Wednesday, August 09, 2006

HOUSE MAJORITY DEFIES SUPREME COURT DECISION IN FRANCISCO VS. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES


Pres. Gloria Arroyo and her allies in Congress have once again defied the Supreme Court by clearly misinterpreting the Court’s ruling in Francisco vs. House of Representatives when they defined initiation of an impeachment proceedings to mean the “filing, referral and receipt by the Justice Committee” of an impeachment complaint.

The Supreme Court declared in Francisco that an impeachment “proceeding is initiated or begins when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the Justice Committee for action”. Nowhere in the said decision did the Supreme Court require that for an impeachment proceeding to be initiated, the Justice Committee must receive it. CODAL finds Rep. Edcel Lagman’s strange interpretation distressing considering that he is a member of the legal profession and is supposed to be equipped with the knowledge to interpret clear decisions of the Court.

CODAL also finds absurd the theatrical interpretation by a Rep. Douglas Cagas of the term ‘referral’ to include ‘receipt’ using the Readers Digest as reference. Webster and other dictionaries defines refer as ‘to direct to a person or place’, and referral as ‘an act or instance of referring’. The act of referring does not require acceptance by the object of referral. To follow the logic of the majority, no person can be charged with firing a gun unless he hits his target. CODAL finds it regrettable that the impeachment proceedings is held hostage by the senatorial ambitions or other political plans by members of the House.

If the majority followed the Supreme Court definition, the Lozano Complaint is deemed initiated when it was referred by the Speaker to the Justice Committee on July 25, 2005 during the SONA last year. In that case, the one year period would have ended on July 25, 2006 and the valid complaint would be the 7th Complaint filed by members of Bayan on July 26, something possibly unacceptable to some members of the Majority. A Supreme Court decision, however, cannot be twisted on the basis of bias or ideological differences.

Problems with the Majority Interpretation : Danger to Impeachment Complaints

Firstly, the interpretation is a clear departure, again, from the Supreme Court ruling in Francisco. It must noted that the Majority patently violated this ruling last year, when it insisted that the impeachment complaint was initiated by the mere ‘filing’ of the Lozano complaint on June 27 rather than the ‘referral’ on July 25.

Secondly, this new House definition will allow the staff and other members of the Justice Committee to hold an impeachment complaint hostage by the mere act of delaying or withholding ‘receipt’ of the same. It practically invalidates intent of the Constitution and the rules of the House which requires the Speaker to ‘refer’ an impeachment complaint within 10 session days. The justice committee may not ‘receive’ an impeachment complaint within that 10 day period thereby making the Speaker vulnerable to violation of the rules as a result of the act of Committee personnel.

Thirdly, this definition will sow confusion in the House in regard to bills or resolutions filed. Normally, bills are deemed ‘referred’ on the date when these are referred to a particular committee in the First Reading. With the definition, a bill is only deemed referred once the sponsor manages to have it received by the relevant Committee, a complete departure from the tradition of Congress since it was created in during the Commonwealth period.

Pres. Arroyo’s has set a pattern of persistent defiance of judicial decisions not favorable to government such as prohibiting executive officials from appearing in Senate inquiries despite the Court’s decision invalidating EO 464. Her allies in the House have once again followed suit by distorting another Court decision. CODAL condemns the blatant disrespect and defiance shown by members of the Executive and Legislative branch to Supreme Court decisions and the erosion of the check and balance mechanisms under the Constitution in order to preempt serious investigation on crimes and other impeachable offenses. These acts only prove that the Impeachment Complaint is not only sufficient in form but also sufficient in substance particularly on the charge that Pres. Arroyo used ‘dictatorial powers’ to stay in power.

Reference Person: Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares

News Report Date: August 9, 2006

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