SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House Committee on Justice chaired by Rep. Doy Leachon (1st District, Oriental Mindoro) on Tuesday ruled that the consolidated impeachment complaints against Supreme Court Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and six associate justices were insufficient in substance.
The impeachment complaints, filed by Reps. Edcel Lagman (1st District , Albay), Gary Alejano (Party-list, MAGDALO), and Teddy Baguilat Jr. (Lone District, Ifugao), alleged that de Castro, Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo committed culpable violation of the Constitution for removing Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through the quo warranto petition.
De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Jardeleza and Tijam were further accused of betrayal of public trust for refusing to inhibit from voting on the quo warranto petition after testifying against Sereno in the impeachment complaint hearings.
A total of 23 members of the committee ruled that the consolidated complaints were insufficient in substance. Only Rep. Ramon Rocamora (Lone District, Siquijor) voted that the complaints met the requirements as stated in the Constitution.
Under the Constitution, sufficiency in substance is met if 1) the recital of facts constitutes the offense charge and 2) determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee.
Rep. Ron Salo (Party-list, KABAYAN) said that while the jurisdiction of the committee is clearly established, it is doubtful whether the facts as recited constitute the offense.
"The quo warranto petition against Sereno is within the jurisdiction of the high court, so the justices could not be impeached for acting on it. To exercise restraint in reviewing an impeachable officer’s appointment will be a clear renunciation of a judicial duty," Salo stated.
Rep. Strike Revilla (2nd District, Cavite) echoed such sentiment, saying that the complaints seek the removal of the seven justices for respecting a co-equal branch of government by acting as resource persons in the congressional impeachment hearings and for performing their mandate to decide cases.
"As resource persons, they helped this Committee in performing its constitutional mandate, and by participating in this committee’s proceedings, the five justices have in fact recognized the supremacy of the people, exercised through their duly chosen representatives," Revilla explained.
"Anent the second matter, for justice to be dispensed properly, it is essential that members of the court be free from the apprehension of reprisal for decisions made in due course and in the exercise of their function," Revilla said.
Rep. Anthony Bravo (Party-list, COOP NATCCO) agreed that the recital of facts failed to constitute the offense.
"With all due respect to the complainants, the impeachment complaint is basically flawed because the premise taken by the proponent failed to take into consideration the broader concept of judicial power," he said.
Bravo also noted that the impeachment of de Castro and the six other justices for their decision on the quo warranto petition will cast doubt on the credibility of the Supreme Court to adjudge cases.
Rep. Jesulito Manalo (Party-list, ANGKLA) said the accused justices acted within the meters and bounds of judicial power set by the Constitution, and to impeach them for doing so would be a true violation of the principle of separation of powers.
"Impeachment is not a mode of appeal, and this august body does not exist to review decisions of the Supreme Court that we do not like," Manalo said.
For his part, Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. (Party-list, AKO BICOL) stated that the justices did not arrogate the power of Congress to decide on the impeachment of officials, as alleged by the complainants.
"The petitioners should welcome this development, as the Filipinos in general now have more recourse to ensure that public officials holding impeachable positions possess all the necessary qualifications prior to holding the public office. With this case, the standard upon which impeachable officers are held to are now higher," he said.
Present during the deliberations were former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Deputy Speakers Prospero Pichay Jr. and Rose Marie "Baby" Arenas, Reps. Vicente Veloso, Rodante Marcoleta, Victoria Isabel Noel, Henry Oaminal, Ann Hofer, and Luisa Lloren Cuaresma, among others. | Czarina Engracia