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Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court


- versus


G.R. No. 202020


October 30, 2014
Before us is a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with prayer for the issu-
ance of a Writ of Prohibitory Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order filed
by the Hon. Jejomar C. Binay (Binay), the incumbent Vice President of the Repub-
lic of the Philippines. He assails the validity of the impeachment complaint filed
against him by the herein respondents, Members of the House of Representatives.
The latter sought to impeach Binay on the grounds of: (a) Betrayal of Public Trust;
(b) Graft and Corruption; (c) Direct Bribery; (d) Corruption of Public Officials;
and (e) Malversation of Public Funds.
The respondents filed the Articles of Impeachment before the Speaker of the
House on October 28, 2014. The facts of the case, as culled from the prosecutions
Articles of Impeachment, are as follows:
Binay was appointed in 1988 by President Corazon Aquino as mayor of Makati.
In 1988, he was elected into the same position. He was re-elected twice in the same posi-
tion, marking his first bout of mayoralty from 1986 1998. During his first term as
mayor, Binay also served as the chairman of the Metro Manila Authority, now known as
the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), from 1990 to 1991. He, again,
served as chairman of the MMDA in 1998. In 2001, Binay regained his position as mayor
of Makati and was reelected twice again into the position, from 2001-2010.
During the Binays tenure as mayor of Makati, from 1988 to 1998, he acquired
unexplained wealth. Considering his salary of 32,000 as mayor and 42,000 as the
MMDA chairman, his SALN of more than 20.06 million in 1999 became an issue. It in-
cluded 12.24 million in business investments, none of which are clearly identified.
Binay and his family acquired the first chunk of the Batangas property 16.6
hectares in 1991. In 2001, the aforesaid property located in Rosario, Batangas is a mod-
ern, 66-hectare farm. This farm is conservatively estimated to be at least P23 million, ex-
cluding all the improvements made in the past few years which include two huge houses,
a piggery, orchidarium, and a cock farm; not to mention the paving of a hilly road that
would connect the farm to other areas in the town. Binay and his wife never declared this
property in their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) of 1996, 1997
and 1999. The Office of the Ombudsman did not have a copy of his 1998 SAL. This
property is reportedly bought by Binay and placed under the names of the farmhands pos-
sibly to elude questions as to his ownership of such a vast estate. When the farmhands, to
whom the properties were named after left the property, their signatures were forged to
continue businesses of the farm.
In addition to the Batangas property, Binay and his family reportedly owns four
units in the 100,000-per-square meter Hidalgo Condominium Building located at the
Rockwell center. However, only two of the condominiums can be readily identified as
owned by the Respondent and his family.
As regards the Respondents services as mayor of Makati, the 1999 findings of
the Commission on Audit (1999) on Makatis fiscal standing shows that he did not reap
as much improvements as he claimed9:
There is a 57.96 million discrepancy between the citys cash in bank and the
balance recorded by the citys accountant.
Some officials and employees of city hall have yet to liquidate their cash ad-
vances totalling 33.68 million.
Additional cash advances were granted to people who were no longer employed
by the city government.
There is no way to check if over 10.51 billion in declared fixed assets really
exist. City government has not been conducting annual physical inventory of fixed assets.
Disallowed purchasesor expenditures already made or approved but later determined
by COA to be unallowableamounted to 627.8 million.
The city government has no annual procurement program, so supplies and
properties were purchased in small volumes, thus forfeiting discounts given on big vol-
ume purchases.
Funds were open to loss or misuse because accountable forms were not kept for
check and balance and for monitoring. (Citations omitted)
On the side of the defense, Binay denies the allegations and contends that
these are all just political attacks against him, especially that he is planning to run
for the presidency for the 2016 national elections.
Binay also argues that he could not be impeached based on the allegations
mentioned above. He contends that, assuming arguendo that he did have a role in
the misuse of public funds when he was the City Mayor of Makati, the fact that
remains is that the crime was purportedly committed when he was not yet the Vice
President. Needless to say, the prosecution moves for his impeachment and remov-
al as Vice President for a crime allegedly committed by him when he was not yet
the Vice President.
The petitioner seeks our review to shed light on this matter as the Constitu-
tion is silent as to whether impeachable acts must be committed when the official
is already serving as an impeachable official and not before in another official or
even in a civilian capacity.
Binay argues that the intent of those who drafted that constitution was to re-
sult to impeachment as a punitive measure. Removal from office is indeed a puni-
tive measure. But for one to be punished with removal from office, the punishment
must be in relation to that office. Hence, he cannot be impeached and removed as
Vice President for acts allegedly committed when he was the City Mayor of Ma-
kati. Binay contends that the issue is now moot and academic and cannot be con-
sidered as a justiciable issue.
The petitioner also prays that the Court enjoin the impeachment trial from
proceeding any further on the grounds that the issues and allegations about him
were allegedly committed when he was still the City Mayor of Makati, and not
during his incumbency as the Vice President of the Philippines, thus, not subject to
The power of the Supreme Court to interpret the laws and the Constitution
has long before been settled. Justice Laurel, who then became a Chief Justice of
this Honorable Court elucidate the power of the Court to interpret the Constitution
via judicial review. Thus, it was held in Angara v. Electoral Commission,
[t]he separation of powers is a fundamental principle in our system of govern-
ment. It was obtained not through express provision but by actual division in our
Constitution. Each department of the government has exclusive cognizance of mat-
ters within its jurisdiction, and is supreme within its own sphere. But it does not
follow from the fact that the three powers are to be kept separate and distinct and
that the Constitution intended them to be absolutely unrestrained and independent
of each other.
The Constitution has provided for an elaborate system of checks and balanc-
es to secure coordination in the workings of the various departments of the gov-
ernment. For example, the Chief Executive under our Constitution checks on the
legislative power in the enactment of laws. This, however, is subject to a further
check that a bill may become a law notwithstanding the refusal of the President to
approve it, by a vote of two-thirds or three-fourths, as the case may be, of the Na-
tional Assembly. The President has also the right to convene the Assembly in spe-
cial session whenever he chooses. On the other hand, the National Assembly oper-
ates as a check on the Executive in the sense that its consent through its Commis-
sion on Appointments is necessary in the appointments of certain officers; and the
concurrence of a majority of all its members is essential to the conclusion of trea-
ties. Furthermore, in its power to determine what courts, other than the Supreme

G.R. No. L-45081, July 15, 1936.
Court shall be established, to define their jurisdiction and to appropriate funds for
their support, the National Assembly controls the judicial department to a certain
extent. The Assembly also exercises the judicial power of trying impeachments.
And the judiciary in turn, with the Supreme Court as the final arbiter, effectively
checks the other departments in the exercise of its power to determine the law, and
hence to declare executive and legislative acts void if violative of the Constitu-
It need not be emphasized that in our judicial hierarchy, this Court reigns
All courts, tribunals and administrative bodies exercising quasi-judicial
functions are obliged to conform to its pronouncements.
The Supreme Court, by
tradition and in our system of judicial administration, has the last word on what the
law is; it is the final arbiter of any justifiable controversy. There is only one Su-
preme Court from whose decisions all other courts should take their bearings.

Section 1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution states that [j]udicial power
includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving
rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether
or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of ju-
risdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentalities of the Government.
In the recent case of Belgica v. Ochoa,
it was held that [j]urisprudence
provides that an actual case or controversy is one whichinvolves a conflict of le-
gal rights, an assertion of opposite legal claims, susceptible of judicial resolution as
distinguished from a hypothetical or abstract difference or dispute. In other words,
[t]here must be a contrariety of legal rights that can be interpreted and en-
forced on the basis of existing law and jurisprudence. Related to the require-
ment of an actual case or controversy is the requirement of ripeness, meaning
that the questions raised for constitutional scrutiny are already ripe for adjudica-
tion. A question is ripe for adjudication when the act being challenged has had a
direct adverse effect on the individual challenging it. It is a prerequisite that some-
thing had then been accomplished or performed by either branch before a court
may come into the picture, and the petitioner must allege the existence of an im-
mediate or threatened injury to itself as a result of the challenged action.
In Francisco, Jr. v.Nagmamalasakit na mga Manananggol ng mga Mangga-
gawang Pilipino, Inc.,
we ruled that the power of judicial review in this jurisdic-
tion includes the power of review over justiciable issues in impeachment proceed-
After a close scrutiny of the records presented to us, the question needed to
be answered is that whether or not there is a justiciable issue presented which we
answer in the affirmative.

Lambino v. COMELEC, G.R. Nos. 174153 and 174299, October 25, 2006. Justice Sandoval-Gutierrez, concurring.
Development Bank of the Philippines v. NLRC, March 1, 1995, 242 SCRA 59; Albert v. Court of First Instance
of Manila (Branch VI), L-26364, May 29, 1968, 23 SCRA 948.
Albert v. Court of First Instance of Manila (Branch VI), supra.
G.R. No. 208493, November 19, 2013, 710 SCRA 1.
G.R. Nos. 160261, November 10, 2003, 415 SCRA 44.
The controversy arose from the fact that the impeachment complaint filed
against Vice-President Jejomar Binay was based on his alleged corrupt acts dur-
ing his tenure as Mayor of Makati City. Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution
provides that x x x [t]he President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Consti-
tutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office, on im-
peachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, trea-
son, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public
trust. x x x.
It is clear from the Constitutional provision that it did not matter if the of-
fense committed by an impeachable officer was during his tenure as such. When
the black text of the law is clear, we will apply its plain meaning. It is also a well
settled rule in statutory and constitutional construction that if the law, or in this
case the fundamental law, does not distinguish, the courts must not distinguish. Ubi
lex non distinguit nec nos distinguere debemos. Moreover, if we adopt the conten-
tion of Vice-President Binay that the offense must be committed during his tenure
of office as an impeachable officer in order for him to be removed from office via
impeachment as provided for in the Constitution, we will create a dangerous prec-
edent. It is for the reason that, it will encourage all the Government officers to
commit those offenses, which are grounds for impeachment, during their tenure as
a non-impeachable officer and leave them unknown until they become an im-
peachable officer. By then, they are immune from suits and impeachment com-
plaints. Furthermore, it will result in judicial legislation, not of a statute, but of the
fundamental law itself.
It is also raised by the Vice-President that the alleged graft and corruption,
betrayal of public trust and other high crimes were committed during his tenure as
a Mayor and for that reason, the issue is now moot and academic and cannot be
considered as a justiciable controversy. In this regard, however, we rule in the neg-
Even on the assumption of mootness, jurisprudence nevertheless dictates
that the moot and academic principle is not a magical formula that can auto-
matically dissuade the Court in resolving a case. The Court will decide cases, oth-
erwise moot, if: first, there is a grave violation of the Constitution; second, the ex-
ceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest is involved;
third, when the constitutional issue raised requires formulation of controlling prin-
ciples to guide the bench, the bar, and the public; and fourth, the case is capable of
repetition yet evading review.

The applicability of the first exception is clear from the culled facts. It is
essentially alleged grave violations of the principles of separation of powers,
checks and balances and especially accountability of public officers.
The applicability of the second exception is apparent from the issue pre-
sented, from the nature of the proceedings and the effect of this pronouncement to
the Constitution we swore to upheld. The paramount public interest involved and
the exceptional character of the situation calls for this Court to pass upon the con-

Belgica v. Ochoa, supra.
stitutional issue herein presented. The exceptional character of the situation is of
paramount importance on which this is the first time that the court is called to de-
fine and interpret the very constitutional provision itself.
The third exception is very relevant because the issues presented is of the
very first impression on which the court is called to interpret, resolve and the prac-
tical need for the interpretation of the Constitution which will be the basis and con-
trolling principle to guide the bench, the bar, and the public we serve and protect.
Finally, the fourth exception is of nonetheless applicable since the ques-
tions raised is capable of repetition, although not for the very near future, but can
be used by an erring officer to hide himself and use the Constitution as a shield for
his acts.
The petitioner wants Us to enjoin the impeachment court from proceeding
with the trial on the ground that the legal issue was based on the acts of Vice-
President Binay committed during his tenure as Mayor, which is a non-
impeachable officer, and not during his tenure as Vice-President, an impeachable
position, thus, not subject to impeachment.
Impeachment refers to the power of Congress to remove a public official for
serious crimes or misconduct as provided in the Constitution.
The precise role of
the judiciary in impeachment cases is a matter of utmost importance to ensure the
effective functioning of the separate branches while preserving the structure of
checks and balance in our government.
Moreover, in this jurisdiction, the acts of
any branch or instrumentality of the government, including those traditionally en-
trusted to the political departments, are proper subjects of judicial review if tainted
with grave abuse or arbitrariness.

We have already answered in the affirmative the query on whether the acts
of Vice-President Binay when he was still a Mayor may be used against him as a
ground for impeachment. Thus, it is not necessary anymore for the Court to enjoin
the impeachment court since its members did not gravely abuse their discretion or
acted with arbitrariness in entertaining and proceeding with the impeachment pro-
ceedings against the Vice-President. If the acts of any branch or instrumentalities
of the government are not tainted with grave abuse of discretion or arbitrariness,
the courts will not look into it.
Moreover, questions regarding the impeachment proceedings, if not tainted
with arbitrariness and grave abuse of discretion, are political questions. It is well-
settled doctrine that political questions are not within the province of the judiciary,
except to the extent that power to deal with such questions has been conferred up-
on the courts by express constitutional or statutory provisions. x x x The term po-
litical question connotes, in legal parlance, what it means in ordinary parlance,
namely, a question of policy. x x x [I]t refers to those questions which, under the

Corona v. Senate, G.R. No. 200242, July 17, 2012.
Constitution, are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in re-
gard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the Legislature or
executive branch of the Government. It is concerned with issues dependent upon
the wisdom, not legality, of a particular measure.

Thus, the issue does not fall within the jurisdiction of this Court. To enjoin
the impeachment court from proceeding with the trial would violate the principle
of separation of powers.
The principle of separation of powers was again invoked in the celebrated case of
Belgica v. Ochoa,
to wit:
The principle of separation of powers refers to the constitutional demarcation of
the three fundamental powers of government. In the celebrated words of Justice
Laurel in Angara v. Electoral Commission, it means that the Constitution has
blocked out with deft strokes and in bold lines, allotment of power to the execu-
tive, the legislative and the judicial departments of the government. To the legisla-
tive branch of government, through Congress, belongs the power to make laws; to
the executive branch of government, through the President, belongs the power to
enforce laws; and to the judicial branch of government, through the Court, be-
longs the power to interpret laws. Because the three great powers have been, by
constitutional design, ordained in this respect, [e]ach department of the gov-
ernment has exclusive cognizance of matters within its jurisdiction, and is su-
preme within its own sphere. Thus, the legislature has no authority to execute
or construe the law, the executive has no authority to make or construe the law,
and the judiciary has no power to make or execute the law. The principle of sepa-
ration of powers and its concepts of autonomy and independence stem from the
notion that the powers of government must be divided to avoid concentration of
these powers in any one branch; the division, it is hoped, would avoid any single
branch from lording its power over the other branches or the citizenry. To achieve
this purpose, the divided power must be wielded by co-equal branches of gov-
ernment that are equally capable of independent action in exercising their respec-
tive mandates. Lack of independence would result in the inability of one branch of
government to check the arbitrary or self-interest assertions of another or others.
Broadly speaking, there is a violation of the separation of powers principle
when one branch of government unduly encroaches on the domain of another. US
Supreme Court decisions instruct that the principle of separation of powers may
be violated in two (2) ways: firstly, [o]ne branch may interfere impermissi-
bly with the others performance of its constitutionally assigned function and
[a]lternatively, the doctrine may be violated when one branch assumes a
function that more properly is entrusted to another. In other words, there is a
violation of the principle when there is impermissible (a) interference with
and/or (b) assumption of another departments functions. (Citations omitted)
Clearly, from the foregoing, if the Court enjoins the Senate from proceeding
with the impeachment trial, the Judiciary would interfere with the constitutionally
assigned functions vested by the Constitution to the prerogative of the Legisla-
ture, thus, the Court assumes another departments function in violation of the
principle of separation of powers.

Taada v. Cuenco, G.R. No. L-10520, February 28, 1957.
WHEREFORE, the present petition for certiorari and prohibition with
prayer for injunctive relief/s is DENIED for lack of merit being a political ques-
No pronouncement as to cost.