EN BANC


MA. MERCEDITAS N. GUTIERREZ

Petitioner,

- versus -

THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE, RISA HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL, DANILO D.
LIM, FELIPE PESTAÑO, EVELYN PESTAÑO,
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.

G.R. No. 193459

Present:

CORONA, C.J.,

CARPIO,

CARPIO MORALES,

VELASCO, JR.,*

NACHURA,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

BRION,

PERALTA,

BERSAMIN,

DEL CASTILLO,

ABAD,

VILLARAMA, JR.,

PEREZ,

MENDOZA, and

SERENO, JJ.

Promulgated:

February 15, 2011

x---------------------------------------- x

D E C I S I O N

 

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

The Ombudsman, Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez (petitioner), challenges via petition for certiorari and prohibition the Resolutions of September 1 and 7, 2010 of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice (public respondent).

Before the 15th Congress opened its first session on July 26, 2010 (the fourth Monday of July, in accordance with Section 15, Article VI of the Constitution) or on July 22, 2010, private respondents Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo Lim, and spouses Felipe and Evelyn Pestaño (Baraquel group) filed an impeachment complaint[1] against petitioner, upon the endorsement of Party-List Representatives Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello.[2]

A day after the opening of the 15th Congress or 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.[3] who, by Memorandum of August 2, 2010, directed the Committee on Rules to include it in the Order of Business.[4]

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[5][6] On even date, the House of Representatives provisionally adopted the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 14th Congress.  By letter still of even date,[7] the Secretary General transmitted the Reyes group’s complaint to Speaker Belmonte who, by Memorandum of August 9, 2010,[8] also directed the Committee on Rules to include it in the Order of Business. against petitioner with a resolution of endorsement by Party-List Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares, Teodoro Casiño, Rafael Mariano, Luzviminda Ilagan, Antonio Tinio and Emerenciana de Jesus.

On August 10, 2010, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, as chairperson of the Committee on Rules,[9] 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,[10] which was complied with by their inclusion in the Order of Business for the following day, August 11, 2010.

On August 11, 2010 at 4:47 p.m., during its plenary session, the House of Representatives simultaneously referred both complaints to public respondent.[11]

After hearing, public respondent, by Resolution of September 1, 2010, found both complaints sufficient in form, which complaints it considered to have been referred to it at exactly the same time.

Meanwhile, the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 15th Congress was published on September 2, 2010.

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.

After hearing, public respondent, by Resolution of September 7, 2010, found the two complaints, which both allege culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust,[12] sufficient in substance.  The determination of the sufficiency of substance of the complaints by public respondent, which assumed hypothetically the truth of their allegations, hinged on the issue of whether valid judgment to impeach could be rendered thereon.  Petitioner was served also on September 7, 2010 a notice directing her to file an answer to the complaints within 10 days.[13]

Six days following her receipt of the notice to file answer or on September 13, 2010, petitioner filed with this Court the present petition with application for injunctive reliefs.  The following day or on September 14, 2010, the Court En Banc RESOLVED to direct the issuance of a status quo ante order[14] and to require respondents to comment on the petition in 10 days.  The Court subsequently, by Resolution of September 21, 2010, directed the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to file in 10 days its Comment on the petition

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 on September 27, 29 and 30, 2010.

Speaker Belmonte filed a Motion for Leave to Intervene dated October 4, 2010 which the Court granted by Resolution of October 5, 2010.

Under an Advisory[15] 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.

The petition is harangued by procedural objections which the Court shall first resolve.

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,[16] and that its function is inquisitorial that is akin to a preliminary investigation.[17]

These same arguments were raised in Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives.[18] 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.

Respondents are also of the view that 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."

But did not the people also express their will when they instituted the above-mentioned safeguards in the Constitution?  This shows that 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.

x x x x

There is indeed a plethora of cases in which this Court exercised the power of judicial review over congressional action.  Thus, in Santiago v. Guingona, Jr., this Court ruled that it is well within the power and jurisdiction of the Court to inquire whether the Senate or its officials committed a violation of the Constitution or grave abuse of discretion in the exercise of their functions and prerogatives.  In Tañada v. Angara, in seeking to nullify an act of the Philippine Senate on the ground that it contravened the Constitution, it held that the petition raises a justiciable controversy and that when an action of the legislative branch is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it becomes not only the right but in fact the duty of the judiciary to settle the dispute.  In Bondoc v. Pineda, this Court declared null and void a resolution of the House of Representatives withdrawing the nomination, and rescinding the election, of a congressman as a member of the House Electoral Tribunal for being violative of Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution.  In Coseteng v. Mitra, it held that the resolution of whether the House representation in the Commission on Appointments was based on proportional representation of the political parties as provided in Section 18, Article VI of the Constitution is subject to judicial review.  In Daza v. Singson, it held that the act of the House of Representatives in removing the petitioner from the Commission on Appointments is subject to judicial review.  In Tañada v. Cuenco, it held that although under the Constitution, the legislative power is vested exclusively in Congress, this does not detract from the power of the courts to pass upon the constitutionality of acts of Congress.  In Angara v. Electoral Commission, it ruled that confirmation by the National Assembly of the election of any member, irrespective of whether his election is contested, is not essential before such member-elect may discharge the duties and enjoy the privileges of a member of the National Assembly.

Finally, 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.[19] (citations omitted; italics in the original; underscoring supplied)


Francisco characterizes the power of judicial review as a duty which, as the expanded certiorari jurisdiction[20] 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.”[21]

In the present case, petitioner invokes the Court’s expanded certiorari jurisdiction, using the special civil actions of certiorari and prohibition as procedural vehicles.  The Court finds it well-within its power to determine whether public respondent committed a violation of the Constitution or gravely abused its discretion in the exercise of its functions and prerogatives that could translate as lack or excess of jurisdiction, which would require corrective measures from the Court.

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.[22]

Respondents do not seriously contest all the essential requisites for the exercise of judicial review, as they only assert that the 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[23] on September 13, 2010, it had not gone beyond the determination of the sufficiency of form and substance of the two complaints.

An aspect of the “case-or-controversy” requirement is the requisite
of ripeness.[24] The question of ripeness is especially relevant in light of the direct, adverse effect on an individual by the challenged conduct.[25] 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.

And so the Court proceeds to resolve the 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.

Due process of law

Petitioner alleges that public respondent’s chairperson, Representative Niel Tupas, Jr. (Rep. Tupas), is the subject of an investigation she is conducting, while his father, former Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas, Sr., had been charged by her with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act before the Sandiganbayan.  To petitioner, the actions taken by her office against Rep. Tupas and his father influenced the proceedings taken by public respondent in such a way that bias and vindictiveness played a big part in arriving at the finding of sufficiency of form and substance of the complaints against her.

The Court finds petitioner’s allegations of bias and vindictiveness bereft of merit, there being hardly any indication thereof.   Mere suspicion of partiality does not suffice.[26]

The act of the head of a collegial body cannot be considered as that of the entire body itself.   So GMCR, Inc. v. Bell Telecommunications Phils.[27] teaches:

First.  We hereby declare that the NTC is a collegial body requiring a majority vote out of the three members of the commission in order to validly decide a case or any incident therein.  Corollarily, the vote alone of the chairman of the commission, as in this case, the vote of Commissioner Kintanar, absent the required concurring vote coming from the rest of the membership of the commission to at least arrive at a majority decision, is not sufficient to legally render an NTC order, resolution or decision.

Simply put, Commissioner Kintanar is not the National Telecommunications Commission.  He alone does not speak and in behalf of the NTC.  The NTC acts through a three-man body x x x. [28]


In the present case, Rep. Tupas, public respondent informs, did not, in fact, vote and merely presided over the proceedings when it decided on the sufficiency of form and substance of the complaints.[29]

Even petitioner’s counsel conceded during the oral arguments that there are no grounds to compel the inhibition of Rep. Tupas.

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

Well, the Committee is headed by a gentleman who happened to be a respondent in the charges that the Ombudsman filed. In addition to that[,] his father was likewise a respondent in another case.  How can he be expected to act with impartiality, in fairness and in accordance with law under that matter, he is only human we grant him that benefit.

JUSTICE MORALES:

Is he a one-man committee?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

He is not a one-man committee, Your Honor, but he decides.

JUSTICE MORALES:

Do we presume good faith or we presume bad faith?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

We presume that he is acting in good faith, Your Honor, but then (interrupted)

JUSTICE MORALES:

So, that he was found liable for violation of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, does that mean that your client will be deprived of due process of law?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

No, what we are stating, Your Honor, is that expectation of a client goes with the Ombudsman, which goes with the element of due process is the lack of impartiality that may be expected of him.

JUSTICE MORALES:

But as you admitted the Committee is not a one-man committee?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

That is correct, Your Honor.

JUSTICE MORALES:

So, why do you say then that there is a lack of impartiality?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

Because if anything before anything goes (sic) he is the presiding officer of the committee as in this case there were objections relative to the existence of the implementing rules not heard, there was objection made by Congressman Golez to the effect that this may give rise to a constitutional crisis.

JUSTICE MORALES:

That called for a voluntary inhibition. Is there any law or rule you can cite which makes it mandatory for the chair of the committee to inhibit given that he had previously been found liable for violation of a law[?]

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

There is nothing, Your Honor.  In our jurisprudence which deals with the situation whereby with that background as the material or pertinent antecedent that there could be no violation of the right of the petitioner to due process.  What is the effect of notice, hearing if the judgment cannot come from an impartial adjudicator.[30] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)


Petitioner contends that the “indecent and precipitate haste” of public respondent in finding the two complaints sufficient in form and substance is a clear indication of bias, she pointing out that it only took public respondent five minutes to arrive thereat.

An abbreviated pace in the conduct of proceedings is not per se an indication of bias, however.  So Santos-Concio v. Department of Justice[31] holds:

Speed in the conduct of proceedings by a judicial or quasi-judicial officer cannot per se be instantly attributed to an injudicious performance of functions.  For one’s prompt dispatch may be another’s undue haste. The orderly administration of justice remains as the paramount and constant consideration, with particular regard of the circumstances peculiar to each case.

The presumption of regularity includes the public officer’s official actuations in all phases of work.  Consistent with such presumption, it was incumbent upon petitioners to present contradictory evidence other than a mere tallying of days or numerical calculation.  This, petitioners failed to discharge. The swift completion of the Investigating Panel’s initial task cannot be relegated as shoddy or shady without discounting the presumably regular performance of not just one but five state prosecutors.[32] (italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied)


Petitioner goes on to contend that her participation in the determination of sufficiency of form and substance was indispensable.  As mandated by the Impeachment Rules, however, and as, in fact, conceded by petitioner’s counsel, the participation of the impeachable officer starts with the filing of an answer.

JUSTICE MORALES:

Is it not that the Committee should first determine that there is sufficiency in form and substance before she is asked to file her answer (interrupted)

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

That is correct, Your Honor.

JUSTICE MORALES:

During which she can raise any defenses she can assail the regularity of the proceedings and related irregularities?

JUSTICE CUEVAS:

Yes.  We are in total conformity and in full accord with that statement, Your Honor, because it is only after a determination that the complaint is sufficient in form and substance that a complaint may be filed, Your Honor, without that but it may be asked, how is not your action premature, Your Honor, our answer is- no, because of the other violations involved and that is (interrupted).[33] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)


Rule III(A) of the Impeachment Rules of the 15th Congress reflects the impeachment procedure at the Committee-level, particularly Section 5[34] which denotes that petitioner’s initial participation in the impeachment proceedings – the opportunity to file an Answer – starts after the Committee on Justice finds the complaint sufficient in form and substance.  That the Committee refused to accept petitioner’s motion for reconsideration from its finding of sufficiency of form of the impeachment complaints is apposite, conformably with the Impeachment Rules.

Petitioner further claims that public respondent failed to ascertain the sufficiency of form and substance of the complaints on the basis of the standards set by the Constitution and its own Impeachment Rules.[35]

The claim fails.

The determination of sufficiency of form and substance of an impeachment complaint is an exponent of the express constitutional grant of rule-making powers of the House of Representatives which committed such determinative function to public respondent.  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 an impeachment complaint.  Prudential considerations behoove the Court to respect the compliance by the House of its duty to effectively carry out the constitutional purpose, absent any contravention of the minimum constitutional guidelines.

Contrary to petitioner’s position that the Impeachment Rules do not provide for 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,”[36] 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.”[37]

Notatu dignum is the fact that it is only in the Impeachment Rules where a determination of sufficiency of form and substance of an impeachment complaint is made necessary.  This requirement is not explicitly found in the organic law, as Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution basically merely requires a “hearing.”[38] In the discharge of its constitutional duty, the House deemed that a finding of sufficiency of form and substance in an impeachment complaint is vital “to effectively carry out” the impeachment process, hence, such additional requirement in the Impeachment Rules.

Petitioner urges the Court to look into the narration of facts constitutive of the offenses vis-à-vis her submissions disclaiming the allegations in the complaints.


This the Court cannot do.

Francisco instructs that this issue would “require the Court to make a determination of what constitutes an impeachable offense.  Such a determination is a purely political question which the Constitution has left to the sound discretion of the legislature.  Such an intent is clear from the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission.  x x x x Clearly, the issue calls upon this court to decide a non-justiciable political question which is beyond the scope of its judicial power[.]”[39] Worse, petitioner urges the Court to make a preliminary assessment of certain grounds raised, upon a hypothetical admission of the facts alleged in the complaints, which involve matters of defense.

In another vein, petitioner, pursuing her claim of denial of due process, questions the lack of or, more accurately, delay in the publication of the Impeachment Rules.

To recall, days after the 15th Congress opened on July 26, 2010 or on August 3, 2010, public respondent provisionally adopted the Impeachment Rules of the 14th Congress and thereafter published on September 2, 2010 its  Impeachment Rules, admittedly substantially identical with that of the 14th[40] Congress, in two newspapers of general circulation.

Citing Tañada v. Tuvera,[41] 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.”[42]

Differentiating Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations[43] which held that the Constitution categorically requires publication of the rules of procedure in legislative inquiries, public respondent explains that the Impeachment Rules is intended to merely enable Congress to effectively carry out the purpose of Section 3(8), Art. XI of Constitution.

Black’s Law Dictionary broadly defines promulgate as

To publish; to announce officially; to make public as important or obligatory.  The formal act of announcing a statute or rule of court.  An administrative order that is given to cause an agency law or regulation to become known or obligatory.[44] (emphasis supplied)


While “promulgation” would seem synonymous to “publication,” there is a statutory difference in their usage.

The Constitution notably uses the word “promulgate” 12 times.[45] A number of those instances involves the promulgation of various rules, reports and issuances emanating from Congress, this Court, the Office of the Ombudsman as well as other constitutional offices.

To appreciate the statutory difference in the usage of the terms “promulgate” and “publish,” the case of the Judiciary is in point.  In promulgating rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice and procedure in all courts, the Court has invariably required the publication of these rules for their effectivity.   As far as promulgation of judgments is concerned, however, promulgation means “the delivery of the decision to the clerk of court for filing and publication.”[46]

Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution contains a similar provision directing Congress to “promulgate its rules for the canvassing of the certificates” in the presidential and vice presidential elections.  Notably, when Congress approved its canvassing rules for the May 14, 2010 national elections on May 25, 2010,[47] it did not require the publication thereof for its effectivity.  Rather, Congress made the canvassing rules effective upon its adoption.

In the case of administrative agencies, “promulgation” and “publication” likewise take on different meanings as they are part of a multi-stage procedure in quasi-legislation.  As detailed in one case,[48] the publication of implementing rules occurs after their promulgation or adoption.

Promulgation must thus be used in the context in which it is generally understood—that is, to make known. Generalia verba sunt generaliter inteligencia.  What is generally spoken shall be generally understood.  Between the restricted sense and the general meaning of a word, the general must prevail unless it was clearly intended that the restricted sense was to be used.[49]

Since the Constitutional Commission did not restrict “promulgation” to “publication,” the former should be understood to have been used in its general sense.  It is within the discretion 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 co-equal branch of government how to promulgate when the Constitution itself has not prescribed a specific method of promulgationThe 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. Jurisprudence emphatically teaches that

x x x in the absence of constitutional or statutory guidelines or specific rules, this Court is devoid of any basis upon which to determine the legality of the acts of the Senate relative thereto.  On grounds of respect for the basic concept of separation of powers, courts may not intervene in the internal affairs of the legislature; it is not within the province of courts to direct Congress how to do its work.  In the words of Justice Florentino P. Feliciano, this Court is of the opinion that where no specific, operable norms and standards are shown to exist, then the legislature must be given a real and effective opportunity to fashion and promulgate as well as to implement them, before the courts may intervene.[50] (italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied; citations omitted)


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 Constitution’s directive, without any reliance on or reference to the 1986 case of Tañada v. Tuvera.[51] Tañada naturally could neither have interpreted a forthcoming 1987 Constitution nor had kept a tight rein on the Constitution’s intentions as expressed through the allowance of either a categorical term or a general sense of making known the issuances.

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 self-executing.  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.

As against constitutions of the past, modern constitutions have been generally drafted upon a different principle and have often become in effect extensive codes of laws intended to operate directly upon the people in a manner similar to that of statutory enactments, and the function of constitutional conventions has evolved into one more like that of a legislative body.  Hence, 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-executingIf 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.[53] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

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.  In other words, the provisional adoption of the previous Congress’ Impeachment Rules is within the power of the House to promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the avowed purpose.

Moreover, the rules on impeachment, as contemplated by the framers of the Constitution, merely aid or supplement the procedural aspects of impeachment.  Being procedural in nature, they may be given retroactive application to pending actions.  “It is axiomatic that the retroactive application of procedural laws does not violate any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected, nor is it constitutionally objectionable.  The reason for this is that, as a general rule, no vested right may attach to, nor arise from, procedural laws.”[54] In the present case, petitioner fails to allege any impairment of vested rights.

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.[55]

Even Neri concedes that the unpublished rules of legislative inquiries were not considered null and void in its entirety.  Rather,

x x x [o]nly those that result in violation of the rights of witnesses should be considered null and void, considering that the rationale for the publication is to protect the rights of witnesses as expressed in Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution.  Sans such violation, orders and proceedings are considered valid and effective.[56] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Petitioner in fact does not deny that she was fully apprised of the proper procedure.  She even availed of and invoked certain provisions[57] of the Impeachment Rules when she, on September 7, 2010, filed the motion for reconsideration and later filed the present petition.  The Court thus finds no violation of the due process clause.

The one-year bar rule

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.”

Petitioner reckons the start of the one-year bar from the filing of the first impeachment complaint against her on July 22, 2010 or four days before the opening on July 26, 2010 of the 15th Congress.  She posits that within one year from July 22, 2010, no second impeachment complaint may be accepted and referred to public respondent.

On the other hand, public respondent, respondent Reyes group and respondent-intervenor submit that the initiation starts with the filing of the impeachment complaint and ends with the referral to the Committee, following Francisco, but venture to alternatively proffer that the initiation ends somewhere between the conclusion of the Committee Report and the transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.  Respondent Baraquel group, meanwhile, essentially maintains that under either the prevailing doctrine or the parties’ interpretation, its impeachment complaint could withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Contrary to petitioner’s asseveration, Francisco[58] states that the term “initiate” means to file the complaint and take initial action on it.[59] 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.

Petitioner misreads the remark of Commissioner Joaquin Bernas, S.J. that “no second verified impeachment may be accepted and referred to the Committee on Justice for action”[60] which contemplates a situation where a first impeachment complaint had already been referred.  Bernas and Regalado, who both acted as amici curiae in Francisco, affirmed that the act of initiating includes the act of taking initial action on the complaint.

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.

Having concluded that the initiation takes place by the act of filing and referral or endorsement of the impeachment complaint to the House Committee on Justice or, by the filing by at least one-third[61] of the members of the House of Representatives with the Secretary General of the House, the meaning of Section 3 (5) of Article XI becomes clear. Once an impeachment complaint has been initiated, another impeachment complaint may not be filed against the same official within a one year period.[62] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)


The Court, in Francisco, thus found that the assailed provisions of the 12th Congress’ Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings ? Sections 16[63] and 17[64] of Rule V thereof ? “clearly contravene Section 3(5) of Article XI since they g[a]ve the term ‘initiate’ a meaning different from filing and referral.”[65]


Petitioner highlights certain portions of Francisco which delve on the relevant records of the Constitutional Commission, particularly Commissioner Maambong’s statements[66] that the initiation starts with the filing of the complaint.

Petitioner fails to consider the verb “starts” as the operative word.  Commissioner Maambong was all too keen to stress that the filing of the complaint indeed starts the initiation and that the House’s action on the committee report/resolution is not part of that initiation phase.

Commissioner Maambong saw the need “to be very technical about this,”[67] for certain exchanges in the Constitutional Commission deliberations loosely used the term, as shown in the following exchanges.

MR. DAVIDE. That is for conviction, but not for initiation.  Initiation of impeachment proceedings still requires a vote of one-fifth of the membership of the House under the 1935 Constitution.

MR. MONSOD.  A two-thirds vote of the membership of the House is required to initiate proceedings.

MR. DAVIDE.  No. for initiation of impeachment proceedings, only one-fifth vote of the membership of the House is required; for conviction, a two-thirds vote of the membership is required.

x x x x

MR. DAVIDE.  However, if we allow one-fifth of the membership of the legislature to overturn a report of the committee, we have here Section 3 (4) which reads:

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

So, necessarily, under this particular subsection, we will, in effect, disallow one-fifth of the members of the National Assembly to revive an impeachment move by an individual or an ordinary Member.

MR. ROMULO.  Yes. May I say that Section 3 (4) is there to look towards the possibility of a very liberal impeachment proceeding.  Second, we were ourselves struggling with that problem where we are faced with just a verified complaint rather than the signatures of one-fifth, or whatever it is we decide, of the Members of the House.  So whether to put a period for the Committee to report, whether we should not allow the Committee to overrule a mere verified complaint, are some of the questions we would like to be discussed.

MR. DAVIDE.  We can probably overrule a rejection by the Committee by providing that it can be overturned by, say, one-half or a majority, or one-fifth of the members of the legislature, and that such overturning will not amount to a refiling which is prohibited under Section 3 (4).

Another point, Madam President. x x x[68] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

An apparent effort to clarify the term “initiate” was made by Commissioner Teodulo Natividad:

MR. NATIVIDAD.  How many votes are needed to initiate?

MR. BENGZON.  One-third.

MR. NATIVIDAD.  To initiate is different from to impeach; to impeach is different from to convict.  To impeach means to file the case before the Senate.

MR. REGALADO.  When we speak of “initiative,” we refer here to the Articles of Impeachment.

MR. NATIVIDAD.  So, that is the impeachment itself, because when we impeach, we are charging him with the Articles of Impeachment.  That is my understanding.[69] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Capping these above-quoted discussions was the explanation of Commissioner Maambong delivered on at least two occasions:

[I]

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 the 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.

Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.[70] (italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied)

[II]

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 with 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 its 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 complaint 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.[71] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

To the next logical question of what ends or completes the initiation, Commissioners Bernas and Regalado lucidly explained that the filing of the complaint must be accompanied by the referral to the Committee on Justice, which is the action that sets the complaint moving.  Francisco cannot be any clearer in pointing out the material dates.

Having concluded that the initiation takes place by the act of filing of the impeachment complaint and referral to the House Committee on Justice, the initial action taken thereon, the meaning of Section 3 (5) of Article XI becomes clear. Once an impeachment complaint has been initiated in the foregoing manner, another may not be filed against the same official within a one year period following Article XI, Section 3(5) of the Constitution.

In fine, considering that the first impeachment complaint was filed by former President Estrada against Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., along with seven associate justices of this Court, on June 2, 2003 and referred to the House Committee on Justice on August 5, 2003, the second impeachment complaint filed by Representatives Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. and Felix William Fuentebella against the Chief Justice on October 23, 2003 violates the constitutional prohibition against the initiation of impeachment proceedings against the same impeachable officer within a one-year period.[72] (emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied)


These clear pronouncements notwithstanding, petitioner posits that the date of referral was considered irrelevant in Francisco.  She submits that referral could not be the reckoning point of initiation because “something prior to that had already been done,”[73] apparently citing Bernas’ discussion.

The Court cannot countenance any attempt at obscurantism.

What the cited discussion was rejecting was the view that the House’s action on the committee report initiates the impeachment proceedings.  It did not state that to determine the initiating step, absolutely nothing prior to it must be done.  Following petitioner’s line of reasoning, the verification of the complaint or the endorsement by a member of the House – steps done prior to the filing – would already initiate the impeachment proceedings.

Contrary to petitioner’s emphasis on impeachment complaint, what the Constitution mentions is impeachment “proceedings. Her reliance on the singular tense of the word “complaint”[74] to denote the limit prescribed by the Constitution goes against the basic rule of statutory construction that a word covers its enlarged and plural sense.[75]

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 timeWhat is important is that there should only be ONE CANDLE that is kindled in a year, such that once the candle starts burning, subsequent matchsticks can no longer rekindle the candle.

A restrictive interpretation renders the impeachment mechanism both illusive and illusory.

For one, it puts premium on senseless haste.  Petitioner’s stance suggests that whoever files the first impeachment complaint exclusively gets the attention of Congress which sets in motion an exceptional once-a-year mechanism wherein government resources are devoted.  A prospective complainant, regardless of ill motives or best intentions, can wittingly or unwittingly desecrate the entire process by the expediency of submitting a haphazard complaint out of sheer hope to be the first in line.  It also puts to naught the effort of other prospective complainants who, after diligently gathering evidence first to buttress the case, would be barred days or even hours later from filing an impeachment complaint.

Placing an exceedingly narrow gateway to the avenue of impeachment proceedings turns its laudable purpose into a laughable matter.  One needs only to be an early bird even without seriously intending to catch the worm, when the process is precisely intended to effectively weed out “worms” in high offices which could otherwise be ably caught by other prompt birds within the ultra-limited season.

Moreover, the first-to-file scheme places undue strain on the part of the actual complainants, injured party or principal witnesses who, by mere happenstance of an almost always unforeseeable filing of a first impeachment complaint, would be brushed aside and restricted from directly participating in the impeachment process.

Further, prospective complainants, along with their counsel and members of the House of Representatives who sign, endorse and file subsequent impeachment complaints against the same impeachable officer run the risk of violating the Constitution since they would have already initiated a second impeachment proceeding within the same year.  Virtually anybody can initiate a second or third impeachment proceeding by the mere filing of endorsed impeachment complaints.  Without any public notice that could charge them with knowledge, even members of the House of Representatives could not readily ascertain whether no other impeachment complaint has been filed at the time of committing their endorsement.

The question as to who should administer or pronounce that an impeachment proceeding has been initiated rests also on the body that administers the proceedings prior to the impeachment trial.  As gathered from Commissioner Bernas’ disquisition[76] in Francisco, a proceeding which “takes place not in the Senate but in the House”[77] precedes the bringing of an impeachment case to the Senate.  In fact, petitioner concedes that the initiation of impeachment proceedings is within the sole and absolute control of the House of Representatives.[78] Conscious of the legal import of each step, the House, in taking charge of its own proceedings, must deliberately decide to initiate an impeachment proceeding, subject to the time frame and other limitations imposed by the Constitution.  This chamber of Congress alone, not its officers or members or any private individual, should own up to its processes.

The Constitution did not place the power of the “final say” on the lips of the House Secretary General who would otherwise be calling the shots in forwarding or freezing any impeachment complaint.  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.

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.[79] 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.[80] 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.

As mentioned, one limitation imposed on the House in initiating an impeachment proceeding deals with deadlines.  The Constitution states that “[a] verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution or endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter.”

In the present case, petitioner failed to establish grave abuse of discretion on the allegedly “belated” referral of the first impeachment complaint filed by the Baraquel group.  For while the said complaint was filed on July 22, 2010, there was yet then no session in Congress.  It was only four days later or on July 26, 2010 that the 15th Congress opened from which date the 10-day session period started to run.  When, by Memorandum of August 2, 2010, Speaker Belmonte directed the Committee on Rules to include the complaint in its Order of Business, it was well within the said 10-day session period.[81]

There is no evident point in rushing at closing the door the moment an impeachment complaint is filed.  Depriving the people (recall that impeachment is primarily for the protection of the people as a body politic) of reasonable access to the limited political vent simply prolongs the agony and frustrates the collective rage of an entire citizenry whose trust has been betrayed by an impeachable officer.  It shortchanges the promise of reasonable opportunity to remove an impeachable officer through the mechanism enshrined in the Constitution.

But neither does the Court find merit in respondents’ alternative contention that the initiation of the impeachment proceedings, which sets into motion the one-year bar, should include or await, at the earliest, the Committee on Justice report.  To public respondent, the reckoning point of initiation should refer to the disposition of the complaint by the vote of at least one-third (1/3) of all the members of the House.[82] To the Reyes group, initiation means the act of transmitting the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.[83] To respondent-intervenor, it should last until the Committee on Justice’s recommendation to the House plenary.[84]

The Court, in Francisco, rejected a parallel thesis in which a related proposition was inputed in the therein assailed provisions of the Impeachment Rules of the 12th Congress.  The present case involving an impeachment proceeding against the Ombudsman offers no cogent reason for the Court to deviate from what was settled in Francisco that dealt with the impeachment proceeding against the then Chief Justice.  To change the reckoning point of initiation on no other basis but to accommodate the socio-political considerations of respondents does not sit well in a court of law.


x x x We ought to be guided by the doctrine of stare decisis et non quieta movere.  This doctrine, which is really "adherence to precedents," mandates that once a case has been decided one way, then another case involving exactly the same point at issue should be decided in the same manner.  This doctrine is one of policy grounded on the necessity for securing certainty and stability of judicial decisions.  As the renowned jurist Benjamin Cardozo stated in his treatise The Nature of the Judicial Process:

It will not do to decide the same question one way between one set of litigants and the opposite way between another.  "If a group of cases involves the same point, the parties expect the same decision.  It would be a gross injustice to decide alternate cases on opposite principles.  If a case was decided against me yesterday when I was a defendant, I shall look for the same judgment today if I am plaintiff.  To decide differently would raise a feeling of resentment and wrong in my breast; it would be an infringement, material and moral, of my rights."  Adherence to precedent must then be the rule rather than the exception if litigants are to have faith in the even-handed administration of justice in the courts.[85]

As pointed out in Francisco, the impeachment proceeding is not 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.”[86]

Allowing an expansive construction of the term “initiate” beyond the act of referral allows the unmitigated influx of successive complaints, each having their own respective 60-session-day period of disposition from referral.  Worse, the Committee shall conduct overlapping hearings until and unless the disposition of one of the complaints ends with the affirmance of a resolution for impeachment or the overriding[87] of a contrary resolution (as espoused by public respondent), or the House transmits the Articles of Impeachment (as advocated by the Reyes group),[88] or the Committee on Justice concludes its first report to the House plenary regardless of the recommendation (as posited by respondent-intervenor).  Each of these scenarios runs roughshod the very purpose behind the constitutionally imposed one-year bar.  Opening the floodgates too loosely would disrupt the series of steps operating in unison under one proceeding.

The Court does not lose sight of the salutary reason of confining only one impeachment proceeding in a year.  Petitioner concededly cites Justice Adolfo Azcuna’s separate opinion that concurred with the Francisco ruling.[89] Justice Azcuna stated that the purpose of the one-year bar is two-fold: “to prevent undue or too frequent harassment; and 2) to allow the legislature to do its principal task [of] legislation,” with main reference to the records of the Constitutional Commission, that reads:

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.[90] (underscoring supplied)


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.

Petitioner complains that an impeachable officer may be subjected to harassment by the filing of multiple impeachment complaints during the intervening period of a maximum of 13 session days between the date of the filing of the first impeachment complaint to the date of referral.

As pointed out during the oral arguments[91] by the counsel for respondent-intervenor, the framework of privilege and layers of protection for an impeachable officer abound.  The requirements or restrictions of a one-year bar, a single proceeding, verification of complaint, endorsement by a House member, and a finding of sufficiency of form and substance – all these must be met before bothering a respondent to answer – already weigh heavily in favor of an impeachable officer.

Aside from the probability of an early referral and the improbability of inclusion in the agenda of a complaint filed on the 11th hour (owing to pre-agenda standard operating procedure), the number of complaints may still be filtered or reduced to nil after the Committee decides once and for all on the sufficiency of form and substance.  Besides, if only to douse petitioner’s fear, a complaint will not last the primary stage if it does not have the stated preliminary requisites.

To petitioner, disturbance of her performance of official duties and the deleterious effects of bad publicity are enough oppression.

Petitioner’s claim is based on the premise that the exertion of time, energy and other resources runs directly proportional to the number of complaints filed.  This is non sequitur.  What the Constitution assures an impeachable officer is not freedom from arduous effort to defend oneself, which depends on the qualitative assessment of the charges and evidence and not on the quantitative aspect of complaints or offenses.  In considering the side of the impeachable officers, the Constitution does not promise an absolutely smooth ride for them, especially if the charges entail genuine and grave issues.  The framers of the Constitution did not concern themselves with the media tolerance level or internal disposition of an impeachable officer when they deliberated on the impairment of performance of official functions.  The measure of protection afforded by the Constitution is that if the impeachable officer is made to undergo such ride, he or she should be made to traverse it just once.  Similarly, if Congress is called upon to operate itself as a vehicle, it should do so just once.  There is no repeat ride for one full year.  This is the whole import of the constitutional safeguard of one-year bar rule.

Applicability of the Rules

on Criminal Procedure

On another plane, petitioner posits that public respondent gravely abused its discretion when it disregarded its own Impeachment Rules, the same rules she earlier chastised.

In the exercise of the power to promulgate rules “to effectively carry out” the provisions of Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution, the House promulgated the Impeachment Rules, Section 16 of which provides that “the Rules of Criminal Procedure under the Rules of Court shall, as far as practicable, apply to impeachment proceedings before the House.”

Finding that the Constitution, by express grant, permits the application of additional adjective rules that Congress may consider in effectively carrying out its mandate, petitioner either asserts or rejects two procedural devices.

First is on the “one offense, one complaint” rule. By way of reference to Section 16 of the Impeachment Rules, petitioner invokes the application of Section 13, Rule 110 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure which states that “[a] complaint or information must charge only one offense, except when the law prescribes a single punishment for various offenses.”  To petitioner, the two impeachment complaints are insufficient in form and substance since each  charges her with both culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.  She concludes that public respondent gravely abused its discretion when it disregarded its own rules.

Petitioner adds that heaping two or more charges in one complaint will confuse her in preparing her defense; expose her to the grave dangers of the highly political nature of the impeachment process; constitute a whimsical disregard of certain rules; impair her performance of official functions as well as that of the House; and prevent public respondent from completing its report within the deadline.

Public respondent counters that there is no requirement in the Constitution that an impeachment complaint must charge only one offense, and the nature of impeachable offenses precludes the application of the above-said Rule on Criminal Procedure since the broad terms cannot be defined with the same precision required in defining crimes.  It adds that the determination of the grounds for impeachment is an exercise of political judgment, which issue respondent-intervenor also considers as non-justiciable, and to which the Baraquel group adds that impeachment is a political process and not a criminal prosecution, during which criminal prosecution stage the complaint or information referred thereto and cited by petitioner, unlike an impeachment complaint, must already be in the name of the People of the Philippines.

The Baraquel group deems that there are provisions[92] outside the Rules on Criminal Procedure that are more relevant to the issue.  Both the Baraquel and Reyes groups point out that even if Sec. 13 of Rule 110 is made to apply, petitioner’s case falls under the exception since impeachment prescribes a single punishment – removal from office and disqualification to hold any public office – even for various offenses.  Both groups also observe that petitioner concededly and admittedly was not keen on pursuing this issue during the oral arguments.

Petitioner’s claim deserves scant consideration.

Without going into the effectiveness of the suppletory application of the Rules on Criminal Procedure in carrying out the relevant constitutional provisions, which prerogative the Constitution vests on Congress, and without delving into the practicability of the application of the one offense per complaint rule, the initial determination of which must be made by the House[93] which has yet to pass upon the question, the Court finds that petitioner’s invocation of that particular rule of Criminal Procedure does not lie.  Suffice it to state that the Constitution allows the indictment for multiple impeachment offenses, with each charge representing an article of impeachment, assembled in one set known as the “Articles of Impeachment.”[94] It, therefore, follows that an impeachment complaint need not allege only one impeachable offense.

The second procedural matter deals with the rule on consolidation.  In rejecting a consolidation, petitioner maintains that the Constitution allows only one impeachment complaint against her within one year.

Records show that public respondent disavowed any immediate need to consolidate.  Its chairperson Rep. Tupas stated that “[c]onsolidation depends on the Committee whether to consolidate[; c]onsolidation may come today or may come later on after determination of the sufficiency in form and substance,” and that “for purposes of consolidation, the Committee will decide when is the time to consolidate[,  a]nd if, indeed, we need to consolidate.”[95] Petitioner’s petition, in fact, initially describes the consolidation as merely “contemplated.”[96]

Since public respondent, whether motu proprio or upon motion, did not yet order a consolidation, the Court will not venture to make a determination on this matter, as it would be premature, conjectural or anticipatory.[97]

Even if the Court assumes petitioner’s change of stance that the two impeachment complaints were deemed consolidated,[98] her claim that consolidation is a legal anomaly fails.  Petitioner’s theory obviously springs from her “proceeding = complaint” equation which the Court already brushed aside.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.  The assailed Resolutions of September 1, 2010 and September 7, 2010 of public respondent, the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, are NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL.  The Status Quo Ante Order issued by the Court on September 14, 2010 is LIFTED.

SO ORDERED.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

I join the dissent of Mr. Justice brion

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

See concurring opinion

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

(No Part)

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

See separate opinion

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

I join the dissent of Justice Brion

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

See: dissent

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

I certify that Mr. Justice Bersamin sent in his vote joining the dissenting opinion of Mr. J. Brion

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice

I join the dissent of J. Brion

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

(see separate concurring and dissenting opinion)

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice

See concurring opinion

ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice

See separate concurring and dissenting opinion

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

Associate Justice

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice

See concurring opinion

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO

Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I hereby certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice



* No part.

[1] Rollo, pp. 93-111.

[2] Id. at 91-92.

[3] Id. at 561.

[4] Id. at 562.

[5] Id. at 136-169.

[6] Id. at 133-135.

[7] Id. at 563.

[8] Id. at 564.

[9] Rules of the House of Representatives, Rule IX, Sec. 27, par. (ss).

[10] Rollo, p. 565.

[11] Journal of the House of Representatives (15th Congress), Journal No. 9, August 11, 2010 (rollo, p. 576).

[12] 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 low conviction rate of the Ombudsman from 2008 onwards

1.  gross inexcusable delay in investigating and failure in 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 immediate action against PGMA and FG with regard to the NBN-ZTE Broadband project

2.  she did not prosecute Gen. Eliseo de la Paz for violating BSP rules[12] that prohibit the taking out 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

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

3.   gross inexcusable delay or inaction by acting in deliberate disregard of the Court’s findings and 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 take action on cases impressed with public interest

4. through her repeated failure and inexcusable delay in acting upon 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

[13] Rollo, p. 261.

[14] Id. at 262-263. Justices Carpio, Carpio Morales, and Sereno dissented; Justices Nachura, Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, and Mendoza were on official business.

[15]Id. at 623-625.

[16] Reyes Group’s Memorandum, pp. 5-8 (rollo, pp. 1064-1067).

[17] The Committee’s Memorandum, pp. 22-25 (id. at  915-918).

[18] 460 Phil. 830 (2003).

[19] Id. at 889-892.

[20] Id. at 883, which reads: “To ensure the potency of the power of judicial review to curb grave abuse of discretion by ‘any branch or instrumentalities of government,’ the afore-quoted Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution engraves, for the first time into its history, into block letter law the so-called ‘expanded certiorari jurisdiction’ of this Court[.]”

[21] Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 1.

[22] Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil. 139, 158 (1936).

[23] The Committee’s Memorandum, p. 28 (rollo, p. 921).

[24] Lozano v. Nograles, G.R. No. 187883, June 16, 2009, 589 SCRA 356, 358.

[25] Guingona Jr. v. Court of Appeals, 354 Phil. 415, 427-428 (1998).

[26] Casimiro v. Tandog, 498 Phil. 660, 667 (2005).

[27] G.R. No. 126496, April 30, 1997, 271 SCRA 790.

[28] Id. at 804.

[29] The Committee’s Memorandum, p. 36 (rollo, p. 929).

[30] Transcript of Stenographic Notes (TSN), Oral Arguments, October 5, 2010, pp. 47-50.

[31] G. R. No. 175057, January 29, 2008, 543 SCRA 70.

[32] Id. at 89-90.

[33] TSN, Oral Arguments, October 5, 2010, pp. 54-55.

[34] Section 5. Notice to Respondents and Time to Plead.–  If the committee finds the complaint sufficient in form and substance, it shall immediately furnish the respondent(s) with a copy of the resolution and/or verified complaint, as the case may be, with written notice that he/she shall answer the complaint within ten (10) days from receipt of notice thereof and serve a copy of the answer to the complainant(s).  No motion to dismiss shall be allowed within the period to answer the complaint.

The answer, which shall be under oath, may include affirmative defenses. If the respondent fails or refuses to file an answer within the reglementary period, he/she is deemed to have interposed a general denial to the complaint. Within three (3) days from receipt of the answer, the complainant may file a reply, serving a copy thereof to the respondent who may file a rejoinder within three (3) days from receipt of the reply, serving a copy thereof to the complainant. If the complainant fails to file a reply, all the material allegations in the answer are deemed controverted. Together with their pleadings, the parties shall file their affidavits or counter-affidavits, as the case may be, with their documentary evidence. Such affidavits or counter-affidavits shall be subscribed before the Chairperson of the Committee on Justice or the Secretary General. Notwithstanding all the foregoing, failure presenting evidence in support of his/her defenses.

When there are more than one respondent, each shall be furnished with copy of the verified complaint from a Member of the House or a copy of the verified complaint from a private citizen together with the resolution of endorsement by a Member of the House of Representatives and a written notice to answer and in that case, reference to respondent in these Rules shall be understood as respondents. (underscoring supplied)

[35] Petitioner’s Memorandum, pp. 66-73 (rollo, pp. 829-836).

[36] Vide Constitution, Art. XI, Sec. 3 (2).

[37] Vide Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings, Rule III, Sec. 4.

[38] A verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter.  The Committee, after hearing, and by a majority vote of all its Members, shall submit its report to the House within sixty session days from such referral, together with the corresponding resolution.  The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within ten session days from receipt thereof. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

[39] Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives, supra at 913.

[40] Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star.

[41] 230 Phil. 528 (1986).

[42] The Committee’s Memorandum, p. 58 (rollo, p. 951).

[43] G.R. No. 180643, March 25, 2008, 549 SCRA 77; and September 4, 2008, 564 SCRA 152, 230, where the Court resolved: “The language of Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution requiring that the inquiry be conducted in accordance with the duly published rules of procedure is categorical. (emphasis in the original; underscoring supplied).

[44] Black’s Law Dictionary (6th ed.), p. 1214.

[45] The words “promulgate” and “promulgated” appear in the following sections: a)  Preamble; b) Section 2 of Article V; c) Section 4 of Article VII (twice); d) Section 18 of Article VII; e) Section 5 of Article VIII; f) Section 6 of Article IX-A; g) Section 3 of Article IX-C; h) Section 2 of Article IX-D; i) Section 3 (8) of Article XI; j) Section 13 (8) of Article XI; and k) Section 8 of Article XIV.

[46] Heritage Park Management Corp. v. CIAC, G.R. No. 148133, October 8, 2008, 568 SCRA 108, 120, citing Neria v. Commissioner on Immigration, 23 SCRA 806, 812.

[47] [Last visited November 22, 2010].

[48] National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reform v. Energy Regulatory Commission, G.R. No. 163935, February 2, 2006, 481 SCRA 480, 522.

[49] Marcos v. Chief of Staff, AFP, 89 Phil. 239 (1951).

[50] Sen. Defensor Santiago v. Sen. Guingona, Jr., 359 Phil. 276, 300 (1998).

[51] Supra note 41.

[52] II Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 372 (July 28, 1986).

[53] Manila Prince Hotel v. GSIS, 335 Phil. 82, 102 (1997).

[54] Cheng v. Sy, G.R. No. 174238, July 7, 2009, 592 SCRA 155, 164-165.

[55] De Leon And De Leon, Jr., The Law On Public Officers And Election Law (2003 ed.), p. 467, citing SINCO, Philippine Political Law, 11th ed. (1962), p. 374.

[56] Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, supra at 231.

[57] 1) Rule III, Section 4 thereof, on the finding of insufficiency in form, where petitioner prayed that the complaint be returned to the Secretary General within three session days with a written explanation of the insufficiency, who shall, in turn, return the same to the complainants together with the written explanation within three session days from receipt of the committee resolution.

2) Rule VII, Sec. 16 thereof, on the applicability of the rules of criminal procedure, where petitioner invokes the rule against duplicity of offense under Section 13, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court.

[58] 460 Phil. 830 (2003).

[59] Id. at 927.

[60] Francisco, supra at 932.

[61] In case of a direct filing by at least one-third (1/3) of all the members of the House of Representatives under paragraph (4), Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution, there occurs an abbreviated mode of initiation wherein the filing of the complaint and the taking of initial action are merged into a single act.

[62] Francisco, supra at 932-933.

[63] Section 16.  Impeachment Proceedings Deemed Initiated. ? In cases where a Member of the House files a verified complaint of impeachment or a citizen files a verified complaint that is endorsed by a Member of the House through a resolution of endorsement against an impeachable officer, impeachment proceedings against such official are deemed initiated on the day the Committee on Justice finds that the verified complaint and or resolution against such official, as the case may be, is sufficient in substance, or on the date the House votes to overturn or affirm the finding of the said Committee that the verified complaint and or resolution, as the case may be, is not sufficient in substance.

In cases where a verified complaint or a resolution of impeachment is filed or endorsed, as the case may be, by at least one-third (1/3) of the Members of the House, impeachment proceedings are deemed initiated at the time of the filing of such verified complaint or resolution of impeachment with the Secretary General. (emphasis, underscoring and italics supplied)

[64] Section 17. Bar Against Initiation of Impeachment Proceedings. ?Within a period of one (1) year from the date impeachment proceedings are deemed initiated as provided in Section 16 hereof, no impeachment proceedings, as such, can be initiated against the same official. (emphasis, underscoring and italics supplied)

[65] Francisco, supra at 933.

[66] Petitioner’s Memorandum, pp. 30-36 (rollo, pp. 793-799).

[67] II Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 376 (July 28, 1986).

[68] Id. at 279-280.

[69] Id. at 374-375.

[70] Id. at 375-376.

[71] Id. at 416.

[72] Francisco, supra at 940.

[73] Francisco, supra at 931.

[74] Section 3. x x x

(2)  A verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter.  The Committee, after hearing, and by a majority vote of all its Members, shall submit its report to the House within sixty session days from such referral, together with the corresponding resolution.  The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within ten session days from receipt thereof.

x x x x

[75] Vide Gatchalian, etc. v. COMELEC, 146 Phil. 435, 442-443 (1970).

[76] x x x 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. x x x (Francisco, supra at 930-931).

[77] Francisco, supra at 931.

[78] Petitioner’s Memorandum, p. 55 (rollo, p. 818).

[79] Rules of the House of Representatives, Rule XIII, Sec. 96.

[80] (visited: November 12, 2010), which further explains:

“The Object of the motion to refer to a standing or special committee is usually to enable a question to be more carefully investigated and put into better shape for the assembly to consider, than can be done in the assembly itself.  Where an assembly is large and has a very large amount of business it is safer to have every main question go to a committee before final action on it is taken.” (underscoring supplied).

[81] Vide Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings, Rule II, Sec. 2.  Note also that Section 3 (2), Article XI of the Constitution did not use the terms “calendar days” or “working days.”

[82] Respondent Committee’s Memorandum, p. 78 (rollo, p. 971).

[83] Respondent Reyes group’s Memorandum, p. 26 (id. at 1085).

[84] Respondent-Intervenor’s Memorandum, p. 22 (id. at 1131).

[85] Quinto v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.

[86] Francisco, supra at 931.

[87] It was made of record that “whenever the body will override the resolution of impeachment of the Committee, it is understood that the body itself will prepare the Articles of Impeachment.” [II Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 416 (July 29, 1986)].

[88] To respondents Committee and Reyes Group, any House action of dismissal of the complaint would not set in the one-year bar rule.

[89] Petitioner’s Memorandum, p. 38 (rollo, p. 801), citing the Separate Opinion of Justice Adolf Azcuna in Francisco.

[90] II Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 282 (July 26, 1986).

[91] TSN, October 12, 2010, p. 212.

[92] Citing Rules of Court, Rule 2, Sec. 5 & Rule 140, Sec. 1.

[93] Or by the Committee if the question is first raised therein.

[94] This is not to say, however, that it must always contain two or more charges.  In Santillon v. Miranda, et al, [121 Phil. 1351, 1355 (1965)], it was held that the plural can be understood to include the singular.

[95] Petitioner cites that the Committee stated that “although two complaints were filed against petitioner, the two were in effect merged in one proceeding by their referral on the same day to the Committee.” (TSN, Committee Hearing, September 1, 2010; rollo, p. 528-529).

[96] Id. at 48.

[97] Vide San Luis v. Rojas, G.R. No. 159127, March 3, 2008, 547 SCRA 345, 367.

[98] The Committee’s Comment, p. 29 (rollo, p. 430).