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Constitutional Law

G.R. No. 193459 Date: February 15, 2011

Merceditas Gutierrez vs. The House of Representative Committee on Justice

[NOTE: This digest is long because it is a long 2011 case, and I included EVERYTHING so that in case we discuss this again in the future, you can just refer to this.] Petitioner: Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez Respondents: THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE, RISA HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL, DANILO D. LIM, FELIPE


Before the opening of the 15th Congress on July 26, 2010, the BARAQUEL GROUP (private respondents Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo Lim, and spouses Felipe and Evelyn Pestao) filed an impeachment complaint against the Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez (petitioner). 1st impeachment complaint. Barely a week after the opening, the REYES GROUP (private respondents Renato Reyes, Jr., Mother Mary John Mananzan, Danilo Ramos, Edre Olalia, Ferdinand Gaite and James Terry Ridon) filed another impeachment complaint, with the endorsement of some Party-list Representatives 2nd impeachment complaint Both allege culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. Both complaints were transmitted to the Speaker included in the Order of Business On the same day that the 2nd complaint was filed, the House of Rep provisionally adopted the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 14th Congress. Although filed separately, the House simultaneously referred the complaints to the House of Representatives Committee on Justice. The Committee considered the complaints to have been referred to it at exactly the same time. SEPT 1 RESOLUTION: After hearing, the Committee found both complaints to be sufficient in FORM. Meanwhile, the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 15th Congress was published on September 2, 2010. Petitioner Gutierrez filed a motion to reconsider the Sept 1 Resolution; the Committee dismissed it for being premature as she had not yet been asked to file an answer to the complaints. SEPT 7 RESOLUTION: After hearing, the Committee found both complaints to be sufficient in SUBSTANCE. Petitioner was required to file an answer. Six days after her receipt of the notice, she filed with the SCa petition for certiorari and prohibition challenging the resolutions of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice. The Baraquel Group, Reyes Group, and Committee through the OSG filed their Comments:

ISSUES: PROCEDURAL ISSUES: 1) Are the remedies proper? YES

2) 3)

Can the Courts interfere with Congress considering that this is an impeachment matter within their power? YES Is the issue ripe for judicial review? YES

SUBSTANTIVE ISSUE: whether public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing its two assailed Resolutions. [Petitioner basically anchors her claim on alleged violation of the due process clause (Art. III, Sec. 1) and of the one-year bar provision (Art. XI, Sec 3, par. 5) of the Constitution.] RULING: The respondents procedural arguments and the SCs rulings are as follows: RESPONDENTS SUPREME COURT The remedies are improper. While the power of judicial review is only impliedly granted to the U.S. Supreme Court Public respondent was not and is discretionary in nature, that granted to the Philippine Supreme Court and lower exercising any judicial, quasicourts, as expressly provided for in the Constitution, is not just a power but also a duty, and it judicial or ministerial function was given an expanded definition to include the power to correct any grave abuse of discretion in taking cognizance of the on the part of any government branch or instrumentality. two impeachment complaints There are also glaring distinctions between the U.S. Constitution and the as it was exercising a political Philippine Constitution with respect to the power of the House of Representatives over act that is discretionary in impeachment proceedings. While the U.S. Constitution bestows sole power of nature, and that its function is impeachment to the House of Representatives without limitation, our Constitution, Cimagala, Alexis September 15, 2011 Atty. Candelaria Art XI, Sec. 3 Procedure and Penalty Page 1

Constitutional Law
inquisitorial that is akin to a preliminary investigation. though vesting in the House of Representatives the exclusive power to initiate impeachment cases, provides for several limitations to the exercise of such power as embodied in Section 3(2), (3), (4) and (5), Article XI thereof. These limitations include the manner of filing, required vote to impeach, and the one year bar on the impeachment of one and the same official. The Constitution did not intend to leave the matter of impeachment to the sole discretion of Congress. Instead, it provided for certain well-defined limits, or in the language of Baker v. Carr,"judicially discoverable standards" for determining the validity of the exercise of such discretion, through the power of judicial review. This is consistent with jurisprudence. There exists no constitutional basis for the contention that the exercise of judicial review over impeachment proceedings would upset the system of checks and balances. Verily, the Constitution is to be interpreted as a whole and "one section is not to be allowed to defeat another." Both are integral components of the calibrated system of independence and interdependence that insures that no branch of government act beyond the powers assigned to it by the Constitution. The power of judicial review as a duty which, as the expanded certiorari jurisdiction of this Court reflects, includes the power 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 the Government. Indubitably, the Court is not asserting its ascendancy over the Legislature in this instance, but simply upholding the supremacy of the Constitution as the repository of the sovereign will. An aspect of the "case-or-controversy" requirement is the requisite of ripeness. The question of ripeness is especially relevant in light of the direct, adverse effect on an individual by the challenged conduct. In the present petition, there is no doubt that questions on, inter alia, the validity of the simultaneous referral of the two complaints and on the need to publish as a mode of promulgating the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the House (Impeachment Rules) present constitutional vagaries which call for immediate interpretation. The unusual act of simultaneously referring to public respondent two impeachment complaints presents a novel situation to invoke judicial power. Petitioner cannot thus be considered to have acted prematurely when she took the cue from the constitutional limitation that only one impeachment proceeding should be initiated against an impeachable officer within a period of one year.

Judicial review of impeachments undermines their finality and may also lead to conflicts between Congress and the judiciary. Thus, they call upon this Court to exercise judicial statesmanship on the principle that "whenever possible, the Court should defer to the judgment of the people expressed legislatively, recognizing full well the perils of judicial willfulness and pride."

Petition is premature and not yet ripe for adjudication since petitioner has at her disposal a plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the course of the proceedings before public respondent. Public respondent argues that when petitioner filed the present petition on September 13, 2010, it had not gone beyond the determination of the sufficiency of form and substance of the two complaints.

Petitioners substantive [due process] arguments and SCs rulings: PETITIONER SUPREME COURT Allegations of bias and Petitioners allegations of bias and vindictiveness are bereft of merit, there being hardly any vindictiveness: the Committee indication thereof. Mere suspicion of partiality does not suffice. Chair Rep. Tupas, public is headed by a gentleman who respondent informs, did not, in fact, vote and merely presided over the proceedings when it happened to be a respondent decided on the sufficiency of form and substance of the complaints. in the charges that the Ombudsman filed. In addition He was not a one-man committee. There is a presumption of regularity in the proceedings. He to that, his father was likewise is presumed in GF. a respondent in another case complaints against her. Public respondent failed to The DETERMINATION OF SUFFICIENCY OF FORM AND SUBSTANCE of an ascertain the sufficiency of impeachment complaint is an exponent of the express constitutional grant of rule-making form and substance of the powers of the House of Representatives which committed such determinative function to complaints on the basis of the public respondent. (It is only in the Impeachment Rules where a determination of sufficiency of standards set by the form and substance of an impeachment complaint is made necessary. This requirement is not Constitution and its own explicitly found in the organic law, as Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution basically Impeachment Rules. merely requires a "hearing.") In the discharge of that power and in the exercise of its discretion, the House has formulated determinable standards as to the form and substance of Petitioner asks the court to an impeachment complaint. Prudential considerations behoove the Court to respect the look into the narration of facts compliance by the House of its duty to effectively carry out the constitutional purpose, absent which the court cannot do as any contravention of the minimum constitutional guidelines. it is a political question within Contrary to petitioners position that the Impeachment Rules do not provide for the power of Congress. comprehensible standards in determining the sufficiency of form and substance, the Impeachment Rules are clear in echoing the constitutional requirements and providing that there must be a "verified complaint or resolution," and that the substance requirement is met if there is "a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee. Petitioner questions the lack of While "promulgation" would seem synonymous to "publication," there is a statutory or, more accurately, delay in difference in their usage. the publication of the Since the Constitutional Commission did not restrict "promulgation" to "publication," the Impeachment Rules. Citing former should be understood to have been used in its general sense. It is within the discretion Cimagala, Alexis September 15, 2011 Atty. Candelaria Art XI, Sec. 3 Procedure and Penalty Page 2

Constitutional Law
Taada v. Tuvera, petitioner contends that she was deprived of due process since the Impeachment Rules was published only on September 2, 2010 a day after public respondent ruled on the sufficiency of form of the complaints. She likewise tacks her contention on Section 3(8), Article XI of the Constitution which directs that "Congress shall promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the purpose of this section." Public respondent counters that "promulgation" in this case refers to "the publication of rules in any medium of information, not necessarily in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation. of Congress to determine on how to promulgate its Impeachment Rules, in much the same way that the Judiciary is permitted to determine that to promulgate a decision means to deliver the decision to the clerk of court for filing and publication. It is not for this Court to tell a coequal branch of government how to promulgate when the Constitution itself has not prescribed a specific method of promulgation. The Court is in no position to dictate a mode of promulgation beyond the dictates of the Constitution. Publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation is but one avenue for Congress to make known its rules. Had the Constitution intended to have the Impeachment Rules published, it could have stated so as categorically as it did in the case of the rules of procedure in legislative inquiries, per Neri. Other than "promulgate," there is no other single formal term in the English language to appropriately refer to an issuance without need of it being published. IN FINE, petitioner cannot take refuge in Neri since inquiries in aid of legislation under Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution is the sole instance in the Constitution where there is a categorical directive to duly publish a set of rules of procedure. Significantly notable in Neri is that with respect to the issue of publication, the Court anchored its ruling on the 1987 Constitutions directive, without any reliance on or reference to the 1986 case of Taada v. Tuvera. Taada naturally could neither have interpreted a forthcoming 1987 Constitution nor had kept a tight rein on the Constitutions intentions as ex pressed through the allowance of either a categorical term or a general sense of making known the issuances. ON w/n PROVISION IS SELF-EXECUTING From the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, then Commissioner, now retired Associate Justice Florenz Regalado intended Section 3(8), Article XI to be the vehicle for the House to fill the gaps in the impeachment process. MR. REGALADO. Mr. Presiding Officer, I have decided to put in an additional section because, for instance, under Section 3 (2), there is mention of indorsing a verified complaint for impeachment by any citizen alleging ultimate facts constituting a ground or grounds for impeachment. In other words, it is just like a provision in the rules of court. Instead, I propose that this procedural requirement, like indorsement of a complaint by a citizen to avoid harassment or crank complaints, could very well be taken up in a new section 4 which shall read as follows: THE CONGRESS SHALL PROMULGATE ITS RULES ON IMPEACHMENT TO EFFECTIVELY CARRY OUT THE PURPOSES THEREOF. I think all these other procedural requirements could be taken care of by the Rules of Congress.52 (emphasis and underscoring supplied) The discussion clearly rejects the notion that the impeachment provisions are not selfexecuting. Section 3(8) does not, in any circumstance, operate to suspend the entire impeachment mechanism which the Constitutional Commission took pains in designing even its details. ..unless it is expressly provided that a legislative act is necessary to enforce a constitutional mandate, the presumption now is that all provisions of the constitution are self-executing. If the constitutional provisions are treated as requiring legislation instead of self-executing, the legislature would have the power to ignore and practically nullify the mandate of the fundamental law. This can be cataclysmic. That is why the prevailing view is, as it has always been, that . . . in case of doubt, the Constitution should be considered self-executing rather than non-self-executing . . . . Unless the contrary is clearly intended, the provisions of the Constitution should be considered self-executing, as a contrary rule would give the legislature discretion to determine when, or whether, they shall be effective. These provisions would be subordinated to the will of the lawmaking body, which could make them entirely meaningless by simply refusing to pass the needed implementing statute. Even assuming arguendo that publication is required, lack of it does not nullify the proceedings taken prior to the effectivity of the Impeachment Rules which faithfully comply with the relevant self-executing provisions of the Constitution. Otherwise, in cases where impeachment complaints are filed at the start of each Congress, the mandated periods under Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution would already run or even lapse while awaiting the expiration of the 15-day period of publication prior to the effectivity of the Impeachment Rules. In effect, the House would already violate the Constitution for its inaction on the impeachment complaints pending the completion of the publication requirement. Given that the Constitution itself states that any promulgation of the rules on impeachment is aimed at "effectively carry[ing] out the purpose" of impeachment proceedings, the Court finds no grave abuse of discretion when the House deemed it proper to provisionally adopt the Rules on Impeachment of the 14th Congress, to meet the exigency in such situation of early filing and in keeping with the "effective" implementation of the "purpose" of the impeachment provisions. It bears stressing that, unlike the process of inquiry in aid of legislation where the rights of witnesses are involved, impeachment is primarily for the protection of the people as a body politic, and not for the punishment of the offender. Article XI, Section 3, paragraph (5) of the Constitution reads: No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a

the one-year bar provision

Cimagala, Alexis September 15, 2011

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Constitutional Law
in Art. XI, Sec.3 par 5 of the Constitution applies.
Omb. Gutierrez contends that the one-year bar would start from the filing of the 1st impeachment complaint against her on July 22, 2010. So she claims that a second impeachment complaint may only be lodged against her 1 YEAR AFTER JULY 22, 2010. (But, there was a 2nd impeachment case filed against her in August 2010.) period of one year. For the one-year bar rule to apply, the word INITIATE has a technical meaning. Francisco v. House states that the term initiate means to file the complaint and take initial action on it. The initiation starts with the filing of the complaint which must be accompanied with an action to set the complaint moving. It refers to the filing of the impeachment complaint coupled with Congress taking initial action of said complaint. The initial action taken by the House on the complaint is THE REFERRAL OF THE COMPLAINT to the Committee on Justice. In other words, the mere filing of the complaints is not the initiation contemplated by the Constitution. The filing of the impeachment complaint merely STARTS the initiation. It must be completed by an act of the House. The Court, of course, does not downplay the importance of an impeachment complaint, for it is the matchstick that kindles the candle of impeachment proceedings. The filing of an impeachment complaint is like the lighting of a matchstick. Lighting the matchstick alone, however, cannot light up the candle, unless the lighted matchstick reaches or torches the candle wick. Referring the complaint to the proper committee ignites the impeachment proceeding. With a simultaneous referral of multiple complaints filed, more than one lighted matchsticks light the candle at the same time. What is important is that there should only be ONECANDLE that is kindled in a year, such that once the candle starts burning, subsequent matchsticks can no longer rekindle the candle. Referral of the complaint to the proper committee is not done by the House Speaker alone either, which explains why there is a need to include it in the Order of Business of the House. It is the House of Representatives, in public plenary session, which has the power to set its own chamber into special operation by referring the complaint or to otherwise guard against the initiation of a second impeachment proceeding by rejecting a patently unconstitutional complaint. What the Constitution contemplates is that only one impeachment PROCEEDING should be filed against the impeachable officer per year. The constitution talks about PROCEEDING, not complaints. Hence, multiple complaints are allowed as long as they are consolidated. The objective is that the impeachable officer will only be subject of 1 impeachment proceeding a year. But it may be composed of different, but consolidated, complaints. It becomes clear that the consideration behind the intended limitation refers to the element of time, and not the number of complaints. The impeachable officer should defend himself in only one impeachment proceeding, so that he will not be precluded from performing his official functions and duties. Similarly, Congress should run only one impeachment proceeding so as not to leave it with little time to attend to its main work of law-making. The doctrine laid down in Francisco that initiation means filing and referral remains congruent to the rationale of the constitutional provision. MR resolved on March 8, 2011 Upon examination of the averments in the Motion, the Court finds neither substantial nor cogent reason to reconsider its Decision. A plain reading of the Decision could very well dispose of petitioners previous contentions, raised anew in the Motion, but the Court finds it proper, in writing finis to the issue, to draw petitioners attention to certain markers in the Decision. More on the argument that promulgation = publication Indubitably, an impeachment is not a judicial proceeding, but rather a political exercise. Petitioner thus cannot demand that the Court apply the stringent standards it asks of justices and judges when it comes to inhibition from hearing cases. Incidentally, the Impeachment Rules do not provide for any provision regarding the inhibition of the Committee chairperson or any member from participating in an impeachment proceeding. The Committee may thus direct any question of partiality towards the concerned member only. And any decision on the matter of inhibition must be respected, and it is not for this Court to interfere with that decision. Except for the constitutionally mandated periods, the pacing or alleged precipitate haste with which the impeachment proceeding against petitioner is conducted is beyond the Courts control. Again, impeachment is a highly politicized intramural that gives the House ample leg room to operate, subject only to the constitutionally imposed limits. And beyond these, the Court is duty-bound to respect the discretion of a co-equal branch of government on matters which would effectively carry out its constitutional mandate. More on the twin ruling of filing and referral: Petitioner urges that the word initiate must be read in its plain, ordinary and technical meaning, for it is contrary to reason, logic and common sense to reckon the beginning or start of the initiation process from its end or conclusion. Petitioner would have been correct had the subject constitutional provision been worded as no initiation process of the impeachment proceeding shall be commenced against the same official more than once within a period of one year, in which case the reckoning would literally point to the start of the beginning. To immediately reckon the initiation to what petitioner herself concedes as the start of the initiation process is to countenance a raw or half-baked initiation. Petitioner goes on to argue that the House has no discretion on the matter of referral of an impeachment complaint and that once filed, an impeachment complaint should, as a matter of course, be referred to the Committee. Cimagala, Alexis September 15, 2011 Atty. Candelaria Art XI, Sec. 3 Procedure and Penalty Page 4

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The House cannot indeed refuse to refer an impeachment complaint that is filed without a subsisting bar. To refer an impeachment complaint within an existing one-year bar, however, is to commit the apparently unconstitutional act of initiating a second impeachment proceeding, which may be struck down under Rule 65 for grave abuse of discretion. It bears recalling that the one-year bar rule itself is a constitutional limitation on the Houses power or function to refer a complaint.

Cimagala, Alexis September 15, 2011

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