JOSEPH E. ESTRADA, petitioner, vs. ANIANO DESIERTO, in his capacity as Ombudsman, RAMON GONZALES, VOLUNTEERS AGAINST CRIME AND CORRUPTION, GRAFT FREE PHILIPPINES FOUNDATION, INC., LEONARD DE VERA, DENNIS FUNA, ROMEO CAPULONG and ERNESTO B. FRANCISCO, JR., respondent.
JOSEPH E. ESTRADA, petitioner, vs. GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
On the line in the cases at bar is the office of the President. Petitioner Joseph Ejercito Estrada alleges that he is the President on leave while respondent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo claims she is the President. The warring personalities are important enough but more transcendental are the constitutional issues embedded on the parties’ dispute. While the significant issues are many, the jugular issue involves the relationship between the ruler and the ruled in a democracy, Philippine style.
First, we take a view of the panorama of events that precipitated the crisis in the office of the President.
In the May 11, 1998 elections, petitioner Joseph Ejercito Estrada was elected President while respondent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was elected Vice-President. Some (10) million Filipinos voted for the petitioner believing he would rescue them from life’s adversity. Both petitioner and the respondent were to serve a six-year term commencing on June 30, 1998.
From the beginning of his term, however, petitioner was plagued by a plethora of problems that slowly but surely eroded his popularity. His sharp descent from power started on October 4, 2000. Ilocos Sur Governos, Luis “Chavit” Singson, a longtime friend of the petitioner, went on air and accused the petitioner, his family and friends of receiving millions of pesos from jueteng lords.
The exposé immediately ignited reactions of rage. The next day, October 5, 2000, Senator
Teofisto Guingona Jr, then the Senate Minority Leader, took the floor and
delivered a fiery privilege speech entitled “I Accuse.” He accused the petitioner
of receiving some
P220 million in jueteng money from Governor
Singson from November 1998 to August 2000.
He also charged that the petitioner took from Governor Singson P70
million on excise tax on cigarettes intended for Ilocos Sur. The privilege speech was referred by then
Senate President Franklin Drilon, to the Blue Ribbon Committee (then headed by
Senator Aquilino Pimentel) and the Committee on Justice (then headed by Senator
Renato Cayetano) for joint investigation.
The House of Representatives did no less. The House Committee on Public Order and Security, then headed by Representative Roilo Golez, decided to investigate the exposé of Governor Singson. On the other hand, Representatives Heherson Alvarez, Ernesto Herrera and Michael Defensor spearheaded the move to impeach the petitioner.
Calls for the resignation of the petitioner filled the air. On October 11, Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin issued a pastoral statement in behalf of the Presbyteral Council of the Archdiocese of Manila, asking petitioner to step down from the presidency as he had lost the moral authority to govern. Two days later or on October 13, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines joined the cry for the resignation of the petitioner. Four days later, or on October 17, former President Corazon C. Aquino also demanded that the petitioner take the “supreme self-sacrifice” of resignation. Former President Fidel Ramos also joined the chorus. Early on, or on October 12, respondent Arroyo resigned as Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Services and later asked for petitioner’s resignation. However, petitioner strenuously held on to his office and refused to resign.
The heat was on. On November 1, four (4) senior economic advisers, members of the Council of Senior Economic Advisers, resigned. They were Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, former Senator Vicente Paterno and Washington Sycip. On November 2, Secretary Mar Roxas II also resigned from the Department of Trade and Industry. On November 3, Senate President Franklin Drilon, and House Speaker Manuel Villar, together with some 47 representatives defected from the ruling coalition, Lapian ng Masang Pilipino.
The month of November ended with a big bang. In a tumultuous session on November 13, House Speaker Villar transmitted the Articles of Impeachment signed by 115 representatives, or more than 1/3 of all the members of the House of Representatives to the Senate. This caused political convulsions in both houses of Congress. Senator Drilon was replaced by Senator Pimentel as Senate President. Speaker Villar was unseated by Representative Fuentabella. On November 20, the Senate formally opened the impeachment trial of the petitioner. Twenty-one (21) senators took their oath as judges with Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., presiding.
The political temperature rose despite the cold December. On December 7, the impeachment trial
started. the battle royale was fought by some of the
marquee names in the legal profession.
Standing as prosecutors were then House Minority Floor Leader Feliciano
Belmonte and Representatives Joker Arroyo, Wigberto Tañada, Sergio Apostol,
Raul Gonzales, Oscar Moreno, Salacnib Baterina, Roan Libarios, Oscar Rodriguez,
Clavel Martinez and Antonio Nachura.
They were assisted by a battery of private prosecutors led by now
Secretary of Justice Hernando Perez and now Solicitor General Simeon
Marcelo. Serving as defense counsel
were former Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, former Solicitor General and
Secretary of Justice Estelito P. Mendoza, former City Fiscal of Manila Jose
Flamiano, former Deputy Speaker of the House Raul Daza, Atty. Siegfried Fortun
and his brother, Atty. Raymund Fortun.
The day to day trial was covered by live TV and during its course
enjoyed the highest viewing rating. Its
high and low points were the constant conversational piece of the chattering
classes. The dramatic point of the
December hearings was the testimony of Clarissa Ocampo, senior vice president of
Equitable-PCI Bank. She testified that
she was one foot away from petitioner Estrada when he affixed the signature
“Jose Velarde” on documents involving a
P500 million investment
agreement with their bank on February 4, 2000.
After the testimony of Ocampo, the impeachment trial was
adjourned in the spirit of Christmas.
When it resumed on January 2, 2001, more bombshells were exploded by the
prosecution. On January 11, Atty.
Edgardo Espiritu who served as petitioner’s Secretary of Finance took the witness
stand. He alleged that the petitioner
jointly owned BW Resources Corporation with Mr. Dante Tan who was facing
charges of insider trading.
Then came the fateful day of January 16, when by a vote of 11-10
the senator-judges ruled against the opening of the second envelop which
allegedly contained evidence showing that petitioner held
in a secret bank account under the name “Jose Velarde.” The public and private
prosecutors walked out in protest of the ruling. In disgust, Senator Pimentel resigned as Senate President.
The ruling made at 10:00 p.m. was met by a spontaneous outburst of anger that
hit the streets of the metropolis. By
midnight, thousands had assembled at the EDSA Shrine and speeches full of
sulphur were delivered against the petitioner and the eleven (11) senators.
On January 17, the public prosecutors submitted a letter to Speaker Fuentebella tendering their collective resignation. They also filed their Manifestation of Withdrawal of Appearance with the impeachment tribunal. Senator Raul Roco quickly moved for the indefinite postponement of the impeachment proceedings until the House of Representatives shall have resolved the issue of resignation of the public prosecutors. Chief Justice Davide granted the motion.
January 18 saw the high velocity intensification of the call for petitioner’s resignation. A 10-kilometer line of people holding lighted candles formed a human chain from the Ninoy Aquino Monument on Ayala Avenue in Makati City to the EDSA Shrine to symbolize the people’s solidarity in demanding petitioner’s resignation. Students and teachers walked out of their classes in Metro Manila to show their concordance. Speakers in the continuing rallies at the EDSA Shrine, all masters of the physics of persuasion, attracted more and more people.
On January 19, the fall from power of the petitioner appeared inevitable. At 1:20 p.m., the petitioner informed Executive Secretary Edgardo Angara that General Angelo Reyes, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, had defected. At 2:30 p.m., petitioner agreed to the holding of a snap election for President where he would not be a candidate. It did not diffuse the growing crisis. At 3:00 p.m., Secretary of National Defense Orlando Mercado and General Reyes, together with the chiefs of all the armed services went to the EDSA Shrine. In the presence of former Presidents Aquino and Ramos and hundreds of thousands of cheering demonstrators, General Reyes declared that “on behalf of your Armed Forces, the 130,000 strong members of the Armed Forces, we wish to announce that we are withdrawing our support to this government.” A little later, PNP Chief, Director General Panfilo Lacson and the major service commanders gave a similar stunning announcement. Some Cabinet secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, and bureau chiefs quickly resigned from their posts. Rallies for the resignation of the petitioner exploded in various parts of the country. To stem the tide of rage, petitioner announced he was ordering his lawyers to agree to the opening of the highly controversial second envelop. There was no turning back the tide. The tide had become a tsunami.
January 20 turned to be the day of surrender. At 12:20 a.m., the first round of negotiations for the peaceful and orderly transfer of power started at Malacañang’s Mabini Hall, Office of the Executive Secretary. Secretary Edgardo Angara, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Ramon Bagatsing, Political Adviser Angelito Banayo, Asst. Secretary Boying Remulla, and Atty. Macel Fernandez, head of the presidential Management Staff, negotiated for the petitioner. Respondent Arroyo was represented by now Executive Secretary Renato de Villa, now Secretary of Finance Alberto Romulo and now Secretary of Justice Hernando Perez. Outside the palace, there was a brief encounter at Mendiola between pro and anti-Estrada protesters which resulted in stone-throwing and caused minor injuries. The negotiations consumed all morning until the news broke out that Chief Justice Davide would administer the oath to respondent Arroyo at high noon at the EDSA Shrine.
At about 12:00 noon, Chief Justice Davide administered the oath to respondent Arroyo as President of the Philippines. At 2:30 p.m., petitioner and his family hurriedly left Malacañang Palace. He issued the following press statement:
“20 January 2001
PRESIDENT JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA
At twelve o’clock noon today, Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took her oath as President of the Republic of the Philippines. While along with many other legal minds of our country, I have strong and serious doubts about the legality and constitutionality of her proclamation as President, I do not wish to be a factor that will prevent the restoration of unity and order in our civil society.
It is for this reason that I now leave Malacañang Palace, the seat of the presidency of this country, for the sake of peace and in order to begin the healing process of our nation. I leave the Palace of our people with gratitude for the opportunities given to me for service to our people. I will not shirk from any future challenges that may come ahead in the same service of our country.
I call on all my supporters and followers to join me in the promotion of a constructive national spirit of reconciliation and solidarity.
May the Almighty bless our country and beloved people.
(Sgd.) JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA”
It also appears that on the same day, January 20, 2001, he signed the following letter:
By virtue of the provisions of Section 11, Article VII of the Constitution, I am hereby transmitting this declaration that I am unable to exercise the powers and duties of my office. By operation of law and the Constitution, the Vice-President shall be the Acting President.
(Sgd.) JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA”
A copy of the letter was sent to former Speaker Fuentebella at 8:30 a.m., on January 20. Another copy was transmitted to Senate President Pimentel on the same day although it was received only at 9:00 p.m.
On January 22, the Monday after taking her oath, respondent Arroyo immediately discharged the powers and duties of the Presidency. On the same day, this Court issued the following Resolution in Administrative Matter No. 01-1-05-SC, to wit:
“A.M. No. 01-1-05-SC – In re: Request of Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Take her Oath of Office as President of the Republic of the Philippines before the Chief Justice – Acting on the urgent request of Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be sworn in as President of the Republic of the Philippines, addressed to the Chief Justice and confirmed by a letter to the Court, dated January 20, 2001, which request was treated as an administrative matter, the court Resolved unanimously to confirm the authority given by the twelve (12) members of the Court then present to the Chief Justice on January 20, 2001 to administer the oath of office to Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President of the Philippines, at noon of January 20, 2001.
This resolution is without prejudice to the disposition of any justiciable case that maybe filed by a proper party.”
Respondent Arroyo appointed members of her Cabinet as well as ambassadors and special envoys. Recognition of respondent Arroyo’s government by foreign governments swiftly followed. On January 23, in a reception or vin d’ honneur at Malacañang, led by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Papal Nuncio Antonio Franco, more than a hundred foreign diplomats recognized the government of respondent Arroyo. US President George W. Bush gave the respondent a telephone call from the White House conveying US recognition of her government.
On January 24, Representative Feliciano Belmonte was elected new Speaker of the House of Representatives. The House then passed Resolution No. 175 “expressing the full support of the House of Representatives to the administration of Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Philippines.” It also approved Resolution No. 176 “expressing the support of the House of Representatives to the assumption into office by Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President of the Republic of the Philippines, extending its congratulations and expressing its support for her administration as a partner in the attainment of the nation’s goals under the Constitution.”
On February 6, respondent Arroyo nominated Senator Teofisto Guingona, Jr., as her Vice President. the next day, February 7, the Senate adopted Resolution No. 82 confirming the nomination of Senator Guingona, Jr. Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Juan Ponce Enrile, and John Osmeña voted “yes” with reservations, citing as reason therefore the pending challenge on the legitimacy of respondent Arroyo’s presidency before the Supreme Court. Senators Teresa Aquino-Oreta and Robert Barbers were absent. The House of Representatives also approved Senator Guingona’s nomination in Resolution No. 178. Senator Guingona took his oath as Vice President two (2) days later.
On February 7, the Senate passed Resolution No. 83 declaring that the impeachment court is functus officio and has been terminated. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago stated “for the record” that she voted against the closure of the impeachment court on the grounds that the Senate had failed to decide on the impeachment case and that the resolution left open the question of whether Estrada was still qualified to run for another elective post.
Meanwhile, in a survey conducted by Pulse Asia, President Arroyo’s public acceptance rating jacked up from 16% on January 20, 2001 to 38% on January 26, 2001. In another survey conducted by the ABS-CBN/SWS from February 2-7, 2001, results showed that 61% of the Filipinos nationwide accepted President Arroyo as replacement of petitioner Estrada. The survey also revealed that President Arroyo is accepted by 60% in Metro Manila, by also 60% in the balance of Luzon, by 71% in the Visayas, and 55% in Mindanao. Her trust rating increased to 52%. Her presidency is accepted by majorities in all social classes:
58% in the ABC or middle-to-upper classes, 64% in the D or mass, and 54% among the E’s or very poor class.
After his fall from the pedestal of power, the petitioner’s legal problems appeared in clusters. Several cases previously filed against him in the Office of the Ombudsman were set in motion. These are: (1) OMB Case No. 0-00-1629, filed by Ramon A. Gonzales on October 23, 2000 for bribery and graft and corruption; (2) OMB Case No. 0-00-1754 filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption on November 17, 2000 for plunder, forfeiture, graft and corruption, bribery, perjury, serious misconduct, violation of the Code of Conduct for government Employees, etc; (3) OMB Case No. 0-00-1755 filed by the Graft Free Philippines Foundation, Inc. on November 24, 2000 for plunder, forfeiture, graft and corruption, bribery, perjury, serious misconduct; (4) OMB Case No. 0-00-1756 filed by Romeo Capulong, et al., on November 28, 2000 for malversation of public funds, illegal use of public funds and property, plunder, etc., (5) OMB Case No. 0-00-1757 filed by Leonard de Vera, et al., on November 28, 2000 for bribery, plunder, indirect bribery, violation of PD 1602, PD 1829, PD 46, and RA 7080; and (6) OMB Case No. 0-00-1758 filed by Ernesto B. Francisco, Jr. on December 4, 2000 for plunder, graft and corruption.
A special panel of investigators was forthwith created by the respondent Ombudsman to investigate the charges against the petitioner. It is chaired by Overall Deputy Ombudsman Margarito P. Gervasio with the following as members, viz: Director Andrew Amuyutan, Prosecutor Pelayo Apostol, Atty. Jose de Jesus and Atty. Emmanuel Laureso. On January 22, the panel issued an Order directing the petitioner to file his counter-affidavit and the affidavits of his witnesses as well as other supporting documents in answer to the aforementioned complaints against him.
Thus, the stage for the cases at bar was set. On February 5, petitioner filed with this Court GR No. 146710-15, a petition for prohibition with a prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction. It sought to enjoin the respondent Ombudsman from “conducting any further proceedings in Case Nos. OMB 0-00-1629, 1754, 1755, 1756, 1757 and 1758 or in any other criminal complaint that may be filed in his office, until after the term of petitioner as President is over and only if legally warranted.” Thru another counsel, petitioner, on February 6, filed GR No. 146738 for Quo Warranto. He prayed for judgment “confirming petitioner to be the lawful and incumbent President of the Republic of the Philippines temporarily unable to discharge the duties of his office, and declaring respondent to have taken her oath as and to be holding the Office of the President, only in an acting capacity pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution.” Acting on GR Nos. 146710-15, the Court, on the same day, February 6, required the respondents “to comment thereon within a non-extendible period expiring on 12 February 2001.” On February 13, the Court ordered the consolidation of GR Nos. 146710-15 and GR No. 146738 and the filing of the respondents’ comments “on or before 8:00 a.m. of February 15.”
On February 15, the consolidated cases were orally argued in a four-hour hearing. Before the hearing, Chief Justice Davide, Jr., and Associate Justice Artemio Panganiban recused themselves on motion of petitioner’s counsel, former Senator Rene A. Saguisag. They debunked the charge of counsel Saguisag that they have “compromised themselves by indicating that they have thrown their weight on one side” but nonetheless inhibited themselves. Thereafter, the parties were given the short period of five (5) days to file their memoranda and two (2) days to submit their simultaneous replies.
In a resolution dated February 20, acting on the urgent motion for copies of resolution and press statement for “Gag Order” on respondent Ombudsman filed by counsel for petitioner in G.R. No. 146738, the Court resolved:
“(1) to inform the parties that the Court did not issue a resolution on January 20, 2001 declaring the office of the President vacant and that neither did the Chief Justice issue a press statement justifying the alleged resolution;
(2) to order the parties and especially their counsel who are officers of the Court under pain of being cited for contempt to refrain from making any comment or discussing in public the merits of the cases at bar while they are still pending decision by the Court, and
(3) to issue a 30-day status quo order effective immediately enjoining the respondent Ombudsman from resolving or deciding the criminal cases pending investigation in his office against petitioner Joseph E. Estrada and subject of the cases at bar, it appearing from news reports that the respondent Ombudsman may immediately resolve the cases against petitioner Joseph E. Estrada seven (7) days after the hearing held on February 15, 2001, which action will make the cases at bar moot and academic.”
The parties filed their replies on February 24. On this date, the cases at bar were deemed submitted for decision.
The bedrock issues for resolution of this Court are:
Whether the petitions present a justiciable controversy.
Assuming that the petitions present a justiciable controversy, whether petitioner Estrada is a President on leave while respondent Arroyo is an Acting President.
Whether conviction in the impeachment proceedings is a condition precedent for the criminal prosecution of petitioner Estrada. In the negative and on the assumption that petitioner is still President, whether he is immune from criminal prosecution.
Whether the prosecution of petitioner Estrada should be enjoined on the ground of prejudicial publicity.
We shall discuss the issues in seriatim.
Whether or not the cases at bar involve a political question
Private respondents raise the threshold issue that the cases at bar pose a political question, and hence, are beyond the jurisdiction of this Court to decide. They contend that shorn of its embroideries, the cases at bar assail the “legitimacy of the Arroyo administration.” They stress that respondent Arroyo ascended the presidency through people power; that she has already taken her oath as the 14th President of the Republic; that she has exercised the powers of the presidency and that she has been recognized by foreign governments. They submit that these realities on ground constitute the political thicket which the Court cannot enter.
We reject private respondents’ submission. To be sure, courts here and abroad, have tried to lift the shroud on political question but its exact latitude still splits the best of legal minds. Developed by the courts in the 20th century, the political question doctrine which rests on the principle of separation of powers and on prudential considerations, continue to be refined in the mills constitutional law. In the United States, the most authoritative guidelines to determine whether a question is political were spelled out by Mr. Justice Brennan in the 1962 case of Baker v. Carr, viz:
“x x x Prominent on the surface on any case held to involve a political question is found a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department or a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it, or the impossibility of deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretions; or the impossibility of a court’s undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government; or an unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made; or the potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on question. Unless one of these formulations is inextricable from the case at bar, there should be no dismissal for non justiciability on the ground of a political question’s presence. The doctrine of which we treat is one of ‘political questions’, not of ‘political cases’.”
In the Philippine setting, this Court has been continuously confronted with cases calling for a firmer delineation of the inner and outer perimeters of a political question. Our leading case is Tanada v. Cuenco, where this Court, through former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, held that political questions refer “to those questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of the government. It is concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom, not legality of a particular measure.” To a great degree, the 1987 Constitution has narrowed the reach of the political question doctrine when it expanded the power of judicial review of this court not only to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable but also 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 government. Heretofore, the judiciary has focused on the “thou shalt not’s” of the Constitution directed against the exercise of its jurisdiction. With the new provision, however, courts are given a greater prerogative to determine what it can do to prevent grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of government. Clearly, the new provision did not just grant the Court power of doing nothing. In sync and symmetry with this intent are other provisions of the 1987 Constitution trimming the so called political thicket. Prominent of these provisions is section 18 of Article VII which empowers this Court in limpid language to “x x x review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ (of habeas corpus) or the extension thereof x x x.”
Respondents rely on the case of Lawyers League for a Better Philippines and/or Oliver A. Lozano v. President Corazon C. Aquino, et al. and related cases to support their thesis that since the cases at bar involve the legitimacy of the government of respondent Arroyo, ergo, they present a political question. A more cerebral reading of the cited cases will show that they are inapplicable. In the cited cases, we held that the government of former President Aquino was the result of a successful revolution by the sovereign people, albeit a peaceful one. No less than the Freedom Constitution declared that the Aquino government was installed through a direct exercise of the power of the Filipino people “in defiance of the provisions of the 1973 Constitution, as amended.” It is familiar learning that the legitimacy of a government sired by a successful revolution by people power is beyond judicial scrutiny for that government automatically orbits out of the constitutional loop. In checkered contrast, the government of respondent Arroyo is not revolutionary in character. The oath that she took at the EDSA Shrine is the oath under the 1987 Constitution. In her oath, she categorically swore to preserve and defend the 1987 Constitution. Indeed, she has stressed that she is discharging the powers of the presidency under the authority of the 1987 Constitution.
In fine, the legal distinction between EDSA People Power I and EDSA People Power II is clear. EDSA I involves the exercise of the people power of revolution which overthrew the whole government. EDSA II is an exercise of people power of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to petition the government for redress of grievances which only affected the office of the President. EDSA I is extra constitutional and the legitimacy of the new government that resulted from it cannot be the subject of judicial review, but EDSA II is intra constitutional and the resignation of the sitting President that it caused and the succession of the Vice President as President are subject to judicial review. EDSA I presented political question; EDSA II involves legal questions. A brief discourse on freedom of speech and of the freedom of assembly to petition the government for redress of grievance which are the cutting edge of EDSA People Power II is not inappropriate.
Freedom of speech and the right of assembly are treasured by Filipinos. Denial of these rights was one of the reasons of our 1898 revolution against Spain. Our national hero, Jose P. Rizal, raised the clarion call for the recognition of freedom of the press of the Filipinos and included it as among “the reforms sine quibus non.” The Malolos Constitution, which is the work of the revolutionary Congress in 1898, provided in its Bill of Rights that Filipinos shall not be deprived (1) of the right to freely express his ideas or opinions, orally or in writing, through the use of the press or other similar means; (2) of the right of association for purposes of human life and which are not contrary to public means; and (3) of the right to send petitions to the authorities, individually or collectively.” These fundamental rights were preserved when the United States acquired jurisdiction over the Philippines. In the instruction to the Second Philippine Commission of April 7, 1900 issued by President McKinley, it is specifically provided “that no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or of the rights of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances.” The guaranty was carried over in the Philippine Bill, the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902 and the Jones Law, the Act of Congress of August 29, 1966.
“Sec. 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
The indispensability of the people’s freedom of speech and of assembly to democracy is now self-evident. The reasons are well put by Emerson: first, freedom of expression is essential as a means of assuring individual fulfillment; second, it is an essential process for advancing knowledge and discovering truth; third, it is essential to provide for participation in decision-making by all members of society; and fourth, it is a method of achieving a more adaptable and hence, a more stable community of maintaining the precarious balance between healthy cleavage and necessary consensus.” In this sense, freedom of speech and of assembly provides a framework in which the “conflict necessary to the progress of a society can take place without destroying the society.” In Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization, this function of free speech and assembly was echoed in the amicus curiae brief filed by the Bill of Rights Committee of the American Bar Association which emphasized that “the basis of the right of assembly is the substitution of the expression of opinion and belief by talk rather than force; and this means talk for all and by all.” In the relatively recent case of Subayco v. Sandiganbayan, this Court similarly stressed that "... it should be clear even to those with intellectual deficits that when the sovereign people assemble to petition for redress of grievances, all should listen. For in a democracy, it is the people who count; those who are deaf to their grievances are ciphers.”
Needless to state, the cases at bar pose legal and not political questions. The principal issues for resolution require the proper interpretation of certain provisions in the 1987 Constitution, notably section 1 of Article II, and section 8of Article VII, and the allocation of governmental powers under section 11 of Article VII. The issues likewise call for a ruling on the scope of presidential immunity from suit. They also involve the correct calibration of the right of petitioner against prejudicial publicity. As early as the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison, the doctrine has been laid down that “ it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is . . .” Thus, respondent’s invocation of the doctrine of political is but a foray in the dark.
Whether or not the petitioner resigned as President
We now slide to the second issue. None of the parties considered this issue as posing a political question. Indeed, it involves a legal question whose factual ingredient is determinable from the records of the case and by resort to judicial notice. Petitioner denies he resigned as President or that he suffers from a permanent disability. Hence, he submits that the office of the President was not vacant when respondent Arroyo took her oath as president.
The issue brings under the microscope of the meaning of section 8, Article VII of the Constitution which provides:
“Sec. 8. In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office or resignation of the President, the Vice President shall become the President to serve the unexpired term. In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of both the President and Vice President, the President of the Senate or, in case of his inability, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall then acts as President until President or Vice President shall have been elected and qualified.
x x x.”
The issue then is whether the petitioner resigned as President or should be considered resigned as of January 20, 2001 when respondent took her oath as the 14th President of the Republic. Resignation is not a high level legal abstraction. It is a factual question and its elements are beyond quibble: there must be an intent to resign and the intent must be coupled by acts of relinquishment. The validity of a resignation is not governed by any formal requirement as to form. It can be oral. It can be written. It can be express. It can be implied. As long as the resignation is clear, it must be given legal effect.
In the cases at bar, the facts shows that petitioner did not write any formal letter of resignation before he evacuated Malacañang Palace in the Afternoon of January 20, 2001 after the oath-taking of respondent Arroyo. Consequently, whether or not petitioner resigned has to be determined from his acts and omissions before, during and after January 20, 2001 or by the totality of prior, contemporaneous and posterior facts and circumstantial evidence bearing a material relevance on the issue.
Using this totality test, we hold that petitioner resigned as President.
To appreciate the public pressure that led to the resignation of the petitioner, it is important to follow the succession of events after the exposé of Governor Singson. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigated. The more detailed revelations of petitioner’s alleged misgovernance in the Blue Ribbon investigation spiked the hate against him. The Articles of Impeachment filed in the House of Representatives which initially was given a near cipher chance of succeeding snowballed. In express speed, it gained the signatures of 115 representatives or more than 1/3 of the House of Representatives. Soon, petitioner’s powerful political allies began deserting him. Respondent Arroyo quit as Secretary of Social Welfare. Senate President Drilon and Former Speaker Villar defected with 47 representatives in tow. Then, his respected senior economic advisers resigned together with his Secretary of Trade and Industry.
As the political isolation of the petitioner worsened, the people’s call for his resignation intensified. The call reached a new crescendo when the eleven (11) members of the impeachment tribunal refused to open the second envelope. It sent the people to paroxysms of outrage. Before the night of January 16 was over, the EDSA Shrine was swarming with people crying for redress of their grievance. Their number grew exponentially. Rallies and demonstration quickly spread to the countryside like a brush fire.
As events approached January 20, we can have an authoritative window on the state of mind of the petitioner. The window is provided in the “Final Days of Joseph Ejercito Estrada,” the diary of Executive Secretary Angara serialized in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The Angara Diary reveals that in morning of January 19, petitioner’s loyal advisers were worried about the swelling of the crowd at EDSA, hence, they decided to crate an ad hoc committee to handle it. Their worry would worsen. At 1:20 p.m., petitioner pulled Secretary Angara into his small office at the presidential residence and exclaimed: “Ed, seryoso na ito. Kumalas na si Angelo (Reyes) (Ed, this is serious. Angelo has defected.)” An hour later or at 2:30, p.m., the petitioner decided to call for a snap presidential election and stressed he would not be a candidate. The proposal for a snap election for president in May where he would not be a candidate is an indicium that petitioner had intended to give up the presidency even at that time. At 3:00 p.m., General Reyes joined the sea of EDSA demonstrators demanding the resignation of the petitioner and dramatically announced the AFP’s withdrawal of support from the petitioner and their pledge of support to respondent Arroyo. The seismic shift of support left petitioner weak as a president. According to Secretary Angara, he asked Senator Pimentel to advise petitioner to consider the option of “dignified exit or resignation.” Petitioner did nor disagree but listened intently. The sky was falling fast on the petitioner. At 9:30 p.m., Senator Pimentel repeated to the petitioner the urgency of making a graceful and dignified exit. He gave the proposal a sweetener by saying that petitioner would allowed to go abroad with enough funds to support him and his family. Significantly, the petitioner expressed no objection to the suggestion for a graceful and dignified exit but said he would never leave the country. At 10:00 p.m., petitioner revealed to Secretary Angara, “Ed, Angie (Reyes) guaranteed that I would have five days to a week in the palace.” This is proof that petitioner had reconciled himself to the reality that he had to resign. His mind was already concerned with the five-day grace period he could stay in the palace. It was a matter of time.
The pressure continued piling up. By 11:00 p.m., former President Ramos called up Secretary Angara and requested, “Ed, magtulungan tayo para magkaroon tayo ng (let’s cooperate to ensure a) peaceful and orderly transfer of power.” There was no defiance to the request. Secretary Angara readily agreed. Again, we note that at this stage, the problem was already about a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. The resignation of the petitioner was implied.
The first negotiation for a peaceful and orderly transfer of power immediately started at 12:20 a.m. of January 20, that fateful Saturday. The negotiation was limited to three (3) points: (1) the transition period of five days after the petitioner’s resignation; (2) the guarantee of the safety of the petitioner and his family, and (3) the agreement to open the second envelope to vindicate the name of the petitioner. Again, we note that the resignation of petitioner was not a disputed point. The petitioner cannot feign ignorance of this fact. According to Secretary Angara, at 2:30 a.m., he briefed the petitioner on the three points and the following entry in the Angara Diary shows the reaction of the petitioner, viz:
“x x x
I explain what happened during the first round of negotiations. The President immediately stresses that he just wants the five-day period promised by Reyes, as well as to open the second envelope to clear his name.
If the envelope is opened, on Monday, he says, he will leave by Monday.
The President says. “Pagod na pagod na ako. Ayoko na masyado nang masakit. Pagod na ako sa red tape, bureaucracy, intriga. (I am very tired. I don’t want any more of this – it’s too painful. I’m tired of the red tape, the bureaucracy, the intrigue.)
I just want to clear my name, then I will go.”
Again, this is high grade evidence that the petitioner has resigned. The intent to resign is clear when he said “x x x Ayoko na masyado nang masakit.” “ Ayoko na” are words of resignation.
The second round of negotiation resumed at 7:30 a.m. According to the Angara Diary, the following happened:
7:30 a.m. – Rene arrives with Bert Romulo and (Ms. Macapagal’s spokesperson) Rene Corona. For this round, I am accompanied by Dondon Bagatsing and Macel.
Rene pulls out a document titled “Negotiating Points.” It reads:
‘1. The President shall sign a resignation document within the day, 20 January 2001, that will be effective on Wednesday, 24 January 2001, on which day the Vice President will assume the Presidency of the Republic of the Philippines.
2. Beginning today, 20 January 2001, the transition process for the assumption of the new administration shall commence, and persons designated by the Vice president to various positions and offices of the government shall start their orientation activities in coordination with the incumbent officials concerned.
3. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police shall function under the Vice President as national military and police effective immediately.
4. The Armed Forces of the Philippines, through its Chief of Staff, shall guarantee the security of the president and his family as approved by the national military and police authority (Vice President).
5. It is to be noted that the Senate will open the second envelope in connection with the alleged savings account of the President in the Equitable PCI Bank in accordance with the rules of the Senate, pursuant to the request to the Senate President.’
We bring out, too, our discussion draft which reads:
The undersigned parties, for and in behalf of their respective principals, agree and undertake as follows:
‘1. A transition will occur and take place on Wednesday, 24 January 2001, at which time President Joseph Ejercito Estrada will turn over the presidency to Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
2. In return, President Estrada and his families are guaranteed security and safety of their person and property throughout their natural lifetimes. Likewise, President Estrada and his families are guaranteed freedom from persecution or retaliation from government and the private sector throughout their natural lifetimes.
This commitment shall be guaranteed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (‘AFP’) through the Chief of Staff, as approved by the national military and police authorities – Vice President (Macapagal).
3. Both parties shall endeavor to ensure that the Senate siting as an impeachment court will authorize the opening of the second envelope in the impeachment trial as proof that the subject savings account does not belong to President Estrada.
4. During the five-day transition period between 20 January 2001 and 24 January 2001 (the “Transition Period”), the incoming Cabinet members shall receive an appropriate briefing from the outgoing Cabinet officials as part of the orientation program.
During the Transition Period, the AFP and the Philippine National Police (‘PNP’) shall function under Vice President (Macapagal) as national military and police authorities.
Both parties hereto agree that the AFP chief of staff and PNP director general shall obtain all the necessary signatures as affixed to this agreement and insure faithful implementation and observance thereof.
Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo shall issue a public statement in the form and tenor provided for in ‘Annex A’ heretofore attached to this agreement.’”
The second round of negotiation cements the reading that the petitioner has resigned. It will be noted that during this second round of negotiation, the resignation of the petitioner was again treated as a given fact. The only unsettled points at that time were the measures to be undertaken by the parties during and after the transition period.
According to Secretary Angara, the draft agreement which was premised on the resignation of the petitioner was further refined. It was then signed by their side and he was ready to fax it to General Reyes and Senator Pimentel to await the signature of the United Opposition. However, the signing by the party of the respondent Arroyo was aborted by her oath-taking. The Angara Diary narrates the fateful events, viz:
“x x x
11:00 a.m. – Between General Reyes and myself, there is a firm agreement on the five points to effect a peaceful transition. I can hear the general clearing all these points with a group he is with. I hear voices in the background.
The agreement starts: 1. The President shall resign today, 20 January 2001, which resignation shall be effective on 24 January 2001, on which day the Vice President will assume the presidency of the Republic of the Philippines.
x x x
The rest of the agreement follows:
2. The transition process for the assumption of the new administration shall commence on 20 January 2001, wherein persons designated by the Vice President to various government positions shall start orientation activities with incumbent officials.
3. The Armed Forces of the Philippines through its Chief of Staff, shall guarantee the safety and security of the President and his families throughout their natural lifetimes as approved by the national military and police authority – Vice President.
4. The AFP and the Philippine National Police (‘PNP’) shall function under the Vice President as national military and police authorities.
5. Both parties request the impeachment court to open the second envelope in the impeachment trial, the contents of which shall be offered as proof that the subject savings account does not belong to the President.
The Vice President shall issue a public statement in the form and tenor provided for in Annex ‘B’ heretofore attached to this agreement.
x x x
11:20 a.m. – I am all set to fax General Reyes and Nene Pimentel our agreement, signed by our side and awaiting the signature of the United Opposition.
And then it happens. General Reyes calls me to say that the Supreme Court has decided that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is President and will be sworn in at 12 noon.
‘Bakit hindi naman kayo nakahintay? Paano na ang agreement (Why couldn’t you wait? What about the agreement)?’ I asked.
Reyes answered: ‘Wala na, sir (It’s over, sir).’
I asked him: ‘Di yung transition period, moot and academic na?’
And General Reyes answer: ‘Oo nga, i-delete na natin, sir (Yes, we’re deleting that part).’
Contrary to subsequent reports, I do not react and say that there was a double cross.
But I immediately instruct Macel to delete the first provision on resignation since this matter is already moot and academic. Within moments, Macel erases the first provision and faxes the documents, which have been signed by myself, Dondon and Macel to Nene Pimentel and General Reyes.
I direct Demaree Ravel to rush the original document to General Reyes for the signatures of the other side, as it is important that the provision on security, at least, should be respected.
I then advise the President that the Supreme Court has ruled that Chief Justice Davide will administer the oath to Gloria at 12 noon.
The president is too stunned for words.
12 noon – Gloria takes her oath as President of the Republic of the Philippines.
12:20 p.m. – The PSG distributes firearms to some people inside the compound.
The President is having his final meal at the Presidential Residence with the few friends and Cabinet members who have gathered.
By this time, demonstrators have already broken down the first line of defense at Mendiola. Only the PSG is there to protect the Palace, since the police and military have already withdrawn their support for the President.
1 p.m. – The President’s personal staff is rushing to pack as many of the Estrada family’s personal possessions as they can.
During lunch, Ronie Puno mentions that the President needs to release a final statement before leaving Malacañang.
The statement reads: ‘At twelve o’clock noon today, Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took her oath as President of the Republic of the Philippines. While along with many other legal minds of our country, I have strong and serious doubts about the legality and constitutionality of her proclamation as president, I do not wish to be a factor that will prevent the restoration of unity and order in our civil society.
It is for this reason that I now leave Malacañang Palace, the seat of the presidency of this country, for the sake of peace and in order to begin the healing process of our nation. I leave the Palace of our people with gratitude for the opportunities given to me for service to our people. I will not shrik from any future challenges that may come ahead in the same service of our country.
I call on all my supporters and followers to join me in the promotion of a constructive national spirit of reconciliation and solidarity.
May the Almighty bless our country and our beloved people.
It was curtain time for the petitioner.
In sum, we hold that the resignation of the petitioner cannot be doubted. It was confirmed by his leaving Malacañang. In the press release containing his final statement, (1) he acknowledged the oath-taking of the respondent as President of the Republic albeit with the reservation about its legality; (2) he emphasized he was leaving the Palace, the seat of the presidency, for the sake of peace and in order to begin the healing process of our nation. He did not say he was leaving the Palace due to any kind of inability and that he was going to re-assume the presidency as soon as the disability disappears; (3) he expressed his gratitude to the people for the opportunity to serve them. Without doubt, he was referring to the past opportunity given him to serve the people as President; (4) he assured that he will not shirk from any future challenge that may come ahead in the same service of our country. Petitioner’s reference is to a future challenge after occupying the office of the president which he has given up; and (5) he called on his supporters to join him in the promotion of a constructive national spirit of reconciliation and solidarity. Certainly, the national spirit of reconciliation and solidarity could not be attained if he did not give up the presidency. The press release was petitioner’s valedictory, his final act of farewell. His presidency is now in the past tense.
It is, however, urged that the petitioner did not resign but only took a temporary leave of absence due to his inability to govern. In support of this thesis, the letter dated January 20, 2001 of the petitioner sent to Senate President Pimentel and Speaker Fuentebella is cited. Again, we refer to the said letter, viz:
By virtue of the provisions of Section II, Article VII of the Constitution, I am hereby transmitting this declaration that I am unable to exercise the powers and duties of my office. By operation of law and the Constitution, the Vice President shall be the Acting President.
(Sgd.) Joseph Ejercito Estrada”
To say the least, the above letter is wrapped in mystery. The pleadings filed by the petitioner in the cases at bar did not discuss, nay even intimate, the circumstances that led to its preparation. Neither did the counsel of the petitioner reveal to the Court these circumstances during the oral argument. It strikes the Court as strange that the letter, despite its legal value, was never referred to by the petitioner during the week-long crisis. To be sure, there was not the slightest hint of its existence when he issued his final press release. It was all too easy for him to tell the Filipino people in his press release that he was temporarily unable to govern and that he was leaving the reins of government to respondent Arroyo for the time being. Under any circumstance, however, the mysterious letter cannot negate the resignation of the petitioner. If it was prepared before the press release of the petitioner clearly showing his resignation from the presidency, then the resignation must prevail as a later act. If, however, it was prepared after the press release, still, it commands scant legal significance. Petitioner’s resignation from the presidency cannot be the subject of a changing caprice nor of a whimsical will especially if the resignation is the result of his repudiation by the people. There is another reason why this Court cannot give any legal significance to petitioner’s letter and this shall be discussed in issue number III of this Decision.
After petitioner contended that as a matter of fact he did not resign, he also argues that he could not resign as a matter of law. He relies on section 12 of RA No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which allegedly prohibits his resignation, viz:
“Sec. 12. No public officer shall be allowed to resign or retire pending an investigation, criminal or administrative, or pending a prosecution against him, for any offense under this Act or under the provisions of the Revised Penal Code on bribery.”
A reading of the legislative history of RA No. 3019 will hardly provide any comfort to the petitioner. RA No. 3019 originated from Senate Bill No. 293. The original draft of the bill, when it was submitted to the Senate, did not contain a provision similar to section 12 of the law as it now stands. However, in his sponsorship speech, Senator Arturo Tolentino, the author of the bill, “reserved to propose during the period of amendments the inclusion of a provision to the effect that no public official who is under prosecution for any act of graft or corruption, or is under administrative investigation, shall be allowed to voluntarily resign or retire.” During the period of amendments, the following provision was inserted as section 15:
“Sec. 15. Termination of office — No public official shall be allowed to resign or retire pending an investigation, criminal or administrative, or pending a prosecution against him, for any offense under the Act or under the provisions of the Revised Penal Code on bribery.
The separation or cessation of a public official from office shall not be a bar to his prosecution under this Act for an offense committed during his incumbency.”
The bill was vetoed by then President Carlos P. Garcia who questioned the legality of the second paragraph of the provision and insisted that the President’s immunity should extend even after his tenure.
Senate Bill No. 571, which was substantially similar to Senate Bill No. 293, was thereafter passed. Section 15 above became section 13 under the new bill, but the deliberations on this particular provision mainly focused on the immunity of the President which was one of the reasons for the veto of the original bill. There was hardly any debate on the prohibition against the resignation or retirement of a public official with pending criminal and administrative cases against him. Be that as it may, the intent of the law ought to be obvious. It is to prevent the act of resignation or retirement from being used by a public official as a protective shield to stop the investigation of a pending criminal or administrative case against him and to prevent his prosecution under the Anti-Graft Law or prosecution for bribery under the Revised Penal Code. To be sure, no person can be compelled to render service for that would be a violation of his constitutional right. A public official has the right not to serve if he really wants to retire or resign. Nevertheless, if at the time he resigns or retires, a public official is facing administrative or criminal investigation or prosecution, such resignation or retirement will not cause the dismissal of the criminal or administrative proceedings against him. He cannot use his resignation or retirement to avoid prosecution.
There is another reason why petitioner’s contention should be rejected. In the cases at bar, the records show that when petitioner resigned on January 20, 2001, the cases filed against him before the Ombudsman were OMB Case Nos. 0-00-1629, 0-00-1755, 0-00-1756, 0-00-1757 and 0-00-1758. While these cases have been filed, the respondent Ombudsman refrained from conducting the preliminary investigation of the petitioner for the reason that as the sitting President then, petitioner was immune from suit. Technically, the said cases cannot be considered as pending for the Ombudsman lacked jurisdiction to act on them. Section 12 of RA No. 3019 cannot therefore be invoked by the petitioner for it contemplates of cases whose investigation or prosecution do not suffer from any insuperable legal obstacle like the immunity from suit of a sitting President.
Petitioner contends that the impeachment proceeding is an administrative investigation that, under section 12 of RA 3019, bars him from resigning. We hold otherwise. The exact nature of an impeachment proceeding is debatable. But even assuming arguendo that it is an administrative proceeding, it can not be considered pending at the time petitioner resigned because the process already broke down when a majority of the senator-judges voted against the opening of the second envelope, the public and private prosecutors walked out, the public prosecutors filed their Manifestation of Withdrawal of Appearance, and the proceedings were postponed indefinitely. There was, in effect, no impeachment case pending against petitioner when he resigned.
Whether or not the petitioner is only temporarily unable to act as President.
We shall now tackle the contention of the petitioner that he is merely temporarily unable to perform the powers and duties of the presidency, and hence is a President on leave. As aforestated, the inability claim is contained in the January 20, 2001 letter of petitioner sent on the same day to Senate President Pimentel and Speaker Fuentebella.
Petitioner postulates that respondent Arroyo as Vice President has no power to adjudge the inability of the petitioner to discharge the powers and duties of the presidency. His significant submittal is that “Congress has the ultimate authority under the Constitution to determine whether the President is incapable of performing his functions in the manner provided for in section 11 of Article VII.” This contention is the centerpiece of petitioner’s stance that he is a President on leave and respondent Arroyo is only an Acting President.
An examination of section 11, Article VII is in order. It provides:
“SEC. 11. Whenever the President transmit to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.
Whenever a majority of all the Members of the Cabinet transmit to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice-President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall reassume the powers and duties of his office. Meanwhile, should a majority of all the Members of the Cabinet transmit within five days to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Congress shall decide the issue. For that purpose, the Congress shall convene, if it is not in session, within forty-eight hours, in accordance with its rules and without need of call.
If the Congress, within ten days after receipt of the last written declaration, or, if not in session within twelve days after it is required to assemble, determines by a two-thirds vote of both Houses, voting separately, that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice-President shall act as President; otherwise, the President shall continue exercising the powers and duties of his office."
That is the law. Now the operative facts:
(1) Petitioner, on January 20, 2001, sent the above letter claiming inability to the Senate President and Speaker of the House;
(2) Unaware of the letter, respondent Arroyo took her oath of office as President on January 20, 2001 at about 12:30 p.m.;
(3) Despite receipt of the letter, the House of Representative passed on January 24, 2001 House Resolution No. 175;
On the same date, the House of the Representatives passed House Resolution No. 176which states:
“RESOLUTION EXPRESSING THE SUPPORT OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TO THE ASSUMPTION INTO OFFICE BY VICE PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO AS PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, EXTENDING ITS CONGRATULATIONS AND EXPRESSING ITS SUPPORT FOR HER ADMINISTRATION AS A PARTNER IN THE ATTAINMENT OF THE NATION’S GOALS UNDER THE CONSTITUTION
WHEREAS, as a consequence of the people’s loss of confidence on the ability of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada to effectively govern, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and majority of his cabinet had withdrawn support from him;
WHEREAS, upon authority of an en banc resolution of the Supreme Court, Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as President of the Philippines on 20 January 2001 before Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr.;
WHEREAS, immediately thereafter, members of the international community had extended their recognition to Her Excellency, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President of the Republic of the Philippines;
WHEREAS, Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has espoused a policy of national healing and reconciliation with justice for the purpose of national unity and development;
WHEREAS, it is axiomatic that the obligations of the government cannot be achieved if it is divided, thus by reason of the constitutional duty of the House of Representatives as an institution and that of the individual members thereof of fealty to the supreme will of the people, the House of Representatives must ensure to the people a stable, continuing government and therefore must remove all obstacles to the attainment thereof;
WHEREAS, it is a concomitant duty of the House of Representatives to exert all efforts to unify the nation, to eliminate fractious tension, to heal social and political wounds, and to be an instrument of national reconciliation and solidarity as it is a direct representative of the various segments of the whole nation;
WHEREAS, without surrendering its independence, it is vital for the attainment of all the foregoing, for the House of Representatives to extend its support and collaboration to the administration of Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and to be a constructive partner in nation-building, the national interest demanding no less: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives, To express its support to the assumption into office by Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President of the Republic of the Philippines, to extend its congratulations and to express its support for her administration as a partner in the attainment of the Nation’s goals under the Constitution.
(Sgd.) FELICIANO BELMONTE JR.
This Resolution was adopted by the House of Representatives on January 24, 2001.
(Sgd.) ROBERTO P. NAZARENO
On February 7, 2001, the House of the Representatives passed House Resolution No. 178 which states:
“RESOLUTION CONFIRMING PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO’S NOMINATION OF SENATOR TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, JR. AS VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
WHEREAS, there is a vacancy in the Office of the Vice President due to the assumption to the Presidency of Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;
WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 9, Article VII of the Constitution, the President in the event of such vacancy shall nominate a Vice President from among the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation by a majority vote of all members of both Houses voting separately;
WHEREAS, Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has nominated Senate Minority Leader Teofisto T. Guingona Jr., to the position of Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines;
WHEREAS, Senator Teofisto T. Guingona Jr., is a public servant endowed with integrity, competence and courage; who has served the Filipino people with dedicated responsibility and patriotism;
WHEREAS, Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. possesses sterling qualities of true statesmanship, having served the government in various capacities, among others, as Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Chairman of the Commission on Audit, Executive Secretary, Secretary of Justice, Senator of the Philippines - qualities which merit his nomination to the position of Vice President of the Republic: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved as it is hereby resolved by the House of Representatives, That the House of Representatives confirms the nomination of Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. as the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines.
(Sgd) FELICIANO BELMONTE JR.
This Resolution was adopted by the House of Representatives on February 7, 2001.
(Sgd.) ROBERTO P. NAZARENO
(4) Also, despite receipt of petitioner’s letter claiming inability, some twelve (12) members of the Senate signed the following:
WHEREAS, the recent transition in government offers the nation an opportunity for meaningful change and challenge;
WHEREAS, to attain desired changes and overcome awesome challenges the nation needs unity of purpose and resolute cohesive resolute (sic) will;
WHEREAS, the Senate of the Philippines has been the forum for vital legislative measures in unity despite diversities in perspectives;
WHEREFORE, we recognize and express support to the new government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and resolve to discharge our duties to attain desired changes and overcome the nation’s challenges.”
On February 7, the Senate also passed Senate Resolution No. 82 which states:
“RESOLUTION CONFIRMING PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO’S NOMINATION OF SEN. TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, JR. AS VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
WHEREAS, there is it vacancy in the Office of the Vice-President due to the assumption to the Presidency of Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;
WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 9 Article VII of the Constitution, the President in the event of such vacancy shall nominate a Vice President from among the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation by a majority vote of all members of both Houses voting separately;
WHEREAS, Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has nominated Senate Minority Leader Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. to the position of Vice President of the Republic of the Phillippines;
WHEREAS, Sen. Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. is a public servant endowed with integrity, competence, and courage; who has served the Filipino people with dedicated responsibility and patriotism;
WHEREAS, Sen. Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. possesses sterling qualities of true statesmanship, having served the government in various capacities, among others, as Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Chairman of the Commission on Audit, Executive Secretary, Secretary of Justice. Senator of the land - which qualities merit his nomination to the position of Vice President of the Republic: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, as it is hereby resolved, That the Senate confirm the nomination of Sen. Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. as Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines.
(Sgd.) AQUILINO Q. PIMENTEL JR.
President of the Senate
This Resolution was adopted by the Senate on February 7, 2001.
(Sgd.) LUTGARDO B. BARBO
Secretary of the Senate”
On the same date, February 7, the Senate likewise passed Senate Resolution No. 83 which states:
“RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING THAT THE IMPEACHMENT COURT IS FUNCTUS OFFICIO
Resolved, as it is hereby resolved. That the Senate recognize that the Impeachment Court is functus officio and has been terminated.
Resolved, further, That the Journals of the Impeachment Court of Monday, January 15, Tuesday, January 16 and Wednesday, January 17, 2001 be considered approved.
Resolved, further, That the records of the Impeachment Court including the ‘second envelope’ be transferred to the Archives of the Senate for proper safekeeping and preservation in accordance with the Rules of the Senate. Disposition and retrieval thereof shall be made only upon written approval of the Senate President.
Resolved, finally. That all parties concerned be furnished copies of this Resolution.
(Sgd.) AQUILINO Q. PIMENTEL, JR.
President of the Senate
This Resolution was adopted by the Senate on February 7, 2001.
(Sgd.) LUTGARDO B. BARBO
Secretary of the Senate”
(5) On February 8, the Senate also passed Resolution No. 84 “certifying to the existence of a vacancy in the Senate and calling on the COMELEC to fill up such vacancy through election to be held simultaneously with the regular election on May 14, 2001 and the senatorial candidate garnering the thirteenth (13th) highest number of votes shall serve only for the unexpired term of Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr.”
(6) Both houses of Congress started sending bills to be signed into law by respondent Arroyo as President.
(7) Despite the lapse of time and still without any functioning Cabinet, without any recognition from any sector of government, and without any support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, the petitioner continues to claim that his inability to govern is only momentary.
What leaps to the eye from these irrefutable facts is that both houses of Congress have recognized respondent Arroyo as the President. Implicitly clear in that recognition is the premise that the inability of petitioner Estrada is no longer temporary. Congress has clearly rejected petitioner’s claim of inability.
The question is whether this Court has jurisdiction to review the claim of temporary inability of petitioner Estrada and thereafter revise the decision of both Houses of Congress recognizing respondent Arroyo as President of the Philippines. Following Tañada v. Cuenco, we hold that this Court cannot exercise its judicial power for this is an issue “in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the Legislative x x x branch of the government.” Or to use the language in Baker vs. Carr, there is a “textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department or a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it.” Clearly, the Court cannot pass upon petitioner’s claim of inability to discharge the powers and duties of the presidency. The question is political in nature and addressed solely to Congress by constitutional fiat. It is a political issue which cannot be decided by this Court without transgressing the principle of separation of powers.
In fine, even if the petitioner can prove that he did not resign, still, he cannot successfully claim that he is a President on leave on the ground that he is merely unable to govern temporarily. That claim has been laid to rest by Congress and the decision that respondent Arroyo is the de jure President made by a co-equal branch of government cannot be reviewed by this Court.
Whether or not the petitioner enjoys immunity from suit. Assuming he enjoys immunity, the extent of the immunity
Petitioner Estrada makes two submissions: first, the cases filed against him before the respondent Ombudsman should be prohibited because he has not been convicted in the impeachment proceedings against him; and second, he enjoys immunity from all kinds of suit, whether criminal or civil.
Before resolving petitioner’s contentions, a revisit of our legal history on executive immunity will be most enlightening. The doctrine of executive immunity in this jurisdiction emerged as a case law. In the 1910 case of Forbes, etc. vs. Chuoco tiaco and Crossfield, the respondent Tiaco, a Chinese citizen, sued petitioner W. Cameron Forbes, Governor-General of the Philippine Islands, J.E. Harding and C.R. Trowbridge, Chief of Police and Chief of the Secret Service of the City of Manila, respectively, for damages for allegedly conspiring to deport him to China. In granting a writ of prohibition, this Court, speaking thru Mr. Justice Johnson, held:
“The principle of nonliability, as herein enunciated, does not mean that the judiciary has no authority to touch the acts of the Governor-General; that he may, under cover of his office, do what he will, unimpeded and unrestrained. Such a construction would mean that tyranny, under the guise of the execution of the law, could walk defiantly abroad, destroying rights of person and of property, wholly free from interference of courts or legislatures. This does not mean, either, that a person injured by the executive authority by an act unjustifiable under the law has no remedy, but must submit in silence. On the contrary, it means, simply, that the Governor-General, like the judges of the courts and the members of the Legislature, may not be personally mulcted in civil damages for the consequences of an act executed in the performance of his official duties. The judiciary has full power to, and will, when the matter is properly presented to it and the occasion justly warrants it, declare an act of the Governor-General illegal and void and place as nearly as possible in status quo any person who has been deprived his liberty or his property by such act. This remedy is assured to every person, however humble or of whatever country, when his personal or property rights have been invaded, even by the highest authority of the state. The thing which the judiciary can not do is mulct the Governor-General personally in damages which result from the performance of his official duty, any more that it can a member of the Philippine Commission or the Philippine Assembly. Public policy forbids it.
Neither does this principle of nonliability mean that the chief executive may not be personally sued at all in relation to acts which he claims to perform as such official. On the contrary, it clearly appears from the discussion heretofore had, particularly that portion which touched the liability of judges and drew an analogy between such liability and that of the Governor-General, that the latter is liable when he acts in a case so plainly outside of his power and authority that he can not be said to have exercise discretion in determining whether or not he had the right to act. What is held here is that he will be protected from personal liability for damages not only when he acts within his authority, but also when he is without authority, provided he actually used discretion and judgment, that is, the judicial faculty, in determining whether he had authority to act or not. In other words, he is entitled to protection in determining the question of his authority. If he decide wrongly, he is still protected provided the question of his authority was one over which two men, reasonably qualified for that position, might honestly differ; but he is not protected if the lack of authority to act is so plain that two such men could not honestly differ over its determination. In such case, he acts, not as Governor-General but as a private individual, and, as such, must answer for the consequences of his act.”
Mr. Justice Johnson underscored the consequences if the Chief Executive was not granted immunity from suit, viz: “x x x. Action upon important matters of state delayed; the time and substance of the chief executive spent in wrangling litigation; disrespect engendered for the person of one of the highest officials of the State and for the office he occupies; a tendency to unrest and disorder; resulting in a way, in a distrust as to the integrity of government itself.”
Our 1935 Constitution took effect but it did not contain any specific provision on executive immunity. Then came the tumult of the martial law years under the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos and the 1973 Constitution was born. In 1981, it was amended and one of the amendments involved executive immunity. Section 17, Article VII stated:
“The President shall be immune from suit during his tenure. Thereafter, no suit whatsoever shall lie for official acts done by him or by others pursuant to his specific orders during his tenure.
The immunities herein provided shall apply to the incumbent President referred to in Article XVII of this Constitution.”
In his second Vicente G. Sinco Professional Chair Lecture entitled, “ Presidential Immunity And All The King’s Men: The Law Of Privilege As A Defense To Actions For Damages,” petitioner’s learned counsel, former Dean of the UP college of Law, Atty. Pacifico Agabin, brightlined the modifications effected by this constitutional amendment on the existing law on executive privilege. To quote his disquisition:
“In the Philippines, though, we sought to do the Americans one better by enlarging and fortifying the absolute immunity concept. First, we extended it to shield the President not only from civil claims but also from criminal cases and other claims. Second, we enlarged its scope so that it would cover even acts of the President outside the scope of official duties. And third, we broadened its coverage so as to include not only the President but also other persons, be they government officials or private individuals, who acted upon orders of the President. It can be said that at that point most of us were suffering from AIDS (or absolute immunity defense syndrome).”
The Opposition in the then Batasan Pambansa sought the repeal of this Marcosian concept of executive immunity in the 1973 Constitution. The move was led by then Member of Parliament, now Secretary of Finance, Alberto Romulo, who argued that the after incumbency immunity granted to President Marcos violated the principle that a public office is a public trust. He denounced the immunity as a return to the anachronism “the king can do no wrong.” The effort failed.
The 1973 Constitution ceased to exist when President Marcos was ousted from office by the People Power revolution in 1986. When the 1987 Constitution was crafted, its framers did not reenact the executive immunity provision of the 1973 Constitution. The following explanation was given by delegate J. Bernas, viz:
“Mr. Suarez. Thank you.
The last question is with reference to the committee’s omitting in the draft proposal the immunity provision for the President. I agree with Commissioner Nolledo that the Committee did very well in striking out this second sentence, at the very least, of the original provision on immunity from suit under the 1973 Constitution. But would the Committee members not agree to a restoration of at least the first sentence that the President shall be immune from suit during his tenure, considering that if we do not provide him that kind of an immunity, he might be spending all his time facing litigations, as the President-in-exile in Hawaii is now facing litigations almost daily?
Fr. Bernas. The reason for the omission is that we consider it understood in present jurisprudence that during his tenure he is immune from suit.
Mr. Suarez. So there is no need to express it here.
Fr. Bernas. There is no need. It was that way before. The only innovation made by the 1973 Constitution was to make that explicit and to add other things.
Mr. Suarez. On that understanding, I will not press for any more query, Madam President.
I thank the Commissioner for the clarification.”
We shall now rule on the contentions of petitioner in the light of this history. We reject his argument that he cannot be prosecuted for the reason that he must first be convicted in the impeachment proceedings. The impeachment trial of petitioner Estrada was aborted by the walkout of the prosecutors and by the events that led to his loss of the presidency. Indeed, on February 7, 2001, the Senate passed Senate Resolution No. 83 “Recognizing that the Impeachment Court is Functus Officio.” Since the Impeachment Court is now functus officio, it is untenable for petitioner to demand that he should first be impeached and then convicted before he can be prosecuted. The plea if granted, would put a perpetual bar against his prosecution. Such a submission has nothing to commend itself for it will place him in a better situation than a non-sitting President who has not been subjected to impeachment proceedings and yet can be the object of a criminal prosecution. To be sure, the debates in the Constitutional Commission make it clear that when impeachment proceedings have become moot due to the resignation of the President, the proper criminal and civil cases may already be filed against him, viz:
“x x x
Mr. Aquino. On another point, if an impeachment proceeding has been filed against the President, for example, and the President resigns before judgment of conviction has been rendered by the impeachment court or by the body, how does it affect the impeachment proceeding? Will it be necessarily dropped?
Mr. Romulo. If we decide the purpose of impeachment to remove one from office, then his resignation would render the case moot and academic. However, as the provision says, the criminal and civil aspects of it may continue in the ordinary courts.”
This is in accord with our ruling in In re: Saturnino Bermudezthat “incumbent Presidents are immune from suit or from being brought to court during the period of their incumbency and tenure” but not beyond. Considering the peculiar circumstance that the impeachment process against the petitioner has been aborted and thereafter he lost the presidency, petitioner Estrada cannot demand as a condition sine qua non to his criminal prosecution before the Ombudsman that he be convicted in the impeachment proceedings. His reliance in the case of Lecaroz vs. Sandiganbayan and related casesare inapropos for they have a different factual milieu.
We now come to the scope of immunity that can be claimed by petitioner as a non-sitting President. The cases filed against petitioner Estrada are criminal in character. They involve plunder, bribery and graft and corruption. By no stretch of the imagination can these crimes, especially plunder which carries the death penalty, be covered by the allege mantle of immunity of a non-sitting president. Petitioner cannot cite any decision of this Court licensing the President to commit criminal acts and wrapping him with post-tenure immunity from liability. It will be anomalous to hold that immunity is an inoculation from liability for unlawful acts and omissions. The rule is that unlawful acts of public officials are not acts of the State and the officer who acts illegally is not acting as such but stands in the same footing as any other trespasser. Indeed, a critical reading of current literature on executive immunity will reveal a judicial disinclination to expand the privilege especially when it impedes the search for truth or impairs the vindication of a right. In the 1974 case of US v. Nixon, US President Richard Nixon, a sitting President, was subpoenaed to produce certain recordings and documents relating to his conversations with aids and advisers. Seven advisers of President Nixon’s associates were facing charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and other offenses which were committed in a burglary of the Democratic National Headquarters in Washington’s Watergate Hotel during the 1972 presidential campaign. President Nixon himself was named an unindicted co-conspirator. President Nixon moved to quash the subpoena on the ground, among others, that the President was not subject to judicial process and that he should first be impeached and removed from office before he could be made amenable to judicial proceedings. The claim was rejected by the US Supreme Court. It concluded that “when the ground for asserting privilege as to subpoenaed materials sought for use in a criminal trial is based only on the generalized interest in confidentiality, it cannot prevail over the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of criminal justice.” In the 1982 case of Nixon v. Fitzgerald, the US Supreme Court further held that the immunity of the President from civil damages covers only “official acts.” Recently, the US Supreme Court had the occasion to reiterate this doctrine in the case of Clinton v. Jones where it held that the US President’s immunity from suits for money damages arising out of their official acts is inapplicable to unofficial conduct.
There are more reasons not to be sympathetic to appeals to stretch the scope of executive immunity in our jurisdiction. One of the great themes of the 1987 Constitution is that a public office is a public trust. It declared as a state policy that “(t)he State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption." It ordained that “(p)ublic officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.” It set the rule that “(t)he right of the State to recover properties unlawfully acquired by public officials or employees, from them or from their nominees or transferees, shall not be barred by prescription, laches or estoppel.” It maintained the Sandiganbayan as an anti-graft court. It created the office of the Ombudsman and endowed it with enormous powers, among which is to "(i)nvestigate on its own, or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public official, employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient.” The Office of the Ombudsman was also given fiscal autonomy. These constitutional policies will be devalued if we sustain petitioner’s claim that a non-sitting president enjoys immunity from suit for criminal acts committed during his incumbency.
Whether or not the prosecution of petitioner Estrada should be enjoined due to prejudicial publicity
Petitioner also contends that the respondent Ombudsman should be stopped from conducting the investigation of the cases filed against him due to the barrage of prejudicial publicity on his guilt. He submits that the respondent Ombudsman has developed bias and is all set to file the criminal cases in violation of his right to due process.
There are two (2) principal legal and philosophical schools of thought on how to deal with the rain of unrestrained publicity during the investigation and trial of high profile cases. The British approach the problem with the presumption that publicity will prejudice a jury. Thus, English courts readily stay and stop criminal trials when the right of an accused to fair trial suffers a threat. The American approach is different. US courts assume a skeptical approach about the potential effect of pervasive publicity on the right of an accused to a fair trial. They have developed different strains of tests to resolve this issue, i.e., substantial probability of irreparable harm, strong likelihood, clear and present danger, etc.
This is not the first time the issue of trial by publicity has been raised in this Court to stop the trials or annul convictions in high profile criminal cases. In People vs. Teehankee, Jr., later reiterated in the case of Larranaga vs. Court of Appeals, et al., we laid down the doctrine that:
“We cannot sustain appellant’s claim that he was denied the right to impartial trial due to prejudicial publicity. It is true that the print and broadcast media gave the case at bar pervasive publicity, just like all high profile and high stake criminal trials. Then and now, we now rule that the right of an accused to a fair trial is not incompatible to a free press. To be sure, responsible reporting enhances an accused’s right to a fair trial for, as well pointed out, a responsible press has always been regarded as the handmaiden of effective judicial administration, especially in the criminal field x x x. The press does not simply publish information about trials but guards against the miscarriage of justice by subjecting the police, prosecutors, and judicial processes to extensive public scrutiny and criticism.
Pervasive publicity is not per se prejudicial to the right of an accused to fair trial. The mere fact that the trial of appellant was given a day-to-day, gavel-to-gavel coverage does not by itself prove that the publicity so permeated the mind of the trial judge and impaired his impartiality. For one, it is impossible to seal the minds of members of the bench from pre-trial and other off-court publicity of sensational criminal cases. The state of the art of our communication system brings news as they happen straight to our breakfast tables and right to our bedrooms. These news form part of our everyday menu of the facts and fictions of life. For another, our idea of a fair and impartial judge is not that of a hermit who is out of touch with the world. We have not installed the jury system whose members are overly protected from publicity lest they lose their impartiality. x x x x x x x x x. Our judges are learned in the law and trained to disregard off-court evidence and on-camera performances of parties to a litigation. Their mere exposure to publications and publicity stunts does not per se fatally infect their impartiality.
At best, appellant can only conjure possibility of prejudice on the part of the trial judge due to the barrage of publicity that characterized the investigation and trial of the case. In Martelino, et al. v. Alejandro, et al., we rejected this standard of possibility of prejudice and adopted the test of actual prejudice as we ruled that to warrant a finding of prejudicial publicity, there must be allegation and proof that the judges have been unduly influenced, not simply that they might be, by the barrage of publicity. In the case at bar, the records do not show that the trial judge developed actual bias against appellant as a consequence of the extensive media coverage of the pre-trial and trial of his case. The totality of circumstances of the case does not prove that the trial judge acquired a fixed opinion as a result of prejudicial publicity which is incapable if change even by evidence presented during the trial. Appellant has the burden to prove this actual bias and he has not discharged the burden.”
We expounded further on this doctrine in the subsequent case of Webb vs. Hon. Raul de Leon, etc. and its companion cases. viz.:
“Again, petitioners raise the effect of prejudicial publicity on their right to due process while undergoing preliminary investigation. We find no procedural impediment to its early invocation considering the substantial risk to their liberty while undergoing a preliminary investigation.
x x x
The democratic settings, media coverage of trials of sensational cases cannot be avoided and oftentimes, its excessiveness has been aggravated by kinetic developments in the telecommunications industry. For sure, few cases can match the high volume and high velocity of publicity that attended the preliminary investigation of the case at bar. Our daily diet of facts and fiction about the case continues unabated even today. Commentators still bombard the public with views not too many of which are sober and sublime. Indeed, even the principal actors in the case – the NBI, the respondents, their lawyers and their sympathizers – have participated in this media blitz. The possibility of media abuses and their threat to a fair trial notwithstanding, criminal trials cannot be completely closed to the press and public. Inn the seminal case of Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, it was wisely held:
‘x x x
(a) The historical evidence of the evolution of the criminal trial in Anglo-American justice demonstrates conclusively that the time this Nation’s organic laws were adopted, criminal trials both here and in England had long been presumptively open, thus giving assurance that the proceedings were conducted fairly to all concerned and discouraging perjury, the misconduct of participants, or decisions based on secret bias or partiality. In addition, the significant community therapeutic value of public trials was recognized: when a shocking crime occurs, a community reaction of outrage and public protest often follows, and thereafter the open processes of justice serve an important prophylactic purpose, providing an outlet for community concern, hostility, and emotion. To work effectively, it is important that society’s criminal process ‘satisfy the appearance of justice,’ Offutt v. United States, 348 US 11, 14, 99 L Ed 11, 75 S Ct 11, which can best be provided by allowing people to observe such process. From this unbroken, uncontradicted history, supported by reasons as valid today as in centuries past, it must be concluded that a presumption of openness inheres in the very nature of a criminal trial under this Nation’s system of justice, Cf., e.g., Levine v. United States, 362 US 610, 4 L Ed 2d 989, 80 S Ct 1038.
(b) The freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, expressly guaranteed by the First Amendment, share a common core purpose of assuring freedom of communication on matters relating to the functioning of government. In guaranteeing freedoms such as those of speech and press, the First Amendment can be read as protecting the right of everyone to attend trials so as give meaning to those explicit guarantees; the First Amendment right to receive information and ideas means, in the context of trials, that the guarantees of speech and press, standing alone, prohibit government from summarily closing courtroom doors which had long been open to the public at the time the First Amendment was adopted. Moreover, the right of assembly is also relevant, having been regarded not only as an independent right but also as a catalyst to augment the free exercise of the other First Amendment rights with which it was deliberately linked by the draftsmen. A trial courtroom is a public place where the people generally – and representatives of the media – have a right to be present, and where their presence historically has been thought to enhance the integrity and quality of what takes place.
(c) Even though the Constitution contains no provision which by its terms guarantees to the public the right to attend criminal trials, various fundamental rights, not expressly guaranteed, have been recognized as indispensable to the enjoyment of enumerated rights. The right to attend criminal trial is implicit in the guarantees of the First Amendment: without the freedom to attend such trials, which people have exercised for centuries, important aspects of freedom of speech and of the press could be eviscerated.’
Be that as it may, we recognize that pervasive and prejudicial publicity under certain circumstances can deprive an accused of his due process right to fair trial. Thus, in Martelino, et al. vs. Alejandro, et al., we held that to warrant a finding of prejudicial publicity there must be allegation and proof that the judges have been unduly influenced, not simply that they might be, by the barrage of publicity. In the case at bar, we find nothing in the records that will prove that the tone and content of the publicity that attended the investigation of petitioners fatally infected the fairness and impartiality of the DOJ Panel. Petitioners cannot just rely on the subliminal effects of publicity on the sense of fairness of the DOJ Panel, for these are basically unbeknown and beyond knowing. To be sure, the DOJ Panel is composed of an Assistant Chief State Prosecutor and Senior State Prosecutors. Their long experience in criminal investigation is a factor to consider in determining whether they can easily be blinded by the klieg lights of publicity. Indeed, their 26-page Resolution carries no indubitable indicia of bias for it does not appear that they considered any extra-record evidence except evidence properly adduced by the parties. The length of time the investigation was conducted despite its summary nature and the generosity with which they accommodated the discovery motions of petitioners speak well of their fairness. At no instance, we note, did petitioners seek the disqualification of any member of the DOJ Panel on the ground of bias resulting from their bombardment of prejudicial publicity.” (emphasis supplied)
Applying the above ruling, we hold that there is not enough evidence to warrant this Court to enjoin the preliminary investigation of the petitioner by the respondent Ombudsman. Petitioner needs to offer more than hostile headlines to discharge his burden of proof. He needs to show more weighty social science evidence to successfully prove the impaired capacity of a judge to render a bias-free decision. Well to note, the cases against the petitioner are still undergoing preliminary investigation by a special panel of prosecutors in the office of the respondent Ombudsman. No allegation whatsoever has been made by the petitioner that the minds of the members of this special panel have already been infected by bias because of the pervasive prejudicial publicity against him. Indeed, the special panel has yet to come out with its findings and the Court cannot second guess whether its recommendation will be unfavorable to the petitioner.
The records show that petitioner has instead charged respondent Ombudsman himself with bias. To quote petitioner’s submission, the respondent Ombudsman “has been influenced by the barrage of slanted news reports, and he has buckled to the threats and pressures directed at him by the mobs.” News reports have also been quoted to establish that the respondent Ombudsman has already prejudged the cases of the petitionerand it is postulated that the prosecutors investigating the petitioner will be influenced by this bias of their superior.
Again, we hold that the evidence proffered by the petitioner is insubstantial. The accuracy of the news reports referred to by the petitioner cannot be the subject of judicial notice by this Court especially in light of the denials of the respondent Ombudsman as to his alleged prejudice and the presumption of good faith and regularity in the performance of official duty to which he is entitled. Nor can we adopt the theory of derivative prejudice of petitioner, i.e., that the prejudice of respondent Ombudsman flows to his subordinates. In truth, our Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, give investigating prosecutors the independence to make their own findings and recommendations albeit they are reviewable by their superiors. They can be reversed but they can not be compelled to change their recommendations nor can they be compelled to prosecute cases which they believe deserve dismissal. In other words, investigating prosecutors should not be treated like unthinking slot machines. Moreover, if the respondent Ombudsman resolves to file the cases against the petitioner and the latter believes that the finding of probable cause against him is the result of bias, he still has the remedy of assailing it before the proper court.
A word of caution to the “hooting throng.” The cases against the petitioner will now acquire a different dimension and then move to a new stage - - - the Office of the Ombudsman. Predictably, the call from the majority for instant justice will hit a higher decibel while the gnashing of teeth of the minority will be more threatening. It is the sacred duty of the respondent Ombudsman to balance the right of the State to prosecute the guilty and the right of an accused to a fair investigation and trial which has been categorized as the “most fundamental of all freedoms.” To be sure, the duty of a prosecutor is more to do justice and less to prosecute. His is the obligation to insure that the preliminary investigation of the petitioner shall have a circus-free atmosphere. He has to provide the restraint against what Lord Bryce calls “the impatient vehemence of the majority.” Rights in a democracy are not decided by the mob whose judgment is dictated by rage and not by reason. Nor are rights necessarily resolved by the power of number for in a democracy, the dogmatism of the majority is not and should never be the definition of the rule of law. If democracy has proved to be the best form of government, it is because it has respected the right of the minority to convince the majority that it is wrong. Tolerance of multiformity of thoughts, however offensive they may be, is the key to man’s progress from the cave to civilization. Let us not throw away that key just to pander to some people’s prejudice.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petitions of Joseph Ejercito Estrada challenging the respondent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the de jure 14th President of the Republic are DISMISSED.
Bellosillo, Melo, Quisumbing, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., no part in view of expression given in the open court and in the extended explanation.
Vitug, J., see concurring opinion.
Kapunan, J., concur in the result and reserve the right to write a separate opinion.
Mendoza, J., see concurring opinion.
Panganiban, J., no part per letter of Inhibition dated Feb. 15, 2000 mention in footnote 51 of ponencia.
Pardo, J., in the result; believes that petitioner was constrained to resign and reserve his vote in immunity from suit
Buena, J., in the result.
Ynares-Santiago, J., concur in the result and reserve the filing of a separate opinion.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, J., concur in the result and reserve the right to write a separate opinion.
 Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), October 5, 2000, pp. A1 and A17.
 PDI, October 6, 2000, pp. A1 and A18.
 Ibid., October 12, 2000, pp. A1 and A17.
 Ibid., October 14, 2000, p. A1.
 Ibid., October 18, 2000, p. A1.
 Ibid., October 13, 2000, pp. A1 and A21.
 Ibid., October 26, 2000, p. A1.
 Ibid., November 2, 2000, p. A1.
 Ibid., November 3, 2000, p. A1.
 Ibid., November 4, 2000, p. A1.
 The complaint for impeachement was based on the following grounds: bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Cnstitution.
 Ibid., November 14, 2000, p. A1.
 Ibid., November 21, 2000, p. A1.
 Ibid., December 8, 2000, p. A1.
 Ibid., December 23, 2000, pp. A1 and A19.
 Ibid., January 12, 2001, p. A1.
 Those who voted “yes” to open the envelop were: Senators Pimentel, Guingona, Drilon, Cayetano, Roco, Legarda, Magsaysay, Flavier, Biazon, Osmeña III. Those who vote “no” were Senators Ople, Defensor-Santiago, John Osmeña, Aquino-Oreta, Coseteng, Enrile, Honasan, Jaworski, Revilla, Sotto III and Tatad.
 Philippine Star, January 17, 2001, p. 1.
 Ibid., January 18, 2001, p. 4.
 Ibid., p. 1.
 Ibid., January 19, 2001, pp. 1 and 8.
 “Erap’s Final Hours Told” by Edgardo Angara, (hereinafter referred to as “Angara Diary”), PDI, February 4, 2001, p. A16.
 Philippine Star, January 20, 2001, p. 4.
 PDI, February 4, 2001, p. A16.
 Philippine Star, January 20, 2001, pp. 1 and 11.
 Ibid., January 20, 2001, p. 3.
 PDI, February 5, 2001, pp. A1 and A6.
 Philippine Star, January 21, 2001, p. 1.
 PDI, February 6, 2001, p. A12.
 Annex A, DOJ-OSG, Joint Comment; Rollo, G.R. Nos. 146710-15, p. 288.
 Annex A-1, Petition, G.R. Nos. 146710-15; Rollo, p. 34.
 Annex A, Petition, G.R. Nos. 146710-15; Rollo, p. 33.
 Philippine Star, January 21, 2001, p. 1; January 23, 2001, pp. 1 and 4; January 24, 2001, p. 3; PDI, January 25, 2001, pp. A1 and A15.
 Philippine Star, January 24, 2001, p. 1.
 PDI, January 25, 2001, p. 1.
 Ibid., p. 2.
 Annex C, DOJ-OSG Joint Comment; Rollo, GR Nos. 146710-15 p. 290.
 Annex D, id; ibid., p. 292.
 PDI, January 27, 2001, p. 1.
 PDI, February 13, 2001, p. A2.
 Philippine Star, February 13, 2001, p. A2.
 Annex E, id.; ibid., p. 295.
 PDI, February 8, 2001, pp. A1 & A19.
 Annex F, id.; ibid., p. 297.
 PDI, February 10, 2001, p. A2.
 Annex G., id.; ibid., p. 299.
 PDI, February 8, 2001, p. A19.
 Philippine Star, February 3, 2001, p. 4.
 “Acceptance of Gloria is Nationwide,” Mahar Mangahas, Manila Standard, February 16, 2001, p. 14.
 See The Chief Justice’s Extended Explanation for His Voluntary Inhibition; Rollo, GR Nos. 146710-15, pp. 525-527.
 See Letter of Inhibition of Associate Justice Panganiban; Rollo, GR No. 146738, pp. 120-125.
 Rollo, G.R. No. 146738, p. 134.
 Leonard de Vera and Dennis Funa; see their Memorandum, pp. 16-27; Rollo, GR Nos. 146710-15, Vol. III, pp. 809-820.
 Gunther and Sullivan, Constitutional Law, 13th ed., pp. 45-46.
 369 US 186, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L ed 2d 663, 686 (1962).
 See e.g., Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Hon. Zamora, et al., GR No. 141284, 15 August 2000; Miranda v. Aguirre, 314 SCRA 603 (1999); Santiago v. Guingona, 298 SCRA 756 (1998); Tatad v. Secretary of the Department of Energy, 281 SCRA 330 (1997); Marcos v. Manglapus, 177 SCRA 668 (1989); Gonzales v. COMELEC, 129 Phil 7 (1967); Mabanag v. Lopez Vito, 78 Phil 1 (1947); Avelino v. Cuenco 83 Phil. 17 (1949); Vera v. Avelino, 77 Phil 192 (1946); Alejandrino v. Quezon, 46 Phil 83 (1942).
 103 Phil 1051, 1068 (1957).
 Section 1, Article VIII, 1987 Constitution.
 Note that the early treatises on Constitutional Law are discourses on limitations of power typical of which is, Cooley’s Constitutional Limitations.
 Joint Resolution, Lawyers League for a Better Philippines and/or Oliver A. Lozano v. Pres. Corazon C. Aquino, et al., GR No. 73748; People’s Crusade for Supremacy of the Constitution, etc. v. Mrs. Cory Aquino, et al., GR No. 73972; and Councilor Clifton U. Ganay v. Corazon C. Aquino, et al., GR No. 73990, May 22, 1986.
 Letter of Associate Justice Reynato S. Puno, 210 SCRA 597 .
 Proclamation No. 3. (1986)
 It states:
I, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Vice President of the Philippines, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President of the Philippines, preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the nation.
So help me God.
(Annex I, Comment of the Ombudsman; Rollo, GR Nos. 146710-15 Vol. II, p. 332)
 See “Filipinas Despues de Cien Años” (The Philippines a Century Hence), p. 62.
 The guaranty was taken from Amendment I of the US Constitution which provides: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof of abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance.”
 See section 8, Article IV.
 See section 9, Article IV.
 Emerson, The System of Freedom of Expression, 1970 ed., p. 6, et seq.
 Ibid., See also concurring opinion of Justice Branders in Whitney v. California (74 US 357, 375-76) where he said” ... the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people...”
 307 US 496 (1939).
 Chafee, Jr., Free Speech in the United States, 1946 ed., pp. 413-415, 421.
 260 SCRA 798 (1996).
 Section 1, Article II of the 1987 Constitution reads:
“The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”
 Infra at 26.
 Infra at 41.
 1 Cranch (5 US) 137, 2 L ed 60 (1803).
 Gonzales v. Hernandez, 2 SCRA 228 (1961).
 See its February 4, 5, and 6, 2001 issues.
 PDI, February 4, 2001, p. A1.
 PDI, February 5, 2001, p. A1.
 Ibid., p. A-1.
 PDI, February 5, 2001, p. A6.
 PDI, February 6, 2001, p. A1.
 In the Angara Diary which appeared in the PDI issue of February 5, 2001, Secretary Angara stated that the letter came from Asst. Secretary Boying Remulla; that he and Political Adviser Banayo opposed it; and that PMS head Macel Fernandez believed that the petitioner would not sign the letter.
 Congressional Record, 4th Congress, 2nd Session, March 4, 1959, pp. 603-604.
 Id., May 9, 1959, p. 1988.
 Section 18 (2), Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides: “No involuntary servitude in any form shall exist except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
 Reply Memorandum, p. 3; Rollo, G.R. Nos. 146710-15, Vol. IV.
 House Resolution No. 175, 11th Congress, 3rd Session (2001), reads:
“RESOLUTION EXPRESSING THE FULL SUPPORT OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TO THE ADMINISTRATION OF HER EXCELLENCY, GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES
WHEREAS, on January 20, 2001, Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as the 14th President of the Philippines;
WHEREAS, her ascension to the highest office of the land under the dictum, “the voice of the people is the voice of God” establishes the basis of her mandate on integrity and morality in government;
WHEREAS, the House of Representatives joins the church, youth, labor and business sectors in fully supporting the President’s strong determination to succeed;
WHEREAS, the House of representative is likewise one with the people in supporting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s call to start the healing and cleansing process for a divided nation in order to ‘build an edifice of peace, progress and economic stability’ for the country: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives, To express its full support to the administration of Her Excellency, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 14th President of the Philippines.
(Sgd.) FELICIANO BELMONTE JR.
This Resolution was adopted by House of Representatives on January 24, 2001.
(Sgd.) Roberto P. Nazareno
 11th Congress, 3rd Session (2001).
 11th Congress, 3rd Session (2001).
 Annex 2, Comment of Private Respondents De Vera, et al.; Rollo, GR No. 146710-15, Vol. II, p. 231.
 11th Congress, 3rd Session (2001).
 11th Congress, 3rd Session (2001).
 103 Phil 1051, 1067 (1957).
 Baker vs. Carr, supra at 686 headnote 29.
 16 Phil 534 (1910).
 The logical basis for executive immunity from suit was originally founded upon the idea that the “King can do no wrong.” [R.J. Gray, Private Wrongs of Public Servants, 47 CAL. L. REV.. 303 (1959)]. The concept thrived at the time of absolute monarchies in medieval England when it was generally accepted that the seat of sovereignty and governmental power resides in the throne. During that historical juncture, it was believed that allowing the King to be sued in his court was a contradiction to the sovereignty of the King.
With the development of democratic thoughts and institutions, this kind of rationalization eventually lost its moral force. In the United States, for example, the common law maxim regarding the King’s infallibility had limited reception among the framers of the Constitution. [J. Long, How to Sue the President: A Proposal for Legislation Establishing the Extent of Presidential Immunity, 30 VAL. U.L. REV. 283 (1995)]. Still, the doctrine of presidential immunity found its way of surviving in modern political times, retaining both its relevance and vitality. The privilege, however, is now justified for different reasons. First, the doctrine is rooted in the constitutional tradition of separation of powers and supported by history. [Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 451 U.S. 731 (1982)]. The separation of powers principle is viewed as demanding the executive’s independence from the judiciary, so that the President should not be subject to the judiciary’s whim. Second, by reason of public convenience, the grant is to assure the exercise of presidential duties and functions free from any hindrance or distraction, considering that the Chief Executive is a job that, aside from requiring all of the office-holder’s time, also demands undivided attention. [Soliven v. Makasiar, 167 SCRA 393 (1988)]. Otherwise, the time and substance of the chief executive will be spent on wrangling litigation, disrespect upon his person will be generated, and distrust in the government will soon follow. [Forbes v. Chouco Tiaco, 16 Phil. 534 (1910)]. Third, on grounds of public policy, it was recognized that the gains from discouraging official excesses might be more than offset by the losses from diminished zeal [Agabin, op. cit., at 121.]. Without immunity, the president would de disinclined to exercise decision-making functions in a manner that might detrimentally affect an individual or group of individuals. [See H. Schnechter, Immunity of Presidential Aides from Criminal Prosecution, 57 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 779 (1989)].1
 62 Phil. L.J. 113 (1987).
 See Bulletin Today, August 16, 1984, p. 1; December 18, 1984, p. 7.
 Records of the Constitutional Commission of 1986, Vol. II, Records, p. 423, July 29, 1986.
 Supra at 47.
 Records of Constitutional Commission, Vol. II, July 28, 1986, p. 355.
 145 SCRA 160 (1986).
 128 SCRA 324 (1984).
 In Re: Raul Gonzales, 160 SCRA 771 (1988); Cuenco v. Fernan, 158 29 (1988); and Jarque v. Desierto, A.C. No. 4509, 250 SCRA xi-xiv (1995).
 Wallace v. Board of Education, 280 Ala. 635, 197 So 2d 428 (1967).
 418 US 683, 94 S. Ct. 3090, 41 L ed 1039 (1974).
 457 US 731, 73 L ed. 349, 102 S Ct. 2690 (1982).
 520 U.S. 681 (1997).
 See section 1, Art. XI of the 1987 Constitution.
 See section 27, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution.
 See section 1, Art. XI of the 1987 Constitution.
 See section 15, Art. XI of the 1987 Constitution.
 See section 4, Art. XI of the 1987 Constitution.
 See section 13 (1), Art. XI of the 1987 Constitution.
 See section 14, Art. XI of the 1987 Constitution.
 See Brandwood, Notes: “You Say ‘Fair Trial’ and I say ‘Free Press:’ British and American Approaches to Protecting Defendant’s Rights in High Profile Trials,” NYU Law Rev., Vol. 75, No. 5, pp. 1412-1451 (November 2000).
 Id., p. 1417.
 See e.g., Martelino, et al. V. Alejandro, et al., 32 SCRA 106 (1970); People v. Teehankee, 249 SCRA 54 (1995).
 249 SCRA 54 (1995).
 287 SCRA 581 at pp. 596-597 (1988).
 247 SCRA 652 (1995).
 Extensive publicity did not result in the conviction of well known personalities. E.g., OJ Simpson, John Mitchell, William Kennedy Smith and Imelda Marcos.
 Memorandum, p. 25; Rollo, GR Nos. 146710-15, Vol. III, p. 647.
 Memorandum, pp. 29-30; Rollo, GR Nos. 146710-15, Vol. III, pp. 572-573.
 See section 4, Rule 112.
 Estes v. Texas, 381 US 532, 540 (1965).