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San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

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Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Ghost of Congress Past

In trying to draft the current House Rules on Impeachment Procedure, the opposition harks back to the "creeping impeachment" strategy employed when an impeachment complaint was filed against President Joseph Estrada. Essentially, they maintain that the 1/3 vote of the full House obtained at any point during the Justice Committee hearings, and not merely at the time of filing, will be constitutionally sufficient to refer the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.

The best legal argument in support of this thesis is that since the strategy was used against President Estrada, the administration has no reason to grumble as the beneficiary was the incumbent president herself. The rules that applied to Erap must equally apply to GMA. In other words, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!

Well, if that is the best argument of the opposition, then they ought to go back to law school.

First of all, the Supreme Court has time and again ruled that Congress can change, adopt or modify their rules anytime. Why? Because these rules are procedural in nature. And according the case of Romulo v. YƱiguez which likewise questioned the impeachment rules in the Batasan, "rules do not have the force of law but are merely in the nature of by-laws prescribed for the orderly and convenient conduct of proceedings."

Second, in the concurring opinion of Justice Tinga in the celebrated "impeach-Davide" case of Francisco, et al. v. House of Representatives, et al., Justice Tinga (whose son is the nemesis of Congressman Cayetano) stated that "Congress has the power to disregard the Rules of its predecessor and to adopt its own Rules". These are elementary doctrinal precepts that the likes of Cayetano, Zamora and Escudero would know about. A freshman law student learns this principle in Constitutional Law within 3 months of entering law school.

But these opposition stalwarts conveniently resort to a "lapse of judgment" in order to fool the unknowing public and accuse the administration solons of delaying the impeachment proceeding since they refused to adopt the Rules of the previous Congress.

There are better arguments I have thought of (which is one article altogether) that can be raised to justify the constitutionality of the creeping impeachment strategy. But to argue they are valid because the previous Congress allowed it shows their indolence and dearth of intelligence. It also implies the lack of serious resolve to impeach the president. The opposition would rather incite the baser instinct of our countrymen rather than appeal to the logic of their arguments.

But the key to justify the creeping impeachment strategy is in the Constitution itself. There is no da Vinci Code or an enigma wrapped in a mystery. And if the opposition cannot find the answer within, all they have to do is but ask the viewpoint of retired Court of Appeals Justice and Constitutional Commissioner Regalado Maambong, the creator and author of the disputed provision. The fault, dear Cheez, is not in the stars but in ourselves, that we are slow to think and abounding in steadfast anger on the president.

The administration is fortunate to have legal eagles like Congressmen Lagman and Nograles. That they can stand down the opposition solons and their specious arguments show they are no Scrooges who are scared to be haunted by the Ghost of Congress Past.

And if the opposition will maintain the same retrogressive reasoning, expect the impeachment to die a natural death. If that happens, the Ghost of Congress Present will forever hound the opposition leaders for missing their date with history. And with that tragedy, Speaker Joe de Venecia will be all smiles and say: "Bah, humbug! On with Cha Cha!"

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