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Gutierrez vs.

HR
Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez vs. The House Of Representatives Committee On Justice, et.al. G.R. No. 193459, February 15, 2011 Carpio, Morales, J.: Doctrine: x x x We ought to be guided by the doctrine of stare decisis et non quieta movere. As pointed out in Francisco, the impeachment proceeding is not initiated when the House deliberates on the resolution passed on to it by the Committee, because something prior to that has already been done. The action of the House is already a further step in the proceeding, not its initiation or beginning. Rather, the proceeding is initiated or begins, when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the Committee on Justice for action. This is the initiating step which triggers the series of steps that follow. Facts: On July 22, 2010, private respondents Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, et.al. (Baraquel group) filed an impeachment complaint against petitioner. On August 3, 2010, private respondents Renato Reyes et.al. (Reyes group) filed another impeachment complaint. Both impeachment complaints were endorsed by different PartyList Representatives. On August 10, 2010, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, as chairperson of the Committee on Rules, instructed the Deputy Secretary General for Operations to include the two complaints in the Order of Business, which was complied with by their inclusion in the Order of Business for the following day. On August 11, 2010 at 4:47 p.m., during its plenary session, the House of Representatives simultaneously referred both complaints to public respondent. After hearing, public respondent, by Resolution of September 1, 2010, found both complaints sufficient in form, which complaints it considered to have been referred to it at exactly the same time. Meanwhile, the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the 15th Congress was published on September 2, 2010. On September 6, 2010, petitioner tried to file a motion to reconsider the September 1, 2010 Resolution of public respondent. Public respondent refused to accept the motion, however, for prematurity; instead, it advised petitioner to await the notice for her to file an answer to the complaints, drawing petitioner to furnish copies of her motion to each of the 55 members of public respondent. After hearing, public respondent, by Resolution of September 7, 2010, found the two complaints, which both allege culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, sufficient in substance. The determination of the sufficiency of substance of the complaints by public respondent, which assumed hypothetically the truth of their allegations, hinged on the issue of whether valid judgment to impeach could be rendered thereon. Petitioner was served also on September 7, 2010 a notice directing her to file an answer to the complaints within 10 days. Issue: When is impeachment deemed initiated? (Does the present impeachment complaint violate the one-year bar rule under the Constitution?) Held: The one-year bar rule. Article XI, Section 3, paragraph (5) of the Constitution reads: No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.

Petitioner reckons the start of the one-year bar from the filing of the first impeachment complaint against her on July 22, 2010 or four days before the opening on July 26, 2010 of the 15th Congress. She posits that within one year from July 22, 2010, no second impeachment complaint may be accepted and referred to public respondent. Following petitioners line of reasoning, the verification of the complaint or the endorsement by a member of the House steps done prior to the filing would already initiate the impeachment proceedings. Contrary to petitioners emphasis on impeachment complaint, what the Constitution mentions is impeachment proceedings. Her reliance on the singular tense of the word complaint to denote the limit prescribed by the Constitution goes against the basic rule of statutory construction that a word covers its enlarged and plural sense. 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. Under the Rules of the House, a motion to refer is not among those motions that shall be decided without debate, but any debate thereon is only made subject to the five-minute rule. Moreover, it is common parliamentary practice that a motion to refer a matter or question to a committee may be debated upon, not as to the merits thereof, but only as to the propriety of the referral. With respect to complaints for impeachment, the House has the discretion not to refer a subsequent impeachment complaint to the Committee on Justice where official records and further debate show that an impeachment complaint filed against the same impeachable officer has already been referred to the said committee and the one year period has not yet expired, lest it becomes instrumental in perpetrating a constitutionally prohibited second impeachment proceeding. Far from being mechanical, before the referral stage, a period of deliberation is afforded the House, as the Constitution, in fact, grants a maximum of three session days within which to make the proper referral. As mentioned, one limitation imposed on the House in initiating an impeachment proceeding deals with deadlines. The Constitution states that [a] verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution or endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter.

x x x We ought to be guided by the doctrine of stare decisis et non quieta movere. As pointed out in Francisco, the impeachment proceeding is not initiated when the House deliberates on the resolution passed on to it by

the Committee, because something prior to that has already been done. The action of the House is already a further step in the proceeding, not its initiation or beginning. Rather, the proceeding is initiated or begins, when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the Committee on Justice for action. This is the initiating step which triggers the series of steps that follow. Allowing an expansive construction of the term initiate beyond the act of referral allows the unmitigated influx of successive complaints, each having their own respective 60-session-day period of disposition from referral. Worse, the Committee shall conduct overlapping hearings until and unless the disposition of one of the complaints ends with the affirmance of a resolution for impeachment or the overriding[ of a contrary resolution (as espoused by public respondent), or the House transmits the Articles of Impeachment (as advocated by the Reyes group), or the Committee on Justice concludes its first report to the House plenary regardless of the recommendation (as posited by respondent-intervenor). Each of these scenarios runs roughshod the very purpose behind the constitutionally imposed one-year bar. Opening the floodgates too loosely would disrupt the series of steps operating in unison under one proceeding.