G.R. No. 193459 MA. MERCEDITAS N. GUTIERREZ, Petitioner, versus THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE; RISA HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL; DANILO D. LIM; FELIPE PESTAO; EVELYN PESTAO; RENATO M. REYES, JR., SECRETARY GENERAL OF BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN (BAYAN); MOTHER MARY JOHN MANANZAN, CO-CHAIRPERSON OF PAGBABAGO; DANILO RAMOS, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF KILUSANG MAGBUBUKID NG PILIPINAS (KMP); ATTY. EDRE OLALIA, ACTING SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE NATIONAL UNION OF PEOPLES LAWYERS (NUPL); FERDINAND R. GAITE, CHAIRPERSON, CONFEDERATION FOR UNITY, RECOGNITION AND ADVANCEMENT OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES (COURAGE); and JAMES TERRY RIDON OF THE LEAGUE OF FILIPINO STUDENTS (LFS), Respondents.

 

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FELICIANO BELMONTE, JR., Respondent-Intervenor.

 

Promulgated:

 

February 15, 2011

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SEPARATE OPINION

 

NACHURA, J.:

 

Justice Conchita Carpio Morales once again impresses with her incisive and tightly written ponencia. While I agree with the defenestration[1] of the petition, I am constrained to express my views on the ripeness of the issues posed by petitioner.

 

Before anything else, however, the antecedents.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Parenthetically, both the Baraquel[2] and Reyes[3] Complaints were endorsed by Members of the House of Representatives, as mandated in the Constitution.[4] The two complaints separately alleged betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution, to wit:

 

1. Baraquel Complaint

 

I.

 

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

i.

 

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

 

ii.

 

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

 

iii.

 

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

 

iv.

 

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

 

v.

 

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

 

II.

 

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

vi.

 

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

 

vii.

 

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

 

2. Reyes Complaint

 

I. BETRAYAL OF TRUST

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

II. CULPABLE VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Lozano v. Nograles[9] instructs us on the two-fold aspect of ripeness:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

x x x x

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

SEC. 3. (1) x x x.

 

(2) A verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter. The Committee, after hearing, and by a majority vote of all its Members, shall submit its report to the House within sixty session days from such referral, together with the corresponding resolution. The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within ten session days from receipt thereof.

 

 

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

 

 

RULE II

INITIATING IMPEACHMENT

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

JUSTICE NACHURA:

 

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

 

 

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

 

Right, Your Honor.

 

JUSTICE NACHURA:

 

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

 

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

 

July 22, 2010, Your Honor.

 

JUSTICE NACHURA:

 

The second complaint was filed on August 3, 2010?

 

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

 

Yes, Your Honor.

 

 

JUSTICE NACHURA:

 

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

 

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

 

On the same day at the same time.

 

JUSTICE NACHURA:

 

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

 

 

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

 

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

 

JUSTICE NACHURA:

 

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

 

x x x x

 

RET. JUSTICE CUEVAS:

 

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

 

 

On that point, counsel for petitioner obviously yielded.

 

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

 

I vote to DISMISS the petition.

 

 

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

 



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

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

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

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

[5] Annex F of the Petition.

[6] Annex G of the Petition.

[7] 460 Phil. 830 (2003).

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

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

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

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