Instead of Congress having the sole power to remove all impeachable officials from office, the Consultative Committee to review the 1987 Constitution on Monday said it was studying a proposed provision that would allow the judiciary to participate in the impeachment process.
This was the consensus reached by the Con-Com Sub-commitee on the Structure of the Federal Government last week, which is still subject to a final vote in the Con-Com’s en banc session.
The impeachable officials include the President, the Vice President, the members of the Supreme Court, the members of the Constitutional Commissions and the Ombudsman.
In other developments:
• Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Monday thumbed down the Con-Com’s proposal to split the powers of impeachment between Congress and the judiciary under a new draft Constitution.
“That is only the proposal of the Con-Com. I do not subscribe to it personally [because] the balance of power [will be jeopardized],” Alvarez told reporters.
Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said the Con-Com proposal would legitimize the decision of the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the quo warranto petition filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
“The Duterte-appointed Con-Com proposal hews closely to what the present Supreme Court has done to Sereno, who was removed by her peers at the instigation of the President’s Solicitor General,” Villarin said.
• The Con-Com is also proposing provisions that will allow the creation of three high courts under its draft federal Constitution to have a “more efficient” judiciary.
Con-Com Senior Technical Assistant and spokesman Conrado Generoso said this was the consensus reached by the Con-Com Sub-commitee on the Structure of the Federal Government last week, which is still subject to a final vote in the Con-Com’s en banc session.
Con-Com chairman and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the subcommittee wanted the impeachment process to be a joint jurisdiction of Congress and the judiciary.
Puno said while the indictment will be left to Congress (both the Senate and House of Representatives), the trial will be a “strictly judicial proceeding” when it goes to the proposed Federal Constitutional Court.
“The process of impeachment should be both political and judicial in nature,” Puno told reporters at the Philippine International Convention Center.
“In other words, it’s a joint power to be exercised by both Houses and there is an impeachment body created where the composition is 12 members will come from the Senate, 12 will come from the House and the body is presided over by the Senate President.”
Puno said the decision of the joint body would not be voted upon separately by each House. PNA, with Maricel V. Cruz
“If the joint body decides that there is enough ground to impeach, [it] prepares the indictment, then that indictment is filed immediately and directly with the Constitutional Court. That decision is not to be subjected to separate voting by each house,” Puno said.
Meanwhile, the judicial part of the process―the trial and judgment―will be done by the Federal Constitutional Court.
The Federal Constitutional Court is one of the three high courts in the Con-Com’s proposed changes to the Judicial Branch to expand the generalized high court in the current Constitution to three specialized courts to address specific concerns or cases.
The other two high courts in the expert panel’s proposed provisions are the Federal Supreme Court and the Federal Administrative Court.
Asked if impeachment via a quo warranto petition would be prohibited under the federal Constitution, Puno said that the matter was yet to be discussed.
The Con-Com’s proposals come after the Supreme Court, sitting en banc, voted 8-6 granting the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida seeking to nullify Sereno’s appointment for failing to complete her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.
She is the first Chief Justice to be removed from office through quo warranto proceedings.