MA. MERCEDITAS N. GUTIERREZ vs. THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE, et. al., En Banc, G.R. No. 193459, February 15, 2011 (written by CARPIO MORALES, J.)
X x x.
X x x. Public respondent argues that when petitioner filed the present petition on September 13, 2010, it had not gone beyond the determination of the sufficiency of form and substance of the two complaints.
X x x. 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. X x x.
X x x. 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.
The act of the head of a collegial body cannot be considered as that of the entire body itself. X x x.
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.
Even petitioner’s counsel conceded during the oral arguments that there are no grounds to compel the inhibition of Rep. Tupas.
X x x.
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. X x x.
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.
X x x.
Rule III(A) of the Impeachment Rules of the 15th Congress reflects the impeachment procedure at the Committee-level, particularly Section 5 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.
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,” 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.”
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.” 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[.]” 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 Congress, in two newspapers of general circulation.
Citing Tañada v. Tuvera, petitioner contends that she was deprived of due process since the Impeachment Rules was published only on September 2, 2010 a day after public respondent ruled on the sufficiency of form of the complaints. She likewise tacks her contention on Section 3(8), Article XI of the Constitution which directs that “Congress shall promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the purpose of this section.”
Public respondent counters that “promulgation” in this case refers to “the publication of rules in any medium of information, not necessarily in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation.”
Differentiating Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations 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.” (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. 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.”
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, 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, 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.
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 promulgation. The Court is in no position to dictate a mode of promulgation beyond the dictates of the Constitution.
Publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation is but one avenue for Congress to make known its rules. X x x.
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. 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.
X x x.
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.
X x x.
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.” 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.
X x x.
Petitioner in fact does not deny that she was fully apprised of the proper procedure. She even availed of and invoked certain provisions 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 states that the term “initiate” means to file the complaint and take initial action on it. The initiation starts with the filing of the complaint which must be accompanied with an action to set the complaint moving. It refers to the filing of the impeachment complaint coupled with Congress’ taking initial action of said complaint. The initial action taken by the House on the complaint is the referral of the complaint to the Committee on Justice.
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” 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.
X x x.
The Court, in Francisco, thus found that the assailed provisions of the 12th Congress’ Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings ─ Sections 16 and 17 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.”
X x x.
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.
X x x.
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. X x x.
X x x.
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” 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.
The Court, of course, does not downplay the importance of an impeachment complaint, for it is the matchstick that kindles the candle of impeachment proceedings. The filing of an impeachment complaint is like the lighting of a matchstick. Lighting the matchstick alone, however, cannot light up the candle, unless the lighted matchstick reaches or torches the candle wick. Referring the complaint to the proper committee ignites the impeachment proceeding. With a simultaneous referral of multiple complaints filed, more than one lighted matchsticks light the candle at the same time. What is important is that there should only be 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 in Francisco, a proceeding which “takes place not in the Senate but in the House” 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. To the Reyes group, initiation means the act of transmitting the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. To respondent-intervenor, it should last until the Committee on Justice’s recommendation to the House plenary.
X x x.
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.”
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 of a contrary resolution (as espoused by public respondent), or the House transmits the Articles of Impeachment (as advocated by the Reyes group), 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. 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:
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 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 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 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.” 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.” Petitioner’s petition, in fact, initially describes the consolidation as merely “contemplated.”
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.
Even if the Court assumes petitioner’s change of stance that the two impeachment complaints were deemed consolidated, 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.
x x x.
Atty. Manuel J. Laserna Jr.