Sunday, July 13, 2014

how did fr. bernas explain the term "to initiate" an impeachment proceeding?

Father Bernas explains that in these two provisions, the common verb is "to initiate." The object in the first sentence is "impeachment case." The object in the second sentence is "impeachment proceeding." Following the principle of reddendo singuala sinuilis, the term "cases" must be distinguished from the term "proceedings." An impeachment case is the legal controversy that must be decided by the Senate. Above-quoted first provision provides that the House, by a vote of one-third of all its members, can bring a case to the Senate. It is in that sense that the House has "exclusive power" to initiate all cases of impeachment. No other body can do it. However, before a decision is made to initiate a case in the Senate, a "proceeding" must be followed to arrive at a conclusion. A proceeding must be "initiated." To initiate, which comes from the Latin word initium, means to begin. On the other hand, proceeding is a progressive noun. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It takes place not in the Senate but in the House and consists of several steps: (1) there is the filing of a verified complaint either by a Member of the House of Representatives or by a private citizen endorsed by a Member of the House of the Representatives; (2) there is the processing of this complaint by the proper Committee which may either reject the complaint or uphold it; (3) whether the resolution of the Committee rejects or upholds the complaint, the resolution must be forwarded to the House for further processing; and (4) there is the processing of the same complaint by the House of Representatives which either affirms a favorable resolution of the Committee or overrides a contrary resolution by a vote of one-third of all the members. If at least one third of all the Members upholds the complaint, Articles of Impeachment are prepared and transmitted to the Senate. It is at this point that the House "initiates an impeachment case." It is at this point that an impeachable public official is successfully impeached. That is, he or she is successfully charged with an impeachment "case" before the Senate as impeachment court.
Father Bernas further explains: The "impeachment proceeding" is not initiated when the complaint is transmitted to the Senate for trial because that is the end of the House proceeding and the beginning of another proceeding, namely the trial. Neither is the "impeachment proceeding" initiated when the House deliberates on the resolution passed on to it by the Committee, because something prior to that has already been done. The action of the House is already a further step in the proceeding, not its initiation or beginning. Rather, the proceeding is initiated or begins, when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the Committee on Justice for action. This is the initiating step which triggers the series of steps that follow.
The framers of the Constitution also understood initiation in its ordinary meaning. Thus when a proposal reached the floor proposing that "A vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House shall be necessary… to initiate impeachment proceedings," this was met by a proposal to delete the line on the ground that the vote of the House does not initiate impeachment proceeding but rather the filing of a complaint does.146 Thus the line was deleted and is not found in the present Constitution.
Father Bernas concludes that when Section 3 (5) says, "No impeachment proceeding shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year," it means that no second verified complaint may be accepted and referred to the Committee on Justice for action. By his explanation, this interpretation is founded on the common understanding of the meaning of "to initiate" which means to begin. He reminds that the Constitution is ratified by the people, both ordinary and sophisticated, as they understand it; and that ordinary people read ordinary meaning into ordinary words and not abstruse meaning, they ratify words as they understand it and not as sophisticated lawyers confuse it.


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