Thursday, September 01, 2005

SC's Aide Sought

Posted by Alecks Pabico 

THE lawyer for whom the much-(mis)quoted Supreme Court doctrine in the debates during the impeachment hearings of the Committee on Justice has come to be called has again petitioned the Court to stop the House of Representatives from excluding the amended impeachment complaint filed by pro-impeachment congressmen against Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Atty. Ernesto Francisco Jr. filed a petition before the High Court in November 2003 to stop what he called as an "unconstitutional" impeachment case filed against Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. He also sought redress for having been "himself a victim of the capricious and arbitrary changes in the impeachment rules of procedure in the 12th Congress" when he filed a complaint against then Ombudsman Aniano Desierto in relation to the tax credit scam. This time, he is seeking the same action for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus from the Court in the impeachment case against Arroyo.

In a 33-page document, Francisco argues that the justice committee committed a grave abuse of its discretion in barring the amended complaint in favor of the original Lozano complaint, which, without the amended complaint, he says, would be easy for the committee to dismiss — which it just did yesterday — for being insufficient in form and substance.

Francisco's petition points out the defects and infirmities of the original Lozano complaint, namely:

  • it has not been verified but merely sworn;
  • it had no endorsement by a member of the House at the time it was filed on June 27, 2005;
  • it used a form foreign to the standard complaint or affidavit-complaint prepared and used by lawyers; and
  • its allegations may not be able to meet the standard of sufficiency of substance.

In fact, he adds, by filing a total of six supplemental affidavits of complaint to support his original complaint, Lozano admits as much to the insufficiency in substance.

Saying it is unfortunate that the "Francisco ruling" was being used by pro-Arroyo congressmen as their battlecry to block the amended complaint, Francisco argues that the said doctrine is not applicable to the impeachment proceeding before the House justice committee.  

He said that in light of the recent developments, the Francisco ruling should be re-examined since by deeming an impeachment proceeding initiated by the mere filing of an impeachment complaint and its referral to the committee on justice makes it clearly susceptible to abuse and "will effectively shield a corrupt, impeachable official  from impeachment."

"All that an impeachable official needs to do is to yearly ask somebody to file a sham impeachment complaint or a complaint which can easily be declared insufficient in form and substance and have it endorsed by an ally-representative," he added.

Francisco's petition also seeks the Court's clarification on the issue of a "creeping impeachment," whether or not the one-third majority for filing an impeachment complaint is required at the first instance. 

Read the full text of his petition here.

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