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Estrada v.

Desierto
Summary Cases:

Estrada vs. Desierto (Estrada vs Arroyo) 353 SCRA 452

Subject:
Political Question; EDSA 1 vs EDSA 2; Resignation; Conviction by Impeachment as a Bar to Prosecution;
Presidential Immunity from Suit; Public Office is a Public Trust; Theory of Derivative Prejudice
Facts:
Former President Joseph Estrada was elected during 1998 elections. Sometime in October 2000,
however, several allegations of corruption and of receiving millions of pesos from jueteng lords were
made against him before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. Some Congressmen moved to impeach
Estrada which caused several sectors, former Presidents Aquino and Ramos to call for Estradas
resignation. Some senior advisers of Estrada as well as a number of his cabinet resigned from their
positions. Impeachment trial commenced with Chief Justice Davide presiding.
The impeachment trial was put to a halt after the public prosecutors tendered their collective resignation
before the Impeachment Tribunal caused by the decision of 11 Senators not to open the second
envelope (an alleged secret account of Erap amounting to 3.3B Pesos in the name of Jose Velarde). An
indefinite postponement of the Impeachment proceedings was granted by the Chief Justice.
The next day, EDSA 2 commenced with the PNP and AFP joining the crowd. In the succeeding days, a
chain of resignations from the military, the police, and the cabinet ensued. On January 20, Supreme
Court declared the seat for presidency as vacant, saying that Estrada constructively resigned his post.
At noon, Chief Justice, whose authority was later unanimously confirmed by SC, administered the oath
to Arroyo as President of the Philippines. That same afternoon, Estrada and his family left Malacaang
and transmitted a signed letter appointing then Vice-President Arroyo as Acting President, citing Section
11, Article 7 of the Constitution, to the House Speaker and Senate President.
Several cases were filed against Estrada in the Office of the Ombudsman. Estrada filed with the
Supreme Court a petition for prohibition which sought to enjoin the Ombudsman from conducting any
further proceedings in cases filed against him, not until his term as president ends. He also filed a
petition for quo warranto praying for judgment confirming him to be the lawful and incumbent President
of the Philippines temporarily unable to discharge the duties of his office.
Held:
Political Question
1. The Court held that the cases at bar do not involve a political question and therefore falls within the
ambit of judicial scrutiny pursuant to the doctrine of separation of powers of coordinate branches of
government.
2. Political question refers to those questions which, under our 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 government. It is concerned with the issues dependent on the
wisdom, not legality of a particular measure.

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3. 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.
EDSA 1 vs EDSA 2
4. EDSA People Power I involves the exercise of the people power of revolution which overthrew the
whole government while EDSA People Power 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.
5. EDSA I is extra constitutional but EDSA II is intra constitutional.
6. EDSA I presented a political question while EDSA II involved legal questions.
Resignation
7. Using the totality test, the Supreme Court held that petitioner resigned as President - which was
confirmed by his leaving Malacaang.
8. Facts show that petitioner did not write any formal letter of resignation before he evacuated
Malacanang 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.
9. In the press release containing his final statement,
(1) He acknowledged the oath-taking of Arroyo as President of the Republic albeit with 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. Petitioners 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.
10. Resignation is a factual question and its elements are beyond quibble: (1) there must be an intent to
resign and (2) 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
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be implied. As long as the resignation is clear, it must be given legal effect.


11. 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.
Recognition of Presidency of Arroyo
12. The issue whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review the claim of temporary inability of
former President Estrada and thereafter revise the decision of both Houses of Congress recognizing
Arroyo as President is political in nature and addressed solely to Congress by constitutional fiatit is a
political issue which cannot be decided by the Supreme Court without transgressing the principle of
separation of powers.
13. Implicitly clear in the recognition by both houses of Congress of Arroyo as President is the premise
that the inability of former President Estrada is no longer temporary.
14. Former President Estrada cannot successfully claim that he is a President on leave on the ground
that he is merely unable to govern temporarily since such claim has been laid to rest by Congress and
the decision that President Arroyo is the de jure President made by a co-equal branch of government
cannot be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Conviction by Impeachment as a Bar to Prosecution
15. The Supreme Court rejects former President Estradas argument that he cannot be prosecuted for
the reason that he must first be convicted in the impeachment proceedings. His impeachment trial 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. 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.
Presidential Immunity from Suit
16. Estrada does NOT enjoy immunity from suit. Incumbent Presidents are immune from suit or from
being brought to court during the period of their incumbency and tenure but not beyond in accordance
with the ruling in In Re: Saturnino Bermudez.
17. The cases filed against petitioner Estrada are criminal in character (plunder, bribery and graft and
corruption). Estrada cannot cite any decision of this Court licensing the President to commit criminal acts
and wrapping him with post-tenure immunity from liability. 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.
Public Office is a Public Trust
18. One of the great themes of the 1987 Constitution is that a public office is a public trust.

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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 (investigate 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.Theory of Derivative Prejudice
19. The Court cannot adopt former President Estradas theory of derivative prejudice, i.e., that the
prejudice of the Ombudsman flows to his subordinates.
20. 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 cannot 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 petitioner 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.

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