The power of impeachment is essentially lodged by the Constitution in Congress. It is the process by which officials of the Government, not removable by other means, may be made to answer for certain offenses. These offenses are specifically enumerated as: culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust. In the exercise of this power, Congress must observe the minimum requirements set by the Constitution. However, in the event that Congress oversteps these limitations, who can review its acts? Can the Supreme Court, under its power of judicial review enshrined in the Constitution, review the acts of a co-equal body? These are the novel issues raised in these petitions.

The petitions before this Court assail the constitutionality of the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., contending that, being a second complaint, the same is expressly prohibited under Article XI, Section 3 (5) of the 1987 Constitution, which provides:

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

Respondents House of Representative and the Senate filed separate Manifestations both stating that they are not submitting to the jurisdiction of the Court. The House of Representatives invoked its territorial integrity which this Court, as a co-equal body, cannot encroach upon. For its part, the Senate pointed out that the petition as against it was premature inasmuch as it has not received any articles of impeachment.

The Court set the petitions for oral arguments and invited the following as amici curiae:

1. Florenz D. Regalado, retired Justice of this Court;

2. Regalado E. Maambong, Justice of the Court of Appeals,

3. Fr. Joaquin C. Bernas, Dean of the Ateneo School of Law;

4. Hugo E. Gutierrez, Jr., retired Justice of this Court;

5. Estelito P. Mendoza, former Minister of Justice and Solicitor General;

6. Pacifico A. Agabin, former Dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law;

7. Raul C. Pangalangan, Dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law; and

8. Jovito R. Salonga, former Senate President.

During the oral arguments, the principal issue and sub-issues involved in the several petitions were defined by the Court as follows:

Whether the certiorari jurisdiction of the Supreme Court may be invoked; who can invoke it; on what issues and at what time; and whether it should be exercised by this Court at this time.

a) Locus standi of petitioners;

b) Ripeness (prematurity; mootness)

c) Political question/justiciability;

d) Houses exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment;

e) Senates sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment;

f) Constitutionality of the House Rules of Impeachment vis--vis Section 3 (5) of Article XI of the Constitution; and

g) Judicial restraint.

In the appreciation of legal standing,[1] a developing trend appears to be towards a narrow and exacting approach, requiring that a logical nexus be shown between the status asserted and the claim sought to be adjudicated in order to ensure that one is the proper and appropriate party to invoke judicial power.[2] Nevertheless, it is still within the wide discretion of the Court to waive the requirement and remove the impediment to its addressing and resolving serious constitutional questions raised.[3]

In the case at bar, petitioners allege that they dutifully pay their taxes for the support of the government and to finance its operations, including the payment of salaries and other emoluments of the respondents. They assert their right to be protected against all forms of needless spending of taxpayers money including the commission of an unconstitutional act, i.e., the filing of two impeachment cases within a period of one year against the Chief Justice of this Court, one of the three independent branches of the government. Considering these serious legal questions which affect public interest, I concur with the ponente that the petitioners, except Atty. Dioscoro U. Vallejos, Jr. in G.R. No. 160397, have satisfactorily established locus standi to file the instant petitions.

I also concur with the ponente that the Court has the power of judicial review. This power of the Court has been expanded by the Constitution 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.[4] The Court is under mandate to assume jurisdiction over, and to undertake judicial inquiry into, what may even be deemed to be political questions provided, however, that grave abuse of discretion the sole test of justiciability on purely political issues is shown to have attended the contested act.[5]

The Court checks the exercise of power of the other branches of government through judicial review. It is the final arbiter of the disputes involving the proper allocation and exercise of the different powers under the Constitution. When the Supreme Court reviews the constitutionality of the acts of Congress, it does not thereby assert its superiority over a co-equal branch of government. It merely asserts its solemn and sacred obligation under the Constitution and affirms constitutional supremacy.[6]

Indeed, in the resolution of the principal issue in these petitions, a distinction has to be drawn between the power of the members of the House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings, on the one hand, and the manner in which they have exercised that power. While it is clear that the House has the exclusive power to initiate impeachment cases, and the Senate has the sole power to try and decide these cases, the Court, upon a proper finding that either chamber committed grave abuse of discretion or violated any constitutional provision, may invoke its corrective power of judicial review.

The meaning of the word initiate in relation to impeachment is at the center of much debate. The confusion as to the meaning of this term was aggravated by the amendment of the House of Representatives Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings. The first set of Rules adopted on May 31, 1988, specifically Rule V, Section 14 and Rule II, Section 2 thereof, provides that impeachment shall be initiated when a verified complaint for impeachment is filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof, or when a verified complaint or resolution of impeachment is filed by at least one-third (1/3) of all the Members of the House. This provision was later amended on November 28, 2001. Rule V, Section 16 of the amendatory Rules states that impeachment proceedings under any of the three methods above-stated are deemed initiated on the day that the Committee on Justice finds that the verified complaint and/or resolution against such official is sufficient in substance or on the date the House votes to overturn or affirm the finding of the said Committee that the verified complaint and/or resolution is not sufficient in substance.

The adoption of the 2001 Rules, at least insofar as initiation of impeachment proceedings is concerned, unduly expanded the power of the House by restricting the constitutional time-bar only to complaints that have been approved by the House Committee on Justice. As stated above, the one-year bar is a limitation set by the Constitution which Congress cannot overstep. Indeed, the Records of the Constitutional Commission clearly show that, as defined in Article XI, Section 3 (5), impeachment proceedings begin not on the floor of the House but with the filing of the complaint by any member of the House of any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof. This is the plain sense in which the word initiate must be understood, i.e., to begin or commence the action.

Moreover, the second impeachment complaint was filed by only two complainants, namely Representatives Gilberto G. Teodoro, Jr. and Felix William B. Fuentebella. The rest of the members of the House whose names appear on the attachments thereto merely signed endorsements to the Complaint.

Article XI, Section 3 (3) of the Constitution is explicit:

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

The mere endorsement of the members of the House, albeit embodied in a verified resolution, did not suffice for it did not constitute filing of the impeachment complaint, as this term is plainly understood. In order that the verified complaint may be said to have been filed by at least 1/3 of the Members, all of them must be named as complainants therein. All of them must sign the main complaint. This was not done in the case of the assailed second impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice. The complaint was not filed by at least one-third of the Members of the House, and therefore did not constitute the Article of Impeachment.

I am constrained to disagree with the majority decision to discard the above issue for being unnecessary for the determination of the instant cases. On the contrary, the foregoing defect in the complaint is a vital issue in the determination of whether or not the House should transmit the complaint to the Senate, and if it does, whether the Senate should entertain it. The Constitution is clear that the complaint for impeachment shall constitute the Articles of Impeachment, without need of referral to the Committee on Justice, when the complaint is filed by at least one-third of all the Members of the House. Being the exception to the general procedure outlined in the Constitution, its formal requisites must be strictly construed.

Furthermore, the mere fact that this issue was raised by intervenors Romulo Macalintal and Pete Quirino-Quadra, and not by the petitioners in G.R. No. 160262, is of no moment. The Court is empowered to decide issues even though they are not raised in the pleadings.[7] In the case at bar, the question is already before this Court and may therefore be resolved.

The impeachment complaint suffers from yet another serious flaw. As one of the amici curiae, former Senate President Jovito Salonga, pointed out, the signing of the impeachment complaint by the purported 1/3 of the Congressmen was done without due process. The Chief Justice, against whom the complaint was brought, was not served notice of the proceedings against him.

No rule is better established, under the due process clause of the constitution, than that which requires notice and opportunity to be heard before any person can be lawfully deprived of his rights.[8] Indeed, when the Constitution says that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law,[9] it means that every person shall be afforded the essential element of notice in any proceeding. Any act committed in violation of due process may be declared null and void.[10]

However, notwithstanding the constitutional and procedural defects in the impeachment complaint, I dissent from the majority when it decided to resolve the issues at this premature stage. I submit that the process of impeachment should first be allowed to run its course. The power of this Court as the final arbiter of all justiciable questions should come into play only when the procedure as outlined in the Constitution has been exhausted. The complaint should be referred back to the House Committee on Justice, where its constitutionality may be threshed out. Thereafter, if the Committee so decides, the complaint will have to be deliberated by the House on plenary session, preparatory to its possible transmittal to the Senate. The questions on the sufficiency of the complaint in form may again be brought to the Senate by way of proper motion, and the Senate may deny the motion or dismiss the complaint depending on the merits of the grounds raised. After the Senate shall have acted in due course, its disposition of the case may be elevated to this Court pursuant to its judicial power of review.

In addition, there are several other remedies that may be availed of or events that may occur that may render the present petitions moot and, in the process, effectively avert this controversy. Dean Raul Pangalangan of the University of the Philippines College of Law, one of the amici curiae, stressed that among the internal measures that the members of Congress could make to address the situation are: (1) attempts to encourage the signatories of the impeachment complaint to withdraw their signatures; (2) the raising by the members of Congress themselves of the Constitutional questions when the Articles of Impeachment are presented in plenary session on a motion to transmit them to the Senate, as required by Section 15, paragraph 2 of the House Rules; and (3) assuming the Articles of Impeachment are transmitted to the Senate, Chief Justice Davide could conceivably raise the same Constitutional issues by way of a motion to dismiss or motion to quash.[11]

Clearly, the unfinished business and loose ends at the House of Representatives and in the Senate, as well as the simmering forces outside of the halls of government could all preempt any decision of this Court at the present time. Senate President Salonga said it best when he commented that the Supreme Court, which has final jurisdiction on questions of constitutionality, should be the final arbiter; it should be the authoritative court of last resort in our system of democratic governance; but all remedies in the House of Representatives and in the Senate should be exhausted first. He goes on to say that only when this case is ripe for judicial determination can this Court speak with great moral authority and command the respect and loyalty of our people.[12]

With these considerations in mind, the Court should recognize the extent and practical limitations of its judicial prerogatives, and identify those areas where it should carefully tread instead of rush in and act accordingly. Considering that power of impeachment was intended to be the legislatures lone check on the judiciary, exercising our power of judicial review over impeachment would place the final reviewing authority with respect to impeachments in the hands of the same body that the impeachment process is meant to regulate.[13] In fact, judicial involvement in impeachment proceedings, even if only for purposes of judicial review is counter-intuitive because it eviscerates the important constitutional check on the judiciary.[14]

A becoming sense of propriety and justice dictates that judicial self-restraint should be exercised; that the impeachment power should remain at all times and under all circumstances with the legislature, where the Constitution has placed it. The common-law principle of judicial restraint serves the public interest by allowing the political processes to operate without undue interference.[15]

The doctrine of separation of powers calls for each branch of government to be left alone to discharge its duties as it sees fit. Being one such branch, the judiciary will neither direct nor restrain executive or legislative action.[16] The legislative and the executive branches are not allowed to seek its advice on what to do or not to do; thus, judicial inquiry has to be postponed in the meantime. Before a court may enter the picture, a prerequisite is that something has been accomplished or performed by either branch. Then it may pass on the validity of what has been done but, then again, only when properly challenged in an appropriate legal proceeding.[17] Hence, any resolution that this Court might make in this case may amount to nothing more than an attempt at abstraction that can only lead to barren legal dialectics and sterile conclusions, depending on what transpires next at the House of Representatives and the Senate.[18]

IN VIEW WHEREOF, I CONCUR with the majority decision insofar as it held that

(a) Petitioners in all the above-captioned cases, except Atty. Dioscoro U. Vallejos, Jr. in G.R. No. 160397, have legal standing to institute these petitions; and

(b) The constitutionality of the second impeachment complaint filed by Representatives Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. and Felix William B. Fuentebella against Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. is a justiciable issue which this Court may take cognizance of.

However, I vote that this Court must observe judicial self-restraint at this time and DISMISS the instant petitions.

[1] Avelino v. Cuenco, 83 Phil 17 (1949); Araneta v. Dinglasan, 84 Phil. 368 (1949);.Basco v. PAGCOR, 197 SCRA 52, May 14, 1991; Kapatiran ng Mga Naglilingkod sa Pamahalaan ng Pilipinas, Inc. v. Tan, 163 SCRA 371, June 30, 1988; Tatad v. Secretary of the Department of Energy, 281 SCRA 330, 349 (1997) citing Garcia v. Executive Secretary, 211 SCRA 219 (1992); Osmea v. COMELEC, 199 SCRA 750 (1991); Chavez v. Presidential Commission on Good Government, 299 SCRA 744 (1998); Chavez v. PEA-Amari Coastal Bay Development Corporation, G.R. No. 133250, 9 July 2002.

[2] Chavez v. Presidential Commission on Good Government, G.R. No. 130716, December 9, 1998.

[3] Lopez, et al. v. Philippine International Air Terminals, Co., Inc., et al., G.R. No. 155661, May 5, 2003 citing Association of Small Landowners in the Philippines, Inc. vs. Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G. R. No. 78742, July 14, 1989; 175 SCRA 343, 364-365 [1989], see also Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Zamora, et al., G.R. No. 141284, August 15, 2000.

[4] Estrada v. Arroyo, G.R. No. 146738, 2 March 2001.

[5] Concurring opinion of Justice Vitug in the case of Arroyo v. De Venecia, G.R. No. 127255, 14 August 1997

[6] Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil 139, 158 (1936).

[7] Filoteo, Jr. v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 79543, 16 October 1996, 263 SCRA 222, 268.

[8] Cebu Stevedoring Co., Inc. v. Regional Director / Minster of Labor, G.R. No. L-54285, 8 December 1988, 168 SCRA 315, at 321.

[9] Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 1.

[10] People v. Verra, G.R. No. 134732, 29 May 2002.

[11] Memorandum as Amicus Curiae of Dean Raul C. Pangalangan, p. 19.

[12] Position Paper as Amicus Curiae of Former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga, p. 13.

[13] Nixon v. U.S., 506 U.S. 224 [1993], 122 l. Ed. 2d 1 (1993).

[14] Id.

[15] Sinaca v. Mula, G.R. No. 135691, 27 September 1999, 315 SCRA 266, 280.

[16] Planas v. Gil, 67 Phil. 62, 73 (1939), cited in Guingona v. Court of Appeals, G.R. 125532, 10 July 1998, 292 SCRA 402.

[17] Id.

[18] Angara v. Electoral Commission, supra, cited in Guingona v. Court of Appeals, supra.