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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.

Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Case For Judicial Review

Even as I write, the House of Representatives is in the end stage of affirming the Justice Committee Report dismissing the three complaints. The opposition has taken a two-pronged strategy. One, reviving the parliament of the streets headed no less than former President, Cory Aquino, and Ms. Susan Roces and second, the filing of a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court.

Among the two, the parliament of the streets requires critical mass. Many commentators have taken the dim view of people power. Fatigue has allegedly set in and the people have tired of changing governments by taking to the streets. Whatever it is, people power may take days or weeks and it is best left to the veteran leaders of EDSA 1 and 2 to mount an EDSA 3.

But it is to judicial review that this present controversy may well be finally settled.

For sure, JDV, the Speaker of the House, will invoke the “political question” doctrine. That the decision of the Lower House, being a sovereign act of the House, is an exercise of its wisdom and therefore, the decision must be respected by a co-equal branch of government. In laymen’s terms, being on equal footing, the Supreme Court has no right to trample on the House’s decision and must by force of law, respect its will.

The political question doctrine was the refuge of the Marcos regime when political cases were filed against it and its main evangelist was none other than former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza. As a result of that negative experience, former Chief Justice and Constitutional Commissioner Roberto Concepcion emphasized and recommended during the Constitutional Commission debates that the Supreme Court must be given the power and primacy to delve into political questions. And so, they did.

Thus, since the 1987 Constitution came into effect, the Court has time and again waded and intruded into the realm of the legislature not for the purpose of questioning its wisdom or discretion but to dwell on the legality of its acts.

The Supreme Court should not deny itself the right to review this case. More so, when it enumerated in the Francisco case the many times it ruled on the legality of the acts of the legislature. For this reason, it is with confidence that a resort to the Supreme Court will finally put to rest the issue and legality of the three complaints for which the House has confirmed the dismissal of the impeachment case against the president.

For the Supreme Court to entertain a case questioning the decision of the House, it must deal with the legality of the 3 impeachment complaints and the exclusion of the 2 other complaints in the light of the Francisco ruling.

The issue must be: If the Francisco decision defined “initiated” as filing of the complaint and referral to the Justice Committee, did the 3 complaints fall within the period of initiation? And assuming that the 3 complaints fell within the period of initiation, did the Justice Committee commit an error when it dismissed the two subsequent complaints as prohibited pleadings which is proscribed in the 1987 Constitution.

This issue will be primordial. Because if the SC rules that the 3 impeachment complaints fall within the purview of the definition of “initiation”, then that means that the Lopez complaint and the amended Lozano complaint are valid complaints that should have been considered by the Justice Committee.

A practical consequence of that decision would be to overturn the House decision and remand the 2 impeachment complaints to the Justice Committee for reconsideration.

And insofar as the Lozano complaint is concerned, having been discoursed lengthily but dismissed for lack of substance by the Justice Committee, it stands to reason that the Justice Committee will not reverse itself on the original Lozano complaint. Thus, the only complaints that should be discussed will be the Lopez and the amended Lozano complaints for a determination of sufficiency of form and substance.

The issue before the Supreme Court must touch on the legality of the act and not on its wisdom. How will the Supreme Court rule? Legally, the weight of jurisprudence appears to support the opposition but we do not know what goes on in the hearts and minds of these brethren. We can only but pray to Lady Justice to show them the wisdom and to rule as one, without fear or favor, without purpose of evasion or hesitation. And so, we pray to her: “Fiat justitia ruat caelumLet justice be done though the heavens fall.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm on the fence on whether the opposition should file this one or not.

In their petition for certiorari, the opposition can only pray that Congress entertain all three complaints. Of course, the Supreme Court cannot order Congress to forward them to the Senate.

I admit, it would be a good opportunity to clear up the issue, for the purpose of setting the rule amd jurisprudence straight.

In the final analysis, however, that would just prolong the agony since for sure, they would still rule that all three complaints do not have substance. They have the numbers, as they have clearly demonstrated.

Also, I already lost respect for the other two branches of government. I don't want to loose respect for the third and final one.

So I'm on the fence in this one...

7:18 AM  
Anonymous dawin said...

At this stage of the exercise, I think winning the vote to transmit the articles to the Senate is not as important yet as settling the admissibility of the amended complaints.

Moreover, to win in the SC case is a psychic victory and justify's the opposition's claim that the majority railroaded the entire affair in the House. That gives them a lot of credibility in the eyes of the Filipino people.

What is vital is that if the SC decides in favor of the 2 other complaints, then the opposition will be given an opportunity to present evidence and for all the Filipinos to see just what kind of evidence the opposition have against the president.

And if the administration solons will still rule against the complaints, it will not be because the complaints were insufficient in form and substance but because of other million reasons that I, as an ordinary citizen, will not be able to fathom.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous dawin said...

However, looking at the doctrine of separation of powers, the Supreme Court may be put in a quandary since the House as a plenary ruled on the report but I think this is how they will get out of the mess in the following sequence:

(1) they will decide that the decision of the House to affirm the Justice Committee report is a sovereign act and therefore, beyond the pale of judicial review but;

(2) having said that, it will rule on the legality of the amended pleadings in the light of the Francisco ruling so that future impeachment proceedings may be guided.

In that way, the SC ends up respecting a co-equal branch and at the same time, clarifying the issues in this Arroyo impeachment case. But of course, a decision like this will bring no satisfaction to the opposition.

12:29 PM  

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