After killing impeachment comes harder trampling through Chacha

The fourth impeachment complaint has been killed by President Arroyo’s hordes in the House of Representatives and they delighted in doing it. They even went so far as to invent something perverse in the process of protecting their principal, according to lawyer’s group NUPL.

With the impeachment complaint buried, pro-Arroyo diehards appear to be preparing for a dance extravaganza that will trample harder on our rights and liberties. The dance, as we all know it by now, is called Chacha or charter change.

Thus, the Christmas season will be marked with Holiday protests on Dec. 12. Whether this signals something big happening by the first quarter, we can only hope, nay, work for it ourselves.

Below is the statement of the NUPL, for everyone’s reference:


By Neri Javier Colmenares
National Union of People’s Lawyers
Dec. 3, 2008

The decision of the House of Representatives dismissing the impeachment complaint, mainly on the ground of res judicata, is nothing more than inventing a new tool to protect Pres. Gloria Arroyo from impeachment proceedings. The self serving decision also ensured that no impeachment complaint involving the fertilizer scam and the Malacanang “brown bag bribery” which implicated congressmen will never again be tackled again in an impeachment complaint. The House, using res judicata, declared that all charges contained in all the previous impeachment complaints filed against Pres. Arroyo will never again be the subject of an impeachment complaint. The House dismissal means that the charges on electoral fraud, human rights violations, NBN ZTE, fertilizer scam, the Malacanang brownbag payola and other corrupt acts by Pres. Gloria Arroyo can never be the subject of another impeachment complaint—forever.

The House affirmed the decision of the Justice Committee dismissing the impeachment complaint on the ground that all the issues (except for the charges involving the anomalous Mt. Diwalwal contract, the Malacanang payola and Quedancor), have been decided on the merits in previous impeachment complaints. It dismissed the charges involving the rest for “failure” to make a recital of ultimate facts. After this impeachment complaint, however, issues involving Diwalwal, Quedancor and Malacanang Payola will also be “res judicata” thereby relieving congressmen who received bribe money under it from explaining their culpability in future impeachment proceedings.

Res judicata, a concept akin to double jeopardy in criminal law, means “the controversy has been authoritatively settled by judgment” (Blacks Law Dictionary). It has the following elements as explained in TAGANAS v. HON. MELITON G. EMUSLAN (G.R. No. 146980, September 2, 2003):

“The elements of res judicata are as follows: (1) the former judgment or order must be final; (2) the judgment or order must be on the merits; (3) it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (4) there must be, between the first and the second action, identity of parties, of subject matter and cause of action. For res judicata to apply, all the above essential requisites must exist.”

It is therefore, inapplicable in the impeachment proceedings because none of the previous impeachment complaints have been resolved on the merits but were dismissed merely for insufficiency in form and substance. These charges have remained unanswered and as they were dismissed even before the probable cause hearings. Furthermore, the Committee had no jurisdiction over the complaint because it never found any of the previous impeachment complaints sufficient in substance which would constitute the “jurisdiction of the committee”. In fact, the Justice Committee decision resulted from the motion of Rep. Mauricio Domogan that “The Committee has no jurisdiction over the complaint because it is insufficient in substance”. There could never be res judiciata because the committee that dismissed the previous complaints never had jurisdiction over a complaint dismissed for insufficiency of substance.

Worse, the House decision invents a new form of insulation for Pres. Arroyo who can no longer be impeached on the same grounds. The implications are monumental as it virtually repeals the accountability mechanisms in the Constitution. A future president can violate Philippine laws with impunity, and be saved from serious impeachment complaints, by merely manipulating the filing of a weak complaint containing all the issues against him. This time, the president is insulated not merely for one year but for the rest of her term. The decision was also self serving because it also saved congressmen from contending with embarrassing issues such as the Malcanang payola and the fertilizer scam, which they voted to dismiss without explaining why they should not inhibit from trying a case they are involved in.

Ultimate Facts under the Anti Graft Law

The House also attempted to delude the public that the complaint contained no ultimate fact despite the voluminous allegations and evidence recited by the complainants. At the very least, the President should have been impeached for violating the Republic Act 3019 in the NBN ZTE deal. RA 3019 provides under Section 3 (i) that :

Sec. 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. – In addition to acts or omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful:

(i ) Directly or indirectly becoming interested, for personal gain, or having a material interest in any transaction or act requiring the approval of a board, panel or group of which he is a member, and which exercises discretion in such approval, x x x

Interest for personal gain shall be presumed against those public officers responsible for the approval of manifestly unlawful, inequitable, or irregular transaction or acts by the board, panel or group to which they belong.

That the NBN ZTE deal is “manifestly irregular” needs no proof—Pres. Arroyo herself admitted that she was aware that there were anomalies in the contract. Furthermore, Sec. Romulo Neri has admitted under oath in the Senate that he was offered P 200 million to approve the overpriced NBN ZTE deal. Since under RA 3019, Pres. Arroyo is “presumed” to have entered into such a manifestly irregular contract for “personal gain” the complaint has more than substance—it contains a presumption sufficient to convict Pres. Arroyo unless she manages to present evidence to rebut the presumption. Since, Pres. Arroyo failed to even answer the impeachment complaint, the House cannot dismiss a complaint which contains a legal presumption that Pres. Arroyo violated the anti graft law. Members of the legal profession who dismissed the complaint should be made to account for such an atrocious and malicious misinterpretation of the law. Pres. Arroyo should be held to account for again manipulating Congress to protect her from being impeached. Now that Congress is closed as a venue for redress of grievances, and the push for extending Pres. Arroyo’s term through “cha cha” has began it is time for the people to assert their constitutional rights in the streets.