Impeachment Court is the Highest Court


Impeachment Court is the Highest Court

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


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

No, the Supreme Court cannot do so. The Impeachment Court is the HIGHEST COURT of the land when it comes to the issues arising from every turn of the impeachment proceedings.

This is so when the Impeachment Court begins to exist. 

The Supreme Court power can take jurisdiction on impeachment issues only before the House of Representatives approves the Articles of Impeachment.

If the Articles of Impeachment is approved, the House of Representatives loses jurisdiction to undo the same.  Its only option is to file it before the Senate of the Philippines.  At that point of approval of the articles, the Supreme Court cannot also have jurisdiction to stop it or much less to regulate the same.

These premises mooted all petitions filed before the Supreme Court to stop the Impeachment Trial on the ground that the verification for the Articles of Impeachment was defective by whatever reason.

So that all the senators have nothing to worry that their collective decision, for or against the impeached official, may be undone by the Supreme Court.

The reasons are simple enough.


The Silence of the Constitution


Assume that the Impeachment Court has begun to exist or has been constituted by the senators.

The silence of the Constitution is the first justification why the Supreme Court CANNOT be more powerful than the Impeachment Court on judicious issues relating to the impeachment.

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. 

While there is nothing in the Constitution that says that the Impeachment Court can stop the Supreme Court from acting on the petitions against the Articles of Impeachment or against the trial of the impeachment itself, there is also nothing in the Constitution that says that the Supreme Court can stop the Impeachment Court.

If an act or power prejudices another person or another agency if it is exercised, it cannot be done without any express authority from the Constitution or law.

So that if the Constitution is silent, it means the Highest Law does not give authority to prejudice the Impeachment Court.  The reverse is also true.

So that it is pretty clear that the silence of the Constitution prohibits the Supreme Court from touching on the Impeachment Court and also prohibits the Impeachment Court from touching the Supreme Court as an institution.

It may be asked: Can the Impeachment Court subpoena a justice of the Supreme Court?

The answer is yes.

This is because the powers of the Impeachment Court include ALL that are necessary or implied in the performance of its mandate to arrive at a decision of convicting or acquitting the respondent.

Additionally, there is no offense to the independence of the Supreme Court because this also jibes with the well-accepted reasoning that a member alone of the Supreme Court is not equivalent to a Supreme Court.

Thus, it is very clear now.

The Impeachment Court is the Highest Court when it comes to matters of impeachment once the Impeachment Court is constituted or has begun to exist.



Allocation of judicial powers is clear


If we look at and examine the judicial powers allocated by the Constitution to the Supreme Court and the judicial powers allocated to the Impeachment Court, we can clearly see the big difference.

The powers given to the Supreme Court are defined in Article VIII of the Constitution as “judicial powers.”

But the same provision of the Constitution limits these “judicial powers” to the following:

(a) that judicial power that includes the duty to settle actual controversies including rights that are legally demandable and enforceable; and

(b) that judicial power that 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.

Before proceeding, remember that “branch” refers to the “Executive” and “Legislative” and “instrumentality” includes all other offices that are instruments of the government.  If we talk about instrument, it is one regularly used in a trade or business by an artisan or a businessman.  Since an Impeachment Court is an extraordinary body that seldom exists, it cannot be considered an instrument.

Additionally, the provision for the Supreme Court does not state that it can encompass the Impeachment Court.

Now, Article XI of the Constitution grants unto the Impeachment Court that power exclusive—again, exclusive—power to try and decide all cases of impeachment. 

This exclusivity of the powers invested to the Impeachment court is very pronounced in the word “sole.”

To see the word “sole,” let Article XI states that the “Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.” 

This word “sole” clearly shows that the Constitution separates impeachment issues from all the rest of the classes of judicial powers.

Thus, it is very clear that the Supreme Court cannot undo what the Impeachment Court has done.



General rule vs exemption


Now, it can be said that the judicial powers granted unto the Supreme Court and all other courts that may be created to act under it are what can be said as “THE GENERAL RULE” on judicial powers.

It can also be said that what is granted to the Impeachment Court is a specific power about judicial matters pertaining to impeachment cases.  As such, this constitutes as an exemption to the general rule.

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 already 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.”


Not included, deemed excluded



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 powers 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.



Clear appointment as sole power


Now, 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, necessary or implied, 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.



Rubicon has been crossed


With the above premises, once the Articles of Impeachment is approved and filed before the Senate of the Philippines, the Rubicon has been crossed.  The die is cast.  There is no point of return.

When the Articles of Impeachment is approved, the line is automatically drawn to separate the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court from the Impeachment Court.

What is left therefore are all powers for the exclusive use by the Impeachment Court.

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” too fast for the opponents to stop it from reaching the Senate to become a part of the province of the Senate and the Impeachment Court.

Moreover, the Senators were fast enough to constitute themselves to create the Impeachment Court.

Again, it became all the more apparent that the Articles of Impeachment done by the House CANNOT NOW BE UNDONE.

In the words of Court Presiding Officer Juan Ponce Enrile, 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 completely done and it can no longer be undone.



Impeachment Court has no power to inquire into the verification


If the powers of the Impeachment Court is almost encompassing, it cannot touch on the procedure on how to come out with the Articles of Impeachment.

This is so because the processing of the Articles of Impeachment is within the EXCLUSIVE POWER of the House of Representatives. 

Such that even if the verification was done by the House through a resolution signed by 188 congressmen that verification cannot be questioned.



There was no grave abuse on the House


The arguments of the petitioners who filed the petitions before the Supreme Court 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.

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