Saturday, 17 December 2011 00:00
A couple of days ago, I posted a critical opinion on the doctrine of co- equality and independence constitutionally granted to the three major branches of our political system. I put forward my personal conviction for public discussion and analysis that this doctrine is more of a myth than an ideological reality in our present political system. The imperfection and weakness of this doctrine of co- equality and independence has been made glaringly obvious with the impeachment of the highest Magistrate of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Renato Corona by the Lower House of Philippine Congress. The process was conspicuously railroaded in much the same way as what was done to former President Joseph (Erap) Ejercito Estrada who went down in history as the first President impeached since the Philippines become truly independent by virtue of the Tydings-McDuffie Law.
One President and One Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had fallen victim of the power of impeachment granted exclusively by our Fundamental Law to Congress which makes a mockery of the doctrine of co-equality and independence enshrined in our Fundamental Law. This power of removing impeachable public officials, to me should not be unilaterally exercised by Congress so as not to place the Executive and the Judicial branches under its control and mercy. The entire nation watched how President Estrada was embarrassingly tried by the Impeachment Court organized by Congress on charges that until now remained to be shrouded with dark clouds of doubt. But because of the supremacy of Congress and the incredible speed by which the impeachment process was conducted, poor Erap became the first victim of this mythical doctrine of co-equality and independence. It’s very vivid in many of our memories how the articles of impeachment were indorsed in a whirl-wind fashion which virtually converted democracy in the Lower House into a classic case of “tyranny of numbers” as it was dominated by the loyalists and supporters of then President Gloria Arroyo. This was also replicated in the case of Chief Justice Renato Corona with even faster speed for the Lower House is presently dominated by members of the Yellow political bloc associated with President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. As early as now, the tragic fate of Chief Justice Renato Corona is already sealed. Another impeachment zarzuela is again brewing… and all because of the constitutional supremacy of Congress over the Executive and the Judiciary.
To correct this imbalance of power in the matter of removing impeachable public officials, the exclusive power of impeachment should be removed from Congress and instead a “Commission on Impeachment” be created with membership coming from non-partisan and non-political organizations based on stringent relevant qualifications and pertinent eligibility requirements. For me the allegation or common notion that the impeachment is a political process is largely erroneous even bordering on falsehood because the Senate converts itself into an Impeachment Court using the rules of court and evidence in the litigation of the accused. If it were purely a political process, rules and procedures of court should not be used in the impeachment trial but strictly parliamentary rules and procedures. This commonly held concept of a political process becomes more ridiculous, when the Senate which is purely a political body, will be celebrating the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona, who is not a political public official but the highest magistrate of the Republic of the Philippines appointed by the highest official of the Executive Branch. In this trial, the parliamentary rules and procedures will not be used, but the standard court rules and procedures followed in the Philippine courts of justice. Don’t you think, in this particular case, Congress is technically usurping the constitutional mandate of the Judiciary? Is there such thing as technical usurpation of a constitutionally mandated function of one co-equal branch of government by another? May I have a legal opinion on this matter?
By Clem M. Bascar
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