EN BANC

Agenda for 15 February 2011

Item No. 23

 

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 Reyes, Jr., Mother Mary John Mananzan, Danilo Ramos, Atty. Edre Olalia, Ferdinand R. Gaite, And James Terry Ridon, respondents.

 

Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., respondent-intervenor.

 

 

 

SEPARATE CONCURRING

AND DISSENTING OPINION

 

 

PEREZ, J.:

 

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

 

The Impeachment Complaints

 

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

 

On 22 July 2010, an Impeachment Complaint against the petitioner was filed before the House of Representatives[2] by private respondents Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo D. Lim, Felipe Pestao and Evelyn Pestao.[3] The complaint (First Complaint) charges the petitioner of Betrayal of Public Trust and Culpable Violation of the Constitution, allegedly committed thru the following acts and omissions:

A.                Betrayal of Public Trust

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

B.                 Culpable Violation of the Constitution

 

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

 

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

The First Complaint was referred to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr., on 27 July 2010.[4] On 2 August 2010, Speaker Belmonte, Jr. forwarded the First Complaint to the House Committee on Rules for its inclusion in the Order of Business.

 

On 3 August 2010, another impeachment complaint (Second Complaint) against the petitioner was filed with the House of Representatives. This time around, the complainants were private respondents Renato M. Reyes, Jr., Mother Mary John Mananzan, Danilo Ramos, Atty. Edre Olalia, Ferdinand Gaite and James Terry Ridon.[5]

 

The Second Complaint, like the First Complaint, also accuses the petitioner of Betrayal of Public Trust and Culpable Violation of the Constitution, but is premised on different acts and omissions. Thus:

 

A.                Betrayal of Public Trust

 

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

 

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

 

3.                  Ombudsman Gutierrez committed gross inexcusable delay or inaction by acting in deliberate disregard of the Supreme Courts finding and directive in its Decision and Resolution in Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines, et al. v. Commission on Elections, et al.; and

 

B. Culpable Violation of the Constitution

 

Through her repeated failures and inexcusable delay in acting upon the matters brought before her Office, Ombudsman Gutierrez violated Section 12 and Section 13, Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, Article XI on which her constitutional duty is enshrined, as well as Section 16, Article III of the Constitution, which mandates prompt action and speedy disposition of cases.

 

The Second Complaint reached the desk of Speaker Belmonte, Jr. on the same day it was filed. On 9 August 2010, Speaker Belmonte, Jr. forwarded the Second Complaint to the House Committee on Rules.

 

Then, on 11 August 2010, the plenary simultaneously referred the First and Second Complaints to the public respondent House Committee on Justice.

 

The Proceedings Before the House Committee on Justice

 

On 1 September 2010, the House Committee on Justice conducted a hearing to determine whether the First and Second Complaints were sufficient in form. The hearing was presided by the Chairman of the House Committee on Justice, Representative Niel C. Tupas, Jr.

 

After taking up preliminary matters,[6] the House Committee on Justice found the First Complaint sufficient in form by a vote of 39 in favor and 1 against. Upon a separate vote of 31 in favor and 9 against, the House Committee on Justice also found the Second Complaint to be formally valid. In assessing formal validity, the House Committee on Justice took into account the fact that the two (2) complaints were referred to it at exactly the same time and that both were duly verified.

 

On 6 September 2010, the petitioner attempted to file a Motion for Reconsideration with the House Committee on Justice. In it, she sought to question the authority of the House Committee on Justice to take cognizance of two (2) impeachment complaints against herin light of the constitutional proscription against the initiation of multiple impeachment proceedings against the same official within a one-year period. The House Committee on Justice, however, refused to receive this motion.[7]

 

On 7 September 2010, the House Committee on Justice reconvened to determine the sufficiency in substance of the First and Second Complaints. By votes of 41 in favor and 14 against for the First Complaint and 41 in favor and 16 against for the Second Complaint, the House Committee on Justice declared both to be sufficient in substance. The House Committee on Justice, thereafter, issued summons directing the petitioner to file an answer within ten (10) days from its receipt. The summons, as well as copies of the First and Second Complaints, was served upon the petitioner at 5:05 in the afternoon of the very same day.

The petitioner did not file an answer.

 

Resort to the Supreme Court and the Status Quo Ante Order

 

Aggrieved by the actions of the House Committee on Justice, the petitioner came to this Court via the instant Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction. In sum, the petition asks for the nullification of the House Committee on Justices findings that the First and Second Complaints were sufficient in form and substance.

 

On 14 September 2010, this Court issued a Resolution directing the parties to observe the status quo prevailing before the House Committee on Justice made the contested findings.

 

DISCUSSION

 

The submission of the petitioner may be summarized into two principal issues.

 

The first is whether the House Committee on Justice, in taking cognizance of two (2) impeachment complaints against the petitioner, violated Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution. It is the primary contention of the petitioner that the House Committee on Justice is already precluded from acting upon the Second Complaintthe same having been barred under the Constitution by virtue of the filing of the First Complaint.

 

The second is whether the hearings conducted by the House Committee on Justice violated the petitioners right to due process.[8]

 

In this opinion, however, I only wish to articulate my reflections on the first.

 

Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution succinctly states:

 

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

 

In practical terms, the provision operates to bar the initiation of an impeachment proceeding against an official, when the following conditions are present:

 

a.)              an impeachment proceeding against such official was previously initiated; and

 

b.)              one year has not yet elapsed from the time of the previous initiation.

 

Initiation of an impeachment proceeding was, in turn, the subject of the landmark case Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives, represented by Speaker Jose G. De Venecia.[9] In that case, this Court laid down the rule that, unless the verified complaint is filed by at least 1/3 of the members of the House of Representatives, initiation takes place upon the filing of the complaint coupled by its referral to the proper committee.[10]

 

Invoking Francisco as their guide, the respondents proffer the position that the House Committee on Justice may validly act on both the First and Second Complaints. The filing of the First Complaint did not bar the Second Complaint because the mere filing of a verified complaint does not mark the initiation of an impeachment proceeding. The respondents emphasized that Francisco associated the initiation of an impeachment proceeding not only with the filing of a complaint but also with the referral thereof to the proper committee.

 

It is argued that since there was, in this case, but a single referral of the two (2) complaints to the House Committee on Justicethe logic of Francisco dictates that there was also only one impeachment proceeding initiated. Thus, the respondents concluded, there can be no violation of Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution.

 

I disagree.

 

No Simultaneous Referral of Two Complaints

 

To begin with, there never was a single or simultaneous referral of the two (2) impeachment complaints against the petitioner. Contrary to what the respondents adamantly profess, the complaints were not referred to the House Committee on Justice at exactly the same time. A perusal of the records of the House of Representatives plenary proceedings on 11 August 2010[11] reveals that the two (2) impeachment complaints were actually referred to the House Committee on Justice one after the other. Thus:[12]

 

ADDITIONAL REFERENCE OF BUSINESS

 

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

TO THE COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE

 

Verified Complaint for the Impeachment of Ombudsman Mr. Renato Reyes, Mo. Mary John Mananzan, Mr. Danilop Ramos at Atty. Edre Olalia with the Resolutions of Endorsement filed by Representatives Colmenares, Casio, Mariano, Ilagan, Tinio and De Jesus

TO THE COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE

 

The above entries plainly attest that, in fact, the reading and referral of the First Complaint preceded that of the Second Complaint. True, the impeachment complaints were referred to the House Committee on Justice on the same date and during the same session, but there can be no mistake that each complaint was, nevertheless, the subject of a separate and distinct referral.

This fact has immense constitutional consequences. A prior referral of the First Complaint to the House Committee on Justice would mean that an impeachment proceeding against the petitioner was, by then, already completely initiated. This, by the Francisco ruling, renders inutile the succeeding referral of the Second Complaint and makes such referral together with its subject, which is the Second Complaint, unconstitutional excesses that can be given neither force nor effect. Francisco prohibits rather than justifies a second referral.

 

Cognizance of this fact necessitated the creation of the fiction that the referrals of the impeachment complaints were done at the same time. This is shown by the floor exchanges following the successive referrals of the complaints.

 

Representative Tupas rose on a parliamentary inquiry to seek, among others, a clarification on what was the exact time the two impeachment complaints were referred to the Committee on Justice.[13] The answer would become the battlecry of the respondents:

 

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). The Dep. Majority Leader is recognized.

 

REP. TUPAS. Mr. Speaker, parliamentary inquiry.

 

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). The Gentleman may state his inquiry.

 

REP. TUPAS. Mr. Speaker, with respect to the impeachment complaints, may this Representation know: number one, Mr. Speaker, when were the complaints filed; number two, when were they referred to the Committee on Rules; and number three, Mr. Speaker, what was the exact time the two impeachment complaints were referred to the Committee on Justice?

 

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). The Dep. Majority Leader will please respond.

 

REP. ROMULO. Mr. Speaker, in response to the query of the Honorable Tupas, the Committee on Rules received the verified complaint for impeachment from the Speaker of the House yesterday. The date of the first verified complaint filed by Miss Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, et al., based on the letter of the Speaker, was dated July 22. The complaint filed by Mr. Renato Reyes, et al., based on the date of the letter of the Speaker, was dated August 3. Both letters were received during the Committee on Rules meeting on August 10 at the same time at 2:00 p.m. yesterday, and both complaints were jointly referred by the Committee on Rules to the Committee on Justice.

 

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). Is the Gentleman from Iloilo satisfied with the response of the Dep. Majority Leader?

 

REP. TUPAS. Partly, Mr. Speaker, but the third question is: what is the exact time of the referral to the Committee on Justice? This Representation would like to know the exact time the two complaints were referred to the Committee on Justice, Mr. Speaker.

 

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). Is the Dep. Majority Leader prepared to answer the query now? The Gentleman from Iloilo, the Chairman of the Committee on Justice, is querying with regard to a time frame, schedule or a cut-off time.

 

REP. TUPAS. Mr. Speaker, what I am asking is the exact time of the referral to the Committee on Justice.

 

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Daza). Yes. The Dep. Majority Leader will please respond.

 

REP. ROMULO. Mr. Speaker, the complaints were referred to the Committee on Justice at the same time at 4:47 p.m. today.

 

REP. TUPAS. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.[14] [Emphasis and underscoring supplied].

 

 

I cannot, however, accept as possible, in fact or fiction, that the First and Second Complaints have been referred to the Committee at the same time. The announcement of simultaneity did not alter the true manner of the referrals as clearly reflected in the records of the plenary session.

 

Interestingly, during the Oral Arguments on 12 October 2010, even the esteemed collaborating counsel for respondent House Committee on Justice, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza, admitted the physical impossibility of referring two (2) separate complaints at the same time, as shown by the following exchange:

 

Associate Justice Nachura:

 

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

 

Ret. Justice Mendoza:

 

Yes.[15] (Emphasis supplied).

 

 

The recorded reality is that the First Complaint was referred to the House Committee on Justice before the Second Complaint. An impeachment proceeding was already initiated against the petitioner even before a single word about the Second Complaint was read before the plenary. On this score alone, the Second Complaint should be held barred.

 

One Complaint, One Impeachment Proceeding

The fact as big as the recorded successive referrals is that the contrived simultaneous referral or single referral to the House Committee on Justice of multiple impeachment complaints is not allowed under Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution.

 

The initiatory act of filing and referral, envisioned in the Francisco case, can only have one (1) impeachment complaint as its subject. Allowing a referral to the House Committee on Justice of multiple complaints would not only amount to a distortion of both Francisco and the constitutional provision it interprets, but would also circumvent the very purpose of the one-year impeachment ban.

 

The Proper Context of Francisco

 

While Francisco may have identified what acts make up the initiation of an impeachment proceeding, it was far from being categorical as to just how many complaints can be the subject thereof. Indeed, other than defining what acts are necessary to accomplish initiation, Francisco never really ventured on the possibility of several complaints being the subject of only one referral to the House Committee on Justice and, for that matter, of only one impeachment proceeding.

 

In Francisco, a second impeachment complaint[16] against then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. was filed with the House of Representatives after a first complaint,[17] which concerns him and seven other justices of the Supreme Court,[18] was already filed, referred to, and even dismissed by the House Committee on Justice.

 

Under those facts, Francisco simply ruled that an impeachment proceeding against Chief Justice Davide was already initiated upon the filing and referral to the House Committee on Justice of the first complaint.[19] Consequently, the second impeachment complaint was held barred because it was filed within one year from the filing of the first.[20]

 

The impeachment complaints in Francisco, it may be observed, were never parts of only a single proceeding. Each complaint was the subject of a separate proceedingprecisely the reason why the second complaint was held barred under the one-year impeachment ban. Verily, the limited factual context of Francisco offers no support to the conclusion that an impeachment proceeding may be driven by more than one (1) complaint. There is simply nothing in Francisco from which that may be derived.

 

The Underlying Purposes of Section 3(5), Article XI

of the Constitution

 

The discussion in Francisco of the underlying purposes of the one- year impeachment ban renders unquestionable that it cannot be relied upon to sanction a simultaneous referral of multiple complaints to the House Committee on Justice. This is because an impeachment proceeding based on more than one (1) complaint brings about exactly the evils the constitutional proscription seeks to avoid.

 

The framers of our Constitution formulated the one-year ban in order to forestall possible abuses of the impeachment process. The deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission so divulge:

 

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

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

MR. ROMULO.  Yes, the intention here really is to limit.  This is not only to protect public officials who, in this case, are of the highest category from harassment but also to allow the legislative body to do its work which is lawmaking.  Impeachment proceedings take a lot of time.  And if we allow multiple impeachment charges on the same individual to take place, the legislature will do nothing else but that.[21] [Emphasis and underscoring supplied].

Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution, therefore, serves to curb two (2) possibilities that may arise should several impeachment proceedings against the same official be initiated within a one-year period:

 

a.)              the possibility of harassment on the part of the impeachable officer; and

 

b.)              the possibility that the legislative work of Congress would be compromised.

 

Construing the initiatory acts of filing and referral as able to encompass multiple impeachment complaints would encourage, rather than discourage, the occurrence of these possibilities. There is no practical difference, at least in terms of their deleterious effects, between a simultaneous institution of multiple impeachment complaints against the same official and the initiation of separate impeachment proceedings against him within a one-year period.

 

First. Allowing the House Committee on Justice, under the guise of a single referral, to take cognizance of more than one complaint against the same official would undoubtedly expose the latter to the risks of undue harassment. Without a cap on the number of complaints that can be the subject of an impeachment proceeding, the charges against an impeachable officer can easily become limitless. The situation permits political opportunists to hurl a plethora of charges against an impeachable officer who, in the midst of answering those charges, must also perform vital governmental duties.

 

Second. An impeachment proceeding saddled with multiple complaints draws the prospect of a protracted impeachment process. A long drawn-out impeachment proceeding would require the House of Representatives to spend more time as a prosecutorial body, effectively distracting it from the exercise of its law-making functions.[22] This contradicts the very nature of the legislature.

 

I am, as a result, constrained to read the and referral part of the Francisco definition of impeachment initiation as pertaining to one and only one complaint that is allowed to be filed and referred within a period of one year.

 

Consistent with the proposition I have accepted, that the initiation of impeachment consists of the filing of the complaint coupled by its referral to the proper committee, I accept likewise the delineation that while referral is the logical step that follows the filing of a complaint, a referral does not necessarily happen once a complaint is filed. I agree with the ponencia of my senior, Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, that the House of Representatives has the power to guard against the initiation of a second impeachment proceeding by rejecting a patently unconstitutional complaint. May I incorporate into mine, the position in the ponencia of Justice Morales that:

 

Under the Rules of the House, a motion to refer is not among those motions that shall be decided without debate, but any debate thereon is only made subject to the five-minute rule. Moreover, it is common parliamentary practice that a motion to refer a matter or question to a committee may be debated upon, not as to the merits thereof, but only as to the propriety of the referral. With respect to complaints for impeachment, the House has the discretion not to refer a subsequent impeachment complaint to the Committee on Justice where official records and further debate show that an impeachment complaint filed against the same impeachable officer has already been referred [to] the said committee and the one year period has not yet expired, lest it becomes instrumental in perpetrating a constitutionally prohibited second impeachment proceeding. Far from being mechanical, before the referral stage, a period of deliberation is afforded the House, as the Constitution, in fact, grants a maximum of three session days within which to make the proper referral.[23]

 

In this case, the First Complaint was, by the House in plenary session, referred to the Committee on Justice such referral having been included in the Order of Business of the House. There appears to be no record of a debate on the propriety of the referral obviously because the official records at that point do not show that an impeachment complaint filed against the same impeachable officer has already been referred to the Committee; and the one year period has not even started. It is precisely the referral of the First Complaint that started the one-year period of the ban against the Second Complaint. The subsequent impeachment complaint, or the Second Complaint, could no longer be referred because the first referral was already on record and no further debate is needed to prove the documented fact nor can such debate disprove the fact.

 

The observation that the Constitution affords the House a period of deliberation and grants it a maximum period of three session days within which to make the proper referral is of utmost significance. For one, it underscores the validity of my opinion that while referral is a step subsequent to the filing of a complaint, a referral is not an unavoidable consequence of such filing. I agree with Justice Carpio Morales that referral is not a mechanical action. It is a deliberate act, and, may I add, with or without debate. The House ought to have been cognizant of this considering that it adopted as its own rules the Francisco definition of initiation of impeachment as filing and referral of the complaint. It is during the three-day allowable period of pre-referral deliberation that the House should decide which of the two complaints should be referred to the proper committee. The First Complaint was referred after a decision that it was proper for referral. This must be assumed, it having been done by no less than the House in plenary. The assumption is now an unassailable fact since there was no recorded objection to the referral. After that referral in due course, the one-year ban on another initiation started. The referral of the Second Complaint subsequent to the first officially recorded and undebatable referral is a constitutionally prohibited second initiation of an impeachment proceeding against the same impeachable officer.

The clear conclusion cannot be avoided, proceeding as it does from the fact of first and prior referral. Thus, the effort to avoid the fact. This cannot be done as adverted to above, simply because a simultaneous referral, which did not happen and cannot happen, was obviously resorted to in order to cure a constitutional defect. The Constitution cannot be violated directly or indirectly.

 

Indeed, the existence of two complaints and of their separate referrals are further pronounced by the facts that there were separate votings on the sufficiency in form of the First and then the Second Complaints; and there were different numbers of votes for and against the sufficiency in form of the two complaints. The same separate acts and different results transpired in the determination of the sufficiency in substance of the First and Second Complaints. So separate were the complaints that the possibility of consolidation was even discussed at the committee level a matter that can no longer be done at that stage because of patent, even implicitly admitted, unconstitutionality.

 

Alternative Theory of Initiation

 

Perhaps foreseeing that Francisco will give them no refuge, the respondents have alternatively asked for its abandonment in favor of the theory that an impeachment proceeding is only initiated once the House of Representatives, as one body, acts on either the report of the House Committee on Justice or, when applicable, on the complaint filed by one-third (1/3) of its members. In brief, the initiation of an impeachment proceeding ought to mean the entire proceedings in the House of Representatives.

 

The respondents insist on equating the initiation of an impeachment proceeding with the power given to the House of Representatives to initiate all cases of impeachment under Section 3(1), Article XI of the Constitution.[24] Filing and referral could not be the initiation of the proceeding because at that point the plenary has not yet determined whether to file an impeachment case with the Senate or not. Unless and until such a determination is made, an impeachment proceeding cannot be validly considered as initiated.

 

Finally, the respondents expressed their fear that, should the Francisco formula be upheld, frivolous impeachment complaints may be used to bar more meritorious complaints against erring public officials.

 

These are desperate arguments.

 

The alternative position espoused by the respondents had already been dealt with quite incisively in Francisco. In the main ponencia, Justice Carpio Morales dismissed the very same position because it gives the term initiated found in Section 3(5), Article XI of the Constitution, a meaning other than the actual commencement of an impeachment proceeding.[25] The lengthy disquisition of Francisco provides:

 

Initiate of course is understood by ordinary men to mean, as dictionaries do, to begin, to commence, or set going. As Websters Third New International Dictionary of the English Language concisely puts it, it means to perform or facilitate the first action, which jibes with Justice Regalados position, and that of Father Bernas, who elucidated during the oral arguments of the instant petitions on November 5, 2003 in this wise:

Briefly then, an impeachment proceeding is not a single act.  It is a comlexus of acts consisting of a beginning, a middle and an end.  The end is the transmittal of the articles of impeachment to the Senate.  The middle consists of those deliberative moments leading to the formulation of the articles of impeachment.  The beginning or the initiation is the filing of the complaint and its referral to the Committee on Justice.

Finally, it should be noted that the House Rule relied upon by Representatives Cojuangco and Fuentebella says that impeachment is deemed initiated when the Justice Committee votes in favor of impeachment or when the House reverses a contrary vote of the Committee.  Note that the Rule does not say impeachment proceedings are initiated but rather are deemed initiated.  The language is recognition that initiation happened earlier, but by legal fiction there is an attempt to postpone it to a time after actual initiation.  (Emphasis and underscoring supplied).

As stated earlier, one of the means of interpreting the Constitution is looking into the intent of the law.  Fortunately, the intent of the framers of the 1987 Constitution can be pried from its records:

MR. MAAMBONG.  With reference to Section 3, regarding the procedure and the substantive provisions on impeachment, I understand there have been many proposals and, I think, these would need some time for Committee action. 

However, I would just like to indicate that I submitted to the Committee a resolution on impeachment proceedings, copies of which have been furnished the Members of this body.  This is borne out of my experience as a member of the Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Good Government which took charge of the last impeachment resolution filed before the First Batasang Pambansa.  For the information of the Committee, the resolution covers several steps in the impeachment proceedings starting with initiation, action of the Speaker committee action, calendaring of report, voting on the report, transmittal referral to the Senate, trial and judgment by the Senate.

x x x x

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

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

x x x x

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

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

I already mentioned earlier yesterday that the initiation, as far as the House of Representatives of the United States is concerned, really starts from the filing of the verified complaint and every resolution to impeach always carries with it the Articles of Impeachment.  As a matter of fact, the words Articles of Impeachment are mentioned on line 25 in the case of the direct filing of a verified compliant of one-third of all the Members of the House.  I will mention again, Madam President, that my amendment will not vary the substance in any way.  It is only in keeping with the uniform procedure of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress.  Thank you, Madam President.[26] (Italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied).

This amendment proposed by Commissioner Maambong was clarified and accepted by the Committee on the Accountability of Public Officers.[27]

It is thus clear that the framers intended initiation to start with the filing of the complaint.  In his amicus curiae brief, Commissioner Maambong explained that the obvious reason in deleting the phrase to initiate impeachment proceedings as contained in the text of the provision of Section 3 (3) was to settle and make it understood once and for all that the initiation of impeachment proceedings starts with the filing of the complaint, and the vote of one-third of the House in a resolution of impeachment does not initiate the impeachment proceedings which was already initiated by the filing of a verified complaint under Section 3, paragraph (2), Article XI of the Constitution.[28]

Amicus curiae Constitutional Commissioner Regalado is of the same view as is Father Bernas, who was also a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, that the word initiate as used in Article XI, Section 3(5) means to file, both adding, however, that the filing must be accompanied by an action to set the complaint moving.[29] [Italics, emphasis and underscoring in the original].

 

 

In Francisco, this Court also clarified that the initiation of an impeachment proceeding is vastly different from the initiation of an impeachment case by the House of Representatives.[30] Thus:

 

During the oral arguments before this Court, Father Bernas clarified that the word initiate, appearing in the constitutional provision on impeachment, viz:

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

x x x x

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

 

refers to two objects, impeachment case and impeachment proceeding.   

 

Father Bernas explains that in these two provisions, the common verb is to initiate.  The object in the first sentence is impeachment case.  The object in the second sentence is impeachment proceeding.  Following the principle of reddendo singula singulis, the term cases must be distinguished from the term proceedings.  An impeachment case is the legal controversy that must be decided by the Senate.  Above-quoted first provision provides that the House, by a vote of one-third of all its members, can bring a case to the Senate.  It is in that sense that the House has exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.  No other body can do it.  However, before a decision is made to initiate a case in the Senate, a proceeding must be followed to arrive at a conclusion.  A proceeding must be initiated.  To initiate, which comes from the Latin word initium, means to begin.  On the other hand, proceeding is a progressive noun.  It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It takes place not in the Senate but in the House and consists of several steps:  (1) there is the filing of a verified complaint either by a Member of the House of Representatives or by a private citizen endorsed by a Member of the House of the Representatives;  (2)  there is the processing of this complaint by the proper Committee which may either reject the complaint or uphold it; (3) whether the resolution of the Committee rejects or upholds the complaint, the resolution must be forwarded to the House for further processing;  and (4) there is the processing of the same complaint by the House of Representatives which  either affirms a favorable resolution of the Committee or overrides a contrary resolution by a vote of one-third of all the members.  If at least one third of all the Members upholds the complaint, Articles of Impeachment are prepared and transmitted to the Senate.  It is at this point that the House initiates an impeachment case.  It is at this point that an impeachable public official is successfully impeached.  That is, he or she is successfully charged with an impeachment case before the Senate as impeachment court.

 

Father Bernas further explains: The impeachment proceeding is not initiated when the complaint is transmitted to the Senate for trial because that is the end of the House proceeding and the beginning of another proceeding, namely the trial.  Neither is the impeachment proceeding initiated when the House deliberates on the resolution passed on to it by the Committee, because something prior to that has already been done.  The action of the House is already a further step in the proceeding, not its initiation or beginning.  Rather, the proceeding is initiated or begins, when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the Committee on Justice for action.  This is the initiating step which triggers the series of steps that follow. 

 

The framers of the Constitution also understood initiation in its ordinary meaning.  Thus when a proposal reached the floor proposing that A vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House shall be necessary to initiate impeachment proceedings, this was met by a proposal to delete the line on the ground that the vote of the House does not initiate impeachment proceeding but rather the filing of a complaint does.[31] Thus the line was deleted and is not found in the present Constitution.

 

Father Bernas concludes that when Section 3 (5) says, No impeachment proceeding shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year, it means that no second verified complaint may be accepted and referred to the Committee on Justice for action.  By his explanation, this interpretation is founded on the common understanding of the meaning of to initiate which means to begin. He reminds that the Constitution is ratified by the people, both ordinary and sophisticated, as they understand it; and that ordinary people read ordinary meaning into ordinary words and not abstruse meaning, they ratify words as they understand it and not as sophisticated lawyers confuse it.

 

To the argument that only the House of Representatives as a body can initiate impeachment proceedings because Section 3 (1) says The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment, This is a misreading of said provision and is contrary to the principle of reddendo singula singulis by equating impeachment cases with impeachment proceeding.

 

From the records of the Constitutional Commission, to the amicus curiae briefs of two former Constitutional Commissioners, it is without a doubt that the term to initiate refers to the filing of the impeachment complaint coupled with Congress taking initial action of said complaint.[32]  [Italics, emphasis and underscoring in the original].

 

 

I find no sufficient and cogent reason to deviate from Francisco. That the initiation of an impeachment proceeding must be reckoned from the filing and subsequent referral of the verified complaint is an interpretation of the Constitution anchored on the very intent of its framers and the honored principles of statutory construction. It is, without a hint of doubt, what the Constitution conveys.

 

Neither can Francisco simply be disregarded out of the fear that it will allow erring officials - who, the respondents say, may just cause a frivolous complaint to be filed ahead of more meritorious ones - to easily escape impeachment. This fear is not grounded on reason. The Constitution already provides ample safeguards to prevent the filing of sham impeachment complaints.

 

For one thing, impeachment complaints are required to be verified.[33] The complainants are, under the pain of perjury, mandated to guarantee that the allegations embodied in the complaint are true and within their personal knowledge.

 

Moreover, the requirement of verification is supplemented by another constitutional safeguard, i.e. the condition that every impeachment complaint, unless filed by at least one third (1/3) of the members of the House of Representatives, must be endorsed by a member thereof.[34] The endorsement of a representative seeks to ensure that the allegations of the complaint are at least, on first glance, serious enough to merit consideration by the plenary.

 

And, to reiterate, a three-day pre-referral proceeding can be availed of by the House in plenary to determine the propriety of referral. Needless to state, an unreferred complaint does not initiate an impeachment proceeding.

 

Indeed, the Francisco doctrine is not as arbitrary or reckless as the respondents portray it to be. In marking initiation of an impeachment proceeding from the filing of the verified complaint and its referral to the proper committee, Francisco did not destroy the effectiveness and integrity of the impeachment procedure. It only applied the Constitution.

 

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, I VOTE to GRANT the petition IN PART. The Second Complaint against the petitioner is BARRED under Article XI, Section 3(5) of the Constitution. Accordingly, the actions taken by the House Committee on Justice relative to the Second Complaint, including the finding that it was sufficient in form and substance, are hereby declared NULL and VOID.

 

 

 

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ



[1] Petitioner assumed as Ombudsman on 1 December 2005.

[2] The complaint was received by the Secretary General of the House of Representatives

[3] The First Complaint was endorsed by representatives Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello.

[4] The Fifteenth (15th) Congress formally opened its sessions on 26 July 2010.

[5] The Second Complaint was endorsed by representatives Neri Javier Colmenares, Rafael V. Mariano, Teodoro A. Casio, Luzviminda C. Ilagan, Antonio L. Tinio and Emerancia A. de Jesus.

[6] Representatives Marc Douglas C. Cagas IV and Fernejel G. Biron, both members of the HCJ, initially called for the inhibition of Chairman Tupas, Jr. from the proceedings. As it turned out, the father of Chairman Tupas, Jr., former Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas, Sr., was the subject of a previous investigation of the petitioner and was, in fact, charged by the latter with violations of Republic Act No. 3019 before the Sandiganbayan. The case against Tupas, Sr. is still pending before the Sandiganbayan. Chairman Tupas, Jr., however, refused to inhibit from the proceedings and, instead, assured the other HCJ members of his utmost impartiality.

[7] The petitioner, instead, caused her motion to be served personally upon each member of the HCJ.

[8] The due process concerns are: (a) the lack of a published Rules of Procedure for Impeachment cases; (b) the perceived partiality of Chairman Tupas, Jr.; (c) the apparent haste with which the HCJ determined that both complaints were sufficient in form and substance; and (d) the refusal of the HCJ to receive petitioners motion for reconsideration.

[9] 460 Phil. 830 (2003).

[10] Id. at 940.

[11] Congressional Record, Plenary Proceedings of the 15th Congress, First Regular Session, House of Representatives, Vol. 1, No. 9, 11 August 2010.

[12] Id. at 13.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] TSN, Oral Arguments, 12 October 2010, p. 150.

[16] This complaint was filed by then Representatives Gilbert C. Teodoro, Jr. and Felix William B. Fuentebella, and was accompanied by an endorsement of at least one-third (1/3) of the members of the House of Representatives.

[17] This complaint was filed by former President Joseph E. Estrada and was endorsed by then Representatives Rolex T. Suplico, Ronaldo B. Zamora and Didagen Piang Dilangalen.

[18] The other justices implicated in Estradas complaint were then Associate Justices Artemio V. Panganiban, Josue N. Bellosillo, Reynato S. Puno, Antonio T. Carpio, Renato C. Corona, Jose C. Vitug and Leonardo A. Quisumbing.

[19] Supra note 9 at 940.

[20] Id.

[21] 2 Record of the Constitutional Commission: Proceedings and Debates, p. 282 (1986).

[22] See Separate and Concurring Opinion of Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez in the Francisco case, supra note 9 at 983-1006.

[23] In the majority opinion in G.R. No. 193459.

[24] Section 3(1), Article XI of the Constitution provides: The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.

[25] Supra note 9 at 940.

[26] 2 Record of the Constitutional Commission: Proceedings and Debates, pp. 342-416 (1986).

[27] Id. at 416.

[28] Commissioner Maambongs Amicus Curiae Brief, p. 15 (submitted in the Francisco case, supra note 9).

[29] Supra note 9 at 927-930.

[30] Id. at 932.

[31] 2 Record of the Constitutional Commission: Proceedings and Debates, p. 416 (1986).

[32] Supra note 9 at 930-932.

[33] See CONSTITUTION, Article XI, Section 3(2).

[34] Id.