Impeachment trial is illogical, vague & void

Impeachment trial is illogical, vague & void

Editor-in-chief, Dyaryo Magdalo

The framers of the 1987 Constitution, who included the most revered constitutional law expert Father Joaquin Bernas and former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, must have committed a blunder when they wrote the provisions on impeachment, particularly in writing the grounds for the same and in designating who should be the judges thereof.

To know what they wrote as the grounds or reasons or justifications to allow impeachment, the provision of Section 2 of Article XI of the Constitution states as follows:

“Section 2. 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. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.”

For purposes of greater understanding, let me summarize the justifications written by the framers. These are “culpable violation of the Constitution,” “treason,” “bribery”,“graft and corruption,” “other high crimes,” and “betrayal of public trust.”

Looking at the faces of these grounds or reasons, they are all facts to be proved; They can never be opinions of the majority of the people that just because they do not want the face of the accused in an impeachment trial the accused must be adjudged guilty even if the prosecutors failed to prove the facts of the accusations.

These grounds must be facts. They can never be said to be logical to be based on political judgments, or on the basis of just because majority of the people do not like the respondent in the impeachment trial.

To make it more understandable, these grounds should be those that what really happened. They should not be what the people say or what the senators say.

Let the “culpable violation of the Constitution” be discussed. 

When can the accused in an impeachment trial be said to be guilty of “culpable violation of the Constitution”?  To answer this honestly, the judge should ask: what really happened? It is not that the judge should ask: what do the people want?

It is only when there are proofs that the accused can be said to have committed acts of violations to be truly said he is guilty of the impeachment charge of “culpable violation of the Constitution?”

It is not when the people or the senators afraid of the peoples’ votes to say the accused should be guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution just because the people do not like the accused.  It is not that the people want to oust the accused.  It is when the accused really committed the acts that constituted the charge.

So that if the framers of the 1987 Constitution, including Father Bernas and then Chief Justice Davide, decided to make the senators as the judges or the jurors of the impeachment trial, they committed a blunder that NO SENATOR WOULD EVER PRONOUNCE HIS JUDGMENT AGAINST THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE AS EACH OF THE SENATORS PERCEIVED WHAT THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE REALLY IS.

These senators will never vote according to what they believe is true because they will always decide in favor of what they feel is what the people want.  Much more if the senators are running for reelection or for election of a higher or other position, they will never antagonize the people.

So that if the framers of the Constitution decided to make the senators as the judges they committed a big blunder. They forgot that the senators will decide not on the basis of what the facts are but on what the people want.

Can Chief Justice Renato Corona now expect to be acquitted despite the strong evidence in his favor but majority of the people want him out?

Of course, while it is predictable that Senator Lito Lapid will vote according to the facts as he saw them because Lapid is not seeking a reelection, we cannot expect Senator Bong Revilla to decide on his conscience as he would see the evidence or he will lose his bid to become vice president.

In the same manner that all other senators cannot be expected to decide on merits unless they want to court disaster that the people will no longer vote for them.

It is indeed too sad for Chief Justice Corona that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is too popular to the people that anything the president says is more believed in.

Confirming this is Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who said that the voice of the people will take the biggest role in influencing the decision of the jurors-senators.

Will any senator be truthful and honest enough to the evidence?  Of course, they will never ever be as a rule of habit of life.

If the jurors can never be independent, this is a violation of the very basic right to be adjudged only on what is just as evidence can support. If the jurors-senators can never be independent, it is then a violation of due process right.

The basic right of due process is composed of two essentials: (1) the right to be notified of the charge; and (2) the right to be heard.

So how will the right to be heard be given life when the jurors will never hear the evidence or will never consider the evidence because their minds are controlled by the people's will?

So that the vagueness here is caused by limiting the choices of the judges only to the senators.

Remember, the grounds used in the Constitution should be THE VOICE OF FACTS, and NOT THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE.

Also, there is a rule that reasonably supports the theory that vagueness of the provisions makes that provision unenforceable and void because it violates the due process right: THE RIGHT THAT THE ACCUSED BE SPECIFICALLY INFORMED OF THE NATURE AND CAUSE OF ACCUSATION AGAINST HIM.

Is the impeachment trial provision unenforceable or void just because it appears to be vague and illogical to the fact of life that the judges can never shed themselves of the political influence to their decision?

This author dares say “yes.”

There is only one ground for impeachment that can be logical with senators as the jurors: IT IS THE GROUND OF LOSS OF TRUST OR CONFIDENCE.

The loss of trust can exist even if there was no crime committed, even if there was no violation of the constitutional provisions.

At least, the "loss of trust" is not based on factual circumstances but more on whether the people like or do not like the impeachment respondent.

This opinion finds support in the ONLY impeachment of a US Federal Supreme Court justice where the allies of then President Thomas Jefferson rebuked him by declaring that the independence of the Judiciary does not allow political manipulation in impeachment trials.  Read at this link:




Jefferson was highly suspicious of the judges appointed by his predecessors; his opinion of good judges was much higher: one of his arguments for a bill of rights would be the power they would give the judiciary.[7] At his urging, Congress repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801, abolishing the numerous district courts created at the end of the Adams presidency. The battle to abolish the Judiciary Act was not an easy one. Federalists argued that once the courts were created and judges were appointed, the Constitution directs that they serve for life unless impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors". The Republican leadership, prompted by Jefferson, chose not to argue the political manipulation of the courts but instead chose to attack them based on the cost to the nation. Since many of the courts were created to pack the judiciary with lifetime Federalist judges, there were many circumstances in which there was no need for a court at all. The Republicans argued that the unwarranted nature of the courts combined with their excessive cost justified repeal for the Judiciary Act. Despite the fact that this argument required a "loose" interpretation of the Constitution, which Jefferson rallied against when he fought the creation of Hamilton's First Bank of the United States, the Congress was successful in reversing the law.

This also left numerous Federalist "midnight judges" without positions. Since the creation of these "midnight judge" positions was done to protect the courts from Republican appointees, Jefferson felt justified in not awarding the commissions creating the new federal judges. One commission that he was unable to prevent was the appointment of former Secretary of State John Marshall to the position of Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Although Marshall was a cousin of Jefferson, he was a strong Federalist in the tradition of John Adams. Marshall's influence on the Court would help to firmly entrench the supremacy of the federal government. One of the first cases Marshall was asked to decide was that of William Marbury, one of the "midnight judges" who was requesting that the Court issue a writ of mandamus to Secretary of State James Madison ordering the delivery of the judicial commissions. The resulting case, Marbury v. Madison, set the landmark precedent of judicial review for the Supreme Court.

The Republicans were not content with simply overturning the Judiciary Act of 1801 and removing the "midnight judges." They next planned to impeach existing federal judges to remove them from office. The first case was John Pickering, a Federalist judge who exhibited signs of insanity and public drunkenness. At Jefferson's instigation, the House of Representatives impeached Pickering in 1804 and the Senate removed him from the bench later that year. Jefferson next set his sights on the Supreme Court. Reading that Federalist Justice Samuel Chase told a grand jury that the Republicans threatened "peace and order, freedom and property", Jefferson urged Congressional leaders to begin impeachment hearings. Many Republicans felt that this accusation of sedition was too reminiscent of the Federalist Sedition Act that had been repealed early in Jefferson's presidency. Unwilling to remove a Supreme Court justice on purely political accusations, the Senate acquitted Chase of all charges in 1804. The case of Samuel Chase has been the only impeachment trial of a Supreme Court justice in United States history. By rebelling against Jefferson's wishes, the Republican Senators sent a message that the independence of the judiciary was not open to political manipulation.

Popular Posts