MANILA, Philippines - As an "act of courtesy," the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives on Thursday filed its comment with the Supreme Court (SC) regarding a petition filed by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez questioning the impeachment proceedings at the lower House.
Through counsel Solicitor General Joel Cadiz, the committee asked the high court to lift the status quo ante order it issued enjoining the House committee from proceeding with the impeachment proceedings against Gutierrez.
The House Committee, in its comment, insisted that the SC “may not intervene in the proceedings of the House of Representatives, through its Committee on Justice, a coordinate and co-equal branch of government.”
“The House of Representatives Committee on Justice is respectfully filing the attached Comment as an act of courtesy to a co-equal branch of government,” said the cover letter of the comment signed by Iloilo 5th District Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Justice.
The 70-page comment on Gutierrez’s petition seeking to nullify the resolutions issued by the House committee, which found sufficient in form and substance the impeachment complaints against her, insisted that impeachment proceedings against an impeachable officer is a political exercise which the high court may not intervene.
“The wisdom of designing impeachment as a political exercise prevailed among the framers of the Constitution, some of whom pointed out that although the impeachment of public officials may not result in their removal from office, the political exercise nonetheless has a deterrent effect as a means of ensuring that the public thrust is upheld,” said Cadiz on the comment..
Cadiz added that there is no basis for the SC to intervene since there was no violation of the rights of Gutierrez to due process.
The comment explained that the House committee’s finding that the 2 complaints filed against the Ombudsman were sufficient in form and substance were just preliminary proceedings. This should be considered as internal business intended to protect Gutierrez from baseless and vexatious complaints, said the justice committee.
Cadiz further explained that a notice and copy of the complaint will be sent to Gutierrez to answer the allegations against her, to give her the opportunity to refute the allegations in the impeachment complaints, and to set up her defenses in her favor.
“The existence of this remedy precludes petitioner from seeking from this Honorable Court the writs of certiorari and prohibition which lie only where there is no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law,” Cadiz said in the comment.
Cadiz also cited Francisco v. House of Representatives, wherein the SC interpreted the word “initiated” in Article XI, Section of the Constitution as referring to the filing of an impeachment complaint and its referral by the Speaker of the House to the Committee on Justice.
The Ernesto Francisco case refers to the impeachment complaint filed against then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. in connection with the disbursement of the judiciary fund.
Cadiz noted that the first complaint filed by former Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros and several others should first have been referred to the committee before it can be considered a bar to the filing of the second complaint filed by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes, et al.
“Indeed, filing and referral are mere mechanical acts involving no exercise of judgment to justify protecting an official from the filing within one year of another complaint against him. It is entirely possible for corrupt public officials to obtain the filing of a frivolous complaint against him to pre-empt the filing of more meritorious ones,” Cadiz said.