Only by impeachment that public officials such as the president, vice president, the members of the Supreme Court, the members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman can be removed from office following the conviction of the following grounds: culpable violation of the Constitution; treason; bribery; graft and corruption; other high crimes or betrayal of public trust.
An impeachment process is basically political in nature though the elements of the grounds for impeachment are criminal. The House of the Representatives has the sole power to initiate impeachment. On the other hand, the Senate has the constitutional mandate to try impeachment cases that we already witnessed in the past impeachment proceedings of the former President Joseph (Erap) Estrada and the impeached-convicted late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. It was during these events that the Senate of the Philippines had become the center stage of the ‘holocaust of the famous and the infamous’ and had constructed a national ‘pylon for political vendetta’!
A Quick-Look at Erap and the Late Renato Corona Impeachment
The outright death of Erap’s impeachment in 2001 was triggered by the ‘no votes’ that obstructed the opening of the controversial second envelope thought to have contained a request letter from Jose Dichaves to the Equitable-PCI Bank Vice President Romualdo Ang for opening an account under an alleged fictitious name Jose Velarde.
The impeachment case of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Corona had come to a conviction of 20-3, where 20 senators found the late chief justice guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution in his failure to declare his statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) substantially.
Was the guilty conviction surprised the nation?
The overwhelming majority of guilty conviction surprised the nation no more. What made the nation to become surprised at was the railroading of the passage of the Articles of Impeachment in the House of the Representatives. A former senator was “personally frustrated by the hasty crafting and preparation” of the Articles of Impeachment (Enrile 2012). From the words of former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile,
As a lawyer, I must confess that I was personally frustrated, really frustrated by the loose and hasty crafting and preparation that characterized the presentation of the charges contained in the Articles of Impeachment. It seems that the case was being built up only after the charges were actually filed. The repeated recourse to this court’s compulsory processes to obtain evidence which normally should have formed the factual basis of the charges in the first place further burdened and, at times, taxed the patience of this court.
Although we know that an impeachment process is political in nature, the case of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona on the guilty conviction wasn’t only overwhelming by numbers but also substantially and overwhelmingly satisfied the standard of proof in the commission of a culpable violation of the Constitution as one of the impeachment charges pinned to him.
The late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago adopted the very high standard of overwhelming preponderance of evidence believing that the omission* did not amount to an impeachable offense (Defensor-Santiago 2012). She voted not guilty, along with the late Senator Joker Arroyo and the former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. An excerpt from her speech explaining her verdict on the late Chief Justice Renato Corona:
I have adopted the very high standard of overwhelming preponderance of evidence pursuant to the recommendation of Prof. Charles Black of Yale University, author of The Impeachment, considered the bible for [sic] the whole world on impeachment process in a democracy. My standard is very high because removal by conviction on impeachment is a stunning penalty, the ruin of a life. The Defendant admitted that he did not declare his dollar accounts and certain commingled peso accounts in his SALN. Let us begin with this threshold question: Did this omission amount to an impeachable offense? No.
While Article XI, Section 2 provides,
The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.
the omission of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, particularly on SALN, does not amount to an impeachable offense because according to the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago that the omission “is not in the same class as the offenses enumerated in the Constitution.” She recommended the rule of ejusdem generis be applied to the interpretation of the Article XI, Section 2 of the Constitution.
Is ejusdem generis rule applicable to such constitutional provision?
My understanding refuses the rule of ejusdem generis to be applied, as one of the canons of statutory interpretation, to interpret Article XI, Section 2 of the Constitution, particularly on the enumeration of offenses that are in general word followed by specific words. It just doesn’t fit to apply the ejusdem generis rule because the general term is too leading and conclusive to the magnitude of the omission regardless of admission. Thus, the failure to disclose to the public the statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth over the years is tantamount to culpable violation of the Constitution, an omission as serious as other high crimes.
On President Duterte Impeachment Charges (as of this time of writing)
On March 16, 2017, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano filed the impeachment charges against President Rodrigo Duterte. The President was accused of the following crimes or omissions that may likely satisfy the grounds of impeachment as provided in Article XI, Section 2 of the Constitution:
- mass murder
- EJK or extrajudicial killing
- DDS or Davao Death Squad involvement
- a questionable hiring of 11,000 contractual employees in 2014 by Davao City
- unexplained wealth
- unreported properties
- other unlawful activities
President Duterte supporters in social media, together with trolls, express rage at the impeachment complaint. The Mocha Uson Blog calls on all President Duterte supporters to be vigilant and to be ready to defend their president should the worst come. Is this call necessary in the first place given that President Duterte has, no doubt, an overwhelming support from the Filipinos as what they claim?
When an international community, including the latest European Parliament calling on the Philippines to #FreeLeila De Lima, criticizes Duterte administration on law and order, the administration and supporters are quick to retort overplaying the justice system of the country on the way it runs for equality and justice and that the rule of law is on its business as usual.
Relatively, with the impeachment charges against President Duterte, supporters have nothing to worry about. The rule of law is on its business as usual.
Will President Duterte be likely convicted of impeachment charges?
It will be highly likely should the trusted numbers in the House of Representatives expected to kill the impeachment complaint outright change their course turning the Duterte ship upside down.
An impeachment proceeding that would likely land on the Senate would be highly political in nature. We have seen that in the past impeachment proceedings. The unpredictable Senate, though the majority is thought and seen as Duterte supporters, the highly political proceeding would likely outplay the independent Senate making it more political by playing the game of thrones at the expense of number.
On #VPLeniRobredo Possible Impeachment Charges
It is a no-brainer that a vice president, as the second-highest executive official, should exercise a supportive effort to the programs and business of the government. His or her loyalty to the country is expected to begin on the day he or she assumes office. It is his or her mandate to promote the public interest and a sound image of the country to the global stage.
While it is legitimate for a vice president to exercise democratic and political rights no matter how diametrical, the cost of this legitimate exercise is too expensive to buy for at the expense of political interest disguised as an interest for the national welfare.
Relative to VP Leni Robredo recorded speech for the UN forum, her statements on the current state of the nation are embellished with profound ignominy and debasement, debasing the very workings of the country on the effort of Duterte administration to bring about change in the country how trivial or controversial it is. Where did she get her gall to insult the country and herself as the vice president? Where did her sanity go?
The actions of VP Robredo seems no longer healthy for the national welfare though her mouth is foaming at its best for the welfare of the Filipinos as her mouth claims. But by general perception, she appears as if spokesperson of the anti-Duterte administration—a dismal insult to the core of her vice presidency!
Should an impeachment charges against her for a betrayal of trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and treason is ready for the Senate trial, a guilty conviction would highly likely be rendered not only because of a number but also of the gravity and seriousness of evidence for the grounds for her impeachment.
Betrayal of trust and culpable violation of the Constitution are two grounds for impeachment which the very meaning and the satisfaction for the burden of proof are based on the assumption and strong belief or inner conviction that the impeached official has indeed committed such.
With apparent public clamor being humiliated and vehemently disappointed by the actions and actuation of VP Leni Robredo, this will likely add pressure to the Senate to cast an overwhelming guilty vote.
But how the tide of the Philippine politics behaves insofar at this time, we may come at such point that we would rather let history judge her either fairly or otherwise.▲
* Failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth or SALN.
Defensor-Santiago, Miriam. 2012. “Speech Of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago Explaining Her Verdict On Chief Justice Renato Corona”. Speech, Senate of the Philippines.
Enrile Sr., Juan Ponce. 2012. “Speech Of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile Explaining His Verdict On Chief Justice Renato Corona”. Speech, Senate of the Philippines.
- (Image of VP Leni Robredo, By Filipinayzd – This version is a cropped image of File: Irvin Parco Sto. Tomas with Leni Robredo.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48697971)
- (Image of President Duterte, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)