 22 July 2010 while the Second Complaint was filed on 3 August 2010.

In Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives,2 the Court had the occasion to discuss the meaning of the term "to initiate" as applied to impeachment proceedings. The Court ruled:

From the records of the Constitutional Commission, to the amicus curiae briefs of two former Constitutional Commissioners, it is without doubt that the term "to initiate" refers to the filing of the impeachment complaint coupled with Congress' taking initial action of said complaint.

x x x the initiation takes place by the act of filing and referral or endorsement of the impeachment complaint to the House Committee on Justice or, by the filing by at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives with the Secretary General of the House x x x.3 (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, there are two components of the act of initiating the complaint: the filing of the impeachment complaint and the referral by the House Plenary to the Committee on Justice. The Court ruled that once an impeachment complaint has been initiated, another impeachment complaint may not be filed against the same official within a one year period.4

On 11 August 2010, the two complaints were referred by the House Plenary to the Committee on Justice at the same time. The Committee on Justice acted on the two complaints, ruling on the sufficiency of form, and later of substance, at the same time. The prohibition against filing of another impeachment complaint within a one year period would apply if the First Complaint was referred by the House Plenary to the Committee on Justice ahead of the Second Complaint. There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits the consolidation of the First and Second Complaints since they were referred by the House Plenary to the Committee on Justice at the same time. Neither the First nor the Second Complaint is prior to the other in terms of action of the House Plenary in referring the two complaints to the Committee on Justice. The Constitutional bar, therefore, will not apply in this case.

Petitioner alleges that the Rules of Procedure lack comprehensible standards as to what amounts to sufficiency in form. Petitioner asserts that the determination of the sufficiency in form must rest on something more substantial than a mere ascertainment of whether the complaint was verified by the complainants and whether it was properly referred to the Committee for action.

Section 4, Rule III of the Rules of Procedure provides:

Section 4. Determination of Sufficiency in Form and Substance. - Upon due referral, the Committee on Justice shall determine whether the complaint is sufficient in form and substance. If the committee finds that the complaint is insufficient in form, it shall return the same to the Secretary General within three (3) session days with a written explanation of the insufficiency. The Secretary General shall return the same to the complainant(s) together with the committee's written explanation within three (3) session days from receipt of the committee resolution finding the complaint insufficient in form.

Should the committee find the complaint sufficient in form, it shall then determine if the complaint is sufficient in substance. The requirement of substance is met if there is a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee. If the committee finds that the complaint is not sufficient in substance, it shall dismiss the complaint and shall submit its report as provided hereunder.

Section 4 is not vague as petitioner asserts. The Rules of Procedure provides that "[t]he Rules of Criminal Procedure under the Rules of Court shall, as far as practicable, apply to impeachment proceedings before the House."5 Section 7, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a complaint or information is sufficient if it states, among other things, the name of the accused and the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense. Following Section 16 of the Rules of Procedure, Section 7, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure suppletorily applies to the Rules of Procedure to determine whether the impeachment complaints are sufficient in form. The fact that the acts complained of are enumerated in the impeachment complaints, coupled with the fact that they were verified and endorsed, is enough to determine whether the complaints were sufficient in form.

Petitioner also asserts that the complaints violate Section 13, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure6 which provides that a complaint or information must charge only one offense. Petitioner alleges that the Committee on Justice found the impeachment complaints sufficient in form although the impeachment complaints charge petitioner with the offenses of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. Petitioner argues that the impeachment complaints allege duplicitous offenses.

The argument has no merit.

The impeachment procedure is analogous to a criminal trial but is not a criminal prosecution per se.7 While the Rules of Procedure provide for the suppletory application of the Rules of Criminal Procedure in an impeachment proceedings, a strict application of the Rules of Criminal Procedure is not required in impeachment proceedings, as can be gleaned from the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, thus:

MR. MAAMBONG. Let us go to a bottom-line question then. When the Senate acting as body will now try the impeachment case, will it conduct the proceeding using principles of criminal procedure?

MR. ROMULO. I do not think so, strictly speaking, that it need be criminal procedures. The important thing, I believe, is that the involved party should know the charges and the proceedings must be, in total, fair and impartial. I do not think we have to go to the minutiae of a criminal proceeding because that is not the intention. This is not a criminal proceeding per se.

MR. MAAMBONG. In the matter of presentation for example, of evidence, when it comes to treason and bribery, would the rules on criminal procedure be applied, considering that I am no particularizing on the ground which is punishable by the Revised Penal Code, like treason or bribery?

MR. ROMULO. Yes, but we will notice that, strictly speaking for the crime of treason under the Revised Penal Code, he is answerable for that crime somewhere else. So my conclusion is that obviously, it is in the criminal court where we will apply all the minutiae of evidence and proceedings and all these due processes. But we can be more liberal when it comes to the impeachment proceedings, for instance, in the Senate, because we are after the removal of that fellow, and conviction in that case really amounts to his removal from office. The courts of justice will take care of the criminal and civil aspects.8

Further, the impeachment complaint is not the same as the Articles of Impeachment. The impeachment complaint is analogous to the affidavit-complaint of the private complainant filed before the prosecutor for purposes of the preliminary investigation. Such affidavit-complaint, prepared by the complainant, may allege several offenses. On the other hand, Section 13, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure refers to the formal complaint or information prepared by the prosecutor and filed before the court after the preliminary investigation. Such formal complaint or information must charge only one offense against an accused. The Articles of Impeachment is prepared by the Committee after it votes to recommend to the House Plenary the filing of impeachment charges. The only requirement in preparing the Articles of Impeachment is that there is only one specific charge for each article. The Articles of Impeachment, as its name imply, may have several articles, each charging one specific offense. The proceedings before the Committee on Justice is like a preliminary investigation in a criminal case where there is no complaint or information yet.

As pointed out in the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, the impeachment proceeding is not a criminal prosecution. The impeachment proceeding covers not only criminal acts but also non-criminal acts, such as betrayal of public trust, which is the main charge against petitioner in both the First and Second Complaints. In Francisco, the Court noted that the framers of the Constitution could find no better way to approximate the boundaries of betrayal of public trust than by alluding to positive and negative examples.9 Thus:

THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Regalado is recognized.

MR. REGALADO. Thank you, Madam President.

I have a series of questions here, some for clarifications, some for the cogitative and reading pleasure of the members of the Committee over a happy weekend without prejudice later to proposing amendments at the proper stage.

First, this is with respect to Section 2, on the grounds for impeachment , and I quote:

. . . culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, other high crimes, graft and corruption or betrayal of public trust.

Just for the record, what would the Committee envision as a betrayal of public trust which is not otherwise covered by by other terms antecedent thereto?

MR. ROMULO. I think, if I may speak for the Committee and subject to further comments of Commissioner de los Reyes, the concept is that this is a catchall phrase. Really, it refers to his oath of office, in the end that the idea of public trust is connected with the oath of office of the officer, and if he violates that oath of office, then he has betrayed the trust.

MR. REGALADO. Thank you.

MR. MONSOD. Madam President, may I ask Commissioner de los Reyes to perhaps add to those remarks.

THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner de los Reyes is recognized.

MR. DE LOS REYES. The reason I proposed this amendment is that during the Regular Batasang Pambansa where there was a move to impeach then President Marcos, there were arguments to the effect that there is no ground for impeachment because there is no proof that President Marcos committed criminal acts which are punishable, or considered penal offenses. And so the term "betrayal of public trust," as explained by Commissioner Romulo, is a catchall phrase to include all acts which are not punishable by statutes as penal offenses but, nonetheless, render the officer unfit to continue in office. It includes betrayal of public interest, inexcusable negligence of duty, tyrannical abuse of power, breach of official duty by malfeasance or misfeasance, cronyism, favoritism, etc. to the prejudice of public interest and which tend to bring the office into disrepute. That is the purpose, Madam President.

Thank you.

MR. ROMULO. If I may add another example, because Commissioner Regalado asked a very good question. This concept would include, I think, obstruction of justice since in his oath he swears to do justice to every man; so if he does anything that obstructs justice, it could be construed as a betrayal of public trust.

Thank you.

MR. NOLLEDO. In pursuing that statement of Commissioner Romulo, Madam President, we will notice that in the presidential oath of then President Marcos, he stated that he will do justice to every man. If he appoints a Minister of Justice and orders him to issue or to prepare repressive decrees denying justice to a common man without the President being held liable, I think this act will not fall near the category of treason, nor will it fall under bribery of other high crimes, neither will it fall under graft and corruption. And so when the President tolerates violations of human rights through the repressive decrees authored by his Minister of Justice, the President betrays the public trust.10

Clearly, the framers of the Constitution recognized that an impeachment proceeding covers non-criminal offenses. They included betrayal of public trust as a catchall provision to cover non-criminal acts. The framers of the Constitution intended to leave it to the members of the House of Representatives to determine what would constitute betrayal of public trust as a ground for impeachment.

Even the United States Senate recognizes that the Articles of Impeachment can contain various offenses. On 20 October 1989, the United States Senate impeached Judge Alcee Hastings (Hastings).11 Hastings was charged with 17 Articles of Impeachment ranging from corrupt conspiracy, knowingly making a false statement intended to mislead the trier of fact, fabrication of false documents, and improper disclosure by revealing highly confidential information that he learned as a supervising judge in a wiretap.12 Hastings was convicted in 8 of the Articles of Impeachment and was removed from office. Hence, there is nothing that would prevent the impeachment of petitioner for various offenses contained in the Articles of Impeachment.

Moreover, the Court cannot review the sufficiency of the substance of the impeachment complaints. The sufficiency of the substance will delve into the merits of the impeachment complaints over which this Court has no jurisdiction.13 The Court can only rule on whether there is a gross violation of the Constitution in filing the impeachment complaint, in particular, whether the complaint was filed in violation of the one-year ban. The Court cannot review the decision of the Committee on Justice to impeach. The Court ruled in Francisco:

The first issue14 goes into the merits of the second impeachment complaint over which this Court has no jurisdiction. More importantly, any discussion of this issue would require this Court to make a determination of what constitutes an impeachable offense. Such a determination is a purely political question which the Constitution has left to the sound discretion of the legislation. Such an intent is clear from the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission.15

Impeachment is a political process. Thus, the decision to impeach lies exclusively on Congress. The most important thing in an impeachment proceeding is the vote by the House Plenary. Section 10 of the Rules of Procedure states that "[a] vote of at least one-third (⅓) of all Members of the House is necessary for the approval of the resolution setting forth the Articles of Impeachment. If the resolution is approved by the required vote, it shall then be endorsed to the Senate for its trial." The Rule is based on Section 3 (4), Article XI of the 1987 Constitution which states:

Sec. 3. x x x

(4) In case the verified complaint or resolution of impeachment is filed by at least one-third of the Members of the House, the same shall constitute the Articles of Impeachment, and trial by the Senate shall forthwith proceed.

The Constitution is clear. After the vote of one-third of all the Members of the House is achieved, the Articles of Impeachment will automatically be forwarded to the Senate for trial. The Constitution only requires the vote of one-third of all the Members of the House for the Articles of Impeachment to be forwarded to the Senate whether or not the complaint is sufficient in form and substance.

Finally, there is no violation of petitioner's right to due process. Nobody can claim a vested right to public office. A public office is not a property right, and no one has a vested right to any public office.16 Thus:

Again, for this petition to come under the due process of law prohibition, it would necessary to consider an office a "property." It is, however, well settled x x x that a public office is not property within the sense of the constitutional guaranties of due process of law, but is a public trust or agency. x x x The basic idea of the government x x x is that of a popular representative government, the officers being mere agents and not rulers of the people, one where no one man or set of men has a proprietary or contractual right to an office, but where every officer accepts office pursuant to the provisions of the law and holds the office as a trust for the people he represents.17

Accordingly, I vote for the dismissal of the petition and the lifting of the status quo ante order issued by this Court against the House of Representatives.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice


Footnotes

1 Under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

2 460 Phil. 830 (2003).

3 Id. at 932. Emphasis supplied.

4 Supra, note 2.

5 Section 16.

6 Section 13. Duplicity of the offense.—A complaint or information must charge only one offense, except when the law prescribes a single punishment for various offenses.

7 2 Record of the Constitutional Proceedings and Debates, 277.

8 Id.

9 Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives, supra note 2.

10 2 Record of the Constitutional Proceedings and Debates, 272.

11 http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Senate_Impeachment_Role.htm#4.

12 http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Impeachment_Hastings.htm.

13 Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives, supra note 2.

14 Whether the offenses alleged in the Second impeachment complaint constitute valid impeachable offense under the Constitution.

15 Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives, supra note 2, at 913.

16 Montesclaros v. Comelec, 433 Phil. 620 (2002).

17 Id. at 637-638, citing Cornejo v. Gabriel, 41 Phil. 188 (1920). Emphasis in the original text.


The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

CONCURRING OPINION

SERENO, J.:

"No point is of more importance than that right of impeachment should be continued. Shall any man be above justice? Above all, shall that man be above it who can commit the most extensive injustice."

– George Mason, Delegate from Virginia1

I concur with the ponencia of Justice Conchita Carpio Morales particularly with respect to the following rulings:

1. The expanded certiorari jurisdiction of the Court allows it to review the acts of Congress and measure them against standards expressed in the Constitution. The power to arrive at a determination of whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Legislature in the exercise of its functions and prerogatives under the Constitution is vested in the Court.

2. The instant Petition is not premature; it raises issues that are ripe for adjudication. The Court is presented with "constitutional vagaries" that must be resolved forthwith – with respect to the legal meaning of the simultaneous referral of two impeachment complaints by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to its Committee on Justice (public respondent Committee), and the extent of the legal need to publish the House Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings.

3. There was no violation of petitioner Merciditas Gutierrez’s right to due process of law.

4. The "one offense, one complaint" rule in ordinary rules of criminal procedure cannot work to bar multiple complaints in impeachment proceedings, as the Constitution allows indictment for multiple impeachment offenses.

5. The determination of the permissibility of the consolidation of impeachment complaints is at the moment premature, conjectural or anticipatory; public respondent Committee has yet to rule on the consolidation.

I diverge however, from the ponencia of the highly-respected Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, on the reckoning point of the one-year time bar on subsequent impeachment proceedings under the Constitution. I believe this Court, despite its several decisions on impeachment, has not paid sufficient attention to the full implication of the inherently discretionary character of the power of impeachment.

The Court has straitjacketed its interpretation of the one-year bar by failing to go beyond the records of the deliberations of the Commissioners of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. It has a duty to look beyond, when the records demonstrate that the Commissioners were so inordinately pressed to declare a starting point for "initiation of impeachment proceedings" during the deliberations to the unfortunate extent that they appear to have forgotten the nature of the power of impeachment. I refer to the deliberations during which Commissioner Maambong attempted to define the "initiation of impeachment proceedings." The Commissioners were unable to recognize during the deliberations that the entirety of steps involved in the process of impeachment is a mix of clerical/ministerial and discretionary acts, even while the power of impeachment itself is wholly discretionary. The apparent failure of one of the Commissioners to remember the inherently discretionary nature of the power of impeachment while being interpellated, such that he reckons the "initiation" to start with the filing of an impeachment complaint, however, should not be followed by this Court’s own failure to look at the right place for an answer – at the essential character of the power of impeachment. Reason is the foundation of all legal interpretation, including that of constitutional interpretation. And the most powerful tool of reason is reflecting on the essence of things. This is most especially needed when the Commissioners of the Constitutional Commission failed at an important time to articulate an interpretation of the constitution that is founded on reason; rather, they chose an interpretation that on the surface seemed reasonable, but on examination, turns out to have been arbitrary and highly problematic.

The Constitution provides: "No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year."2

The impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives3 are constitutionally defined to consist of the following steps:

A. Filing of the Verified Complaint. A verified complaint for impeachment is filed by either: (a) a Member of the House of Representatives; or (b) any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof.4

B. Inclusion in the Order of Business. After filing, the complaint shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days.5

C. Referral to the Committee. During the House Session when the complaint is calendared to be taken up, the Speaker of the House shall refer the complaint for impeachment to the proper committee within three session days.6

D. Committee Report. The Committee, after hearing, and by a majority vote of all its Members shall submit its report to the House within sixty (60) session days from the referral, together with the corresponding resolution.7 The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within ten session days from receipt thereof.8

E. House Plenary Vote. A vote of a 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.9

F. Transmittal of Articles of Impeachment. 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.10

Since these are the only constitutionally described steps in the process of impeachment in the House of Representatives, the starting point for the one-year bar must be among these steps; the question is, where? Note that none of these steps is constitutionally described as the "initiation of the impeachment proceedings." The parties to the case have advocated their positions on this issue in their respective Memoranda.11

Petitioner Gutierrez espouses the view that the very "act of filing the complaint is the actual initiation – beginning or commencement – of impeachment proceedings" that would commence the one-year time-bar.12

On the other hand, public respondent Committee, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), argues that the "impeachment is a process beginning with the filing of a complaint and terminating in its disposition by the vote of at least one-third of all the members of the House"; and that the one-year period should be counted from the plenary action of the House on the Committee’s report.13

Meanwhile, private respondents Renato Reyes, Mother Mary John Mananzan, Danilo Ramos, Atty. Edre Olalia, Ferdinand Gaite and James Terry Ridon (private respondents Reyes) claim that the "term ‘initiated’ therein takes place by the act of the House of Representatives of transmitting the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for the conduct of the impeachment trial proceedings"; and, thus, the one-year period should commence from the transmittal by the House of Representatives of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.14

Finally, respondent-intervenor Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr., as Speaker of the House, theorizes that the better interpretation of the constitutional time bar should be reckoned from the recommendation of the Committee to the House of Representatives.15

All the parties to the case, and the Court, are keenly aware of the latter’s ruling in Francisco v. Nagmamalasakit na mga Manananggol ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc.16 That ruling was categorical in stating that the impeachment proceeding is "initiated or begins, when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the Committee on Justice for action."17 Considering the factual circumstances of the instant case, and the experiences of the country with impeachment proceedings in the House since the Francisco ruling, the Court is faced with a good opportunity to reexamine its earlier disposition.

Petitioner Gutierrez’s argument that the one-year time bar on a second impeachment complaint should be counted from the mechanical act of filing the complaint alone18 is pregnant with a multitude of problems. Congress’ exclusive power to initiate impeachment cases would be effectively rendered inutile. This country’s experience with impeachment in the past decade has shown that pegging the time bar to the mechanical act of filing has transformed impeachment into a race on who gets to file a complaint the fastest – regardless of whether such a first complaint is valid, proper, substantial or supported by evidence. Enterprising yet unscrupulous individuals have filed patently sham, frivolous or defective complaints in the House in order to commence the one-year period and thus bar the subsequent filing of "legitimate" complaints against the same impeachable officer. In embracing the provisions of the 1987 Constitution, the Filipino people certainly did not countenance a technical loophole that would be misused to negate the only available and effective mechanism against abuse of power by impeachable officers.

The opposite extreme propounded by private respondents Reyes that the period of the time bar starts from the filing of the Articles of Impeachment in the Senate is likewise untenable. Following their proposition, the one-year period will only commence when the report of the Committee favoring impeachment is approved by the required vote of the House, and the Articles of Impeachment are transmitted to the Senate. Consequently, if there is no transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment, then there is no one-year time bar. As a result, multiple parties may continue to file numerous complaints, until Articles of Impeachment are transmitted by the House to the Senate.

This scenario of persistent filing until there is a transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment is equally abhorrent to the constitutional prohibition on multiple, successive and never-ending impeachment proceedings (not complaints). The machine-gun approach to the filing of an impeachment complaint until there is a successful transmittal to the Senate will greatly impede the discharge of functions of impeachable officers, who are not given any refuge from such repetitive proceedings. Justice and the efficient administration of government would be defeated, if the impeachment time bar is made to commence solely from the favorable transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment. The time consumed by impeachable officers fending off impeachment proceedings is the same, regardless of the result – the time bar, therefore, must equally apply to unsuccessful impeachment attempts voted down by the House.

Finally, the Court is confronted with the positions of public respondent Committee and respondent-intervenor Belmonte as opposed to the Court’s ruling in Francisco. In Francisco, the time bar is counted from the acts of filing the impeachment complaint and its referral to a Committee,19 where the latter is a purely ministerial act of the Speaker of the House. On the other hand, both public respondent Committee and respondent-intervenor Belmonte propose that the period of one year begin from discretionary acts, namely, from the submission of the Committee report on the complaint according to the Speaker, and from the one-third House plenary action on the report according to the public respondent Committee. With all due respect to the Court’s ruling in Francisco, I uphold the position of the public respondent Committee. The doctrine of separation of powers in our theory of government pertains to the apportionment of state powers among coequal branches; namely, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. In establishing the structures of government, the ideal that the Constitution seeks to achieve is one of balance among the three great departments of government —with each department undertaking its constitutionally assigned task as a check against the exercise of power by the others, while all three departments move forward in working for the progress of the nation.20 The system of checks and balances has been carefully calibrated by the Constitution to temper the official acts of each of these three branches.21

The power of impeachment is the Legislature’s check against the abuses of the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman.22 Having been elected or appointed for fixed terms, these impeachable officers enjoy security of tenure, which is intended to enhance their capability to perform their governmental functions efficiently and independently. However, their tenure, arising from either direct election by the people or indirect appointment by the people’s representatives, is not carte blanche authority for them to abuse their powers. In the face of gross governmental abuse, the people have not been made so powerless by the Constitution as to suffer until the impeachable officer’s term or appointment expires. The Legislature’s impeachment power is the very solution provided by the fundamental law to remove, in the interim, public officers who have failed to uphold the public’s trust. The Ombudsman is the public official constitutionally tasked to investigate and prosecute complaints against other public officials23 except for impeachable officers and members of the national legislature. She is continually required by the Constitution to be of recognized probity and independence, 24 and must maintain this public trust during her term of office. Avoidance of the prospect of impeachment is the negative incentive for the Ombudsman, and all other impeachable officers, to keep that public trust.

Within the limitations set forth in the Constitution, impeachment is inarguably a political act exercised by the Legislature, a political body elected by and directly accountable to the people. This power "is lodged in those who represent the great body of the people, because the occasion for its exercise will arise from acts of great injury to the community, and the objects of it may be such as cannot easily be reached by an ordinary tribunal."25

Full discretion is vested in Congress, both the House and the Senate, to determine whether or not an officer should be impeached, subject only to constitutionally provided limits. Even if the expanded certiorari jurisdiction allows the Court to review legislative acts that contravene the express provisions of the Constitution, the Court cannot supplant with its own determination, that of Congress in finding whether a public officer has performed acts that are grounds for impeachment. The political character of the process is underscored by a degree of imprecision in the offenses subject of impeachment,26 thus allowing Congress sufficient leeway to describe the acts as impeachable or not.27

Since the power of impeachment is inherently discretionary, owing to its political character, then the time bar limitation imposed by the Constitution on this legislative discretion must likewise be counted from a discretionary, and not a ministerial, act. The one-year period was meant to be a restraint on the discretionary power of impeachment; otherwise, the Legislature would have been allowed to exercise that discretion at will repeatedly and continuously, to the detriment of the discharge of functions of impeachable officers. It is counterintuitive and illogical to place a limitation on discretionary powers, which is triggered not by the exercise of the discretion sought to be limited, but by a mere ministerial, ceremonial act perfunctorily performed preparatory to such exercise.

We observe that the Constitution has placed time conditions on the performance of acts (both discretionary and ministerial in nature) in pursuit of the House’s exclusive power to initiate impeachment proceedings.28 These specific time conditions in the form of session days, however, have primarily been imposed for the purpose of avoiding delays or filibusters, which members of the House may resort to in order to prolong or even defeat the impeachment process. Whether the step is discretionary or ministerial, the constitutional deadlines for the execution of impeachment steps regulate only the speed at which the proceeding is to take place.

In contrast, the rule against the initiation of more than one impeachment proceeding against the same impeachable officer in a span of one year is a time constraint on the frequency with which the discretionary act of impeachment is to be exercised. The time bar regulates how often this power can be exercised by the House of Representatives. The rationale is that the extreme measure of removal of an impeachable officer cannot be used as Congress’ perennial bargaining chip to intimidate and undermine the impeachable officer’s independence.

While each chamber of Congress is constitutionally empowered to determine its rules of proceedings, it may not by its rules ignore constitutional restraints or violate fundamental rights.29 Further, there should be a reasonable relation between the mode or method of proceeding established by the rule and the result that is sought to be attained.30

I respectfully differ from my colleagues when in effect they rule that the one-year limitation on a discretionary power is to begin from the ministerial act of the Speaker in referring the impeachment complaint to the appropriate committee of the House of Representatives. I cannot reconcile the incongruity between the constitutional largeness of the power of impeachment – an inherently discretionary power lodged in the entire Congress – and the controlling effect that a small act of the Speaker in referring a complaint to the Committee has, over this large power of impeachment. Retired Justice Serafin Cuevas, counsel for petitioner Gutierrez, goes so far as to characterize the Speaker’s ministerial referral of the complaint as merely "ceremonial in character":

JUSTICE SERENO:

And you are basically … your contention if [I] understand it is that this is the initiation? This is the act of initiating an impeachment complaint?

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

Yes, we subscribed to the view or we uphold the view that upon the filing thereof, it was already initiated because the referral to the Committee on Justice is only ceremonial in character. The Secretary of Justice cannot do anything with it except to refer or not. Why did it take him twenty two (22) days?31 (Emphasis supplied)

Even on the part of the Speaker of the House, there is no exercise of discretion over the referral of the complaint to the Committee on Justice.32 The Speaker simply performs a ministerial function under the Constitution.33 The Speaker cannot evaluate the complaint as to its sufficiency in form and substance. And even if there is a technical defect in the impeachment complaint, the Speaker is duty-bound to refer the matter to the committee within three session days from its inclusion in the Order of Business. Moreover, as pointed out by Justice Carpio Morales, members of the House cannot even raise issues against the propriety or substance of the impeachment complaint during the referral, as in fact the only objection that can be entertained is the propriety of the committee to which the complaint is referred. There is a dissonance on how the House Speaker’s clerical/ministerial act of referring the complaint can commence the time bar on the discretionary power of the entire House to initiate an impeachment proceeding.

The stark incompatibility between a small ministerial act controlling the substantive right of the House to initiate impeachment proceedings is viewed with concern by no less than retired Justice Cuevas, counsel for petitioner Gutierrez, who agrees with me in this wise:

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE SERENO:

I am sure, sir. But let us now go to the real question of the constitutional right of the House on impeachment and the clerical act of receiving impeachment complaints. Which is superior and which should be given more weight, the substantive right of the House to exercise its right to initiate impeachment complaints or is it the mere clerical act of finding out which complaint on its face bears the stamp, the first the earliest of stamp?

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

I am not aware of any law, Your Honor, that authorizes a mere clerk to do what you are trying to tell us, Your Honor. It is the House, that is the responsibility of the House.

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE SERENO:

Yes, thank you.

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

If they were designated by the Secretary General, the physical acceptance of the complaint lies there.

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE SERENO:

Correct.

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

But that acceptance does not automatically …

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE SERENO:

Correct.

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

... initiate the impeachment proceedings.

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE SERENO:

Thank you very much, that is exactly what I wanted to hear viz-a-viz the substantive right of the House to initiate impeachment proceedings, this cannot be defeated by the clerical act of accepting an impeachment complaint.

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

I agree, Your Honor. (Emphasis supplied)34

Proceedings, as understood in law, include "any and all of the steps or measures adopted or taken, or required to be taken in the prosecution or defense of an action, from the commencement of the action to its termination, such as to the execution of the judgment."35 "Proceedings, both in common parlance and in legal acception, imply action, procedure, prosecution. If it is a progressive course, it must be advancing; and cannot be satisfied by remaining at rest."36

In Macondray & Co., Inc., v. Bernabe,37 the Court ordered the payment of fees by the custodian of the attached properties, since the plaintiff’s recovery of the costs includes any lawful fees paid by him or her for the "service of the summons and other process in the action." The Court defined the word "process" in this wise:

As a legal term, process is a generic word of very comprehensive signification and many meanings. In its broadest sense process, it is equivalent to, or synonymous with, ‘proceedings’ or procedure and embraces all steps and proceedings in a cause from its commencement to its conclusion. Sometimes the term is also broadly defined as the means whereby a court compels a compliance with its demands.38 (Emphasis supplied.)

Therefore, the term "impeachment proceedings" should include the entire gamut of the impeachment process in the House – from the filing of the verified complaint, to its referral to the appropriate committee, to the committee’s deliberations and report, up to the very vote of the House in plenary on the same report. It is only at the time that the House of Representatives as a whole either affirms or overrides the Report, by a vote of one third of all the members, that the initiation of the impeachment proceedings in the House is completed and the one-year bar rule commences. This is because the plenary House vote is the first discretionary act exercised by the House in whom the power of initiating impeachment proceedings repose.

When the Court pegged, in Francisco, the time bar on the initiation of impeachment proceedings to the filing of the complaint and its referral to the appropriate committee, it may have failed to anticipate the actions of parties who would subvert the impeachment process by racing to be the first to file sham and frivolous impeachment complaints. These unintended consequences, which make a mockery of the power of impeachment, justify a second look at the premises considered in Francisco.

Reckoning the beginning of the time bar from a ministerial and preparatory act, instead of the exercise of the discretionary power of impeachment, tends to focus attention on the procedural loopholes. Thus, impeachable officers subject of the proceedings, as well as their counsel, abuse these technical gaps in the legal framework of impeachment. Their purpose is to escape removal or perpetual disqualification despite the serious and grave charges leveled against them. Questions on the number of complaints filed, the date or even the time of filing, and whether the complaints have been consolidated or even simultaneously referred become monkey wrenches that impede the entire process and frustrate the mechanism of impeachment to the point of infeasibility.

As argued by public respondent Committee through retired Justice Vicente Mendoza during oral argument,39 these technical loopholes can be cured by rendering the plenary vote of the entire House on the report of the committee as the starting point of the one-year ban. The intensity of legal wrangling over the definition of the words "proceedings" and "initiate" diminishes in significance if the Court is to focus its attention on the sole, discretionary and exclusive power granted to the House as a whole body to initiate all impeachment cases. Aside from the fact that the plenary vote pertains to the very discretionary act of impeachment, which requires the vote of one-third of its members, the difficulties inherent in pegging the period to ministerial acts are lessened, if not eliminated. Let us look at some problems that this approach eliminates.

First, whether there is a single complaint or multiple complaints filed before the House or taken up by the committee, the House in plenary will only vote once, in one impeachment proceeding, on whether to approve or disapprove the committee’s resolution.

Second, the proposal also removes the undesired proclivity of parties to be the first to file or the first to be referred, since the ban regulates not the speed of filing, but the frequency of the exercise by the House plenary of voting on the impeachment complaint/s.

Third, it makes no difference whether the complaint is filed and/or referred successively or simultaneously, as was being deliberated upon in the public respondent Committee.40 The excessive emphasis on the physical time and date of filing or referral becomes inconsequential, if not absurd.

Finally, the time limitation is reckoned from a discretionary act, which embraces a deliberate, informed and debated process, and not from the ministerial act of a single public officer. The one-year period from the plenary vote of the House on the committee report eliminates even the possibility, however remote, that the Speaker of the House and/or the Majority Floor Leader would include a sham impeachment complaint in the Order of Business and refer the complaint to the Committee on Justice in just a single session day, in order to bar any other subsequent impeachment complaint/s.

The plenary vote by the House on the committee report is definite, determinable, and not ministerial; it is precisely the discretionary exercise of the power to initiate impeachments. As elucidated by retired Justice Mendoza during the oral argument:

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE NACHURA:

Justice Mendoza, just two things, I agree with you that the impeachment proceeding is really a process, is really a process. And I am open, my mind is at least open, to your suggestion that the initiation should be the entire proceedings in the House of Representatives. This would mean of course that the Committee would have prepared its report and submitted the report to the House of representatives in plenary. That would end the initiation, is that your position?

RET. JUSTICE MENDOZA:

Yes, Sir.

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE NACHURA:

Irrespective of the action taken by plenary do we have to await the action of the plenary on the report of the Committee on Justice before we say that these (sic) have been initiation on the impeachment?

RET. JUSTICE MENDOZA:

It is actually the action on the House because the power to initiate is vested in the House not to the Committee of the House. Up to the submission of the report there is only action by the Committee. Action by the House to initiate the proceedings is the action on the Committee report. The point Mr. Justice is this, the House delegates the task of screening good from bad complaints so that its time will not be wasted to a Committee also and to protect the public officials from unnecessarily being made to face impeachment proceedings. So what is given to the Committee is the task of investigating and recommending action on the complaints. So unless action is taken therefore finally by the House, the exclusive power to initiate impeachment proceedings has not been discharged. (Emphasis supplied)41

Of course, there still exists the possibility that the complaining parties would file multiple complaints at the 11th hour before the entire House votes on the committee report. This last minute maneuver is presumably intended to delay the voting, until the belated complaint is referred and deliberated upon by the committee within the number of session days enumerated under the Constitution. However, the deadlines for the committee report and the subsequent voting by the plenary should be counted from the date of the complaint/s first referred, regardless of any subsequent complaints. Any pending impeachment complaint will be immediately barred once the House votes on the committee report. This rule will prevent the filing of subsequent complaints (albeit sham or frivolous), which would continually reset the sixty-session day period and, thus, result in the circumvention of the constitutional deadlines.

A party who has a legitimate grievance supported by evidence against an impeachable officer will ordinarily not wait until the last minute to lodge the complaint. Ordinary diligence and good faith dictate that a person who has sufficient proof of wrongdoing and abuse against an impeachable officer will join and lend support to an impeachment complaint that is already being deliberated upon by the House committee, at the soonest possible time. Hence, it is natural that all complaints with valid grounds and sufficient evidence will be collectively or separately raised at the first opportunity, in order that the committee and eventually the House will be able to perform its deliberative function and exercise discretion within the specified number of session days.

Contrary to the position of respondent-intervenor Belmonte,42 the mere submission of the committee report to the plenary is not a good reckoning point for the one-year period. Undoubtedly, while the committee exercises a degree of discretion in deciding upon and coming up with the report, as when it determines whether the impeachment complaint/s is/are sufficient in form and substance,43 this discretion is exercised by a mere subset of the entire House, however, and is but preliminary. Although of persuasive value, the recommendations of the committee, which is composed of approximately fifty-five (55) members,44 are not binding on the entire House in plenary, which counts two hundred eighty-three (283) members.45

The power to initiate all cases of impeachment is an extraordinary exercise of the sovereign people through its elected representatives to immediately remove those found to have committed impeachable offenses.46 Therefore, the power to initiate impeachment proceedings is a power that is reposed upon the House of Representatives as a whole body, in representation of the sovereign, and this power cannot be taken over by a mere Committee.

Irrespective of the Committee’s findings, the impeachment proceeding will rise or fall or continue up to the impeachment case in the Senate on the basis of the one-third vote of the House. Hence, the one-year period is a limitation on the discretionary power of the entire House to initiate impeachment proceedings, and not on the committee’s deliberations or recommendations with respect to the impeachment complaint/s.

In summary, the following principles support the position that the time bar should be counted from the House of Representative’s plenary action on the report of the Committee on Justice:

1. The time bar on impeachment proceedings cannot be counted from the filing of the complaint; otherwise the absurdity of individuals racing to file the first complaint would ensue, regardless of the complaint’s propriety or substance.

2. The time bar must equally apply, whether the impeachment complaint is successful or not.

3. The time bar, which is a limitation on the House’s exclusive power to initiate impeachment, must be counted from a discretionary act, not from a mechanical or ministerial act, especially not from acts that trivialize the impeachment process.

4. The time bar can only be reckoned from the plenary action of the House on the report of the committee (regardless of the outcome), since such action is done by the constitutional body in which the power is vested, and not by a mere subset that makes a preliminary finding that has only persuasive value.

Judicial review serves an affirmative function vital to a government of limited powers – the function of maintaining a satisfactorily high public feeling that the government has obeyed the law of its own Constitution and stands ready to obey it as it may be declared by a tribunal of independence.47

In this instance, in exercising the power of judicial review over the exclusive and sole power of the House to initiate impeachment cases, the Court must remember that it is also performing a legitimating function – validating how the House exercises its power in the light of constitutional limitations. The Court in the present constitutional dilemma is tasked with doing what has been described as a "balancing act,"48 in determining the appropriate operation of the one-year time bar on the initiation of subsequent impeachment proceedings vis-à-vis the need to allow Congress to exercise its constitutional prerogatives in the matter of impeachment proceedings.

On the one hand, the undisputed raison d’être of the time bar is to prevent the continuous and undue harassment of impeachable officers, such as petitioner Gutierrez, in a way that prevents them from performing their offices’ functions effectively. On the other hand, the protection afforded to petitioner and other impeachable officers against harassment is not a blanket mechanical safety device that would defeat altogether any complaint of wrongdoing, of which she and other impeachable officers may be accused. Therefore, the power to initiate impeachment proceedings should not be so effortlessly and expeditiously achieved by disgruntled politicians to pressure impeachable officers to submission and undermine the latter’s institutional independence. But neither should the power of impeachment be too unreasonably restrictive or filled with technical loopholes as to defeat legitimate and substantiated claims of gross wrongdoing.

I submit that a balance of these two interests is better achieved if the time bar for the initiation of impeachment proceedings commences from the voting of the House on the committee report. Briefly, a subsequent impeachment proceeding against the same officer cannot be initiated until and unless one year lapses from the time the House in plenary votes either to approve or to disapprove the recommendations of the committee on impeachment complaint/s.

What the Court is deciding herein is merely the scope of the constitutional limits on the power to initiate impeachment proceedings, and how the delineation of that scope would affect the second Impeachment Complaint filed by private respondent Reyes. This Court does not arrogate unto itself the power to determine the innocence or guilt of petitioner Gutierrez with respect to the allegations contained in the impeachment complaints of private respondents. Congress, the political branch of government, was entrusted with the power of impeachment, specifically, "because the objectives and the questions to be resolved are political."49 In the Constitution, the impeachment power is an extraordinary political tool to oust a public officer. It must, therefore, be exercised by those whose functions are most directly and immediately responsive to the broad spectrum of the Filipino people, rather than by the Courts.

In expounding on the rationale for excluding the power of impeachment from the courts, Alexander Hamilton succinctly wrote:

… The awful discretion, which a court of impeachments must necessarily have, to doom to honor or to infamy the most confidential and the most distinguished characters of the community, forbids the commitment of the trust to a small number of persons.

These considerations seem alone sufficient to authorise a conclusion, that the Supreme Court would have been an improper substitute for the Senate, as a court of impeachments. … 50

On a final note, the issuance of the Status Quo Ante Order in this case was most unfortunate. It was issued over the objections of Justices Antonio Carpio, Conchita Carpio Morales, and myself. I believed then, as I believe now, that the Court, in issuing the said order, was overly intrusive with respect to a power that does not belong to it by restraining without hearing a co-equal branch of Government. This belief was made more acute by the fact that the order was voted upon in the morning of 14 September 2010, without the benefit of a genuinely informed debate, since several members of the Court, myself included, had not yet then received a copy of the Petition. No one should henceforth presume to tell the House of Representatives that any form of restraining order is still in effect and thereby seek to extend the effectivity of the Status Quo Ante Order. This is the legal import of the majority Decision.

Premises considered, I vote to DISMISS the Petition in its entirety, and, consequently, the Status Quo Ante Order is immediately lifted.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Associate Justice


Footnotes

1 The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 which Framed the Constitution of the United States of America, Reported by James Madison (International Edition), Gaillard Hunt and James Brown N. Scott (ed.) 1970 reprint, at 290.

2 Constitution, Art. XI, Sec. 3 (4).

3 Id, Sec. 3 (1).

4 Id, Sec. 3 (2). The verified complaint is filed with the Office of the Secretary General of the House of Representatives. (15th Congress Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings, Rule II, Section 3)

5 Id.

6 Id.

7 Id.

8 Id.

9 Constitution, Art. XI, Sec. 3 (3).

10 Id. Sec. 3 (4).

11 Private respondents Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo D. Lim, Felipe Pestaño and Evelyn Pestaño (private respondents Baraquel) argue that the one-year time-bar rule under the Constitution is inapplicable to the first Impeachment Complaint that they filed against petitioner Gutierrez. (Private respondent Baraquel’s Memorandum dated 27 October 2010, at 5-6)

12 Petitioner Gutierrez’s Memorandum dated 21 October 2010, at 27-40.

13 Public respondent’s Memorandum dated 26 October 2010, at 61-85. See also public respondent’ Reply Memorandum dated 15 November 2010, at 21-34.

14 Private respondents Reyes’s Memorandum dated 26 October 2010, at 26-44.

15 Respondent-intervenor Belmonte’s Memorandum for the Intervenor Ex Abundanti Cautela dated 27 October 2010, at 19-25.

16 G.R. Nos. 160261, 160262-63, 160277, 160292, 160295, 160310, 160318, 160342-43, 160360, 160365, 160370, 160376, 160392, 160397, 160403, 160405, 10 November 2003, 415 SCRA 44.

17 Id. at 169.

18 "The filing of an impeachment complaint constitutes the only true and actual initiation of impeachment proceedings. This operative and immutable fact cannot be downplayed or trivialized as being the mere solitary act which ‘begins the initiation process.’ That the filing of the complaint admittedly ‘begins the process of initiation’ only underscores the plain and inescapable fact that it is the very start, the very inception, the very origin of an impeachment proceeding." (Petitioner Gutierrez’s Consolidated Reply dated 15 October 2010, at 15)

19 "Having concluded that the initiation takes place by the act of filing and referral or endorsement of the impeachment complaint to the House Committee on Justice or, by the filing by at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives with the Secretary General of the House, the meaning of Section 3 (5) of Article XI becomes clear. Once an impeachment complaint has been initiated, another impeachment complaint may not be filed against the same official within a one year period." (Francisco, supra note 15, at 169)

20 Carpio Morales, Dissenting Opinion, De Castro v. Judicial and Bar Council, G.R. No. 191002, 191032, 191057, 191149, 191342, 191420 & A.M. No. 10-2-5-SC, 20 April 2010.

21 Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, G.R. No. 180643, 04 September 2008, 549 SCRA 77.

22Constitution, Art. XI, Sec. 2.

23 Constitution, Art. XI, Sec. 12.

24 Id, Sec. 8.

25 Labovitz, John R., Presidential Impeachment, 20 (1978).

26 The grounds for impeachment are culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. (Constitution, Art. XI, Sec. 2)

27 Although some of the grounds for impeachment are specifically defined under penal laws (treason, bribery, graft and corruption), those laws and their concomitant jurisprudence are mere guides for the members of Congress and are not exactly bound to these definitions, given the discretionary power vested in them.

28 The Constitution provides a specific time conditions for several acts in the impeachment process, namely: (a) inclusion of the impeachment complaint in the Order of Business (ten session days); (b) referral to the Committee (three session days); (c) report of the Committee (sixty session days); and (d) calendar of the Committee report to the plenary (ten session days).

29 Arroyo v. De Venecia, G.R No. 127255, 14 August 1997, 277 SCRA 268 citing U.S. v. Ballin, Joseph & Co., 144 U.S. at 5.36 L.Ed. at 324-25.

30 Id.

31 TSN, 05 October 2010, at 119-120.

32 "aa. Justice, 55 Members. All matters directly and principally relating to the administration of justice, the Judiciary, the practice of law and integration of the Bar, legal aid, penitentiaries and reform schools, adult probation, impeachment proceedings, registration of land titles, immigration, deporation, naturalization, and the definition of crimes and other offenses punishable by law and their penalties." (House Rules of Procedure, Rule IX The Committees, Sec. 27 [aa])

33 "A purely ministerial act or duty is one which an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of a legal authority, without regard to or the exercise of his own judgment upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done." (Callejo, Concurring Opinion, Lambino v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 174153 & 174299, 25 October 2006, 505 SCRA 160, citing Codilla, Sr. v. De Venecia, G.R. No. 150605, 10 December 2002, 393 SCRA 639)

34 TSN, 05 October 2010, at 142-143.

35 1 C.J.S. Actions § 1(h)(1)(a), at 955.

36 34 Words and Phrases 142 (1957), citing Beers v. Haughton, 34 U.S. 329, 368, 9 Pet. 329, 368, 9 L.Ed. 145.

37 G. R. No. L-45410, 67 Phil. 661(1939).

38 Macondray & Co., Inc., v. Bernabe, 67 Phil. 661 (1939), citing 50 C.J., 441; cf. Philippine Law Dictionary, 748 (Federico B. Moreno ed., 3rd ed. 1988).

39 TSN, 12 October 2010, at 88-90.

40 "Rep. Datumanong raised again the issue of having two impeachment complaint referred to the Committee. According to him, the journal of the House on August 11 reflects the successive, and not simultaneous, referral to the two complaints to the Committee. This position was later reiterated by Re. Rufus Rodriguez, who stated that it is a physical impossibility to refer two complaints to the Committee at exactly the same time. Rep. Neptali Gonzales II answered Rep. Datumanong’s query, and maintained that in the same journal, both complaints were referred to the Committee on Justice at exactly the same time, which shows the intention of the House to refer the complaints simultaneously and not successively. Rep. Gonzales also stated that there is nothing in the Constitution or the Rules on Impeachment that prevents the Committee from consolidating the two complaints against an impeachable officer." (Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee on Justice, 07 September 2010 at 5; cf. petitioner Gutierrez’s Compliance and Manifestation dated 30 September 2010)

41 TSN, 12 October 2010, at 133-135.

42 "102. The moment when an impeachment is ‘initiated’ therefore is a process that starts from the filing up until the recommendation of the House Committee on Justice to the House of Representatives. It is still a process and a continuum, but it is a process that allows democratically elected forums to weigh in." (Respondent-intervenor Belmonte’s Memorandum dated 27 October 2010, at 22)

43 "Section 4. Determination of Sufficiency in Form and Substance. - Upon due referral, the Committee on Justice shall determine whether the complaint is sufficient in from and substance. If the committee finds that the complaint is insufficient in form, it shall return the same to the Secretary General within three (3) session days with a written explanation of the insufficiency. The Secretary General shall return the same to the complaint(s) together with the committee's written explanation within three (3) session days from receipt of the committee resolution finding the complaint insufficient in form."

"Should the committee find the complaint sufficient in form, it shall then determine if the complaint is sufficient in substance. The requirement of substance is met if there is a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee. If the committee finds that the complaint is not sufficient in substance, it shall dismiss the complaint and shall submit its report as provided hereunder." (House Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings, Sec. 4)

44 House Rules of Procedure, Rule IX (The Committees), Sec. 27 (aa).

45 <http://www.congress.gov.ph/members/> (Last accessed on 24 January 2011)

46 "On a more fundamental level, the impeachment power is, in fact, an exercise of sovereignty. It is a choice by the representatives of the people to immediately remove those unfit for public service. Impeachment involves conviction and removal of government officers of the highest level and, hence, is an extreme measure. So, it is but appropriate that it is the Congress – the direct representatives of the people – which should wield the power of impeachment. Therefore, the power to ‘initiate’ impeachment proceedings may not be exercised by a lone congressman or by a citizen by the sheer act of filing an impeachment complaint." (Tamano, Adel A., Handbook on Impeachment under the 1987 Constitution [1st Ed., 2004], at 21)

47 Charles L. Black, Jr., The People and the Court: Judicial Review in a Democracy, 86 (1960).

48 "… So, that is why I am saying now that we should not only consider the rights of the accused we should also consider the rights of the State. We should try to do a balancing act such that we will come out with a favorable decision which is fair to both parties." (Justice Carpio Morales, TSN, 05 October 2010, at 335)

49 John R. Labovitz, Presidential Impeachment 251 (1978).

50 Federalist No. 65, at 439-45 (07 March 1788).


The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

SEPARATE OPINION

NACHURA, J.:

Justice Conchita Carpio Morales once again impresses with her incisive and tightly written ponencia. While I agree with the defenestration1 of the petition, I am constrained to express my views on the ripeness of the issues posed by petitioner.

Before anything else, however, the antecedents.

Taking the cue from "matuwid na landas," the theme of President Benigno C. Aquino III’s inaugural address, private respondents Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo Lim, and spouses Felipe and Evelyn Pestaño filed an impeachment complaint (Baraquel Complaint) on July 22, 2010, against petitioner Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez.

On July 26, 2010, the 15th Congress opened its first session, and representative Feliciano Belmonte was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. The very next day, or on July 27, 2010, Atty. Marilyn Barua-Yap, Secretary-General of the House of Representatives, transmitted the impeachment complaint to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte. In a Memorandum dated August 2, 2010, Speaker Belmonte directed the Committee on Rules to include the complaint in the Order of Business.

On August 3, 2010, the House of Representatives received yet another impeachment complaint against petitioner, which was filed by private respondents Renato Reyes, Jr., Mother Mary John Mananzan, Danilo Ramos, Edre Olalia, Ferdinand Gaite, and James Terry Ridon (Reyes Complaint). On even date, the Secretary-General transmitted the Reyes Complaint to Speaker Belmonte. In turn, as he had done with the previous complaint, Speaker Belmonte directed the Committee on Rules to include the Reyes Complaint in the Order of Business. Further, on even date, the House of Representatives provisionally adopted the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 14th Congress.

Parenthetically, both the Baraquel2 and Reyes3 Complaints were endorsed by Members of the House of Representatives, as mandated in the Constitution.4 The two complaints separately alleged betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution, to wit:

1. Baraquel Complaint

I.

OMBUDSMAN MA. MERCEDITA[S] NAVARRO-GUTIERREZ BETRAYED THE PUBLIC TRUST.

i.

THE DISMAL AND UNCONSCIONABLY LOW CONVICTION RATES ACHIEVED BY THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN FROM 2008 ONWARD INDICATE A CRIMINAL LEVEL OF INCOMPETENCE AMOUNTING TO GRAVE DERELICTION OF DUTY x x x.

ii.

THE UNREASONABLE FAILURE OF THE OMBUDSMAN TO TAKE PROMPT AND IMMEDIATE ACTION, IN VIOLATION OF ITS OWN RULES OF PROCEDURE, ON THE COMPLAINTS FILED AGAINST VARIOUS PUBLIC OFFICIALS INCLUDING FORMER PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, AND HER HUSBAND JOSE MIGUEL T. ARROYO WITH REGARD TO THE NBN-ZTE BROADBAND PROJECT x x x.

iii.

THE INEXCUSABLE DELAY OF THE OMBUDSMAN IN CONDUCTING AND CONCLUDING ITS INVESTIGATION INTO THE WRONGFUL DEATH OF ENSIGN PHILIP ANDREW PESTAÑO ABOARD A PHILIPPINE NAVY VESSEL x x x.

iv.

THE DECISION OF THE OMBUDSMAN UPHOLDING THE "LEGALITY" OF THE ARREST AND INVOLUNTARY DETENTION OF THEN REPRESENTATIVE RISA HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL BY THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE IN MARCH 2006 IN VIOLATION OF THE EXPLICIT RULES PROVIDED IN THE REVISED PENAL CODE AND AS ESTABLISHED BY JURISPRUDENCE x x x.

v.

THE FAILURE OF THE OMBUDSMAN TO CONDUCT AN INVESTIGATION INTO POSSIBLE WRONGDOING OR IMPROPRIETY WITH REGARD TO THE P1,000,000.00 DINNER FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL PARTY AT LE CIRQUE RESTAURANT IN NEW YORK IN AUGUST 2009 DESPITE WIDESPREAD MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC CLAMOR, AND A FORMAL LETTER FROM REPRESENTATIVE WALDEN F. BELLO CALLING FOR AN INQUIRY CONSTITUTES BETRAYAL OF THE PUBLIC TRUST.

II.

OMBUDSMAN MA. MERCEDITAS NAVARRO-GUTIERREZ PERFORMED ACTS AMOUNTING TO CULPABLE VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION

vi.

THE REPEATED FAILURES OF THE OMBUDSMAN TO TAKE PROMPT ACTION ON A WIDE VARIETY OF CASES INVOLVING OFFICIAL ABUSE AND CORRUPTION VIOLATES (sic) ARTICLE XI, SECTION 12 AND ARTICLE III, SECTION 16 OF THE CONSTITUTION, WHICH MANDATE PROMPT ACTION AND SPEEDY DISPOSITION OF CASES.

vii.

THE REFUSAL OF THE OMBUDSMAN TO GRANT READY ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS SUCH AS THE STATEMENT OF ASSETS AND LIABILITIES AND NET WORTH (SALN) REQUIRED OF ALL PUBLIC OFFICERS UNDER REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6713 CONSTITUTES A CULPABLE VIOLATION OF ARTICLE XI, SECTION 13(6) AND ARTICLE III, SECTION 7 OF THE CONSTITUTION.5

2. Reyes Complaint

I. BETRAYAL OF TRUST

(1) OMBUDSMAN GUTIERREZ COMMITTED BETRAYAL OF PUBLIC TRUST THROUGH HER GROSS INEXCUSABLE DELAY IN INVESTIGATING AND FAILURE IN PROSECUTING ANY ONE OF THOSE INVOLVED [I]N THE ANOMALOUS TRANSACTIONS ARISING FROM THE FERTILIZER FUND SCAM DESPITE THE BLATANT ANOMALOUS TRANSACTIONS REVEALED IN THE COA FINDINGS, SENATE COMMITTEE REPORT 54 AND THE COMPLAINTS FILED WITH [PETITIONER] ON THE "FERTILIZER SCAM."

(2) OMBUDSMAN GUTIERREZ COMMITTED BETRAYAL OF PUBLIC TRUST WHEN SHE DID NOT PROSECUTE GEN. ELISEO DE LA PAZ FOR VIOLATING BSP CIRCULAR 98 (1995), AS AMENDED BY BSP CIRCULAR 507 (2006), IN RELATION TO REPUBLIC ACT 6713, WHICH PROHIBITS THE TAKING OUT OF THE COUNTRY OF CURRENCY IN EXCESS OF US$10,000.00 WITHOUT DECLARING THE SAME TO THE PHILIPPINE CUSTOMS, DESPITE THE FACT THAT GEN. ELISEO DE LA PAZ PUBLICLY ADMITTED UNDER OATH BEFORE THE SENATE BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE THAT HE TOOK OUT OF THE COUNTRY CURRENCY IN EXCESS OF US$10,000.00 WITHOUT DECLARING THE SAME [TO] THE PHILIPPINES CUSTOMS.

(3) OMBUDSMAN GUTIERREZ BETRAYED THE PUBLIC TRUST THROUGH HER GROSS INEXCUSABLE DELAY OR INACTION BY ACTING IN DELIBERATE DISREGARD OF THE SUPREME COURT’S FINDINGS AND DIRECTIVE IN ITS DECISION AND RESOLUTION IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOUNDATION OF THE PHILIPPINES, ET AL. V. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ET AL.

II. CULPABLE VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION

THROUGH HER REPEATED FAILURES AND INEXCUSABLE DELAY IN ACTING UPON THE MATTERS BROUGHT BEFORE HER OFFICE, OMBUDSMAN GUTIERREZ VIOLATED SECTION 12 AND SECTION 13, PARAGRAPHS 1, 2 AND 3, ARTICLE XI ON WHICH HER CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY IS ENSHRINED, AS WELL AS SECTION 16, ARTICLE III OF THE CONSTITUTION, WHICH MANDATES PROMPT ACTION AND SPEEDY DISPOSITION OF CASES.6

On August 10, 2010, upon the instruction of House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, Chairperson of the Committee on Rules, the two impeachment complaints were included in the Order of Business for the following day, August 11, 2010.

On August 11, 2010, during its plenary session, the House of Representatives simultaneously referred both complaints to public respondent House Committee on Justice.

In a Resolution dated September 1, 2010, the House Committee on Justice found both complaints sufficient in form.

On September 2, 2010, the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 15th Congress was published.

On September 6, 2010, petitioner attempted to file a motion for reconsideration of the September 1, 2010 Resolution of public respondent House Committee on Justice, which found both complaints sufficient in form. However, the House Committee on Justice, did not accept the motion, and informed petitioner that she should instead file her answer to the complaints upon her receipt of notice thereof, along with copies of both complaints.

At the hearing on September 7, 2010, public respondent House Committee on Justice issued a Resolution finding both complaints sufficient in substance. Posthaste, on the same date, petitioner was served notice directing her to file an answer within ten (10) days.

Alleging grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction by public respondent House Committee on Justice in issuing the Resolutions dated September 1 and 7, 2010, which found the impeachment complaints sufficient in form and substance, respectively, petitioner filed the present petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for the issuance of injunctive reliefs.

Foremost in petitioner’s arguments is the invocation of our ruling in the trailblazing case of Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives.7 Petitioner points out that in taking cognizance of the two (2) complaints and requiring her to file an answer thereto, public respondent violated the constitutional prohibition against the initiation of impeachment proceedings against the same official more than once within a period of one year.8 Not unexpectedly, petitioner advances that the ruling in Francisco definitively declares that the initiation of impeachment proceedings plainly refers to the filing alone of an impeachment complaint. In all, petitioner is of the view that the sole act of filing one (1) impeachment complaint forecloses all situations for the filing of another impeachment complaint within a given year.

Petitioner likewise raises the alleged violation of her right to due process of law, in both its substantive and procedural aspects.

Essentially, petitioner claims that the House Committee on Justice committed various violations equivalent to grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction. In other words, the House Committee on Justice violated the Constitution; hence, the Court must intervene.

I believe that the issue for resolution is not yet upon us; the issues, as presented by petitioner, are palpably not ripe for adjudication.

Curiously, despite the effusive petition before us, petitioner did not file an answer to the complaints despite receipt of notice to do so. Instead, petitioner came directly for succour to this Court.

The power of judicial review is not boundless and not without limitation. The expanded jurisdiction of this Court, notwithstanding, invocation of judicial review requires that the issues presented are ripe for adjudication. Unfortunately, it is my view that the facts obtaining herein do not, as yet, permit judicial intervention. The supplications contained in the petition are premature and ought to be brought first before the House Committee on Justice.

Lozano v. Nograles9 instructs us on the two-fold aspect of ripeness:

An aspect of the "case-or-controversy" requirement is the requisite of "ripeness." In the United States, courts are centrally concerned with whether a case involves uncertain contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all. Another approach is the evaluation of the twofold aspect of ripeness: first, the fitness of the issues for judicial decision; and second, the hardship to the parties entailed by withholding court consideration. In our jurisdiction, the issue of ripeness is generally treated in terms of actual injury to the plaintiff. Hence, a question is ripe for adjudication when the act being challenged has had a direct adverse effect on the individual challenging it. An alternative road to review similarly taken would be to determine whether an action has already been accomplished or performed by a branch of government before the courts may step in.

Hewing closely to the foregoing is the second, albeit less popular, case of Francisco v. The House Committee on Justice,10 where we dismissed the petition on the ground of prematurity:

Ripeness and prematurity are correlated matters. For a case to be considered ripe for adjudication, it is a prerequisite that something had by then been accomplished or performed by either branch before a court may come into the picture. Only then may the courts pass on the validity of what was done, if and when the latter is challenged in an appropriate legal proceeding. On the other hand, prematurity deals with the question of whether all remedies have been exhausted before resort to the courts could be had.

In this case, the resolution of the Committee on Justice to treat the Amended Complaint as a second impeachment complaint is yet to be passed upon by the House in a plenary session.

x x x x

Thus, the Committee on Justice should submit to the House a report on its action to treat the Amended Complaint as a second impeachment complaint and also on its determinations on the sufficiency in form and substance of the impeachment complaint. Then, the report shall be deliberated and acted upon by the House. The Court should, therefore, wait until after all the remedies in the House are exhausted. Indeed, this is not yet the auspicious time to resolve the issues raised in the petition.

We find striking similarities between the second Francisco and the case at bar. Petitioner has yet to formally answer and appear before the House Committee on Justice. The House Committee on Justice has not been given opportunity to address the points raised by petitioner in her petition before us, which the latter could very well raise before public respondent.

Applying the rule on the two-fold aspect of ripeness used in other jurisdictions and the demonstration of actual injury to pass the test of ripeness in this jurisdiction, it is quite obvious to me that, at this juncture, petitioner has not established the fitness of the issues for our decision, hardship if we withhold consideration, much less actual injury to petitioner.

A juxtaposition of the timeline for the initiation of impeachment complaints mapped out in Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution, which provides:

SEC. 3. (1) x x x.

(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.

and Sections 2 and 3, Rule II of the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings which read:

RULE II
INITIATING IMPEACHMENT

Section 2. Mode of Initiating Impeachment. – Impeachment shall be initiated by the filing and subsequent referral to the Committee on Justice of:

(a) a verified complaint for impeachment filed by any Member of the House of Representatives; or

(b) a verified complaint filed by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any member thereof; or

(c) a verified complaint or resolution of impeachment filed by at least one-third (1/3) of all Members of the House.

Section 3. Filing and Referral of Verified Complaints. – A verified complaint for impeachment by a Member of the House or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any member thereof shall be filed with the Office of the Secretary-General and immediately referred to the Speaker.

The Speaker shall have it included in the Order of Business within ten (10) session days from receipt. It shall then be referred to the Committee on Justice within three (3) session days thereafter.

do not indicate any deviation from the constitutional mandate. It cannot be overemphasized that petitioner has yet to formally appear before public respondent, and the latter has not yet terminated its hearing of the impeachment complaints. Clearly, there is no constitutional violation justifying this Court’s intervention even without delving into the burning question of whether the initiation proceedings are deemed initiated with the mere filing of a complaint, and its referral to the House Committee on Justice, or should await the submission of a report by the House Committee on Justice.

In fact, during oral arguments, the following was limned:

JUSTICE NACHURA:

In fact, I would like to believe, therefore, Justice Cuevas, that when you make a reference to a violation of due process in this particular case, it is really a violation of the procedural aspect of due process, primarily the first requisite of due process which is that there must be an impartial court or tribunal with authority to hear and decide a case. And that was the first statement you made. The Committee on Justice deprived the petitioner of due process because of its haste, its partiality and its vindictiveness. Those were your words.

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

Right, Your Honor.

JUSTICE NACHURA:

All right. However, when you developed this, you said there was delay in the filing or in the referral of the first complaint because the first complaint was filed on July 22…

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

July 22, 2010, Your Honor.

JUSTICE NACHURA:

The second complaint was filed on August 3, 2010?

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

Yes, Your Honor.

JUSTICE NACHURA:

And both complaints were referred only to the Committee on Justice on August 11, 2010?

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

On the same day at the same time.

JUSTICE NACHURA:

The same day at the same time on August 11, 2010?

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

We do not want to believe, Your Honor, that this was intentional. But it cannot be accidental. Same day, same time, Your Honor. Why will it take the Speaker of the House twenty (20) days before a referral of the impeachment complaint number 1 is made to the Committee on Justice and only eight days (8) days insofar as the second impeachment complaint?

JUSTICE NACHURA:

Justice Cuevas, I am looking at a calendar right now. On July 22, Congress had not yet started its sessions. It was only on July 26 that sessions in Congress started with the delivery by the President of the State of the Nation Address. And in the House, I am sure, there was still no organization of the committees by then. It would have taken, perhaps, at least a week, maybe two (2) weeks, before the committees could be truly organized by the leadership of the House. And if you count two (2) weeks from July 26, you would go to around August 9 and that would be near August 11. Obviously, we cannot impute vindictiveness or partiality on the basis of this alleged delay in the referral of the complaints.

x x x x

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

Our charge of impartiality does not merely gravitate on that particular aspect, Your Honor. x x x.11

On that point, counsel for petitioner obviously yielded.

Very apparent from all the foregoing is that a contingent event is still about to unfold, specifically, the Answer to be filed by petitioner, which public respondent has yet to hear and rule on. The Constitution, in no uncertain terms, declares that the Committee should hear the complaint, and after hearing, submit a report to the House within sixty (60) days from referral thereof. A co-equal branch of government has not committed a positive act, i.e., to hear the defenses raised by petitioner in her Answer; we have no business to interfere, especially at this stage. Public respondent House Committee on Justice must be allowed to conduct and continue its hearing of the impeachment complaints against petitioner. At that stage, petitioner’s apprehensions of the Committee’s partiality and vindictiveness would, perhaps, become justified.

I vote to DISMISS the petition.

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
Associate Justice


Footnotes

1 The act of throwing someone or something out of a window. The term is associated with political dissidence and political assassinations in 15th to 17th century Prague where rioters made a habit of it. There was one in 1419 at the Town Hall where a mob, demanding the release of prisoners, threw councillors out, and a more famous one – known as the Defenestration of Prague – in 1618 which heralded the 30-Year War when a gang of Protestant nobles threw two Catholic governors out of the window of the Royal Palace. (See <http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Defenestration+of+Prague> [visited February 14, 2011].)

2 Endorsed by Party-list Representatives, Kaka Bag-ao and Walden Bello of the Akbayan Party-list.

3 Endorsed by Party-list Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares of Bayan Muna, Teodor Casiño of Bayan Muna, Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, Luzviminda C. Ilagan of Gabriela, Raymond V. Palatino, Antonio L. Tinio of Act Teacher, Emerenciana A. De Jesus of Gabriela.

4 Art. XI, Sec. 3(2).

5 Annex "F" of the Petition.

6 Annex "G" of the Petition.

7 460 Phil. 830 (2003).

8 CONSTITUTION, Art. XI, Sec. 3(5).

9 G.R. Nos. 187883 and 187910, June 16, 2009, 589 SCRA 356, 358-359.

10 Extended Resolution, G.R. No. 169244, September 1, 2005.

11 TSN, October 5, 2010, pp. 88-91.


The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

DISSENTING OPINION

BRION, J.:

I dissent from the ponencia’s conclusion that the proceedings before the House of Representatives Committee on Justice (Justice Committee) are constitutional. These proceedings were undertaken without the benefit of duly published and fully effective rules of impeachment and are, thus, fatally infirm for violation of the petitioner’s right to due process.

I believe, too, that we should revisit our ruling in Francisco v. House of Representatives1 as we did not apply the proper consideration when we determined the back-end of the initiation phase of the impeachment proceedings. The initiation phase should start at the filing of the impeachment complaint and end when the Justice Committee determines that the impeachment is sufficient in form and substance.

Thus, I vote to grant the petition.

I. Publication and Due Process

a. The Due Process Objection

In the course of assailing the actions of the House of Representatives in its impeachment proceedings, the petitioner raised various due process grounds, both substantive and procedural. The threshold issue, however, that must be met before any substantive due process consideration can be made, is whether there were valid and effective rules of impeachment in place, as required by Section 3(8) of Article XI of the Constitution, when the House of Representatives embarked on the impeachment process.

To the petitioner, the Justice Committee failed to properly determine the sufficiency in form of the two impeachment complaints against her since no valid and effective rules of impeachment were in place when the Justice Committee ruled on these matters; the impeachment rules of the 15th Congress were published a day after the Justice Committee ruled that the complaints were sufficient in form. While the impeachment rules were published on September 2, 2010, they were not yet effective when the Justice Committee ruled that the impeachment complaints were sufficient in substance on September 7, 2010. Because no valid rules were in place when the Justice Committee initially acted and ruled on the impeachment complaints, a fatal transgression of the petitioner’s right to due process occurred.

b. Justification for Judicial Intervention

Impeachment proceedings are political processes that the Constitution places within the exclusive domain of the legislature. Section 3(1), Article XI of the Constitution plainly states that: "The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment." Section 3(6) of the same article grants to the Senate the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment. Even the drafting of the impeachment rules is specifically entrusted to the House of Representatives.

At the same time that it entrusts the impeachment process to the House of Representatives, the Constitution also provides clear standards and guidelines for the House of Representatives to follow to ensure that it does not act arbitrarily. Among these are: the specification of the grounds for impeachment,2 the periods within which an impeachment complaint should be acted on,3 the voting requirements,4 the one year bar on initiating an impeachment process,5 and the promulgation of the impeachment rules.6 Unwritten in the article on impeachment but, nevertheless, fully applicable are the guaranteed individual rights that the House of Representatives must absolutely respect.7 To the extent of these standards and guidelines, the Court – otherwise excluded from the impeachment process – plays a part in its traditional role as interpreter and protector of the Constitution.8 The House of Representatives must act within the limits the Constitution has defined; otherwise, the Court, in the exercise of judicial review, can act and has the duty to strike down any action committed with grave abuse of discretion or in excess of jurisdiction.9

c. The Need for Prior Publication

The Constitution specifically provides that the House of Representatives must promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the purpose of Section 3, Article XI that, together with Section 2, deals specifically with the House of Representatives’ power of impeachment.

To "promulgate" means to publish or to announce officially.10 By law, publication is necessary for a statute, law or rule to become effective;11 Article 2 of the Civil Code provides that laws shall take effect after 15 days following their publication, unless the law provides for another period. Publication is required as a condition precedent to the effectivity of a law to inform the public of the contents of the law, rules or regulations before these enactments take effect and affect the public’s rights and interests.12 As a matter of basic fairness, "notice" is required before the public’s rights and interests are placed at risk. In constitutional law terms, this is the guarantee of due process.13

We explained in Lorenzo M. Tañada, et al. v. Hon. Juan C. Tuvera, etc., et al.14 that the failure to publish a law or rule offends due process; it denies the public knowledge of the laws that affect them and removes the basis for the presumption that every person knows the law. The term "law" covers laws of general, as well as local, application; it embraces legislative enactments as well as executive orders, presidential decrees, and administrative rules. The only exceptions to the rule on publication are interpretative regulations and those that are merely internal in nature, i.e., those regulating only the personnel of an administrative agency and not the public.

The impeachment rules do not fall under the exceptions. Like the Monetary Board circulars that do not only interpret but also "fill in the details" of the Central Bank Act, the impeachment rules which interpret, implement and fill in the details of the constitutional impeachment provisions must also be published.15 Significantly, even the ponencia states that the impeachment rules mandated by Section 3(8), Article XI of the Constitution were intended "to fill the gaps in the impeachment process."16 These rules cannot be considered as internal rules that merely regulate the performance of subordinates and, hence, are exempted from publication. They are rules that gravely affect the rights of impeachable officials; an impeachment conviction results in the public official’s removal from office and disqualification to hold any public office in the Philippines. The impeachment rules likewise affect a public right; it is a matter of public interest to uphold standards applicable to public officials in the highest positions in the performance of their duties; they are the balancing measures to ensure that our public officials are continually held accountable in the performance of their functions. The fact that the Constitution itself allows "any citizen" to file an impeachment complaint already draws the public as a party with an interest to protect in the impeachment process.

It is a matter of record that the House of Representatives of the 15th Congress has seen it fit and proper to publish the rules of impeachment, although the publication came too late for the proceedings before the . Records show that the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the Fifteenth Congress (Rules of Impeachment) was published on September 2, 2010. Under Article 2 of the Civil Code, these Rules became valid and binding only on September 17, 2010. However, both parties admit that before September 17, 2010, the two impeachment complaints had already been filed17 and referred to the Justice Committee;18 that it had already held a hearing and voted that both complaints were sufficient in form; and that it had subsequently conducted another hearing and voted that both complaints were sufficient in substance.19

To rebut the petitioner’s allegation of due process violation for non-publication of the impeachment rules, the ponencia asserts that the petitioner was fully apprised of the impeachment procedure and had even invoked the rules. This justification, however, cannot fully suffice to do away with full publication.20 Compliance with the requirements of publication cannot be excused based on allegations that the party or parties involved had been notified of the existence of the rules.21 In National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms v. Energy Regulatory Commission,22 the participation of the parties involved in a previous public consultation and their submission of comments on the proposed rules did not do away with the requirement to publish these rules before they could take effect. The plain and obvious reason for this ruling, of course, is that the binding effect of laws, rules and regulations cannot be made to depend on the actual knowledge of their terms by the affected individuals and entities. The fact of publication assumes, by legal fiction, that all affected parties have been notified and are aware of applicable laws, rules and regulations; thereafter, the published enactments govern affected parties and their actions.

According to the ponencia, publication is not required since "promulgation" is not the same as "publication"; she alludes to certain legal provisions on the Judiciary’s issuance of judgments where the "promulgation" of orders or decisions does not require publication. The ponencia further cites National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms23 as justification.

The comparison of impeachment rules with court rulings is far from apt. Court rulings are pronouncements by the judicial branch of government on specific cases affecting specific parties on defined issues. As a rule, these rulings affect only the immediate parties to the case and their successors-in-interest;24 hence, the public has no immediate interest that may be directly affected, and need not be informed about the court rulings.

In contrast, laws, rules and regulations, as a rule, affect the public in general and for this reason, they must be brought to the attention of the public. This reason underlies the rule on publication under Article 2 of the Civil Code and the rule under the complementary Article 3 that ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance with its terms. These provisions fully apply to impeachment rules as these rules affect everyone – the impeachable officials; the House of Representatives itself as the constitutional body charged with the initiation of the impeachment process; the members of the House of Representatives; the citizenry who can bring impeachment complaints; and the public at large who have a stake in the due performance of duties by their public officers.

From these perspectives, the term "promulgation," as used by the courts with respect to its decisions and rulings, cannot be directly compared and equated with "promulgation," as used with respect to laws and other enactments passed by the legislature; the latter require publication before they become fully effective. Notably, the Judiciary itself is not exempt from the obligation to publish rules that bind the public in general before these rules acquire binding effect. The Supreme Court publishes its procedural rules because they affect the litigating public; the Rules of Court requires the element of publication in "in rem" cases where court rulings are intended to bind the public in general.

Incidentally, the ponencia’s cited National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms case25 cannot be used to support the proposition that promulgation excludes the act of publication. In this case, the Court did not come up with a categorical statement that promulgation should be construed to exclude publication. Even if the term "promulgation"26 had been loosely used, the focus of the case was on the need to publish rules before they become effective.

The ponencia also points out that even if Section 3 of Article VII of the Constitution requires the promulgation of rules for the canvassing of election certificates, the House of Representatives did not publish these rules.27 This justification likewise carries very little supportive weight as the failure of the House of Representatives to publish rules – that, by law, must be published – does not do away with the publication requirement.

I particularly reject the ponente’s statement that there is no other single formal term in the English language to appropriately refer to an issuance without the need of it being published.28 Several terms contradicting this statement immediately come to mind; instead of using the word "promulgate," the words issue, adopt, set forth, establish, and determine may be used, depending on the context. Thus, I cannot give any merit to the ponencia’s claim.

I, likewise, cannot accept the implication from the ponencia that the Constitutional Commission may have used the word "promulgate" in Section 3(8), Article XI in a sense different from its established legal meaning. The members of the Constitutional Commission are legal experts whose deliberative records this Court did not hesitate to cite as authorities in the earlier Francisco case29 that first ruled on impeachment under the 1987 Constitution. At the time the 1987 Constitution was discussed and passed, Article 2 of the Civil Code and the Tañada ruling were already both in place. In both rulings, the general legal usage of the term "promulgation" with respect to laws, rules and regulations denotes "publication." Had a meaning other than this usage been intended, the members of the Constitutional Commission could have plainly so stated, i.e., that publication of the rules on impeachment is not necessary. The reality is that the Constitutional Commission members did not see the need to so state because publication is a given. Significantly, even the members of the 15th Congress – who themselves are experts in crafting legislations – impliedly recognized the need for publication as they, in fact, did publish their rules on impeachment,30 although their publication was too late for the proceedings of the . Under these circumstances, it requires a considerable stretch of the imagination to claim that the term "promulgate" should be understood to be divorced from the requirement of publication.

Even if I were to accept the ponencia’s position that "to promulgate" simply means "to make known" and not necessarily "to publish," the ponencia does not state how the 15th Congress made its impeachment rules known to the public other than through the publication it undertook31 (which rendered the rules of impeachment effective only on September 17, 2010 or after the Justice Committee had acted on the impeachment complaints). With this omission, the 15th Congress cannot be said to have complied with Section 3(8), Article XI of the Constitution in relation to Article 2 of the Civil Code and with existing jurisprudence on this point prior to September 17, 2010.

In Romulo L. Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, et al.32 we ruled that the Senate must publish the rules for its legislative inquiries in each Congress or otherwise make the published rules clearly state that the same shall be effective in subsequent Congresses or until they are amended or repealed, to sufficiently put the public on notice on the applicable rules.33 As the Court explained then, the Senate is not bound by the rules adopted by the previous Senate. In the same manner, a succeeding House of Representatives cannot simply adopt the rules of the preceding House of Representatives without publication of the rules or the fact of their adoption. Simple adoption of the rules, without the required publication, leaves the House of Representatives with no effective rules binding on the public.

Contrary to the ponencia, the fact that the applicable provision in Neri34 – Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution – uses the word "publish" instead of "promulgate" does not justify a different interpretation of Section 3(8), Article XI of the Constitution. A justification for the need to publish the rules in aid of legislative inquiries is to protect the witnesses who may be cited for contempt. Impeachable officials and witnesses in impeachment proceedings are no less entitled to the same protection as they are likewise subject to the contempt powers of the House of Representatives in these proceedings. Additionally, impeachable officials stand to be removed from office, prevented from taking any other government post, and made to experience the humiliation that an impeachment necessarily brings. These risks define the standards of fairness an impeachable officer is entitled to in an impeachment proceeding, whether at the House of Representatives or in the Senate. At the very least, duly published and effective rules of impeachment must be in place to afford the official sought to be impeached the fairness that Section 1, Article III of the Constitution demands.35

To be sure, the belated publication of the Rules cannot have the retroactive effect of curing the infirmity that existed before the publication took place; the guarantee of due process is not served by a belated notice as a violation has by then already occurred. Precisely, publication is a condition precedent to the effectivity of the law.36

The ponencia also posits that the lack of publication would not nullify the proceedings taken prior to the effectivity of the impeachment rules, because the 15-day period after publication would run counter to the mandated periods under Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution.

I find this argument unpersuasive for two very practical reasons.

First, the due process guarantee does not strictly require that the time gap between the publication and the effectivity of an enactment be fifteen (15) days. The clear terms of Article 2 of the Civil Code show that the House of Representatives has the discretion to specify a period lesser than 15 days before a statute, law or rule becomes effective. Thus, it could have provided for a shorter period if its intent had been to ensure compliance with the impeachment periods imposed by the Constitution. Unfortunately, it did not so provide and this failure cannot now be used as an argument against the application of the publication requirement.

Second, three (3) periods regulate the actions of the House of Representatives on the impeachment proceedings. The first is the inclusion in the Order of Business which shall be made within 10 session days from the filing of the impeachment complaint. The second is the three-session-day period within which to refer the complaint to the proper committee. The third is the sixty-session-day period for the committee to report out its actions and recommendations to the plenary. All these are mandatory periods. But of these periods, the first two involve specific actions of the House of Representatives that are required by the Constitution itself and cannot, thus, be affected by the Rules. The committee actions, on the other hand, have been left by the Constitution37 for the House of Representatives to determine and undertake at its discretion, subject only to the requirement of a hearing; to the vote required to decide at the committee; and to the general provisions of the Constitution on the protection of the constitutional rights of the impeachable official. The temporal constitutional limitation is on the period given to the committee to act – it must complete its proceedings and report back to the House of Representatives in plenary within 60 session days from the referral.

Under the attendant facts of the case where the publication of the adopted Rules of Impeachment came after the impeachment complaints had been referred to the Justice Committee for action, the required 15-day period before it took effect necessarily fell within the mandatory 60-session-day period given to the Committee. Thus, the opportunity to act within the mandatory 60-session-day period was lessened by the 15-day waiting time for the impeachment rules to take effect.

The intrusion of the publication period on the mandatory period for action by the Justice Committee, however, does not necessarily mean that the publication requirement must give way to the constitutional mandatory period because the mandatory 60-session-day period has not repealed or modified, impliedly or expressly, the publication requirement. No facial repeal is evident from Section 3(8) of Article XI of the Constitution, nor is there any plain intent to do away with the publication requirement discernible from the terms of the constitutional provision. Neither is there any irreconcilable inconsistency or repugnancy between the two legal provisions.38 Thus, no reason exists in law preventing the two legal requirements from standing side by side and from being applied to the attendant facts of the case.

An important consideration in the above conclusion relates to the length of the respective mandatory periods. The Justice Committee is given 60 session days (i.e., not only 60 calendar days) within which to act, while the period involved under Article 2 of the Civil Code is 15 calendar days. Under these terms, the simultaneous application of the two requirements is not an impossibility, considering especially that the Justice Committee has control over the impeachment proceedings and can make adjustments as it sees fit to ensure compliance with the required 60-session-day period.

Under the given facts of the present case, the House of Representatives had ample time to pass and publish its rules on impeachment soon after it convened, given particularly that its action was merely to adopt the Rules of Impeachment of the 14th Congress. However, it chose not to undertake any immediate publication. The House of Representatives, too, could have provided in its adopted Rules of Impeachment for an effectivity period of less than the 15 days that Article 2 of the Civil Code generally provides, as provided by this Article itself. This was not also done; thus, a tight time situation resulted for the Justice Committee.

This tight timeline, however, is not an argument or justification to defeat the publication requirement as this requirement cannot be defeated by the negligence or inaction of a party burdened with the duty to publish. A saving grace in this case is that the full 60-session-day period has not lapsed counting from the time the impeachment complaints were referred to the Justice Committee.

d. Consequence of Failure to Publish

In light of the House of Representatives’ initial failure to publish its impeachment rules, all the proceedings prior to the effectivity of the subsequently-published rules must necessarily be void for violation of due process. This is a conclusion the Court cannot shy away from; it must, as a duty, declare the nullity of laws, rules and regulations affecting individual rights that are not published. This is not the first time, in fact, that this Court will so act; jurisprudential history is replete with instances of laws, rules and regulations that the Court has voided for lack of the required publication.39 As the present case stands, no discernable reason exists not to apply the fundamental rule on publication.

For clarity, nullity applies to all the proceedings so far taken before the Justice Committee. These are the hearing on the sufficiency of form and the vote thereon taken on September 1, 2010, and the hearing on the sufficiency of the substance and the vote thereon taken on September 7, 2010. All other committee actions necessarily drew their strength from these early actions and are, therefore, affected also by the lack of publication. The invalidity does not attach to actions taken by the House of Representatives itself – i.e., the inclusion in the Order of Business and the referral to committees – as these are specific actions taken pursuant to the terms of the Constitution. Given that published rules of impeachment now exist and have been effective starting September 17, 2010, nothing should now prevent the House of Representatives from resuming its proceedings from its last valid action – the Speaker’s referral of the impeachment complaints to the Justice Committee which can now undertake its constitutional role on impeachment.

II. The One-Year Bar Rule

My second point of disagreement with the ponencia is on the interpretation of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution (the one-year bar rule) which states that:

No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.

As explained by Mr. Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna in his Concurring Opinion in Francisco,40 "the purpose of this provision is two-fold: to prevent undue or too frequent harassment; and to allow the legislature to do its principal task of legislation." I highlight these purposes as I believe that they should drive our interpretation of the above-quoted Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution.

a. The Contending Positions

The petitioner argues that the filing alone of an impeachment complaint initiates an impeachment proceeding and the referral of the complaint is already the "initial action" taken by the House of Representatives. Hence, no other impeachment complaint can be filed within a year counted after the filing of the first impeachment complaint.

The private respondents – the proponents of the second impeachment complaint (Reyes group) – argue that the petitioner may invoke the one-year bar only after a referral to the committee (in accordance with Francisco), or at some point between the conclusion of the committee report and the transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), for its part, specifically posits that an impeachment proceeding is initiated only when the House of Representatives disposes the impeachment complaint "by the vote of at least one-third of all the members of the House,"41 i.e., through a disposition against the impeachable officer.42 The OSG and the Reyes group commonly ask, however, for a reexamination of Francisco43 on the ground that its interpretation of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution has rendered the impeachment mechanism "virtually, if not completely, ineffectual"44 since it allows public officials to escape constitutional accountability by simply obtaining the filing of a frivolous impeachment complaint to preempt the filing of a meritorious one.45

The ponencia declined to adopt either position and applied the Francisco46 ruling that the filing and the referral of the impeachment complaint to the proper committee "initiated" the impeachment proceedings and triggered the operation of the one-year bar rule.

I disagree with these positions. Nevertheless, as the OSG did and as the Reyes group reflected in their positions, I believe that our ruling in Francisco47 must be re-examined, particularly its interpretation of what the constitutional proscription against the initiation of more than one impeachment complaint within a year covers.

b. The Facts of Francisco

Francisco48 is inevitably the starting point of discussion of the one-year bar rule, if only because this case definitively ruled on the interpretation of the word "initiate" which this Court determined with finality to be the acts of filing and referral of the impeachment complaint to the proper House committee. In Francisco,49 the following facts transpired:

1. On June 2, 2003, President Estrada filed an impeachment complaint (the first complaint) against Chief Justice Davide and seven other associate justices.

2. On August 5, 2003, the first complaint was referred to the Justice Committee.

3. On October 13, 2003, the Justice Committee ruled that the first complaint was "sufficient in form," but voted to dismiss it on October 22, 2003 for being insufficient in substance. The Committee Report, however, was never submitted to the House of Representatives in accordance with Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution.

4. On October 23, 2003, Reps. Gilbert C. Teodoro and Felix William B. Fuentebella filed with the Secretary General a second impeachment complaint, which was accompanied by a "Resolution of Endorsement/Impeachment" signed by at least 1/3 of all the Members of the House of Representatives. This was followed by a deluge of petitions filed before the Court seeking to restrain the House of Representatives from further acting on the second complaint or for the Court to dismiss those petitions mainly on the ground that the Court has no jurisdiction.

Notably, under these facts, at the time the second impeachment complaint was filed, several acts in the impeachment process had already been completed – i.e., the first complaint had been filed and referred to the proper committee; the complaint had been determined to be sufficient in form but was also found to be insufficient in substance. At that point, the Justice Committee only had to submit its report to the House of Representatives, but this was never undertaken. Before any report could be submitted, a second impeachment complaint was filed. Thus, the issue of whether the second impeachment case was barred under Section 3(5), Article XI, arose.

The first complaint’s insufficiency in substance notwithstanding, the Court held (as echoed by the present ponencia) that an impeachment proceeding had already been initiated "by the act of filing of the complaint and its referral to the Committee on Justice,"50 adopting the view of amici curiae Constitutional Commissioners Florenz Regalado and Father Joaquin G. Bernas that the word "initiate" as used in Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution, means to file, both adding, however, that "the filing must be accompanied by an action to set the complaint moving." This ruling was primarily directed against the position that the vote of one-third of the House of Representatives in a resolution of impeachment will initiate the impeachment proceedings.51

c. Refutation of the Petitioner’s Position

The petitioner’s position – that the mere filing of an impeachment complaint should serve as a complete trigger for the one-year bar rule – is a repetition of the view that the Court rejected in Francisco.52 The petitioner obviously equated a "verified complaint for impeachment" that may be filed under Section 3(2) of Article XI, to the "impeachment proceedings" that may not be "initiated" against the same official more than once within a year under Section 3(5) of the same article. As in Francisco,53 the ponencia favorably considers the reasoning of Father Bernas that a "proceeding" before the House of Representatives (as distinguished from a "case" which is the "legal controversy that must be decided by the Senate) is progressive in character, having a beginning, a middle and an end. An impeachment "proceeding" begins when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the proper Committee;54 the filing of an impeachment complaint sets off the initial phase of the impeachment proceeding, this phase is not completed and the impeachment proceeding is not fully "initiated" until the House of Representatives itself initially acts on the impeachment complaint.

I completely agree with the ponencia that the petitioner’s position should be rejected. Aside from the reasoning based on the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, the petitioner’s restrictive view unduly limits the people’s right to file impeachment complaints, at the same time that it ties the hands of the House of Representatives – the body constitutionally answerable to the electorate – by effectively placing the power of impeachment in the hands of random complainants whose acts can preclude or suspend the filing of other impeachment complaints for at least a year.

Thus, it is only proper that the act of initiating the impeachment process should go beyond the act of mere filing and should extend to initial action by the receiving entity on the complaint to fully signify that an impeachment proceeding has been "initiated." To what acts the initiation phase shall extend is a point of disagreement with the ponencia and is fully discussed at the appropriate topic below.

d. The OSG Position

At the other end (in fact, the back-end) of how an impeachment proceeding is "initiated" for purposes of the one-year bar rule is the OSG’s position that the back-end is signaled by the favorable vote of a third of the House of Representatives on the intrinsic merits of the impeachment complaint. This view disagrees with the ponencia that the referral by the House of Representatives of the complaint to the proper committee completes the initiation phase of the impeachment process.

Independently of the reasons propounded in Francisco,55 I reject this submission for two reasons.

First, to "impeach" simply means "to formally charge with a violation of the public trust"56 or "to bring an accusation against."57 The power of impeachment is lodged with the House and not with the Senate; the power of the Senate is to "try and decide an impeachment case." Once one-third of the House of Representatives membership votes in favor of impeachment, the public official is effectively impeached – i.e., indicted of an impeachable offense. At this point, the impeachment proceedings before the House of Representatives (again contrasted with the totality of the impeachment "case") already terminates; and an entirely different proceeding begins – i.e., the trial of the impeachment case at the Senate.

Second, the OSG’s interpretation disregards the purposes of the one-year bar to the point of defeating these purposes. If we pursue the argument to its logical conclusion, as long as the one-third vote required to "impeach" has not been obtained, then the House of Representatives and the Justice Committee can continuously receive and entertain impeachment complaints; only a favorable House of Representatives vote (effectively, the endorsement of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate) can serve as a bar to another impeachment complaint within one year. This position, to be sure, is a prescription for the successive filing of impeachment complaints and "hearings" held one after another, terminated only by the successful consideration by the House of Representatives of one of the filed complaints. The possibility of multiple impeachment complaints is exemplified, not only in the present case, but in the records of previous impeachment complaints before the House of Representatives under the present Constitution.

I do not believe that this impeachment scenario is what the Constitution intended when it provided for the one-year bar rule; the operation of this scenario cannot but have the effect of causing undue delay and prejudice to legislative work. To state the obvious, undue harassment of the impeachable official shall also result, again to the prejudice of public service. All these run counter to the purposes of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution.

e. Revisiting Francisco

All the above having been said, the ponencia’s conclusion of strictly adhering to the Francisco58 ruling leaves much to be desired as the ruling still leaves open the more specific question of what completes the initiation process in light of the established purposes of the one-year bar rule.

An examination of Francisco shows that it extensively discussed the constitutional meaning of "initiation" in Article XI by relying heavily on the records of the Constitutional Commission.59 Yet, it was eerily silent on the purposes behind Section 3(5) which was the provision directly in issue.

Basic in construing a constitution is the ascertainment of the intent or purpose of the framers in framing the provision under consideration. This should include, aside from the reason which induced the framers to enact the particular provision, the particular purpose/s intended to be accomplished and the evils, if any, sought to be prevented or remedied. Constitutional interpretation must consider the whole instrument and its various parts in a manner that would align the understanding of the words of the Constitution with the identified underlying intents and purposes.60

Aside from discussing the proceedings of the Constitutional Commission in considering the initiation aspects of an impeachment proceeding, the Court in Francisco61 gave the word "initiate" its ordinary meaning, i.e., "to begin, commence, or set going" in accordance with the principle of verba legis. Thus, the word "initiate" in Section 3(1), Article XI of the Constitution was read to mean to commence a "case" that the Senate shall consider after the transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment on the one-third vote of all the members of the House of Representatives affirming the favorable resolution of the Justice Committee or overriding it.

The majority in Francisco,62 however, never discussed the meaning of "initiate" for purposes of the one-year bar based on the proceedings of the Constitutional Commission. Only the Concurring Opinion of Mr. Justice Adolfo Azcuna referred to the purposes of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution, as reflected in the Constitutional Commission deliberations. He quoted the proceedings as follows:63

MR. VILLACORTA. Madam President, I would just like to ask the Committee three questions.

On Section 3, page 2, lines 12 to 14, the last paragraph reads as follows: "No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year." Does this mean that even if an evidence is discovered to support another charge or ground for impeachment, a second or subsequent proceeding cannot be initiated against the same official within a period of one year? In other words, one year has to elapse before a second or subsequent charge or proceeding can be initiated. The intention may be to protect the public official from undue harassment. On the other hand, is this not undue limitation on the accountability of public officers? Anyway, when a person accepts a public trust, does he not consider taking the risk of accounting for his acts or misfeasance in office?

MR. ROMULO. Yes, the intention here really is to limit. This is not only to protect public officials who, in this case, are of the highest category from harassment but also to allow the legislative body to do its work which is lawmaking. Impeachment proceedings take a lot of time. And if we allow multiple impeachment charges on the same individual to take place, the legislature will do nothing else but that.64 (Emphases supplied).

Without doubt, the silence of Francisco65 (and of the present ponencia) on the purposes of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution contributes in no small measure to the clamor for a revisit to Francisco66 since it did not address the intent of the one-year bar rule, yet laid down a doctrine on the provision that this intent produced.

e.1. An Alternative View of Francisco

e.1.i. The Back-End of the Initiation Process

I agree with the conclusion of Francisco67 on when an impeachment proceeding starts. Indeed, the initiation phase of the proceeding cannot start at any point other than the filing of the impeachment complaint. I cannot but agree, too, that the initiation phase is not confined solely to the fact of filing; the House of Representatives as the receiving entity has to intervene for a complete and meaningful initiation process. But beyond these, the question arises – up to what point does the initiation phase of the impeachment proceedings end considering the totality of Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution?

This question must inevitably arise since the presented reasons – either from the amici curiae or the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission on Section 3(1) and Section 3(3), Article XI of the Constitution – do not present ready answers. For one, the term "initiate" under Section 3(1) does not carry the same sense as the term "initiated" in Section 3(5); the first refers to the power of the House of Representatives to impeach as against the power of the Senate to try an impeachment case brought forward by the House of Representatives, while Section 3(5) specifically refers to the internal proceedings of the House of Representatives.

I submit on this point – i.e., on the outer limit or back end of the initiation phase of the impeachment proceedings – that the intent and purpose behind Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution must necessarily come into play. The complete interpretation of the Section must consider the point beyond which another impeachment complaint shall constitute undue harassment against the impeachable official, as well as the point that should serve as a cut-off to ensure that the House of Representatives is not unduly taken away from its mandated lawmaking activities.

For a bird’s eye view of the impeachment process at the House of Representatives, the proceedings run as follows:

a. A Member of the House files or endorses a verified impeachment complaint;

b. The verified complaint is included in the Order of Business of the House of Representatives;

c. The House of Representatives refers the verified complaint to the proper committee;

d. The committee determines the sufficiency in form and substance of the verified complaint and submits its recommendations to the House of Representatives.68

i. If the Committee determines that the complaint is insufficient in form, it shall return the complaint to the Secretary General with a written explanation of the insufficiency.

ii. If the Committee finds the complaint insufficient in substance, it shall dismiss the complaint and make the proper report to the House of Representatives in plenary. (If the House of Representatives disapproves the finding of insufficiency, thus effectively deciding that the impeachment complaint is sufficient, then it returns the complaint to the Committee for the proceedings described below.)

e. After a finding of sufficiency, the committee proceeds to require the respondent to answer and to hear the merits of the complaint.

i. If the committee finds that the complaint lacks merit, it shall submit to the House of Representatives a resolution of dismissal. A vote of 1/3 of the House of Representatives overrides the resolution, in which case the committee shall prepare the Articles of Impeachment.

f. The House of Representatives in plenary considers the committee’s favorable recommendation expressed through a resolution setting forth the Articles of Impeachment. By a vote of at least 1/3 of the House of Representatives, the Articles of Impeachment shall be endorsed to the Senate for trial.

i. If the 1/3 vote on the resolution on the Articles of Impeachment is not attained, then the complaint is dismissed and the impeachment proceedings end.

e.1.ii. The Ponencia’s Deficiencies

The ponencia demarcates the referral by the House of Representatives of the impeachment complaint to the proper committee as the outer or back end limit of the initiation phase apparently because referral is the initial action of the House of Representatives action on the matter. The appropriate point, however, cannot be based solely on the first overt action the House of Representatives takes, if the purposes of the "initiation" of the impeachment complaint are to be respected. Specifically, the purpose and intent of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution, as gleaned from the word "initiated" and the one-year bar rule, must be considered. I believe that on this point, the ponencia made an incomplete consideration that should be corrected.

e.1.iii. The One-Year Bar Rule and Its Purposes

The one-year bar rule and its purposes and effects, once considered, unavoidably introduce into the word "initiate" the idea of knowing and meaningful action sufficient to have the effect of preventing the filing of another impeachment complaint within one year. The import of what the bar signifies can be gleaned from the importance the Constitution gives public accountability and the impeachment process; public accountability is a primary constitutional interest that merits no less than one complete and separate Article in the Constitution, while impeachment is one of the defined means of holding the highest government officials accountable. They are prominent, not only in the Constitution, but in the public mind as well.

In this light, the bar against impeachment that Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution speaks of cannot simply be confined to the mechanical act of filing an impeachment complaint. As every citizen enjoys the right to file a complaint, a bar triggered by the mere physical act of filing one complaint is practically a negation of the granted right without a meaningful basis. Thus, the initiation of an impeachment complaint, understood in the sense used in Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution, must involve a process that goes beyond this physical act of filing; initiation must be a participatory act that involves the receiving entity, in this case, the House of Representatives.

To be consistent with the nature and effects of the bar, the participation of the House of Representatives in the initiation phase must itself be meaningful; it must be an act characterized by the exercise of discretion in determining that the filed impeachment complaint is valid and can be the basis for the impeachment proceedings to follow, subject to supporting and duly admitted evidence. To state the obvious, only a valid impeachment complaint should serve as a bar; otherwise, no meaningful balance would exist between the impeachment and the bar that can frustrate it.

The receipt by the House of Representatives of the filed impeachment complaint, like the filing of the complaint, involves a mechanical act that leaves the House be the basis for the impeachment proceedings to follow with no discretion to exercise; a filed complaint must be received as the filing of the complaint is in the exercise of a right granted by the Constitution. In like manner, the initial overt action by the House of Representatives – the referral of the impeachment complaint to the appropriate committee – is no different from the prior act of receiving the complaint. It is essentially a mandatory act that the Constitution commands. In fact, the act of receiving an impeachment complaint cannot really be divorced from the act of referral since both acts are products of constitutional directives couched in the mandatory language of Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution.

The next action following the referral of the impeachment complaint to the Justice Committee is the latter’s consideration of the complaint for sufficiency in form and substance. The determination of sufficiency is essentially a test for validity and is the first opportunity for a meaningful action, involving the exercise of discretion, that would justify the imposition of a bar. It is at this level, with the complaint declared as valid, that impeachment proceedings can be fully recognized to be validly initiated.

From this perspective, the Francisco69 ruling – while essentially referring to aspects of the initiation phase of the impeachment proceedings – does not fully cover its complete initiation phase. The act of referral that passed Francisco’s70 approval is a purely mechanical act that does not consider the validity of the complaint and the exercise of discretion in the determination of its validity as essential elements. At the core, Francisco71 is incomplete because it did not consider the purposes of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution.

e.1.iv. The Undue Harassment Purpose

From the perspective of the purposes of the one-year bar rule, it should be noted that up to the point of the referral by the House of Representatives, nothing is expected to be done by the public official against whom the complaint is filed. In fact, both the Constitution and the impeachment rules do not require that the complainant furnish the official sought to be impeached a copy of the verified impeachment complaint. Only after the Justice Committee finds the complaint sufficient in form and substance that the respondent official is formally furnished a copy of the verified complaint.

It should be considered, too, that the mere filing of an impeachment complaint is not per se an act of harassment. The filing of an impeachment complaint is a remedy that the Constitution itself provides and defines. The concept of harassment only enters the picture in any subsequent complaint filed; the Constitution itself bars a second complaint within a year from the initiation of the first complaint on the presumption that the second complaint only serves to harass an impeachable officer.

Since "undue harassment" is practically a legal reason or justification for the one-year bar rule, it can only be understood in terms of the legal effects that the filing of an impeachment complaint carries with it. As against the impeachable official against whom a complaint is filed, legal effects start only from the time a valid complaint is recognized. The mere referral of a complaint by the House of Representatives to the proper committee does not in any way legally affect the public official against whom a complaint is filed; at this point, he/she is only a passive participant in the proceedings – a person named in a complaint that may not even prosper. Legal effect takes place only when the complaint is found valid for sufficiency in form and substance, and the public official is formally furnished a copy and is required to answer. At this point – i.e., when the House of Representatives, through its appropriate committee, has exercised its discretion in taking concrete action against an impeachable public official – a valid complaint can be said to have been formally recognized by and fully "initiated" in the House of Representatives.

It is at this point, too, that the constitutional intent of preventing undue harassment of an impeachable officer is triggered. Beyond this point, a second impeachment complaint, whether valid or invalid, becomes too many for an impeachable official to face within a year.

e.1.v. Interference in Lawmaking

From the perspective of interference in the House of Representatives proceedings, note that the determination of sufficiency of the verified complaint in form and substance requires committee action but not any hearing where the respondent official must be present as a matter of due process. Sufficiency in form only requires a facial consideration of the complaint based on the mandated formal requirements.

The Constitution requires the bare minimum of verification of the complaint, and the allegation that it is filed by a Member of the House of Representatives or the endorsement by a Member if the complaint is filed by a citizen. Additionally, following the Rules of Criminal Procedure of the Rules of Court72 that applies as suppletory rules, the form should be appropriate if a proper respondent, occupying an office subject to impeachment, is named in the complaint, and if specific acts or omissions are charged under one of the grounds for impeachment defined by the Constitution.

The complaint should be considered sufficient in substance if the acts or omissions charged are appropriate under the cited grounds and can serve as basis to hear and to bring the Articles of Impeachment forward to the Senate. It is at this point that the Justice Committee can determine, as a matter of substance, if the impeachment complaint is one that – because of its validity – can serve as a bar to a second complaint within a one-year period.

Notably, all these would only require the examination of the verified complaint and whatever component annexes it may contain, without need for any formal hearing or any explanation from the respondent whose opportunity to explain and dispute the case against him/her only comes after an Answer. It is at this hearing before the Justice Committee that the determination of "probable cause" transpires.

Incidentally, the Constitution expressly requires that there be a hearing before the Justice Committee submits its resolution on the Articles of Impeachment. Notably, too, the Constitution requires a hearing only at this point, not at any other stage, particularly at the determination of the sufficiency in form and substance stage, although no law prohibits the Justice Committee from calling the parties to a "sufficiency" hearing.

Up until the determination of the validity of the complaint in form and substance, all of which are internal to the Justice Committee, interference on the lawmaking part of the House of Representatives can be seen to be negligible. The records of the present Justice Committee themselves show that it devoted only two meetings to determine the sufficiency of the complaint in form and substance.

Thus, from the point of view of both possible undue harassment effects and interference in the lawmaking activities of the House of Representatives, no justification on these grounds exists to restrict the back-end or outside limit of the initiation phase of the impeachment proceedings to the referral of the verified complaint to the Justice Committee. In fact, the nature of a referral as a mandatory and non-discretionary action of the House of Representatives dictates that the initiation phase be extended beyond this point. The appropriate point that serves both the "undue harassment" and "interference in lawmaking" purposes of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution is when the impeachment complaint is determined to be valid. Beyond that point, the possibilities of undue harassment and interference in lawmaking become real.

e.1.vi. From Prism of Experience and Practical Application

Admittedly, the alternative view dictates a result different from the result the Court arrived at under the facts of Francisco;73 with the dismissal of the first impeachment complaint for insufficiency in substance, no complaint stood to trigger the one-year bar rule so that the second complaint should have been recognized. But this consequence should not deter the Court from reconsidering its position; experience in impeachment cases from the time of Francisco74 has shown that this ruling has not served the overall purposes of impeachment at all.

As the OSG argued, the Francisco ruling can indeed encourage naughty effects; a meritorious impeachment case can effectively be barred by the filing of a prior unmeritorious impeachment complaint whose mere referral to the Justice Committee already bars the recognition of the meritorious complaint. Its disregard of the purposes of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution leaves the impeachment process highly susceptible to manipulation. In contrast, this naughty effect can be minimized with the adoption of the alternative view that fully takes the purposes of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution into account, as the alternative:

a. recognizes that the referral is a mandatory non-discretionary act on the part of the Speaker or the leadership of the House of Representatives; all complaints must be referred to the Justice Committee for its action and recommendation; and

b. recognizes that the Constitution grants the Justice Committee the initial discretionary authority to act on all matters of form and substance of impeachment complaints, including the finding and recommendation that a second complaint is barred by the one-year bar rule.

To be sure, an unmeritorious complaint can still be filed ahead of time under the alternative view and be recognized as sufficient in form and substance by the Justice Committee in order to bar an expected meritorious complaint. This is a political dimension of the impeachment process that neither this Court nor the public can directly remedy under the terms of the present Constitution. The alternative view, however, would prevent the unilateral refusal at the level of the Speaker or leadership of the House of Representatives to refer the complaint to the Justice Committee on the ground of the one-year bar rule. Once a second complaint is referred, the Justice Committee – as the body granted by the Constitution with the initial authority and duty to rule – would then have to rule on the applicability of a bar and, subsequently, report this out to the plenary for its consideration. At both levels, debates can take place that can effectively bring the matter of public opinion to the bar where the political act of the House of Representatives can properly be adjudged.

The ponencia, incidentally, posits that:

Referral of the complaint to the proper committee is not done by the House Speaker alone xxx. It is the House of Representatives, in public plenary session, which has the power to set its own chamber into special operation by referring the complaint or to otherwise guard against the initiation of a second impeachment proceeding xxx.

x x x. With respect to complaints for impeachment, the House has the discretion not to refer a subsequent impeachment complaint to the Committee on Justice where official records and further debate show that an impeachment complaint filed against the same impeachable officer has already been referred to the said committee and the one year period has not yet expired xxx. Far from being mechanical, before the referral stage, a period of deliberation is afforded the House[.]

The ponencia added:

Allowing an expansive construction of the term "initiate" beyond the act of referral allows the unmitigated influx of successive complaints… Worse, the Committee shall conduct overlapping hearings until and unless the disposition of one of the complaints ends with the affirmance of a resolution for impeachment…. or the Committee on Justice concludes its first report to the House plenary regardless of the recommendation… Each of these scenarios runs roughshod the very purpose behind the constitutionally imposed one-year bar. (Underlining supplied).

With all due respect and as discussed above, these statements disregard the clear wording of the Constitution and the purposes of the one-year bar rule.

First, the constitutional directive to refer an impeachment complaint to the Committee is clear and unequivocal; it does not set terms or procedures and provides only for a period. Also, the House of Representatives itself does not appear – from the terms of Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution – to have the authority at the first instance to undertake any direct action on subsequently-filed impeachment complaints other than to refer them to the proper committee. The House of Representatives, therefore, must refer a filed impeachment complaint to the Justice Committee within the mandated period. Any attempt to read into the Constitution any procedure other than what it clearly provides is to introduce further complications into the impeachment process, and is an intervention inconsistent with the terms of the Constitution.

Second, the question that the ponencia has not even ventured to answer is when an impeachment proceeding is initiated in light of the purposes of the one-year bar. As pointed out above, until the Justice Committee finds the impeachment complaint or complaints sufficient in form and substance, no "hearing" is required under the terms of the Constitution and it is pointless to claim that overlapping hearings will take place. The Justice Committee acts as the constitutional sentry through its power to determine the validity of the complaints’ form and substance; the judicious exercise of this power is enough to avoid the feared "overlapping hearings." Any subsequent complaint filed while an impeachment proceeding, based on a valid impeachment complaint, is in progress, or within a year from the declaration of the validity of an impeachment complaint’s form and substance, can only be dismissed for insufficiency of substance as the consideration of its substance is barred by the one-year bar rule.

It is in the same light that I find it difficult to fully appreciate the ponencia’s analogy – i.e., the referral of the impeachment complaint is like the burning of the candle wick that ignites, that is, initiates impeachment proceedings. Using the same analogy, lighting a candle unless done deliberately, i.e., with the purpose of lighting the candle in mind, would be no better that a candle lit in the winds’ way. The purposes of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution must be considered in determining when the initiation phase of impeachment proceedings ends; otherwise, a manipulation of the process can intervene, putting the impeachment process to naught.

III. SUMMARY
To summarize:

a. The House of Representatives properly referred the impeachment complaints filed against the petitioner to the pursuant to the express terms of Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution. Accordingly, the referral is valid.

b. The proceedings were undertaken without the benefit of fully effective rules on impeachment as required by Section 3(8), Article XI of the Constitution, in relation to Article 2 of the Civil Code. These proceedings violated the petitioner’s right to due process and, hence, are invalid.

c. In light of the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the Fifteenth Congress, promulgated on September 2, 2010 and which became effective on September 17, 2010, no legal stumbling block now exists to prevent the from taking cognizance of the referred complaints and from undertaking its constitutional role under Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution.

d. The initiation phase of impeachment proceedings starts with the filing of the verified impeachment complaint by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon resolution of an endorsement by any member of the House of Representatives. The initiation phase ends when the Justice Committee determines and the House of Representatives approves the sufficiency of the impeachment complaint in form and substance.

e. The finding of the validity of the impeachment complaint in form and substance completes the initiation phase of the impeachment proceedings and bars the filing of another impeachment complaint for a period of one year therefrom.

f. Any question posed by the filing of separate complaints by two separate parties in the present case is a matter for the Justice Committee and, ultimately, for the House of Representatives, to resolve under the terms of the Constitution and its Rules on Impeachment. In light of the invalidity of the proceedings of the Justice Committee, there is no concrete action that this Court can act upon; the matter, at this point, is not yet ripe for adjudication.

On the basis of the foregoing, I vote to GRANT the petition.

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice


Footnotes

1 460 Phil 830 (2003).

2 Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution.

3 Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution.

4 Section 3(3), (4) and (6), Article XI of the Constitution.

5 Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution.

6 Section 3(8), Article XI of the Constitution.

7 Article III of the Constitution.

8 IBP v. Zamora, G.R. No. 141284, August 5, 2000, 338 SCRA 81.

9 Abakada Guro Party List v. Purisima, G.R. No. 166715, August 14, 2008, 562 SCRA 251, 271.

10 Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th edition.

11 Republic v. Express Telecommunications Co., Inc., 424 Phil 372, 393 (2002); and Pilipinas Kao, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 423 Phil. 834, 859 (2001). Article 2 of the Civil Code reads:

Art. 2. Laws shall take effect after fifteen days following the completion of their publication in the Official Gazette, unless it is otherwise provided. This Code shall take effect one year after such publication.

12 Philippine International Trading Corporation v. Commission on Audit, 368 Phil. 478, 491 (1999).

13 See Senate v. Ermita, G.R. Nos. 168777, 169659, 169660, 169667, 169834 and 171246, April 20, 2006, 488 SCRA 1, 72.

14 230 Phil. 528, 534-535 (1986).

15 Id.

16 Ponencia, p. 19.

17 Memorandum of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice dated October 26, 2010, pp. 6-7; and Memorandum of petitioner dated October 21, 2010, pp. 4-7. The two complaints were filed on July 22, 2010 and on August 3, 2010.

18 Memorandum of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice dated October 26, 2010, p.7; and Memorandum of petitioner dated October 21, 2010, p. 8. Both complaints were referred to the Justice Committee on August 11, 2010.

19 Memorandum of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice dated October 26, 2010, pp.7-8; and Memorandum of petitioner dated October 21, 2010, pp. 8-16. On September 1, 2010, the Justice Committee conducted a hearing on the sufficiency in form of both complaints. On September 7, 2010, the Justice Committee conducted a hearing on the sufficiency in substance of both complaints.

20 Ponencia, p. 21.

21 Republic v. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, G.R. No. 173918, April 8, 2008, 550 SCRA 680, 693.

22 G.R. No. 163935, February 2, 2006, 481 SCRA 480, 521.

23 Id.

24 Padilla and Phoenix-Omega Development and Management Corp. v. Court of Appeals and Susana Realty, Inc., G.R. No. 123893, November 22, 2001, 370 SCRA 218; and National Housing Authority v. Jose Evangelista, G.R. No. 140945, May 16, 2005, 458 SCRA 478-479.

25 Supra note 22.

26 Id. at 518 and 522. The term "promulgation" was used alternately in reference to orders and rules.

27 Ponencia, p. 17. It is Section 4(6), not Section 3, Article VII of the Constitution that refers to the promulgation of canvassing rules.

28 Id. at 18.

29 Supra note 1.

30 Urbano v. Government Service Insurance System, 419 Phil. 948, 969 (2001); and Corona v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 97356, September 10, 1992, 214 SCRA 378, 392, citing Ruben Agpalo, Statutory Construction.

31 Ponencia, p. 18.

32 G. R. No. 180643, September 4, 2008, 564 SCRA 152, 230.

33 Tañada v. Tuvera, supra note 14.

34 Supra note 32.

35 Republic v. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum, supra note 21.

36 Philippine International Trading Corporation v. Commission on Audit, supra note 12.

37 Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution.

38 See Mecano v. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 103982, December 11, 1992, 216 SCRA 506; Republic v. Asuncion, G.R. No. l-108208, March 11, 1994, 231 SCRA 230-232; Secretary of Finance v. Ilarde, G.R. No. 121782, May 9, 2005, 450 SCRA 233; and Hagad v. Gozo-Dadole, G.R. No. 108072, December 12, 1995, 251 SCRA 251-252.

39 Securities and Exchange Commission, G.R. No. 164026, December 23, 2008, 575 SCRA 113, 121-123; Republic v. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, supra note 21, at 689-694; Senate v. Ermita, G.R. Nos. 168777, 169659, 169660, 169667, 169834, and 171246, supra note 13, at 71-72; Pilipinas Kao, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, supra note 11, at 860-861; Philsa International Placement and Services Corp. v. Secretary of Labor and Employment, 408 Phil. 270, 290 (2001); and Philippine International Trading Corporation v. Commission on Audit, supra note 12.

40 Supra note 1.

41 Memorandum of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, pp. 78 and 80.

42 This is a step further than the interpretation of the House of Representatives of the 12th Congress of Article XI, Section 3(5) in Francisco. The Rules on Impeachment of the 12th Congress provides that an impeachment proceeding is deemed initiated, among others, on the date the House of Representatives votes to overturn or affirm the findings of the Justice Committee that the verified impeachment complaint is not sufficient in substance. Simply, the House of Representatives’ disposition of the impeachment complaint need not be against the impeachable officer to "initiate" an impeachment proceeding.

43 Supra note 1.

44 Memorandum of respondents Reyes et al., pp. 30-31.

45 Memorandum of The House of Representatives Committee on Justice, pp. 80-83.

46 Supra note 1.

47 Supra note 1.

48 Ibid.

49 Ibid.

50 Id. at 169-170.

In Francisco, the Court stated that for Commissioner Regalado, the sponsor of Section 3(5), Article XI, "initiate" means "to file" adding that the act of initiating "included the act of taking initial action on the complaint."

Father Bernas’ argument goes:

Briefly then, an impeachment proceeding is not a single act. It is a complexus of acts consisting 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 complaint and its referral to the Committee on Justice.

51 Id. at 164.

52 Id.

53 Ibid.

54 Id. at 169.

55 Id.

56 Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed.

57 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.

58 Supra note 1.

59 I entertain doubts on the completeness of Francisco’s arguments in construing the word "initiate"(which the ponencia effectively adopted) in so far as they rely on Commissioner Maambong’s observations. The Commissioner’s remark on the need to be "very technical" on the word "initiation" obviously referred to Section 3(3) of Article XI where the word "initiate" no longer appears, but was read in relation to Section 3(1). The word "initiate" in Section 3(1), however, is used in a different sense, that is, to bring an impeachable officer to impeachment trial in the Senate. The word "initiate" in Section 3(1) is expressly used in the Constitution as a "power" – and not with reference to procedure. The same word as used in Section 3(5) was understood in Francisco to mean the "filing and referral to the Justice Committee" for action, which essentially refers to procedure. In this consideration of Section 3(5), its purposes were not taken into account.

60 See Civil Liberties v. Executive Secretary, G.R. No. 83896, February 22, 1991, 194 SCRA 317.

61 Supra note 1.

62 Ibid.

63 Id. at 1053

64 2 Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 282; see also Separate Opinion of Justice Azcuna in Francisco v. House of Representatives, id. at 313.

65 Supra note 1.

66 Ibid.

67 Ibid.

68 A. COMMITTEE PROCEEDINGS

Section 4. Determination of Sufficiency in Form and Substance. - Upon due referral, the Committee on Justice shall determine whether the complaint is sufficient in form and substance. If the committee finds that the complaint is insufficient in form, it shall return the same to the Secretary General within three (3) session days with a written explanation of the insufficiency. The Secretary General shall return the same to the complainant(s) together with the committee's written explanation within three (3) session days from receipt of the committee resolution finding the complaint insufficient in form.

Should the committee find the complaint sufficient in form, it shall then determine if the complaint is sufficient in substance. The requirement of substance is met if there is a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee. If the committee finds that the complaint is not sufficient in substance, it shall dismiss the complaint and shall submit its report as provided hereunder.

Section 5. Notice to Respondents and Time to Plead. - If the committee finds the complaint sufficient in form and substance, it shall immediately furnish the respondent(s) with a copy of the resolution and/or verified complaint, as the case may be, with written notice thereof and serve a copy of the answer to the complaint(s). No motion to dismiss shall be allowed within the period to answer the complaint.

The answer, which shall be under oath, may include affirmative defenses. If the respondent fails or refuses to file an answer within the reglementary period, he/she is deemed to have interposed a general denial to the complaint. Within three (3) days from receipt of the answer, the complainant may file a reply, serving a copy thereof to the respondent who may file a rejoinder within three (3) days from receipt of the reply, serving a copy thereof to the complainant. If the complainant fails to file a reply, all the material allegations in the answer are deemed controverted. Together with their pleadings, the parties shall file their affidavits or counter-affidavits, as the case may be, with their documentary evidence. Such affidavits or counter-affidavits shall be subscribed before the Chairperson of the Committee on Justice or the Secretary General. Notwithstanding all the foregoing, failure presenting evidence in support of his/her defenses.

When there are more than one respondent, each shall be furnished with copy of the verified complaint from a Member of the House or a copy of the verified complaint from a private citizen together with the resolution of endorsement by a Member of the House of Representatives and a written notice to answer and in that case, reference to respondent in these Rules shall be understood as respondents.

69 Supra note 1.

70 Ibid.

71 Ibid.

72 Section 7, Rule 17.

73 Supra note 1.

74 Ibid.


The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

CONCURRING AND DISSENTING OPINION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics. In order to know what it is, we must know what it has been, and what it tends to become.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The Common Law, Lecture 1 (1881)

At the heart of this controversy is the interpretation of the rule enshrined in Article XI, Sec. 3(5) of our Constitution, that "[n]o impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year." With due respect to my esteemed colleague, Mme. Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, I do not agree that there may be multiple complaints embraced in only one impeachment proceeding.

Recall that Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives1 involved two impeachment complaints filed on separate occasions, the first of which had been resolved long before the second complaint was filed. The first complaint was filed on June 2, 2003 by former President Joseph E. Estrada against then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. and Associate Justices Artemio V. Panganiban, Josue N. Bellosillo, Reynato S. Puno, Antonio T. Carpio, Renato C. Corona, Jose C. Vitug, and Leonardo A. Quisumbing. Upon referral to the House Committee on Justice, the Committee ruled that the complaint was sufficient in form, but voted for the dismissal of the complaint for being insufficient in substance. Subsequently, a second complaint was filed on October 23, 2003 against Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., accompanied by the endorsement of at least one-third (1/3) of all the Members of the House of Representatives.

The Court in Francisco faced this question: when a first impeachment complaint is filed against an impeachable officer, subsequently referred to the House Committee on Justice, and then dismissed, may another impeachment complaint prosper? We said then that from the moment that the first complaint was referred to the proper committee, the filing of a second impeachment complaint was prohibited under paragraph 5, section 3 of Article XI of the Constitution. Though the first impeachment complaint was found to be insufficient in substance, it still served as a bar to a subsequent complaint within the same year.

The Court ruled that "initiation [of an impeachment proceeding] takes place by the act of filing and referral or endorsement of the impeachment complaint to the House Committee on Justice or, by the filing by at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives with the Secretary General of the House x x x"2 Thus, "[o]nce an impeachment complaint has been initiated, another impeachment complaint may not be filed against the same official within a one year period."3 It was on that basis that the Supreme Court invalidated Sections 16 and 17 of the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 12th Congress, and declared that the second impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Davide was barred under paragraph 5, section 3 of Article XI of the Constitution.

The rule seems simple enough, and has since been readily applied. But what of a case where two impeachment complaints are separately filed and then simultaneously referred to the Committee on Justice. Does it then follow that only one proceeding has been initiated? To put it differently, is it possible to have two impeachment complaints but just one proceeding?

Mme. Justice Carpio Morales posits that multiple complaints within one proceeding are possible, because the purposes of the one-year ban as enunciated by the framers of our Constitution – to prevent harassment of the impeachable officials and to allow the legislature to focus on its principal task of legislation4 – reveal that the consideration behind the one-year ban is time and not the number of complaints.

Unfortunately, while we are in agreement as to the reckoning point of initiation, I cannot find any reasonable justification for the conclusion that there can be multiple complaints in one proceeding. I posit this view for two reasons: first, it does not appear to be entirely accurate that both complaints were simultaneously referred to the Committee on Justice. Second, even assuming that there was simultaneous referral, upon referral of the First Complaint5 to the Committee, an impeachment proceeding had already been initiated, so as to bar any further proceedings on the Second Complaint.6

As regards the simultaneous referral, as shown in the Congressional records,7 and acknowledged by counsel for the respondents during the October 12, 2010 Oral Arguments (interpellation of Mr. Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura), it appears that during the House plenary session on August 11, 2010, each complaint was read separately by the Secretary General and individually referred to the Committee on Justice by the Chair.8 Thus there was, strictly speaking, no simultaneous referral.

No doubt this Court should be more concerned with overarching principles rather than the ephemeral passing of minutes or seconds. But even if we were to assume that there was, indeed, simultaneous referral, it would be no less true that the filing and referral of each individual impeachment complaint amounts to the initiation of two separate impeachment proceedings.

The word "proceeding" has been defined as "the regular and orderly progression of a lawsuit, including all acts and events between the time of commencement and the entry of judgment; any procedural means for seeking redress from a tribunal or agency; an act or step that is part of a larger action."9 This is in contradistinction with a "complaint," which is "[t]he initial pleading that starts a[n] x x x action and states the basis for the court's jurisdiction, the basis for the plaintiff's claim, and the demand for relief."10

In Francisco, this Court stated that the impeachment "proceeding" consists of the following 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. x x x11

Here, both the First and Second Complaint separately went through these steps – they were filed, referred to the Speaker of the House, included in the Order of Business, referred to the House Committee on Justice, and separately considered by the Committee. In fact, the records bear out that each individual complaint was separately scrutinized to determine whether each was sufficient in form and substance, and the petitioner was required to answer both complaints. In all respects, there were two proceedings.

To summarize:

  First Complaint Second Complaint
Date of Filing July 22, 201012 August 3, 201013
Complainants Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo Lim, Felipe Pestaño, and Evelyn Pestaño Renato Reyes, Mother Mary John Mananzan, Danilo Ramos, Atty. Edre Olalio, Ferdinand Gaite, and James Terry Ridon
Endorsers from the House of Representatives AKBAYAN Representatives Hon. Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello Hon. Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares, Rafael Mariano, Teodoro Casino, Luzviminda Ilagan, Antonio Tinio, and Emeranciana A. De Jesus
Grounds raised Betrayal of Public Trust

1. dismal conviction rate of the Ombudsman from 2008 onwards

2. failure to take prompt and immediate action re former President Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel T. Arroyo with regard to the NBN-ZTE Broadband Project

3. delay in conducting and concluding the investigation on the death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestano

4. decision upholding the legality of the arrest and detention of Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel by the Philippine National Police in 2006

5. failure to conduct an investigation into the PhP1,000,000.00 dinner at Le Cirque in New York

Betrayal of Public Trust

1. the delay and failure in prosecuting those involved in the Fertilizer Fund Scam

2. the failure to prosecute "Euro General" PNP Director Eliseo de la Paz for violating BSP regulations on taking out of the country currency in excess of US$10,000,000 without declaring the funds to the Philippine Bureau of Customs

Culpable Violation of the Constitution

1. the delay or inaction in conducting the investigations and filing criminal cases against responsible COMELEC officials pursuant to the directive given by the Supreme Court in Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines, et al. v. COMELEC, et al.

Culpable Violation of the Constitution

1. repeated delays and failure to take action on cases impressed with public interest

2. refusal to grant access to public records such as the Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth

Transmittal to the Speaker of the House July 27, 201014 August 4, 201015
Directive regarding inclusion in the Order of Business August 2, 201016 August 9, 201017
Referral by the Speaker of the House to the Committee on Justice August 11, 2010 August 11, 2010
Results of Vote on whether or not the complaint was Sufficient in Form (September 1, 2010) 39 in favor, 1 against 31 in favor, 9 against
Results of vote on whether or not the Complaint was sufficient in substance (September 7, 2010) 41 in favor, 14 against 41 in favor, 16 against

These two complaints have, in all respects, been treated separately by the House, and each stands alone. In fact, the complaints have been treated in separate proceedings, as indicated by the fact that there was no identity in the votes received by each complaint.18

To use the analogy of the candle, each matchstick is a separate impeachment complaint, and referral may ignite the wick. But in reality, only one matchstick will cause the candle to melt; the other may feed the flame, but a candle, once lit, stays lit, the second matchstick becomes superfluous. In Shakespeare’s immortal words, "what’s done is done."19 In truth, each matchstick ignites a separate candle, because separate and distinct proceedings are contemplated.

But perhaps we need not venture so far for an analogy. Just like in a regular lawsuit, different parties may prepare their initiatory complaints and file them in court. The Clerk of Court then refers the complaints to the branch for appropriate action. Even if the Clerk of Court refers two complaints to the same branch at exactly the same time, this does not detract from the fact that two proceedings have been initiated, particularly where each complaint alleges different causes of action. And though the branch may hear the two complaints in one hearing, the two proceedings remain separate and distinct.

To summarize, notwithstanding simultaneous referral, once the First Complaint was initiated, that is to say, filed and referred to the Committee on Justice, no other proceeding could be initiated against the petitioner. This protection granted by the Constitution cannot be waved away merely by reference to the "layers of protection for an impeachable officer" and the likelihood that the number of complaints may be reduced during hearings before the Committee on Justice. As such, the filing and referral of the First Complaint against the petitioner precluded the Committee on Justice from taking cognizance of the Second Complaint.

However, though the Second Complaint is barred by Section 3(5) of the Constitution, the House Committee on Justice should be allowed to proceed with its hearing on the First Complaint.

I believe the Members of this Court are well aware of the tension here between the clamor for public accountability and claims of judicial overreach vis-à-vis the demand that governmental action be exercised only within Constitutional limits. In fact, our work here has been called unjustifiable arrogance by an unelected minority who condescends to supplant its will for that of the sovereign people and its elected representatives.20 Nonetheless, try as we might, we cannot shirk from our duty to "say what the law is."21 Particularly, if one conceives of the law as both the reflection of society’s most cherished values as well as the means by which we, as a nation, secure those values, then this Court can do no less than ensure that any impeachment proceedings stand on unassailable legal ground, lest the provisions of our fundamental law be used to work an evil which may not be fully measured from where we stand.

ACCORDINGLY, I vote that: (1) the status quo ante order should be LIFTED; and (2) the proceedings on the First Impeachment Complaint should be allowed to continue. However, proceedings on the Second Complaint are barred by Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution.

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
Associate Justice


Footnotes

1 460 Phil. 830 (2003).

2 Id. at 932.

3 Id. at 933.

4 See Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives (Azcuna, Separate Opinion), id. at 1053, citing the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. During said deliberations, Mr. Romulo, in response to queries regarding the one-year limitation, stated:

MR. ROMULO: Yes, the intention here really is to limit. This is not only to protect public officials who, in this case, are of the highest category from harassment but also to allow the legislative body to do its work which is lawmaking. Impeachment proceedings take a lot of time. And if we allow multiple impeachment charges on the same individual to take place, the legislature will do nothing else but that.

5 Used here to refer to the Verified Complaint for the Impeachment of Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez filed by Ms. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Mr. Danilo Lim, Mr. Felipe Pestaño, and Ms. Evelyn Pestaño with the Resolutions of Endorsement filed by Representatives Bag-ao and Bello filed on July 22, 2010.

6 Used here to refer to the Verified Complaint for the Impeachment of Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez filed by Mr. Renato Reyes, Mo. Mary John Mananzan, Mr. Danilo Ramos and Atty. Edre Olalia with the Resolutions of Endorsement filed by Representatives Colmenares, Casiño, Mariano, Ilagan, Tinio and De Jesus filed on August 3, 2010.

7 House of Representatives (15th Congress of the Philippines), Journal No. 9, August 11, 2010, available online at http://www.congress.gov.ph/download/journals_15/J09.pdf.

REFERENCE OF BUSINESS

On motion of Rep. Romulo, the Body proceeded to the Reference of Business, and the Chair directed the Secretary General to read the following House Bills and Resolutions on First Reading, which were referred to the appropriate Committees hereunder indicated:

x x x x

ADDITIONAL REFERENCE OF BUSINESS

Verified complaint for the Impeachment of Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez filed by Ms. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Mr. Danilo Lim, Mr. Felipe Pestano, and Ms. Evelyn Pestano with the Resolutions of Endorsement filed by Representatives Bag-ao and Bello

TO THE COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE

Verified complaint for the Impeachment of Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez filed by Mr. Renato Reyes, Mo. Mary John Mananzan, Mr. Danilo Ramos and Atty. Edre Olalia with the Resolutions of Endorsement filed by Representatives Colmenares, Casiño, Mariano, Ilagan, Tinio and De Jesus

TO THE COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE (Rollo, p. 576)

8See also, the Congressional Record of the Plenary Proceedings of the 15th Congress, First Regular Session, Volume 1, No. 9, Wednesday, August 11, 2010, available online at http://www.congress.gov.ph/download/congrec/15th/1st/15C_1RS-09-081110.pdf. The records indicate that "[t]he Secretary General read the following House Bills and Resolutions on First Reading, and the Deputy Speaker made the corresponding references."

[8] The TSN of the Oral Arguments before this Court dated October 12, 2010, pages 146-150 states:

Associate Justice Nachura:

Ah, one final thing, if this Court should decide not to revisit Francisco, a question I asked Assistant Solicitor General Laragan is that, when there are two complaints, [is it] the second complaint that is [infirm] if the second complaint is referred [to] the House Committee, after the first complaint shall have been referred? [Thus] the second complaint that will now be [infirm] and barred by Francisco.

Ret. Justice Mendoza:

Yes with particular reference to the facts of this case, it would be the second complaint (interrupted)

Associate Justice Nachura:

The second complaint (interrupted)

Ret. Justice Mendoza:

That would have [to] be dropped, if Your Honor please, for the simple reason that in the proceedings of the (interrupted)

Associate Justice Nachura:

House

Ret. Justice Mendoza:

. . . House, on August 11 (interrupted).

Associate Justice Nachura:

Eleven

Ret. Justice Mendoza:

… 2010, the Order of Business. If you look just at the Order of Business listed the first complaint filed by Risa Hontiveros-Baraquiel and three others ahead of the second complaint, and not only that, set or, rather, shows after reading the (interrupted)

Associate Justice Nachura:

Order of Business

Ret. Justice Mendoza:

… title of the complaint, this is the action taken by the Speaker, refer it to the Committee on Justice accompanied by the banging of the gavel, so that if we have to be (interrupted)

Associate Justice Nachura:

Technical

Ret. Justice Mendoza:

Concerned with, not only our second, ah, minute and seconds of what is done, then I would say just looking at these, that there are time difference between the action taken here in referring the first complaint and the action taken in referring the second complaint which was similarly, read afterward, and then the Speaker said to the Committee on Justice accompanied or followed by the banging of the gavel to signify the action of the Chair.

Associate Justice Nachura:

That - that is what?

Ret. Justice Mendoza:

But – But that’s not [a] concern and I am sure that this Court did not intend that when it wrote the Francisco ruling.

Associate Justice Nachura:

Ah, that is precisely what I asked Assistant Solicitor General Laragan, that it would not [have] been possible to say that both complaints were referred at the same time, because the House in plenary would have acted on each individual complaint in the Order of Business separately. And the referral technically could not have happened at the same time, to the exact minute and the exact second. And so if we were to x x x apply Francisco very strictly the second complaint would be barred.

Ret. Justice Mendoza:

Yes.

9 Black's Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009) (available online at www.westlaw.com).

10 Id.

11 Supra note 1 at 931, adopting the explanation of Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.

12 Rollo, p. 91.

13 Id. at 133.

14 Id. at 561.

15 Id. at 563.

16 Id. at 562.

17 Id. at 564

18 On the question of sufficiency in form, the Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee on Justice held on September 1, 2010, Wednesday, 9:30 AM (Id. at 76-82), provide:

x x x x

Rep. Fariñas then moved to declare the first impeachment complaint filed [sic] Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel as sufficient in form. The motion was duly seconded. x x x

x x x x

With 39 votes in favor and 1 against, the Chair declared the first impeachment complaint filed by Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel as sufficient in form.

Rep. Casiño also moved that the Committee likewise vote to declare the second complaint file [sic] by Mr. Renato Reyes, et al. sufficient in form. The motion was duly seconded. With 31 members in favor of the motion and 9 members against, the motion to declare the second impeachment complaint sufficient in form was carried. (Id. at 80-81)

On the question of sufficiency in substance, the Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee on Justice held on September 7, 2010, Tuesday, 9:30 AM (Id. at 555-560), provide:

x x x x

Thereafter Rep. Fariñas repeated his previous motion to find the Hontiveros complaint sufficient in substance, which was duly seconded by Rep. Remulla. The Chairman proceeded with the voting on the motion, and with forty-one (41) members in favor and only fourteen (14) against, the Chairman declared the impeachment complaint of Hontiveros, et al sufficient in substance.

Rep. Fariñas then made a motion to find the impeachment complaint filed by Reyes, et al. sufficient in substance. x x x (Id. at 560)

x x x x

With forty one (41) votes in favor of the motion, and sixteen (16) against, and one (1) refusal to vote, the Chairman declared the impeachment complaint filed by Reyes, et al. sufficient in substance.

19 Macbeth, act 3, scene 2, line 12.

20 The phrase "counter-majoritarian difficulty" as an issue in constitutional law theory is widely attributed to Alexander Bickel’s 1962 book entitled The Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics.

21 Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, 177 (1803), 1803 WL 893.


The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

SEPARATE CONCURRING OPINION

ABAD, J.:

The Facts and the Case

On July 22, 2010 respondents Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and others filed with the Secretary General of respondent House of Representatives (the House) a verified impeachment complaint (First Complaint) against petitioner Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution. Two members of the House endorsed this complaint. To sum up, the complaint alleges:

1. Betrayal of Public Trust

a. The dismal and unconscionably low conviction rates by the Office of the Ombudsman from 2008 onwards;

b. The failure to take prompt and immediate action on the complaints filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel T. Arroyo, with regard to the NBN-ZTE Broadband Project;

c. The inexcusable delay in conducting and concluding an investigation on the death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño aboard a Philippine Navy vessel;

d. The decision upholding the legality of the arrest and involuntary detention of Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel by the PNP in March 2006; and

e. The failure to conduct an investigation with regard to the P1,000,000 presidential party dinner at Le Cirque Restaurant in New York in August 2009;

2. Culpable Violation of the Constitution

a. The repeated failures to take prompt action on cases involving official abuse and corruption in violation of Section 12, Article XI, and Section 16, Article III, of the Constitution; and

b. The refusal to grant ready access to public records such as the Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth in violation of Section 13(6), Article XI and Section 7, Article III of the Constitution.

On July 23, 2010 the 15th Congress opened its regular session. Shortly after or on August 3, 2010 respondents Renato M. Reyes, Jr. and others filed with the Secretary General of the House another verified impeachment complaint (Second Complaint) against Ombudsman Gutierrez also for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution. Seven members of the House endorsed the complaint, which alleges:

1. Betrayal of Public Trust

a. The gross inexcusable delay in investigating and failure in prosecuting those involved in the anomalous transactions arising from the Fertilizer Fund Scam despite the blatant anomalous transactions revealed in the COA Findings, Senate Committee Report 54 and the Complaints filed with the Ombudsman on the said Fertilizer Fund Scam;

b. The failure to prosecute General Eliseo De La Paz for violating BSP Circular 98 (1995), as amended by BSP Circular 507 (2006), in relation to Republic Act 6713, which prohibits the taking out of the country of currency in excess of US$10,000 without declaring the same to the Philippine Customs, despite the public admission under oath by General De La Paz before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee; and

c. The gross inexcusable delay or inaction by acting in deliberate disregard of the Supreme Court’s findings and directive in its Decision and Resolution in Information Technology Foundation of the Philippine, et al. v. Commission on Elections, et al.

2. Culpable Violation of the Constitution

a. The repeated failures and inexcusable delay in acting upon matters brought before her office, thus violating Sections 12 and 13(1)(2)(3), Article XI and Section 16, Article III of the Constitution, which mandates prompt action and speedy disposition of cases.

On even date, the House provisionally adopted the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 14th Congress.1 On August 11, 2010 it simultaneously referred the first and second complaints to the House Committee on Justice (the Justice Committee).

During its hearing on September 1, 2010 the Justice Committee found the first and second complaints sufficient in form. On September 6, 2010 Ombudsman Gutierrez filed a motion for reconsideration of the committee’s finding on the grounds that:

1. Such finding violates Section 3(5), Article XI of the 1987 Constitution which bars more than one impeachment proceeding against the same impeachable officer within a period of one year;

2. The contemplated consolidation of the two complaints also violates Section 3(5), Article XI of the 1987 Constitution and would permit Congress to do indirectly what it is proscribed from doing directly; and

3. The finding of the Justice Committee violates Section 13, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court which provides that a complaint must charge only one offense.

The Justice Committee declined to accept Ombudsman Gutierrez’s motion for reconsideration for being premature. It advised her instead to just include in her answer the grounds she cited in her motion.

During its hearing on September 7, 2010 the Justice Committee found the two complaints sufficient in substance. On even date, it caused the service of summons and copies of the two complaints on Ombudsman Gutierrez with a directive for her to file her answer to the same within ten days. This prompted her to file the present action, assailing the constitutionality of the Justice Committee’s action in finding the two complaints sufficient in form and substance.

The Key Issue Presented

The key issue in this case is whether or not the House Justice Committee’s findings that the two complaints against Ombudsman Gutierrez are sufficient in form and substance violate Section 3(5), Article XI of the 1987 Constitution which provides that no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a year.

Discussion

The impeachment of public officials has been established for removing otherwise constitutionally tenured and independent public officials—the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman—for culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.2 The power to initiate impeachment cases rests with the House while the power to try the same rests with the Senate.3

The pertinent provisions of Section 3, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution summarizes the steps that lead to the impeachment of the above public officials:

Sec. 3. x x x

(2) A verified complaint 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.

To sum up the various steps leading to the impeachment of a public official are:

One. A verified complaint for impeachment is filed by a member of the House or endorsed by him;

Two. The complaint is included in the order of business of the House.

Three. The House refers the complaint to the proper Committee;

Four. The Committee holds a hearing, approves the resolution calling for impeachment, and submits the same to the House.

Five. The House considers the resolution and votes to approve it by at least one‑third of all its members, which resolution becomes the article of impeachment to be filed with the Senate when approved; and

Six. The Senate tries the public official under the article.

The root of the present problem is that the impeachment of a public official may be said to be "initiated" in two ways under the above steps. The first is the complaint "initiated" in the House under Step One. Section 3 (1) of Article XI provides that the House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to "initiate" all cases of impeachment. The second is the article of impeachment "initiated" in the Senate under Step Five following a favorable vote in the House.

Ombudsman Gutierrez’s view is that there is just one impeachment proceeding and this covers the actions of both the House and the Senate in one unified process. She infers from this that it is actually the filing of the complaint in the House that initiates the one "impeachment proceeding" and this bars a second one filed within the year. In the Francisco case, the Court interpreted the term "to initiate" under Section 3(5) as the filing of the impeachment complaint coupled with Congress’ taking initial action of said complaint.4 Such initial action consists of the referral or endorsement of the impeachment complaint to the Committee.5

As amicus curiae, Fr. Bernas said in the Francisco case that "the Constitution is ratified by the people, both ordinary and sophisticated, as they understand it; and that ordinary people read ordinary meaning into ordinary words and not abstruse meaning, they ratify words as they understand it and not as sophisticated lawyers confuse it."6

Based on common usage in this jurisdiction, a "proceeding" described in the terms of an initiated action refers to a proceeding filed before the court, body, or tribunal that ultimately has the jurisdiction to hear and decide such action. For example, an "expropriation proceeding" is one instituted in the court that can hear and decide it, namely, the Regional Trial Court.7 It is the same with an "escheat or reversion proceeding,"8 an "ejectment proceeding," an "estate proceeding," or an "adoption proceeding." Each of these proceedings or actions is lodged in the body or tribunal in which the law ultimately vests the power to hear and decide it.

Thus, when the Constitution speaks of "impeachment proceedings" it should be understood to refer to the action or case instituted in the Senate in which the power to hear and decide such proceedings is ultimately lodged. In this jurisdiction, the terms "case" and "proceeding" are often interchangeably used. A "case" is a legal action or suit.9 "Proceeding" means the carrying on of an action or course of action.10 The Constitution does not appear to draw any distinction between these two terms. At any rate, the power that the Constitution gives the House is only the power to initiate all cases of impeachment, not the ultimate power to hear and decide such cases. Thus:

Sec. 3. (1) The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.

For the above reason, it cannot be said that it is the party who files a verified complaint against the public official that initiates an impeachment case or proceeding. It is the House that does. Actually, the House exercises this power of initiation by filing the article of impeachment with the Senate. The power to initiate belongs to the House, not to any of its committees, provided the House is able to muster at least one-third vote of all its members in session assembled as the Constitution requires when the impeachment resolution is taken up.

The initiation of an impeachment case by the House of course follows a process: the filing of the complaint, the referral to the Justice Committee, the hearing by such committee, the committee voting over its resolution, the submission of the committee report to the plenary, and the vote to initiate an impeachment case. But this process should be correctly characterized as the House "initiation proceeding," not the "impeachment proceeding" itself.

Besides, one needs to be guided only by the purpose of this constitutional provision. The initiation of the impeachment proceeding in the House is intended to be a preliminary step for the determination of the sufficiency of the allegations against the impeachable public official. It is akin to a preliminary investigation in a criminal case where probable cause is determined against the accused. If there is probable cause to indict the impeachable public official, then the Articles of Impeachment is transmitted to the Senate. In a criminal case, a criminal complaint or information is then filed in court against the accused.

It is a settled principle that once the policy or purpose of the law has been ascertained, effect should be given to it by the judiciary.11 While the one year bar was provided to ensure that the public official is not subjected to considerable harassment and to allow the legislature to do its principal task of legislation, the constitutional provision on impeachment must be viewed, foremost, as a means to protect the State and the people from erring and abusive high ranking public officials. To interpret the one year bar to commence from the disposition by the vote of at least one-third of all the members of the House gives the constitutional provision on impeachment more meaning and effectiveness. It affords more protection to the public interests since the initiation of impeachment complaints would no longer be a race against time. A slippery impeachable public official would not be able to pre-empt the filing within the year of a meritorious impeachment complaint against him by the simple expedience of colluding with someone to file first a baseless impeachment complaint against him.

In the end, the protection of the vast majority must be of paramount importance over and above any perceived inconvenience on the part of any impeachable public official.

At any rate, the issue of whether or not a case of impeachment initiated in the Senate can embody multiple of unrelated charges is not before this Court. I reserve my view on such issue when it arises.

I vote to dismiss the petition based on the above reasons.

ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice


Footnotes

1 On September 2, 2010 the 15th Congress published its Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings.

2 Section 2, Article XI. Accountability of Public Officers, 1987 Constitution.

3 Section 3 (1) and (4), id.

4 415 SCRA 44, 169.

5 Id. at 169-170.

6 Id. at 169.

7 Section 12, Chapter 4, Title, Book III.

8 Section 13, id.

9 Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 3rd Edition, p. 217.

10 Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 3rd Edition, p. 1072.

11 Cecilleville Realty and Service Corp. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 120363, September 5, 1997, 278 SCRA 819, 826.


The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

SEPARATE CONCURRING AND DISSENTING OPINION

PEREZ, J.:

The present case asks: Did the referral to the House of Representatives Committee on Justice of two complaints for the impeachment of the petitioner violate Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution? I respectfully submit that the successive referrals of the complaints are constitutionally prohibited.

The Impeachment Complaints

Petitioner Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez is the incumbent Ombudsman of the Republic of the Philippines.1

On 22 July 2010, an Impeachment Complaint against the petitioner was filed before the House of Representatives2 by private respondents Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo D. Lim, Felipe Pestaño and Evelyn Pestaño.3 The complaint (First Complaint) charges the petitioner of Betrayal of Public Trust and Culpable Violation of the Constitution, allegedly committed thru the following acts and omissions:

A. Betrayal of Public Trust

1. The dismal and unconscionable low conviction rate of the Ombudsman from 2008 onwards;

2. The failure to take prompt and immediate action against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel T. Arroyo, with regard to the NBN-ZTE Broadband project;

3. The delay in conducting and concluding an investigation on the death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño aboard a Philippine Navy vessel;

4. The decision upholding the legality of the arrest and detention of Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel by the PNP in March 2006;

5. The failure to conduct an investigation with regard to the Php 1,000,000.00 dinner at Le Cirque Restaurant in New York in August 2009;

B. Culpable Violation of the Constitution

6. The repeated delays and failures to take action on cases impressed with public interest; and

7. The refusal to grant ready access to public records such as the Statement of Assets and Liabilities.

The First Complaint was referred to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr., on 27 July 2010.4 On 2 August 2010, Speaker Belmonte, Jr. forwarded the First Complaint to the House Committee on Rules for its inclusion in the Order of Business.

On 3 August 2010, another impeachment complaint (Second Complaint) against the petitioner was filed with the House of Representatives. This time around, the complainants were private respondents Renato M. Reyes, Jr., Mother Mary John Mananzan, Danilo Ramos, Atty. Edre Olalia, Ferdinand Gaite and James Terry Ridon.5

The Second Complaint, like the First Complaint, also accuses the petitioner of Betrayal of Public Trust and Culpable Violation of the Constitution, but is premised on different acts and omissions. Thus:

A. Betrayal of Public Trust

1. Ombudsman Gutierrez committed gross inexcusable delay in investigating and failure in prosecuting those involved in the anomalous transactions arising from the Fertilizer Fund Scam despite the blatant anomalous transactions revealed in the COA Findings, Senate Report 54 and the Complaints filed with respondent on the said Fertilizer Scam;

2. Ombudsman Gutierrez did not prosecute General Eliseo de la Paz for violating BSP Circular 98 (1995), as amended by BSP Circular 507 (2006), in relation to Republic Act 6713, which prohibits the taking out of the country of currency in excess of US$10,000.00 without declaring the same to the Philippine Customs, despite the fact that General Eliseo de la Paz publicly admitted under oath before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that he took out the country currency in excess of US$10,000.00 without declaring the same to the Philippine Customs;

3. Ombudsman Gutierrez committed gross inexcusable delay or inaction by acting in deliberate disregard of the Supreme Court’s finding and directive in its Decision and Resolution in Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines, et al. v. Commission on Elections, et al.; and

B. Culpable Violation of the Constitution

Through her repeated failures and inexcusable delay in acting upon the matters brought before her Office, Ombudsman Gutierrez violated Section 12 and Section 13, Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, Article XI on which her constitutional duty is enshrined, as well as Section 16, Article III of the Constitution, which mandates prompt action and speedy disposition of cases.

The Second Complaint reached the desk of Speaker Belmonte, Jr. on the same day it was filed. On 9 August 2010, Speaker Belmonte, Jr. forwarded the Second Complaint to the House Committee on Rules.

Then, on 11 August 2010, the plenary simultaneously referred the First and Second Complaints to the public respondent House Committee on Justice.

The Proceedings Before the House Committee on Justice

On 1 September 2010, the House Committee on Justice conducted a hearing to determine whether the First and Second Complaints were sufficient in form. The hearing was presided by the Chairman of the House Committee on Justice, Representative Niel C. Tupas, Jr.

After taking up preliminary matters,6 the House Committee on Justice found the First Complaint sufficient in form by a vote of 39 in favor and 1 against. Upon a separate vote of 31 in favor and 9 against, the House Committee on Justice also found the Second Complaint to be formally valid. In assessing formal validity, the House Committee on Justice took into account the fact that the two (2) complaints were referred to it at exactly the same time and that both were duly verified.

On 6 September 2010, the petitioner attempted to file a Motion for Reconsideration with the House Committee on Justice. In it, she sought to question the authority of the House Committee on Justice to take cognizance of two (2) impeachment complaints against her—in light of the constitutional proscription against the initiation of multiple impeachment proceedings against the same official within a one-year period. The House Committee on Justice, however, refused to receive this motion.7

On 7 September 2010, the House Committee on Justice reconvened to determine the sufficiency in substance of the First and Second Complaints. By votes of 41 in favor and 14 against for the First Complaint and 41 in favor and 16 against for the Second Complaint, the House Committee on Justice declared both to be sufficient in substance. The House Committee on Justice, thereafter, issued summons directing the petitioner to file an answer within ten (10) days from its receipt. The summons, as well as copies of the First and Second Complaints, was served upon the petitioner at 5:05 in the afternoon of the very same day.

The petitioner did not file an answer.

Resort to the Supreme Court and the Status Quo Ante Order

Aggrieved by the actions of the House Committee on Justice, the petitioner came to this Court via the instant Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction. In sum, the petition asks for the nullification of the House Committee on Justice’s findings that the First and Second Complaints were sufficient in form and substance.

On 14 September 2010, this Court issued a Resolution directing the parties to observe the status quo prevailing before the House Committee on Justice made the contested findings.

DISCUSSION

The submission of the petitioner may be summarized into two principal issues.

The first is whether the House Committee on Justice, in taking cognizance of two (2) impeachment complaints against the petitioner, violated Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution. It is the primary contention of the petitioner that the House Committee on Justice is already precluded from acting upon the Second Complaint—the same having been barred under the Constitution by virtue of the filing of the First Complaint.

The second is whether the hearings conducted by the House Committee on Justice violated the petitioner’s right to due process.8

In this opinion, however, I only wish to articulate my reflections on the first.

Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution succinctly states:

No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.

In practical terms, the provision operates to bar the initiation of an impeachment proceeding against an official, when the following conditions are present:

a.) an impeachment proceeding against such official was previously initiated; and

b.) one year has not yet elapsed from the time of the previous initiation.

Initiation of an impeachment proceeding was, in turn, the subject of the landmark case Francisco, Jr. v. Nagmamalasakit na Manananggol ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc.9 In that case, this Court laid down the rule that, unless the verified complaint is filed by at least 1/3 of the members of the House of Representatives, initiation takes place upon the filing of the complaint coupled by its referral to the proper committee.10

Invoking Francisco as their guide, the respondents proffer the position that the House Committee on Justice may validly act on both the First and Second Complaints. The filing of the First Complaint did not bar the Second Complaint because the mere filing of a verified complaint does not mark the initiation of an impeachment proceeding. The respondents emphasized that Francisco associated the initiation of an impeachment proceeding not only with the filing of a complaint but also with the referral thereof to the proper committee.

It is argued that since there was, in this case, but a single referral of the two (2) complaints to the House Committee on Justice—the logic of Francisco dictates that there was also only one impeachment proceeding initiated. Thus, the respondents concluded, there can be no violation of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution.

I disagree.

No Simultaneous Referral of Two Complaints

To begin with, there never was a "single" or "simultaneous" referral of the two (2) impeachment complaints against the petitioner. Contrary to what the respondents adamantly profess, the complaints were not referred to the House Committee on Justice "at exactly the same time." A perusal of the records of the House of Representatives plenary proceedings on 11 August 201011 reveals that the two (2) impeachment complaints were actually referred to the House Committee on Justice one after the other. Thus:12

ADDITIONAL REFERENCE OF BUSINESS

Verified Complaint for the Impeachment of Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez filed by Ms. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Mr. Danilo Lim, Mr. Felipe Pestaño, and Ms. Evelyn Pestaño with the Resolutions of Endorsement filed by Representatives Bag-ao and Bello

TO THE COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE

Verified Complaint for the Impeachment of Ombudsman Mr. Renato Reyes, Mo. Mary John Mananzan, Mr. Danilop Ramos at Atty. Edre Olalia with the Resolutions of Endorsement filed by Representatives Colmenares, Casiño, Mariano, Ilagan, Tinio and De Jesus

TO THE COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE

The above entries plainly attest that, in fact, the reading and referral of the First Complaint preceded that of the Second Complaint. True, the impeachment complaints were referred to the House Committee on Justice on the same date and during the same session, but there can be no mistake that each complaint was, nevertheless, the subject of a separate and distinct referral.

This fact has immense constitutional consequences. A prior referral of the First Complaint to the House Committee on Justice would mean that an impeachment proceeding against the petitioner was, by then, already completely initiated. This, by the Francisco ruling, renders inutile the succeeding referral of the Second Complaint and makes such referral together with its subject, which is the Second Complaint, unconstitutional excesses that can be given neither force nor effect. Francisco prohibits rather than justifies a second referral.

Cognizance of this fact necessitated the creation of the fiction that the referrals of the impeachment complaints were done "at the same time." This is shown by the floor exchanges following the successive referrals of the complaints.

Representative Tupas rose on a parliamentary inquiry to seek, among others, a clarification on "what was the exact time the two impeachment complaints were referred to the Committee on Justice."13 The answer would become the battlecry of the respondents:

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). The Dep. Majority Leader is recognized.

REP. TUPAS. Mr. Speaker, parliamentary inquiry.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). The Gentleman may state his inquiry.

REP. TUPAS. Mr. Speaker, with respect to the impeachment complaints, may this Representation know: number one, Mr. Speaker, when were the complaints filed; number two, when were they referred to the Committee on Rules; and number three, Mr. Speaker, what was the exact time the two impeachment complaints were referred to the Committee on Justice?

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). The Dep. Majority Leader will please respond.

REP. ROMULO. Mr. Speaker, in response to the query of the Honorable Tupas, the Committee on Rules received the verified complaint for impeachment from the Speaker of the House yesterday. The date of the first verified complaint filed by Miss Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, et al., based on the letter of the Speaker, was dated July 22. The complaint filed by Mr. Renato Reyes, et al., based on the date of the letter of the Speaker, was dated August 3. Both letters were received during the Committee on Rules’ meeting on August 10 at the same time at 2:00 p.m. yesterday, and both complaints were jointly referred by the Committee on Rules to the Committee on Justice.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). Is the Gentleman from Iloilo satisfied with the response of the Dep. Majority Leader?

REP. TUPAS. Partly, Mr. Speaker, but the third question is: what is the exact time of the referral to the Committee on Justice? This Representation would like to know the exact time the two complaints were referred to the Committee on Justice, Mr. Speaker.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). Is the Dep. Majority Leader prepared to answer the query now? The Gentleman from Iloilo, the Chairman of the Committee on Justice, is querying with regard to a time frame, schedule or a cut-off time.

REP. TUPAS. Mr. Speaker, what I am asking is the exact time of the referral to the Committee on Justice.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). Yes. The Dep. Majority Leader will please respond.

REP. ROMULO. Mr. Speaker, the complaints were referred to the Committee on Justice at the same time at 4:47 p.m. today.

REP. TUPAS. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.14 [Emphasis and underscoring supplied].

I cannot, however, accept as possible, in fact or fiction, that the First and Second Complaints have been "referred to the Committee at the same time." The announcement of simultaneity did not alter the true manner of the referrals as clearly reflected in the records of the plenary session.

Interestingly, during the Oral Arguments on 12 October 2010, even the esteemed collaborating counsel for respondent House Committee on Justice, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza, admitted the "physical impossibility" of referring two (2) separate complaints at the same time, as shown by the following exchange:
Associate Justice Nachura:

Ah, that is precisely what I asked Assistant Solicitor General Laragan, that it would not had [sic] been possible to say that both complaints were referred at the same, because the House in plenary would have acted on each individual complaint in the Order of Business separately. And the referral technically could not have happened at the same time, to the exact minute and the exact second. And so if we were to in – aah, wait, if we were to apply Francisco very strictly the second complaint would be barred.

Ret. Justice Mendoza:

Yes.15 (Emphasis supplied).

The recorded reality is that the First Complaint was referred to the House Committee on Justice before the Second Complaint. An impeachment proceeding was already initiated against the petitioner even before a single word about the Second Complaint was read before the plenary. On this score alone, the Second Complaint should be held barred.

One Complaint, One Impeachment Proceeding

The fact as big as the recorded successive referrals is that the contrived simultaneous referral or single referral to the House Committee on Justice of multiple impeachment complaints is not allowed under Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution.

The initiatory act of "filing and referral," envisioned in the Francisco case, can only have one (1) impeachment complaint as its subject. Allowing a referral to the House Committee on Justice of multiple complaints would not only amount to a distortion of both Francisco and the constitutional provision it interprets, but would also circumvent the very purpose of the one-year impeachment ban.

The Proper Context of Francisco

While Francisco may have identified what "acts" make up the initiation of an impeachment proceeding, it was far from being categorical as to just how many complaints can be the "subject" thereof. Indeed, other than defining what "acts" are necessary to accomplish initiation, Francisco never really ventured on the possibility of several complaints being the subject of only one referral to the House Committee on Justice and, for that matter, of only one impeachment proceeding.

In Francisco, a second impeachment complaint16 against then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. was filed with the House of Representatives after a first complaint,17 which concerns him and seven other justices of the Supreme Court,18 was already filed, referred to, and even dismissed by the House Committee on Justice.

Under those facts, Francisco simply ruled that an impeachment proceeding against Chief Justice Davide was already initiated upon the filing and referral to the House Committee on Justice of the first complaint.19 Consequently, the second impeachment complaint was held barred because it was filed within one year from the filing of the first.20

The impeachment complaints in Francisco, it may be observed, were never parts of only a single proceeding. Each complaint was the subject of a separate proceeding—precisely the reason why the second complaint was held barred under the one-year impeachment ban. Verily, the limited factual context of Francisco offers no support to the conclusion that an impeachment proceeding may be driven by more than one (1) complaint. There is simply nothing in Francisco from which that may be derived.

The Underlying Purposes of Section 3(5), Article XI

of the Constitution

The discussion in Francisco of the underlying purposes of the one- year impeachment ban renders unquestionable that it cannot be relied upon to sanction a simultaneous referral of multiple complaints to the House Committee on Justice. This is because an impeachment proceeding based on more than one (1) complaint brings about exactly the evils the constitutional proscription seeks to avoid.

The framers of our Constitution formulated the one-year ban in order to forestall possible abuses of the impeachment process. The deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission so divulge:

MR. VILLACORTA. Madam President, I would just like to ask the Committee three questions.

On Section 3, page 2, lines 12 to 14, the last paragraph reads as follows: ‘No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.’ Does this mean that even if an evidence is discovered to support another charge or ground for impeachment, a second or subsequent proceeding cannot be initiated against the same official within a period of one year? In other words, one year has to elapse before a second or subsequent charge or proceeding can be initiated. The intention may be to protect the public official from undue harassment. On the other hand, is this not undue limitation on the accountability of public officers? Anyway, when a person accepts a public trust, does he not consider taking the risk of accounting for his acts or misfeasance in office?

MR. ROMULO. Yes, the intention here really is to limit. This is not only to protect public officials who, in this case, are of the highest category from harassment but also to allow the legislative body to do its work which is lawmaking. Impeachment proceedings take a lot of time. And if we allow multiple impeachment charges on the same individual to take place, the legislature will do nothing else but that.21 [Emphasis and underscoring supplied].

Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution, therefore, serves to curb two (2) possibilities that may arise should several impeachment proceedings against the same official be initiated within a one-year period:

a.) the possibility of harassment on the part of the impeachable officer; and

b.) the possibility that the legislative work of Congress would be compromised.

Construing the initiatory acts of "filing and referral" as able to encompass multiple impeachment complaints would encourage, rather than discourage, the occurrence of these possibilities. There is no practical difference, at least in terms of their deleterious effects, between a simultaneous institution of multiple impeachment complaints against the same official and the initiation of separate impeachment proceedings against him within a one-year period.

First. Allowing the House Committee on Justice, under the guise of a single referral, to take cognizance of more than one complaint against the same official would undoubtedly expose the latter to the risks of undue harassment. Without a cap on the number of complaints that can be the subject of an impeachment proceeding, the charges against an impeachable officer can easily become limitless. The situation permits political opportunists to hurl a plethora of charges against an impeachable officer who, in the midst of answering those charges, must also perform vital governmental duties.

Second. An impeachment proceeding saddled with multiple complaints draws the prospect of a protracted impeachment process. A long drawn-out impeachment proceeding would require the House of Representatives to spend more time as a prosecutorial body, effectively distracting it from the exercise of its law-making functions.22 This contradicts the very nature of the legislature.

I am, as a result, constrained to read the "and referral" part of the Francisco definition of impeachment initiation as pertaining to one and only one complaint that is allowed to be filed and referred within a period of one year.

Consistent with the proposition I have accepted, that the initiation of impeachment consists of the filing of the complaint coupled by its referral to the proper committee, I accept likewise the delineation that while referral is the logical step that follows the filing of a complaint, a referral does not necessarily happen once a complaint is filed. I agree with the ponencia of my senior, Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, that the House of Representatives has the power to "guard against the initiation of a second impeachment proceeding by rejecting a patently unconstitutional complaint." May I incorporate into mine, the position in the ponencia of Justice Morales that:

Under the Rules of the House, a motion to refer is not among those motions that shall be decided without debate, but any debate thereon is only made subject to the five-minute rule. Moreover, it is common parliamentary practice that a motion to refer a matter or question to a committee may be debated upon, not as to the merits thereof, but only as to the propriety of the referral. With respect to complaints for impeachment, the House has the discretion not to refer a subsequent impeachment complaint to the Committee on Justice where official records and further debate show that an impeachment complaint filed against the same impeachable officer has already been referred [to] the said committee and the one year period has not yet expired, lest it becomes instrumental in perpetrating a constitutionally prohibited second impeachment proceeding. Far from being mechanical, before the referral stage, a period of deliberation is afforded the House, as the Constitution, in fact, grants a maximum of three session days within which to make the proper referral.23

In this case, the First Complaint was, by the House in plenary session, referred to the Committee on Justice such referral having been included in the Order of Business of the House. There appears to be no record of a debate on the propriety of the referral obviously because the official records at that point do not show that an impeachment complaint filed against the same impeachable officer has already been referred to the Committee; and the one year period has not even started. It is precisely the referral of the First Complaint that started the one-year period of the ban against the Second Complaint. The subsequent impeachment complaint, or the Second Complaint, could no longer be referred because the first referral was already on record and no further debate is needed to prove the documented fact nor can such debate disprove the fact.1avvphi1

The observation that the Constitution affords the House a period of deliberation and grants it a maximum period of three session days within which to make the proper referral is of utmost significance. For one, it underscores the validity of my opinion that while referral is a step subsequent to the filing of a complaint, a referral is not an unavoidable consequence of such filing. I agree with Justice Carpio Morales that referral is not a mechanical action. It is a deliberate act, and, may I add, with or without debate. The House ought to have been cognizant of this considering that it adopted as its own rules the Francisco definition of initiation of impeachment as filing and referral of the complaint. It is during the three-day allowable period of pre-referral deliberation that the House should decide which of the two complaints should be referred to the proper committee. The First Complaint was referred after a decision that it was proper for referral. This must be assumed, it having been done by no less than the House in plenary. The assumption is now an unassailable fact since there was no recorded objection to the referral. After that referral in due course, the one-year ban on another initiation started. The referral of the Second Complaint subsequent to the first officially recorded and undebatable referral is a constitutionally prohibited second initiation of an impeachment proceeding against the same impeachable officer.

The clear conclusion cannot be avoided, proceeding as it does from the fact of first and prior referral. Thus, the effort to avoid the fact. This cannot be done as adverted to above, simply because a "simultaneous" referral, which did not happen and cannot happen, was obviously resorted to in order to cure a constitutional defect. The Constitution cannot be violated directly or indirectly.

Indeed, the existence of two complaints and of their separate referrals are further pronounced by the facts that there were separate votings on the sufficiency in form of the First and then the Second Complaints; and there were different numbers of votes for and against the sufficiency in form of the two complaints. The same separate acts and different results transpired in the determination of the sufficiency in substance of the First and Second Complaints. So separate were the complaints that the possibility of consolidation was even discussed at the committee level – a matter that can no longer be done at that stage because of patent, even implicitly admitted, unconstitutionality.

Alternative Theory of Initiation

Perhaps foreseeing that Francisco will give them no refuge, the respondents have alternatively asked for its abandonment in favor of the theory that an impeachment proceeding is only initiated once the House of Representatives, as one body, acts on either the report of the House Committee on Justice or, when applicable, on the complaint filed by one-third (1/3) of its members. In brief, the initiation of an impeachment proceeding ought to mean the entire proceedings in the House of Representatives.

The respondents insist on equating the initiation of an impeachment proceeding with the power given to the House of Representatives to "initiate all cases of impeachment" under Section 3(1), Article XI of the Constitution.24 Filing and referral could not be the initiation of the proceeding because at that point the plenary has not yet determined whether to file an impeachment case with the Senate or not. Unless and until such a determination is made, an impeachment proceeding cannot be validly considered as initiated.

Finally, the respondents expressed their fear that, should the Francisco formula be upheld, frivolous impeachment complaints may be used to bar more meritorious complaints against erring public officials.

These are desperate arguments.

The alternative position espoused by the respondents had already been dealt with quite incisively in Francisco. In the main ponencia, Justice Carpio Morales dismissed the very same position because it gives the term "initiated" found in Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution, a meaning other than the actual commencement of an impeachment proceeding.25 The lengthy disquisition of Francisco provides:

"Initiate" of course is understood by ordinary men to mean, as dictionaries do, to begin, to commence, or set going. As Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language concisely puts it, it means "to perform or facilitate the first action," which jibes with Justice Regalado’s position, and that of Father Bernas, who elucidated during the oral arguments of the instant petitions on November 5, 2003 in this wise:

Briefly then, an impeachment proceeding is not a single act. It is a comlexus of acts consisting 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 complaint and its referral to the Committee on Justice.

Finally, it should be noted that the House Rule relied upon by Representatives Cojuangco and Fuentebella says that impeachment is "deemed initiated" when the Justice Committee votes in favor of impeachment or when the House reverses a contrary vote of the Committee. Note that the Rule does not say "impeachment proceedings" are initiated but rather are "deemed initiated." The language is recognition that initiation happened earlier, but by legal fiction there is an attempt to postpone it to a time after actual initiation. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied).

As stated earlier, one of the means of interpreting the Constitution is looking into the intent of the law. Fortunately, the intent of the framers of the 1987 Constitution can be pried from its records:

MR. MAAMBONG. With reference to Section 3, regarding the procedure and the substantive provisions on impeachment, I understand there have been many proposals and, I think, these would need some time for Committee action.

However, I would just like to indicate that I submitted to the Committee a resolution on impeachment proceedings, copies of which have been furnished the Members of this body. This is borne out of my experience as a member of the Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Good Government which took charge of the last impeachment resolution filed before the First Batasang Pambansa. For the information of the Committee, the resolution covers several steps in the impeachment proceedings starting with initiation, action of the Speaker committee action, calendaring of report, voting on the report, transmittal referral to the Senate, trial and judgment by the Senate.

x x x x

MR. MAAMBONG. Mr. Presiding Officer, I am not moving for a reconsideration of the approval of the amendment submitted by Commissioner Regalado, but I will just make of record my thinking that we do not really initiate the filing of the Articles of Impeachment on the floor. The procedure, as I have pointed out earlier, was that the initiation starts with the filing of the complaint. And what is actually done on the floor is that the committee resolution containing the Articles of Impeachment is the one approved by the body.

As the phraseology now runs, which may be corrected by the Committee on Style, it appears that the initiation starts on the floor. If we only have time, I could cite examples in the case of the impeachment proceedings of President Richard Nixon wherein the Committee on the Judiciary submitted the recommendation, the resolution, and the Articles of Impeachment to the body, and it was the body who approved the resolution. It is not the body which initiates it. It only approves or disapproves the resolution. So, on that score, probably the Committee on Style could help in rearranging these words because we have to be very technical about this. I have been bringing with me The Rules of the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress. The Senate Rules are with me. The proceedings on the case of Richard Nixon are with me. I have submitted my proposal, but the Committee has already decided. Nevertheless, I just want to indicate this on record.

x x x x

MR. MAAMBONG. I would just like to move for a reconsideration of the approval of Section 3 (3). My reconsideration will not at all affect the substance, but it is only in keeping with the exact formulation of the Rules of the House of Representatives of the United States regarding impeachment.

I am proposing, Madam President, without doing damage to any of this provision, that on page 2, Section 3 (3), from lines 17 to 18, we delete the words which read: "to initiate impeachment proceedings" and the comma (,) and insert on line 19 after the word "resolution" the phrase WITH THE ARTICLES, and then capitalize the letter "i" in "impeachment" and replace the word "by" with OF, so that the whole section will now read: "A vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House shall be necessary either to affirm a resolution WITH THE ARTICLES of Impeachment of the Committee or to override its contrary resolution. The vote of each Member shall be recorded."

I already mentioned earlier yesterday that the initiation, as far as the House of Representatives of the United States is concerned, really starts from the filing of the verified complaint and every resolution to impeach always carries with it the Articles of Impeachment. As a matter of fact, the words "Articles of Impeachment" are mentioned on line 25 in the case of the direct filing of a verified compliant of one-third of all the Members of the House. I will mention again, Madam President, that my amendment will not vary the substance in any way. It is only in keeping with the uniform procedure of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress. Thank you, Madam President.26 (Italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied).

This amendment proposed by Commissioner Maambong was clarified and accepted by the Committee on the Accountability of Public Officers.27

It is thus clear that the framers intended "initiation" to start with the filing of the complaint. In his amicus curiae brief, Commissioner Maambong explained that "the obvious reason in deleting the phrase "to initiate impeachment proceedings" as contained in the text of the provision of Section 3 (3) was to settle and make it understood once and for all that the initiation of impeachment proceedings starts with the filing of the complaint, and the vote of one-third of the House in a resolution of impeachment does not initiate the impeachment proceedings which was already initiated by the filing of a verified complaint under Section 3, paragraph (2), Article XI of the Constitution.28

Amicus curiae Constitutional Commissioner Regalado is of the same view as is Father Bernas, who was also a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, that the word "initiate" as used in Article XI, Section 3(5) means to file, both adding, however, that the filing must be accompanied by an action to set the complaint moving.29 [Italics, emphasis and underscoring in the original].

In Francisco, this Court also clarified that the initiation of an impeachment proceeding is vastly different from the initiation of an impeachment case by the House of Representatives.30 Thus:

During the oral arguments before this Court, Father Bernas clarified that the word "initiate," appearing in the constitutional provision on impeachment, viz:

Section 3 (1) The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.

x x x x

(5) No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year. (Emphasis supplied).

refers to two objects, "impeachment case" and "impeachment proceeding."

Father Bernas explains that in these two provisions, the common verb is "to initiate." The object in the first sentence is "impeachment case." The object in the second sentence is "impeachment proceeding." Following the principle of reddendo singula singulis, the term "cases" must be distinguished from the term "proceedings." An impeachment case is the legal controversy that must be decided by the Senate. Above-quoted first 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. However, 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. On the other hand, proceeding is a progressive noun. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It takes place not in the Senate but in the House 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.

Father Bernas further explains: 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. Rather, the proceeding is initiated or begins, when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the Committee on Justice for action. This is the initiating step which triggers the series of steps that follow.

The framers of the Constitution also understood initiation in its ordinary meaning. Thus when a proposal reached the floor proposing that "A vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House shall be necessary… to initiate impeachment proceedings," this was met by a proposal to delete the line on the ground that the vote of the House does not initiate impeachment proceeding but rather the filing of a complaint does.31 Thus the line was deleted and is not found in the present Constitution.

Father Bernas concludes that when Section 3 (5) says, "No impeachment proceeding shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year," it means that no second verified complaint may be accepted and referred to the Committee on Justice for action. By his explanation, this interpretation is founded on the common understanding of the meaning of "to initiate" which means to begin. He reminds that the Constitution is ratified by the people, both ordinary and sophisticated, as they understand it; and that ordinary people read ordinary meaning into ordinary words and not abstruse meaning, they ratify words as they understand it and not as sophisticated lawyers confuse it.

To the argument that only the House of Representatives as a body can initiate impeachment proceedings because Section 3 (1) says "The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment," This is a misreading of said provision and is contrary to the principle of reddendo singula singulis by equating "impeachment cases" with "impeachment proceeding."

From the records of the Constitutional Commission, to the amicus curiae briefs of two former Constitutional Commissioners, it is without a doubt that the term "to initiate" refers to the filing of the impeachment complaint coupled with Congress’ taking initial action of said complaint.32 [Italics, emphasis and underscoring in the original].

I find no sufficient and cogent reason to deviate from Francisco. That the initiation of an impeachment proceeding must be reckoned from the filing and subsequent referral of the verified complaint is an interpretation of the Constitution anchored on the very intent of its framers and the honored principles of statutory construction. It is, without a hint of doubt, what the Constitution conveys.

Neither can Francisco simply be disregarded out of the fear that it will allow erring officials - who, the respondents say, may just cause a frivolous complaint to be filed ahead of more meritorious ones - to easily escape impeachment. This fear is not grounded on reason. The Constitution already provides ample safeguards to prevent the filing of sham impeachment complaints.

For one thing, impeachment complaints are required to be verified.33 The complainants are, under the pain of perjury, mandated to guarantee that the allegations embodied in the complaint are true and within their personal knowledge.

Moreover, the requirement of verification is supplemented by another constitutional safeguard, i.e. the condition that every impeachment complaint, unless filed by at least one third (1/3) of the members of the House of Representatives, must be endorsed by a member thereof.34 The endorsement of a representative seeks to ensure that the allegations of the complaint are at least, on first glance, serious enough to merit consideration by the plenary.

And, to reiterate, a three-day pre-referral proceeding can be availed of by the House in plenary to determine the propriety of referral. Needless to state, an unreferred complaint does not initiate an impeachment proceeding.

Indeed, the Francisco doctrine is not as arbitrary or reckless as the respondents portray it to be. In marking initiation of an impeachment proceeding from the filing of the verified complaint and its referral to the proper committee, Francisco did not destroy the effectiveness and integrity of the impeachment procedure. It only applied the Constitution.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, I VOTE to GRANT the petition IN PART. The Second Complaint against the petitioner is BARRED under Article XI, Section 3(5) of the Constitution. Accordingly, the actions taken by the House Committee on Justice relative to the Second Complaint, including the finding that it was sufficient in form and substance, are hereby declared NULL and VOID.

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
Associate Justice


Footnotes

1 Petitioner assumed as Ombudsman on 1 December 2005.

2 The complaint was received by the Secretary General of the House of Representatives

3 The First Complaint was endorsed by representatives Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello.

4 The Fifteenth (15th) Congress formally opened its sessions on 26 July 2010.

5 The Second Complaint was endorsed by representatives Neri Javier Colmenares, Rafael V. Mariano, Teodoro A. Casiño, Luzviminda C. Ilagan, Antonio L. Tinio and Emerancia A. de Jesus.

6 Representatives Marc Douglas C. Cagas IV and Fernejel G. Biron, both members of the HCJ, initially called for the inhibition of Chairman Tupas, Jr. from the proceedings. As it turned out, the father of Chairman Tupas, Jr., former Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas, Sr., was the subject of a previous investigation of the petitioner and was, in fact, charged by the latter with violations of Republic Act No. 3019 before the Sandiganbayan. The case against Tupas, Sr. is still pending before the Sandiganbayan. Chairman Tupas, Jr., however, refused to inhibit from the proceedings and, instead, assured the other HCJ members of his utmost impartiality.

7 The petitioner, instead, caused her motion to be served personally upon each member of the HCJ.

8 The due process concerns are: (a) the lack of a published Rules of Procedure for Impeachment cases; (b) the perceived partiality of Chairman Tupas, Jr.; (c) the apparent haste with which the HCJ determined that both complaints were sufficient in form and substance; and (d) the refusal of the HCJ to receive petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.

9 460 Phil. 830 (2003).

10 Id. at 940.

11 Congressional Record, Plenary Proceedings of the 15th Congress, First Regular Session, House of Representatives, Vol. 1, No. 9, 11 August 2010.

12 Id. at 13.

13 Id.

14 Id.

15 TSN, Oral Arguments, 12 October 2010, p. 150.

16 This complaint was filed by then Representatives Gilbert C. Teodoro, Jr. and Felix William B. Fuentebella, and was accompanied by an endorsement of at least one-third (1/3) of the members of the House of Representatives.

17 This complaint was filed by former President Joseph E. Estrada and was endorsed by then Representatives Rolex T. Suplico, Ronaldo B. Zamora and Didagen Piang Dilangalen.

18 The other justices implicated in Estrada’s complaint were then Associate Justices Artemio V. Panganiban, Josue N. Bellosillo, Reynato S. Puno, Antonio T. Carpio, Renato C. Corona, Jose C. Vitug and Leonardo A. Quisumbing.

19 Supra note 9 at 940.

20 Id.

21 2 Record of the Constitutional Commission: Proceedings and Debates, p. 282 (1986).

22 See Separate and Concurring Opinion of Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez in the Francisco case, supra note 9 at 983-1006.

23 In the majority opinion in G.R. No. 193459.

24 Section 3(1), Article XI of the Constitution provides: "The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment."

25 Supra note 9 at 940.

26 2 Record of the Constitutional Commission: Proceedings and Debates, pp. 342-416 (1986).

27 Id. at 416.

28 Commissioner Maambong’s Amicus Curiae Brief, p. 15 (submitted in the Francisco case, supra note 9).

29 Supra note 9 at 927-930.

30 Id. at 932.

31 2 Record of the Constitutional Commission: Proceedings and Debates, p. 416 (1986).

32 Supra note 9 at 930-932.

33 See CONSTITUTION, Article XI, Section 3(2).

34 Id.


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