Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Impeachment, described as “the most formidable weapon in the
arsenal of democracy,”14 was foreseen as creating divisions, partialities and
enmities, or highlighting pre-existing factions with the greatest danger that
“the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties,
than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”15 Given their
concededly political character, the precise role of the judiciary in
impeachment cases is a matter of utmost importance to ensure the effectivefunctioning of the separate branches while preserving the structure of checks
and balance in our government. Moreover, in this jurisdiction, the acts of
any branch or instrumentality of the government, including those
traditionally entrusted to the political departments, are proper subjects of
judicial review if tainted with grave abuse or arbitrariness.
Impeachment refers to the power of Congress to remove a public
official for serious crimes or misconduct as provided in the Constitution. A
mechanism designed to check abuse of power, impeachment has its roots in
Athens and was adopted in the United States (US) through the influence of
English common law on the Framers of the US Constitution.
Our own Constitution’s provisions on impeachment were adopted
from the US Constitution. Petitioner was impeached through the mode
provided under Art. XI, par. 4, Sec. 3, in a manner that he claims was
accomplished with undue haste and under a complaint which is defective for
lack of probable cause. Petitioner likewise assails the Senate in proceeding
with the trial under the said complaint, and in the alleged partiality exhibited
by some Senator-Judges who were apparently aiding the prosecution during
the hearings.

On the other hand, respondents contend that the issues raised in the
Supplemental Petition regarding the behavior of certain Senator-Judges in
the course of the impeachment trial are issues that do not concern, or allege
any violation of, the three express and exclusive constitutional limitations on
the Senate’s sole power to try and decide impeachment cases. They argue
that unless there is a clear transgression of these constitutional limitations,
this Court may not exercise its power of expanded judicial review over the
actions of Senator-Judges during the proceedings. By the nature of the
functions they discharge when sitting as an Impeachment Court, Senator-
Judges are clearly entitled to propound questions on the witnesses,
prosecutors and counsel during the trial. Petitioner thus failed to prove any
semblance of partiality on the part of any Senator-Judges. But whether the Senate Impeachment Rules were followed or not, is a political question that
is not within this Court’s power of expanded judicial review.
In the first impeachment case decided by this Court, Francisco, Jr. v.
Nagmamalasakit na mga Manananggol ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino,
Inc.16 we ruled that the power of judicial review in this jurisdiction includes
the power of review over justiciable issues in impeachment proceedings.
Subsequently, in Gutierrez v. House of Representatives Committee on
Justice,17 the Court resolved the question of the validity of the simultaneous
referral of two impeachment complaints against petitioner Ombudsman
which was allegedly a violation of the due process clause and of the oneyear
bar provision.
On the basis of these precedents, petitioner asks this Court to
determine whether respondents committed a violation of the Constitution or
gravely abused its discretion in the exercise of their functions and
prerogatives that could translate as lack or excess of jurisdiction, which
would require corrective measures from the Court.
In the meantime, the impeachment trial had been concluded with the
conviction of petitioner by more than the required majority vote of the
Senator-Judges. Petitioner immediately accepted the verdict and without
any protest vacated his office. In fact, the Judicial and Bar Council is
already in the process of screening applicants and nominees, and the
President of the Philippines is expected to appoint a new Chief Justice
within the prescribed 90-day period from among those candidates shortlisted
by the JBC. Unarguably, the constitutional issue raised by petitioner had
been mooted by supervening events and his own acts.
An issue or a case becomes moot and academic when it ceases to
present a justiciable controversy so that a determination thereof would be
without practical use and value. 18 In such cases, there is no actual
substantial relief to which the petitioner would be entitled to and which
would be negated by the dismissal of the petition.

Corona v. Senate (July 17, 2012)

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