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'Impeachment not sole prerogative of Congress'


LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, `Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you’…” (Luke 1:27-28, the Holy Bible).

SC ASKED TO STOP CORONA TRIAL: Now, it would seem that the proverbial bridge to be crossed has already been laid before all Filipinos on the issue of whether the Supreme Court can act against the Senate doing its job as an impeachment court, with the filing of a petition with the tribunal by Chief Justice Renato Corona seeking to stop his trial.

Is the impeachment court really supreme on matters of impeachment trials, as senator-judges and congressmen-prosecutors have been saying, so that not even the Supreme Court can do anything against the acts of the Senate while it is trying an impeachment complaint?
Or, as Corona’s lawyers are now arguing in their petition before the high court, the Supreme Court really has the power to correct, amend, modify or even reverse or nullify orders or resolutions of the impeachment court which are perceived to have been issued in grave abuse of discretion?

JUDICIAL POWER VS. ALL BRANCHES OF GOV’T: The law here is Section 1, Art. 8 of the 1987 Constitution, which, in two paragraphs, provides: “The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.

“Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.”

The key phrase here, it would seem, is “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”, which is a phrase that has already been explained twice by the Supreme Court.

“IMPEACHMENT NOT SOLE PREROGATIVE OF CONGRESS”: In the case of “Ernesto B. Francisco, Jr. vs. Nagmamalasakit na mga Manananggol ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc.”, G.R. No. 160261, November 10, 2003, written by the present Ombudsman, former Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, the Supreme Court said: “… the Constitution did not intend to leave the matter of impeachment to the sole discretion of Congress…” (found at pages 130-131 of Supreme Court Reports Annotated, Volume 415).

This was reiterated by the Supreme Court in “Merceditas Gutierrez vs. House of Representatives”, G.R. No. 193459, February 15, 2011, where it said: “The Court finds it well-within its power to determine whether public respondent (House of Representatives) 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…”

On the argument that the power of the impeachment court to act came from the people, the Supreme Court said its own power to review the acts of all branches of government, including the Senate acting as an impeachment court, also came from the people themselves, when they ratified the very Constitution that contained the power of judicial review against all branches.

By Atty. Batas Mauricio

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