Impeachment for dummies

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(Editor’s Note: Chief Justice Renato Corona will go on trial in the Senate impeachment court starting next month on eight charges, including betrayal of public trust as a result of his alleged partiality in cases involving the Arroyo administration.

The impeachment trial will be the second in 11 years. Members of the Senate served as judges in late 2000 at the trial of then President Joseph Estrada, who was charged with accepting bribes, committing graft, betraying public trust and knowingly violating the Constitution.

To acquaint the public with the impeachment process and trial, we are printing a primer derived mostly from the book “Impeachment Q & A.” The book was edited by Carmelo V. Sison and Florin T. Hilbay, and was published by the University of the Philippines Law Complex in 2000.)

1. What is impeachment?

Impeachment is the process of removing from office high government officials charged with serious wrongdoing. As a process, impeachment is a formal inquiry aimed at making public officers accountable to the people based on the principle that public office is a public trust.

In contrast, other public officers may be removed from office through other means: recall for elective local officials; expulsion for members of Congress; and criminal or administrative disciplinary proceedings for public officers in general.

Impeachment is a mode of removing a special class of public officers the procedure for which is particularly outlined in the Constitution.

The word “impeach” comes from the Middle English “empechen” which means “to impede” or “to accuse” and the Latin “impedicare” which means “to entangle” or “to put in fetters.” The person impeached is not necessarily adjudged guilty as impeachment only means that he has been formally charged with an impeachable offense but his innocence or guilt is determined in a trial.

2. What is the origin of impeachment?

The Philippines adopted its provisions on impeachment from the US Constitution. In the United States, the framers of the Constitution incorporated a procedure for impeachment to prevent the President from becoming too powerful.

They limited his authority and gave Congress the means to keep him within constitutional limits by establishing a mechanism for his peaceful removal from office. However, they saw to it that these means should not be used readily to oust a President from office simply because of power politics. Impeachment under the Constitution requires fairness and adherence to constitutional standards.

3. Who are the impeachable officers?

The following are the impeachable officers: the President, the Vice President, the members of the Supreme Court, the members of constitutional commissions and the Ombudsman.

4. May other public officers be removed from office by impeachment?

No. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.

5. What are the grounds for impeachment?

The Constitution authorizes the impeachment of the above officers on the following grounds:

Culpable violation of the Constitution

Treason

Bribery

Graft and corruption

Other high crimes

Betrayal of public trust

Culpable violation of the Constitution means a willful violation of the Constitution and excludes acts committed unintentionally or through an honest mistake of judgment. Treason and bribery should be understood in accordance with their meaning in the Revised Penal Code.

Treason is committed in times of war by levying war against the Philippines or adhering to the enemy, giving it aid and comfort.

Bribery is committed by a public officer who (1) receives a gift in connection with the performance of his official duties in order to perform an act whether constituting a crime or not, or (2) accepts gifts offered to him by reason of his office, or (3) being a public officer entrusted with law enforcement, refrains from arresting or prosecuting an offender who has committed a crime punishable by life imprisonment or death, in consideration of a gift or present.

Graft and corruption, on the other hand, refers to those acts enumerated in the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, including receiving any gift in connection with any transaction wherein the public officer in his official capacity has to intervene under the law, or giving any private party any unwanted benefits through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

Other high crimes and betrayal of public trust have not been given any definitive meaning in law and jurisprudence.

6. What is the nature of the impeachment process?

The impeachment process is both a political and a legal process. It is a political process because the power to impeach and convict lies solely in a political branch of the government – Congress – whose members are elected representatives who act on the basis of political considerations. Nonetheless, the Constitution does not provide that the impeachment process, both as to the grounds for impeachment as well as the procedure involved, is entirely at the discretion of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

It requires the House to observe a procedure for the adoption of the articles of impeachment and the Senate to conduct a trial before a decision is reached. That the senators are made to take an oath to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws” means that the impeachment process is a political act arrived at through the observance of legal proceedings.

Therefore, the process of impeachment would necessarily involve political considerations as the outcome is determined by duly elected representatives of the people, but, because this is a trial, the Senate must observe due process and respect the rights of the officer impeached.

7. What rules govern impeachment proceedings?

According to the Constitution, Congress shall promulgate its rules on impeachment. The House and the Senate have adopted the rules of procedure governing impeachment proceedings in their respective chambers.

In the House, the Rules of Criminal Procedure, as far as practicable, are made to apply. In the Senate, the Rules of Court are made to apply insofar as they are applicable, and the rules of evidence and procedures are liberally construed in the impeachment proceedings.

8. Who has the power to initiate an impeachment?

The House of Representatives has the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.

9. Who may file a verified impeachment complaint?

The following may file a verified complaint for impeachment: (1) any member of the House; (2) any citizen upon a resolution or endorsement by any member of the House; and (3) at least one-third of all the members of the House, in which case such complaint or resolution shall constitute the articles of impeachment and trial by the Senate shall forthwith proceed.

10. Where must the verified complaint by a citizen or a member of the House be filed?

The verified complaint for impeachment shall be filed with the Office of the Secretary General and immediately referred to the Speaker of the House who shall have it included in the order of business within 10 session days from receipt.

11. Which committee of the House is tasked with determining the sufficiency, in substance and in form, of the complaint?

Under the Rules of the House the committee on justice is the committee designated by the chamber to determine the sufficiency, in substance and in form, of the complaint for impeachment filed by a citizen or a member of the House. In addition, the committee also has the power to conduct hearings and recommend to the House whether probable cause exists for the impeachment of a public officer.

A recommendation finding probable cause must be sustained by a vote of at least one-third of all the members of the House, while a recommendation finding no probable cause may be overruled by one-third of all House members.

12. What is the role of the House in the trial?

The House shall act as the sole prosecutor at the trial in the Senate through a committee of 11 members to be elected by a majority vote.

13. What is the role of the Senate?

It is the Senate which has the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.

14. What is the duty of the Senate upon the presentation of the articles of impeachment?

The Senate shall, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon of the day (except Saturdays, Sundays and nonworking holidays) following such presentation, or sooner if ordered by the Senate, proceed to the consideration of such articles. It shall continue in session from day to day (except Saturdays, Sundays and nonworking holidays) after which the trial shall commence (unless otherwise ordered by the Senate) until final judgment shall be rendered, and so much longer as may, in its judgment, be necessary.

15. May impeachment proceedings be initiated against the same official more than once within a year?

No, impeachment proceedings cannot be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.

16. Who is the presiding officer in the impeachment trial?

When the Philippine President is on trial, the Chief Justice shall preside. In all other cases of impeachment, the Senate President shall preside.

17. Does the Chief Justice, as presiding officer in the trial, have the power to vote?

No.

18. What are the powers of the presiding officer?

The presiding officer shall have the power to make and issue, by himself or by the Secretary of the Senate, all orders, mandates and writs authorized by the Senate, and to make and enforce such other regulations and orders on the premises as the Senate may authorize or provide.

19. Does the presiding officer have the power to rule on questions relating to evidence presented during the trial?

Yes. The presiding officer may rule on all questions of evidence including, but not limited to, questions of materiality, relevancy, competency or admissibility of evidence and incidental questions. The ruling shall stand as the judgment of the Senate unless a senator shall ask that a formal vote be taken thereon, in which case it shall be submitted to the Senate for decision after one contrary view is expressed; or the presiding officer may, at his option, in the first instance, submit any such question to a vote.

20. What is the effect of the trial on the legislative business of the Senate?

The legislative business of the Senate shall be suspended at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, or at such other hour as the Senate may order, of the day appointed for the trial of an impeachment.

21. May the senators put a question to the witnesses or any of the counsel?

Yes. If a senator wishes to put a question to a witness, he or she shall do so within two minutes. A senator may likewise put a question to a prosecutor or to counsel of the prosecutor or the person impeached. The parties or their counsel may interpose objections to witnesses answering questions propounded by any senator and the merits of any such objection may be argued by the parties or their counsel.

22. Is the trial required to be conducted in public?

Yes.

23. Is an article of impeachment divisible for the purpose of voting thereon at any time during the trial?

No. Once voting has commenced on an article of impeachment, it shall continue until completed on all articles of impeachment, unless the Senate adjourns for a period not to exceed one day or adjourns sine die.

24. How shall the Senate render its decision?

On the final question whether the impeachment is sustained, the yeas and nays shall be taken on each article of impeachment separately. If the impeachment shall not be sustained, a judgment of acquittal shall be entered; but if the person impeached shall be convicted upon any such article, the Senate may proceed to consider other matters as may be determined to be appropriate before pronouncing a judgment.

25. Is a motion for reconsideration of the vote on any article

of impeachment allowed?

No.

26. What is the vote required to convict an impeachable officer?

The concurrence of two-thirds of all senators is required.

27. What is the quantum of evidence required in the trial?

The Rules of Court recognize three standards required in making a decision: proof beyond reasonable doubt, preponderance of evidence and substantial evidence, depending on whether the proceeding is criminal, civil or administrative, respectively.

Under the Rules of Court proof beyond reasonable doubt means moral certainty or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind.

Preponderance of evidence simply means superior weight of evidence as determined by the court considering all the facts and circumstances of the case, including the witnesses’ manner of testifying, the nature of facts to which they testify and personal credibility.

Substantial evidence refers to such amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.

Whether an impeachment proceeding is criminal, civil or administrative in nature is still a subject of debate. At best, it can be said that an impeachment proceeding is one that is sui generis, or class on its own, in which the standards to be applied are circumscribed only by the Constitution and the oath under which the senators have sworn to do impartial justice.

28. What are the consequences of a decision of conviction?

A conviction results in the removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines. Likewise, the party convicted shall be liable and subject to prosecution, trial and punishment according to law.

29. Does resignation end the impeachment process?

No. The purpose of impeachment is not merely to remove an officer from office but also to disqualify him or her from holding any office. The use of the conjunction “and” in the Constitution signifies that disqualification is not merely an accessory penalty, as in criminal cases, but a principal penalty apart from that of removal. It can be said that in an impeachment proceeding, removing the officer impeached is just as important as preventing him or her from holding any office under the republic.

30. Can the Senate impose a penalty of censure?

Yes. Since judgment in cases of impeachment “shall not extend further than” removal from office and disqualification, the Senate can decide to impose a lesser penalty, like censure or reprimand.

31. Can the Senate compel the officer impeached to appear in person and/or answer the charges?

No. If the person impeached shall fail to appear, or, appearing, shall fail to file his answer, the trial shall proceed nevertheless as upon a plea of not guilty.

32. Can the officer impeached assert his right against self-incrimination?

Yes. The officer impeached, like any other citizen, enjoys the constitutional right against self-incrimination.

33. In case the President is convicted, who succeeds to the Office of the President?

The Vice President, who automatically becomes the President, succeeds.

34. Should the Chief Justice be convicted, who will replace him?

Upon conviction, the Chief Justice is removed from office. The President shall assign a new Chief Justice and a new Associate Justice to fill the vacancies.

35. Is the remedy of appeal available against the judgment of the Senate?

Generally, no. The judgment of the Senate is a political decision which may not be reviewed by the courts.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Gene_Abril

    The bottom line is: It’s all in numbers. How many “ayes” and “nays”. Arroyo could not be impeached during her time because she had the “numbers”, not because she did not violate her mandate.

  • Tim3rd

    An eye opening article. I noticed that nowhere in this article does it say that the Executive can usurp the independence of the supreme court or undermine its sovereignty. It clearly states that an impeachment proceeding is to remove from office a public servant (individual) which the states finds culpable of violating the constitution and/or crimes against the state and its people. Whether guilt is proven or not remains on the office presiding the proceeding.

    • mirage2004

      The Executive may not usurp the independence of the judiciary in an impeachment  but after impeachment the Executive can appoint justice/s who are beholden to them.. They can always impeach the Justices if both Congress and Senate are controlled by those in power.

      • PobrengBata

        Beholden, as in Corona beholden to Arroyo???

      • Ohmar Zodiac Culang

        then it will be Aquino Dog as a replacement…

      • alam banog

        So you admit that crown is the little girl’s dog?

      • taga_ilog

        it has been and will always be…

    • montanoarchie

      So , Whats Your POINT ?

      • Tim3rd

        my point is an impeachment is not an attack. Rather it is a due process on an individual found faulty or accountable where as he is given a chance to answer allegations against him and not a hostile takeover against a co-equal branch of government. From what I understand of Mr. Coronas statement he is claiming that an impeachment is an attack on him ergo an attack on the supreme court. If you follow his logic, then he is claiming to be the supreme court itself as a whole. He is claiming that he is the Philippine constitution itself. He is claiming that he is a representation of our Civil Liberties and an attack on him is an attack on the Filipino people. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/rodfermin Rodolfo Fermin

    Shouldn’t the title be “Impeachment of Dummies”?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q2VS2VSCSLUVWAVLWSYPSFCMBE Minimize

    for the benefit of the people, p.noy should look into alleged active attempts by these justices of the supreme court, led by ABAD, DEL CASTILLO, NACHURA (now retired), DE CASTRO and BERSAMIN, to destroy and skew jurisprudence by coming out with their own decisions in labor cases that will pave the way for a virtual reversal of the decision in the PAL-FASAP case.

    there are rumors going around in the courts that these justices have come out with their own decisions DISREGARDING the mandatory labor code provisions requiring the payment of full backwages to illegally dismissed employees. to make things more simple, these justices are said to have issued recent and current decisions where they disregarded the payment of FULL backwages in illegal dismissal cases, in spite of the labor code’s clear provision that mandates the payment of FULL BACKWAGES WITHOUT QUALIFICATION, EVEN WHEN THE EMPLOYEE HAS FOUND NEW EMPLOYMENT IN THE MEANTIME.

    for those who know, when an employee is illegally dismissed and files a labor case, a decision in his favor should include a judgment for the payment of FULL BACKWAGES, EVEN IF HE HAS ALREADY FOUND EMPLOYMENT IN THE MEANTIME, AS LONG AS THE LABOR CASE REMAINS PENDING AND UNTIL HE IS FULLY PAID HIS BACKWAGES AND OTHER BENEFITS. this is what the law mandates. what these conspiring justices are doing is to slowly, systematically and quietly reverse this settled principle of paying full backwages even to those who have found employment, through their own decisions in earlier cases. for the benefit of their patron tan and other big business interests, they are now actively working towards limiting recovery and payment of backwages, in the fasap case, only to those who have not found work after being illegally dismissed. this is illegal and has no statutory basis. it directly goes against the labor code provisions, and is also a crime against their very oath.

    these clever robed ‘respectables’ will now use their very own PREVIOUSLY issued/ promulgated decisions as the basis for amending the pal-fasap decision awarding about P3 billion to the illegally dismissed fasap employees. they will now declare that ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE NOT FOUND WORK WHILE THE ILLEGAL DISMISSAL CASE WAS PENDING shall be entitled to full backwages. for THOSE WHO HAVE FOUND WORK DURING THE PENDENCY OF THE CASE, they will not be entitled to full backwages, but to compensation only up to the time that they have found new work. now imagine, who among the 1,000+ fasap employees have no work from 1997 up to today? maybe only a few. and only this few will be entitled to full backwages. get the point?

    in the end, this means that even though no reversal of the main decision is made, the backwages paid to the pitiful FASAP employees will be severely reduced by maybe more than two thirds, at least. by applying their decisions in other cases which skirted the labor code, and which passed and were approved by the different divisions of the court unnoticed by the public, this will surely happen. this clearly illustrates how these “justices” have abused their powers and how they have destroyed, and are destroying, our very own future right under our noses. this is a clear betrayal of public trust. it could even be the subject of economic sabotage, to charge these people with a capital offense and mete life imprisonment, for causing the suffering of thousands of rank and file employees and selling out their interests just to protect tan and other big businesses. these people must be impeached and imprisoned.

    • UnoangPilipino

      this is what media must do, expose the decisions of each justice in important cases and expose their assets and liabilities and any unexplained wealth!  make a full documentary of these justices so the people can decide what goes to whom! and decide who stays and goes in the Philippine Supreme court!

  • baning

    good one! 

    except that the standards of proof that rules of court require for conviction do not necessarily apply in an impeachment proceeding.  This legal question was raised during the 1973 Nixon impeachment.  The US Supreme court held that the US constitution does not require that rules of court have to be followed, and congress and the senate can write their own procedural rules of impeachment.    

  • UnoangPilipino

    i do not understand why media do not expose all these INJUSTICES committed by dummies and criminals acting as justices in the coronarroyo court!  they are criminals since they do not provide justice the Filipino people truly deserve and instead cowtow to whoever who can give the better bribe, worse, they are using the respected institutions and much needed resources occupying the offices reserved to honorable Filipinos with integrity and who can serve the Filipino’s BEST INTEREST.

  • UnoangPilipino

    the trigger rallying people to IMPEACH Corona is the TRO bruhaha,  we must remember, there were 8 OF THEM who signed the TRO! 8 coronarroyo court injustices WHO BETRAYED THE FILIPINO PUBLIC TRUST!  ALL OF THEM MUST BE REMOVED, PUNISHED AND MADE TO ANSWER FOR THIS UNFORGIVEABLE CRIME! And we must not forget Marquez who unashamedly lied, (and continuous to do so), in front of eagerly listening Filipino people on what these injustices say or do. harap harapan ang pambabastos, pambababoy nila, it was like treating the Filipinos like idiots who cannot distinguish white from black.  They were LITERALLY PLAYING ON THE COMPLETE TRUST BESTOWED TO THEM BY VIRTUE OF THE HONORABLE POSITION AS SUPREME JUSTICES OF THE LAND!  THAT IS A CRIME IN ITSELF, NOT FORGETTING TO MENTION THE MANY FLIPFLOPPING DECISIONS THEY HAVE MADE! enough is enough, we must never ever make the mistake of putting fools in place of wise and just men in OUR, not coronarroyo scam company court, OUR PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT.

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