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Commentary

Making sense of nonsense

We are in the midst of a long-playing spectacle of the impeachment of the Chief Justice, which has generated acrimonious public discussion and national divisiveness, revealing even the ugly infighting among Supreme Court justices. We have read and heard enough from all sides, and so as ordinary citizens concerned with the integrity of the Supreme Court as an institution in our democracy, how shall we process all the information fed to us by the media—some facts, some biased opinion, some deceptive and misleading, some disguised truth?

May I suggest my own simplified way of sorting out the main issues, to better understand the matter and, yes, to take a stand.

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1. The House of Representatives, which initiates impeachment proceedings, acting through its committee on justice, has entertained charges against the Chief Justice as having committed the following offenses:

a) Filing of untruthful statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

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b) Failure to pay correct income taxes.

c) Purchase of a luxury vehicle for herself with public funds.

d) Violation of the collegiality rule in making certain administrative decisions in the high court.

The Chief Justice has denied all these accusations.

The relevant question is: Assuming that these offenses have been committed, are these “impeachable offenses” in the first place? Do these offenses represent “culpable violation of the Constitution”?

The House committee on justice says they are impeachable offenses. Others will disagree.

2. The next relevant question is: Even if these are impeachable offenses, is there probable cause that these offenses have been committed?

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The House committee on justice says there is probable cause, and so is preparing to bring its impeachment recommendation to the plenary. It is a matter of judgment made on the basis of the committee’s appreciation of supporting evidence presented to it. Others disagree, but at this stage, it is the committee’s call.

3. The Solicitor General has filed at the Supreme Court a quo warranto petition questioning the validity of the Chief Justice’s appointment. If the Solicitor General’s petition prospers, the Chief Justice will be removed by quo warranto proceedings, and there will be no need to proceed with the impeachment process.

This is why the House committee on justice says it will wait for the outcome of the quo warranto case before bringing its impeachment recommendation to the plenary.

Justice Marvic Leonen, the sole dissenter to the Supreme Court decision accepting the quo warranto case, declares that the petition should have been dismissed outright because the only way to remove the Chief Justice from office is through impeachment, as prescribed by the Constitution.

Many lawyers and others agree with this position.

4. Meanwhile, the embattled Chief Justice, who has been receiving all manner of vicious attacks through the media, from many corners, issues the challenge: Let’s get on with it. Proceed with the impeachment without delay and let me have my day in court to answer all the accusations. That court is the Senate, which the Constitution requires to sit in judgment over the impeachment proceedings.

Let us all then look forward to the Senate impeachment proceedings which shall be open to the public, during which we can all make our own judgments about the validity of the accusations, the ability of the House prosecutors to support their accusations, the strength of the Chief Justice’s defense, and the fairness in the whole impeachment process.

With all confidence, I personally have faith that the Lord’s justice will be done. The innocent and the persecuted will receive their vindication, as bright as the noonday sun.

Santiago F. Dumlao Jr. served as president of the Philippine Rating Services Corp., among other business offices and organizations.

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