Can Supreme Court issue TRO vs Impeachment Trial?

Can Supreme Court issue TRO vs Impeachment Trial?


By BERTENI “TOTO” CATALUÑA CAUSING
Editor-in-chief, Dyaryo Magdalo


Can the Supreme Court issue any order affecting the Impeachment Trial?

Since this is just a legal question the Supreme Court cannot be influenced by any publication of opinions on what should be the answer.

After all, the jurists handling the petitions are adept in the point of law that they cannot be influenced.

Also, this author is only a neophyte compared to the heavyweights of the Courts and compared to his three former professors (Atty. Jose A. Roy III, Atty. Jacinto Jimenez and Atty. Tranquil Salvador III) acting as defense lawyers of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona and another former professor (Atty. Marlon Manuel) acting as one of the private prosecutors against the Chief Justice.

Nevertheless, the author is very much confident that the correct answer to this question will never change when the Supreme Court answers.

Let us begin by stating a fact that there is nothing in the Constitution that expressly says that the Supreme Court can stop the Impeachment Court from functioning.  There is also nothing in the Constitution that says which is higher in hierarchy, the Supreme Court or the Impeachment Court.  There is also nothing in the Constitution that says that the Impeachment Court can stop the Supreme Court from acting on the five petitions against the Articles of Impeachment or against the trial of the impeachment itself.  And there is also nothing in the Constitution that says that the Supreme Court can stop the Impeachment Court.

Pertaining to the Supreme Court, what we have in the Constitution, Article VIII, that are clear are these: (a) that all judicial powers are vested in the Supreme Court and all courts acting under it; (b) that judicial power includes the duty to settle actual controversies including rights that are legally demandable and enforceable; and (c) that judicial power also includes the power to determine whether there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.

Pertaining to the Impeachment Court, the Constitution in Article XI states that the “Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.”  But there is nothing there that says that it can stop the Supreme Court from deciding controversies related to the matters connected to the impeachment trial.

Before proceeding, let it be stressed that both the Supreme Court and the Impeachment Court are courts.   Let it be stressed also that the issues in impeachment cases are also judicial functions as are those enumerated by the Constitution included as part of the judicial power of the Supreme Court.  And while there is nothing that says that both are equal of each other with respect to their respective jurisdictions, there is also nothing that says which is supreme over the other.

Rather, one thing is clear.  Both are created by the Constitution. Both are assigned by the Constitution with judicial powers.  For being so, both are independent of each other.  As such, it stands more with logic that one cannot supplant the other with respect to issues that pertain to the province of one or the other. 

Now, it can be said that the judicial powers granted unto the Supreme Court and all other courts that may be created are what can be said as “THE GENERAL RULE.”  It can also be said that what is granted to the Impeachment Court is a specific power about judicial matters pertaining to impeachment cases.

It is always a precept of life in any governance that in every rule there is always an exception. And by this, it can be said without fear all controversies regarding impeachment are exempt from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court upon the condition that the Impeachment Court has been created or has begun to exist or the Articles of Impeachment has become an impeachment case.

Additionally, between a law or a constitutional provision that has general application and a law or constitutional provision that has specific application, the latter reigns supreme on matters included in that “specific application.”

Also, there is a maxim that says that what is not included in the enumeration is excluded.  Judicial issues of impeachment cases are not included in the enumeration of the judicial power of the Supreme Court. Hence, issues that need to be resolved in order for the purpose of impeachment trial to be achieved can only be resolved by the Impeachment Court.

Now, if the Constitution appoints the Impeachment Court as the SOLE court having jurisdiction to try and decide all cases of impeachment, this appointment means that all incidents that affect or that are related to the impeachment trial, collateral or direct, constitute as exceptions to the general powers of the Supreme Court.

Hence, it is now very clear that all issues pertaining to impeachment trials are within the EXCLUSIVE PROVINCE of the Impeachment Court and the Supreme Court cannot intrude thereto.

For being so, the Supreme Court cannot stop the Impeachment Court from proceeding with the impeachment trial of CJ Corona.

One more word.  It could have been a different matter if the Impeachment Court was not yet organized, that under this situation the Supreme Court can still have power to inquire into and decide whether the House of Representatives acted with grave abuse of discretion or not.  

But since the Articles of Impeachment was fast enough to have been drafted, endorsed, signed by the proper officers in the persons of the 188 congressmen, and filed before the Senate, it became an “impeachment case.” And since it became a case upon the filing, it became a matter within the province of the Senate and the Impeachment Court that cannot be touched by anyone else.

Additionally, the Senators were fast enough to constitute themselves to create the Impeachment Court. As such, it became all the more that the Articles of Impeachment done by the House CANNOT NOW BE UNDONE.

The petitioners in the Supreme Court were beaten to the draw by the team of House Chief Prosecutor Niel Causing Tupas Jr. 

In the words of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who has constituted himself into the Presiding Juror of the Impeachment Court, it has become: “functus officio.”  Meaning, the specific and limited function of the House of Representatives to draft, verify and file the Articles of Impeachment has been done and it can no longer be undone.

The final word. The procedure on how to come out with the Articles of Impeachment is also within the EXCLUSIVE POWER of the House of Representatives.  Such that even if the verification was done by it through a resolution signed by 188 congressmen, they cannot be questioned.  

The argument of the petitioners to stop the Impeachment Trial that the fact the Articles of Impeachment was done very fast is grave abuse of discretion is puerile.   This is so because the quickness or the speed by which it was done is still within the discretion of the House of Representatives.  

It is so because there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits quick action. Rather, what are in the constitution are only time limits that the House cannot delay beyond.  And to act quickly is not always true to be one that “haste makes waste.”  And if indeed the Articles of Impeachment is waste, it should work in favor of CJ Corona so that the Chief Justice should have been happier that the case was not studied thoroughly.

As such, the petitions and the motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) asked by the author’s other former professor, Atty. Alan F. Paguia, are too late in the day. 

All those filings seeking to stop the Impeachment Trial are part of the province of “MOOT AND ACADEMIC.”

Ergo, the Supreme Court cannot issue a TRO against or cannot stop the impeachment trial.

With this, we can borrow the lines of Switzerland and the Department of Tourism:

“Impeachment Trial? It’s more fun in the Philippines.”
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