SC allows Ombudsman impeachment to proceed

February 25, 2011

In a vote of 7-5-2, the Supreme Court has allowed the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to proceed in the House of Representatives. The decision stemmed from the petition filed by Gutierrez last September to stop the House Committee on Justice from proceeding with her impeachment. Gutierrez claimed that there was a violation of the Constitution when the House committee heard two impeachment complaints against her which violated Article XI Section 3 (5) of the 1987 Constitution which provides that “no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.”

In its Decsion, the Court reiterated its previous ruling that what the 1987 Constitution prohibited was not the initiation of more than one complaint in one year but the initiation of more than one proceeding. Thus, it held:

“The Court, of course, does not downplay the importance of an impeachment complaint, for it is the matchstick that kindles the candle of impeachment proceedings.  The filing of an impeachment complaint is like the lighting of a matchstick.  Lighting the matchstick alone, however, cannot light up the candle, unless the lighted matchstick reaches or torches the candle wick.  Referring the complaint to the proper committee ignites the impeachment proceeding. With a simultaneous referral of multiple complaints filed, more than one lighted matchsticks light the candle at the same time.  What is important is that there should only be ONE CANDLE that is kindled in a year, such that once the candle starts burning, subsequent matchsticks can no longer rekindle the candle.”

Those who voted  for the continuation of the impeachment proceedings were Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Jose Mendoza, Roberto Abad, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Antonio Eduardo Nachura, and Martin Villarama. Those who dissented were Chief Justice Renato Corona, and Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Lucas Bersamin, Teresita Leonardo De Castro, and Diosdado Peralta. Associate Justices Mariano Del Castillo and Jose Perez concurred in part while Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco inhibited himself since his son is presently a Congressman.

Read the Decision here.

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