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February 15, 2011

G.R. No. 193459

MA. MERCEDITAS N. GUTIERREZ PETITIONER, VS. THE HOUSE


OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE, RISA
HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL, DANILO D. LIM, FELIPE PESTAO,
EVELYN PESTAO, RENATO M. REYES, JR., SECRETARY
GENERAL OF BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN (BAYAN);
MOTHER MARY JOHN MANANZAN, CO-CHAIRPERSON OF
PAGBABAGO; DANILO RAMOS, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF
KILUSANG MAGBUBUKID NG PILIPINAS (KMP); ATTY. EDRE
OLALIA, ACTING SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE NATIONAL
UNION OF PEOPLE'S LAWYERS (NUPL); FERDINAND R. GAITE,
CHAIRPERSON, CONFEDERATION FOR UNITY, RECOGNITION
AND ADVANCEMENT OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
(COURAGE); AND JAMES TERRY RIDON OF THE LEAGUE OF
FILIPINO STUDENTS (LFS), RESPONDENTS.

FELICIANO BELMONTE, JR., RESPONDENT-INTERVENOR.

Ponente: Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales

STATEMENT OF FACTS:

Two separate impeachment complaints were filed against


petitioner on the grounds of betrayal of public trust and culpable
violation of the Constitution.

Before the 15th Congress opened its first session, private


respondents known as the Baraquel group filed an impeachment
complaint against petitioner, upon the endorsement of Party-List
Representatives Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello.

A day after the opening of the 15th Congress, the Secretary


General of the House of Representatives transmitted the
impeachment complaint to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.
who directed the Committee on Rules to include it in the Order of
Business.

Private respondents collectively known as the Reyes group filed


another impeachment complaint against petitioner with a resolution of
endorsement by Party-List Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares,
et al.

The Secretary General transmitted the Reyes groups complaint


to Speaker Belmonte who also directed the Committee on Rules to
include it in the Order of Business.
After hearing, public respondent, by Resolution, found the two
complaints, which both allege culpable violation of the Constitution
and betrayal of public trust, sufficient in substance.

Petitioner filed with this Court the present petition with


application for injunctive reliefs. The Court En Banc RESOLVED to
direct the issuance of a status quo ante order and to require
respondents to comment on the petition in 10 days.

Respondents raise the impropriety of the remedies of certiorari


and prohibition. They argue that public respondent was not
exercising any judicial, quasi-judicial or ministerial function in taking
cognizance of the two impeachment complaints as it was exercising a
political act that is discretionary in nature, and that its function is
inquisitorial that is akin to a preliminary investigation.

Petitioner invokes the Courts expanded certiorari jurisdiction,


using the special civil actions of certiorari and prohibition as
procedural vehicles.

PROCEEDINGS:

On July 22, 2010, the Baraquel group filed an impeachment


complaint against petitioner, upon the endorsement of Party-List
Representatives Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello.

On July 27, 2010, Atty. Marilyn Barua-Yap, Secretary General


of the House of Representatives, transmitted the impeachment
complaint to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. who, by
Memorandum of August 2, 2010, directed the Committee on Rules to
include it in the Order of Business.

On August 3, 2010, private respondents Renato Reyes, Jr.,


Mother Mary John Mananzan, Danilo Ramos, Edre Olalia, Ferdinand
Gaite and James Terry Ridon (Reyes group) filed another
impeachment complaint against petitioner with a resolution of
endorsement by Party-List Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares,
Teodoro Casio, Rafael Mariano, Luzviminda Ilagan, Antonio Tinio
and Emerenciana de Jesus.

On even date, the House of


Representatives provisionally adopted the Rules of Procedure in
Impeachment Proceedings of the 14th Congress. The Secretary
General transmitted the Reyes group's complaint to Speaker
Belmonte who, by Memorandum of August 9, 2010, also directed the
Committee on Rules to include it in the Order of Business.

On August 10, 2010, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, as


chairperson of the Committee on Rules, instructed Atty. Artemio
Adasa, Jr., Deputy Secretary General for Operations, through Atty.
Cesar Pareja, Executive Director of the Plenary Affairs Department,
to include the two complaints in the Order of Business, which was
complied with by their inclusion in the Order of Business for the
following day, August 11, 2010.

On August 11, 2010, during its plenary session, the House of


Representatives simultaneously referred both complaints to public
respondent.

On September 1, 2010, public respondent, by Resolution, found both


complaints sufficient in form, which complaints it considered to have
been referred to it at exactly the same time.

On September 2, 2010, the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment


Proceedings of the 15th Congress was published.

On September 6, 2010, petitioner tried to file a motion to reconsider


the September 1, 2010 Resolution of public respondent. Public
respondent refused to accept the motion, however, for prematurity;
instead, it advised petitioner to await the notice for her to file an
answer to the complaints, drawing petitioner to furnish copies of her
motion to each of the 55 members of public respondent.

On September 7, 2010, public respondent, issued a Resolution


finding the two complaints, which both allege culpable violation of the
Constitution and betrayal of public trust1, sufficient in substance.

1 As gathered from the pleadings, the two impeachment complaints are


summarized as follows:

First Complaint Second Complaint

A. Betrayal of Public Trust:

1. The dismal and unconscionable 1. gross inexcusable delay in


low conviction rate of the investigating and failure in
Ombudsman from 2008 onwards prosecuting those involved in the
anomalous Fertilizer Fund Scam
despite the COA & Senate findings
and the complaints filed against
them.

2. The failure to take prompt and 2. she did not prosecute Gen. Eliseo
immediate action against PGMA and de la Paz for violating BSP
FG with regard to the NBN-ZTE rules[12] that prohibit the taking out
Broadband project of the country of currency in excess
of US$10,000 without declaring the
same to the Phil. Customs, despite
his admission under oath before the
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee
Petitioner was also served a notice directing her to file an answer to
the complaints within 10 days.

On September 13, 2010, petitioner filed with this Court the


present petition with application for injunctive reliefs.

On September 14, 2010, the Court En Banc RESOLVED to


direct the issuance of a status quo ante order and to require
respondents to comment on the petition in 10 days.

On September 21, 2010, the Court, through a Resolution,


directed the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to file in 10 days its
Comment on the petition.

On September 27, 29 and 30, 2010, the Baraquel group which filed
the first complaint, the Reyes group which filed the second complaint,
and public respondent (through the OSG and private counsel) filed
their respective Comments.

Speaker Belmonte filed a Motion for Leave to Intervene dated

3. The delay in conducting and 3. gross inexcusable delay or


concluding an investigation on the inaction by acting in deliberate
death of Ensign Andrew Pestao disregard of the Court's findings and
aboard a Philippine Navy vessel directive in Information Technology
Foundation of the Philippines v.
Comelec

4. The decision upholding the


legality of the arrest and detention of
Rep. Hontiveros -Baraquel by the
PNP in March 2006.

5. The failure to conduct an


investigation regarding the P1M
dinner at Le Cirque Restaurant in
New York.

B. Culpable Violation of the Constitution:

6. The repeated delays and failure to 4. through her repeated failure and
take action on cases impressed with inexcusable delay in acting upon
public interest matters, she violated Sec. 12 and
Sec. 13, pars. 1-3 of Art. XI and Sec.
16 of Art. III of the Constitution
which mandates prompt action and
speedy disposition of cases

7. The refusal to grant ready access


to public records like SALNW
October 4, 2010 which the Court granted by Resolution of October 5,
2010.

Under an Advisory issued by the Court, oral arguments were


conducted on October 5 and 12, 2010, followed by petitioner's filing
of a Consolidated Reply of October 15, 2010 and the filing by the
parties of Memoranda within the given 15-day period.

ISSUES:

The issues in this case are:


a. Whether or not the case presents a justiciable controversy;

b. Whether or not the belated publication of the Rules of


Procedure of Impeachment Proceedings of the 15th Congress
denied due process to the Petitioner; and

c. Whether or not the simultaneous referral of the two complaints


violated the Constitution and the one-year bar rule.

RULINGS:

First Issue:
The Court invoked the doctrine in Francisco Jr. vs HOR, that,
judicial review is not only a power but a duty of the judiciary.
Francisco characterizes 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."

The 1987 Constitution, 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.

Second Issue:
The Court held the presumption of regular. It further averred
that the determination of sufficiency of form and the express grant of
rule-making power is vested in the House of Representatives.
The Impeachment Rules are clear as to the requirements and in
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.

The Constitution itself did not provide for a specific method of


promulgating the Rules.

Further, impeachment is primarily for the protection of the


people as a body politic, and not for the punishment of the offender.

Third Issue:
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.

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 period of one year. However, 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.

JUDICIAL CONTRIBUTION:

POLITICAL LAW

IMPEACHMENT; ONE-YEAR BAR RULE


The House cannot 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.

The Constitution clearly gives the House a wide discretion on


how to effectively promulgate its Impeachment Rules. It is not for the
Court to tell a co-equal branch of government on how to do so when
such prerogative is lodged exclusively with it.

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 the 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.
Impeachment is a highly politicized intramural that gives the House
ample leg room to operate, subject only to the constitutionally
imposed limits. 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.

FRANCISCO DOCTRINE
In Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives, the argument
that impeachment proceedings are beyond the reach of judicial
review was debunked in this wise:

The major difference between the judicial power of the


Philippine Supreme Court and that of the U.S. Supreme Court is that
while the power of judicial review is only impliedly granted to the U.S.
Supreme Court and is discretionary in nature, that granted to the
Philippine Supreme Court and lower courts, as expressly provided for
in the Constitution, is not just a power but also a duty, and it
was given an expanded definition to include the power to correct any
grave abuse of discretion on the part of any government branch or
instrumentality.

There are also glaring distinctions between the U.S.


Constitution and the Philippine Constitution with respect to the power
of the House of Representatives over impeachment proceedings.
While the U.S. Constitution bestows sole power of impeachment to
the House of Representatives without limitation, our Constitution,
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.
Francisco characterizes 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."

SEPARATE OPINIONS:

DISSENTING OPINION
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE ARTURO D. BRION

Justice Brion dissented from the majority decision that the


proceedings before the House of Representatives Committee on
Justice are constitutional. He believed that these proceedings were
undertaken without the benefit of duly published and fully effective
rules of impeachment and are, thus, fatally infirm for violation of the
petitioner's right to due process.
He further averred that there is a need to revisit the ruling
in Francisco v. House of Representatives2 as the Court did not apply
the proper consideration when it determined the back-end of the
initiation phase of the impeachment proceedings. The initiation
phase should start at the filing of the impeachment complaint and end
when the Justice Committee determines that the impeachment is
sufficient in form and substance.

In sum, Justice Brion declared that:

a. The House of Representatives properly referred the impeachment


complaints filed against the petitioner to the pursuant to the express
terms of Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution. Accordingly, the
referral is valid.

b. The proceedings were undertaken without the benefit of fully


effective rules on impeachment as required by Section 3(8), Article XI
of the Constitution, in relation to Article 2 of the Civil Code. These
proceedings violated the petitioner's right to due process and, hence,
are invalid.

c. In light of the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of


the Fifteenth Congress, promulgated on September 2, 2010 and
which became effective on September 17, 2010, no legal stumbling
block now exists to prevent the from taking cognizance of the referred
complaints and from undertaking its constitutional role under Section
3, Article XI of the Constitution.

d. The initiation phase of impeachment proceedings starts with the


filing of the verified impeachment complaint by any Member of the

2 460 Phil 830 (2003).


House of Representatives or by any citizen upon resolution of an
endorsement by any member of the House of Representatives. The
initiation phase ends when the Justice Committee determines and the
House of Representatives approves the sufficiency of the
impeachment complaint in form and substance.

e. The finding of the validity of the impeachment complaint in form


and substance completes the initiation phase of the impeachment
proceedings and bars the filing of another impeachment complaint for
a period of one year therefrom.

f. Any question posed by the filing of separate complaints by two


separate parties in the present case is a matter for the Justice
Committee and, ultimately, for the House of Representatives, to
resolve under the terms of the Constitution and its Rules on
Impeachment. In light of the invalidity of the proceedings of the
Justice Committee, there is no concrete action that this Court can act
upon; the matter, at this point, is not yet ripe for adjudication.

CONCURRING AND DISSENTING


ASSOCIATE JUSTICE MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Justice del Castillo contended that, notwithstanding


simultaneous referral, once the First Complaint was initiated, that is to
say, filed and referred to the Committee on Justice, no other
proceeding could be initiated against the petitioner. This protection
granted by the Constitution cannot be waved away merely by
reference to the "layers of protection for an impeachable officer" and
the likelihood that the number of complaints may be reduced during
hearings before the Committee on Justice. As such, the filing and
referral of the First Complaint against the petitioner precluded the
Committee on Justice from taking cognizance of the Second
Complaint.

However, though the Second Complaint is barred by Section 3(5) of


the Constitution, the House Committee on Justice should be allowed
to proceed with its hearing on the First Complaint.

There is conflict between the clamor for public accountability and


claims of judicial overreach vis--vis the demand that governmental
action be exercised only within Constitutional limits. Nonetheless, the
Court cannot veer away from its duty to "say what the law
is." Particularly, if one conceives of the law as both the reflection of
society's most cherished values as well as the means by which we,
as a nation, secure those values, then this Court can do no less than
ensure that any impeachment proceedings stand on unassailable
legal ground, lest the provisions of our fundamental law be used to
work an evil which may not be fully measured from where we stand.
SEPARATE CONCURRING AND DISSENTING
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE JOSE P. PEREZ

Justice Perez submits that the successive referrals of the


impeachment complaints are constitutionally prohibited.

He avers that the following acts by the respondents are


unacceptable:
1. invoking Francisco as guide;
2. proffering the position that the House Committee on Justice may
validly act on both the First and Second Complaints;
3. filing of the First Complaint as it did not bar the Second
Complaint because the mere filing of a verified complaint does
not mark the initiation of an impeachment proceeding; and
4. emphasis 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.

Justice Perez stressed that there was No Simultaneous Referral of


Two Complaints.

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 August 11, 2010 reveals that the two (2)
impeachment complaints were actually referred to the House
Committee on Justice one after the other.

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.

Justice Perez found 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.