Con-Com wants to strip Congress of sole power to impeach
MANILA, Philippines – The Consultative Committee (Con-Com) wants the power to impeach officials to be shared by Congress and the judiciary, and not Congress alone, as in the present system.
Con-Com officials, on Monday, May 21, bared an emerging consensus on changes to the impeachment process they will propose be included in a new federal constitution.
"Impeachment will no longer be the exclusive domain of Congress," said Con-Com spokesman Conrado Generoso during a press conference.
The Con-Com is eyeing to propose a new impeachment process in which the Senate and the House of Representatives form a joint impeachment committee but the impeachment trial itself will be conducted by the Federal Constitutional Court.
This court is one of the 3 high courts the Con-Com wants to create under the new federal constitution they are drafting.
The proposed process will apply to the impeachment of the president, vice president, members of the Supreme Court, members of constitutional commissions, and the Ombudsman.
In their proposal, Congress' joint impeachment committee will receive impeachment complaints and determine its sufficiency in form and substance, and if there is probable cause.
They will then turn over the case to the Federal Constitutional Court which will then hold the impeachment trial.
This differs from the current setup in which the House initiates or receives an impeachment complaint, votes on whether or not to impeach the official, then forwards articles of impeachment to the Senate. The Senate will then serve as the impeachment court, with members of the House acting as prosecutors.
Con-Com chairman and former chief justice Reynato Puno explained that the committee members decided on these changes to make the impeachment process less politicized.
He recalled that the impeachment process at times has become a "purely political process," with officials subjected to the process left with shrinking space to seek judicial relief.
Puno cited the impeachment of former chief justice Renato Corona as an example in which the latter's attempts to seek judicial relief came to nothing.
"If a process is purely political, the members of Congress would not be answerable to the judiciary but they will only be answerable to the people. This means the respondent cannot go to the Supreme Court for any judicial remedy," said Puno.
In the Con-Com's proposal, the impeachment trial "will be a strictly judicial proceeding, said the former chief justice.
To questions about whether the removal of Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice influenced or informed the Con-Com's discussions on the impeachment process, Puno said their decisions were not made based on any one specific personality.
However, he described the removal of Sereno via quo warranto petition as a "wrinkle" in the process of removing impeachable officials.
"It's a wrinkle, meaning it's a new development. When you look at the past constitutions, there was really nothing specific said if this quo warranto can be used for these cases. In other words, it's an area in the constitution which was never contemplated by the framers of the constitution that will be used by the state to remove an impeachable official," said Puno.
The Con-Com is likely to insert a wording that would clear up the quo warranto route as a way to remove an impeachable official. Puno said this wording could be inserted in provisions dealing with grounds for impeachment.
One "off-the-cuff" proposition from a member, said Puno, was to include the grounds for a quo warranto petition – ineligibility for office – as grounds for impeachment. – Rappler.com