A Sensible Suggestion

The House Committee on Justice is set once again to tackle today the most proverbial question lately: What impeachment complaint shall they grind and then decide upon? As we speak now, three distinct complaints are presently docketed before the aforementioned committee, first of which was filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano, where the tenor of the argument is that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has “betrayed the public trust” on account mainly of the Garci tapes. And then there was the amended complaint filed by several lawmakers from the opposition where aside from “betrayal of public trust”, it was additionally alleged that President GMA had violated the constitution as well as of bribing Comelec officials---among other crimes. Aside from these two complaints, there also was that of lawyer Jose Lopez who is said to be a “virtual copy” of the Lozano petition.

The long and protracted debate on whose complaint shall be received for actual deliberation by the house committee on Justice arises mainly from the constitutional rule that provides that only one impeachment complaint against the President shall be heard in any given year. Therefore, it becomes vital for argument purposes as to whose complaint it is that shall initiate the “one complaint” as prescribed by our laws.

On August 19, Former Justice Secretary Artemio G. Tuquero suggested that the three complaints could actually be merge and consolidated, thus doing away with the problem of possibly violating the rules on the initiation of impeachment proceedings. For me, this is the most sensible and sane idea ever to come out of this bedlam of opinions and hush-hushes. When Congress still has no permanent rule on the matters of form and substance of a proper impeachment complaint, it could still anytime propose and establish a rule where it could be allowed that two or more complaints could be merge and consolidated as long as they retain a reasonable semblance of tenor and arguments. In the present situation, since all three complaints are pointed against the same defendant, that is the President herself, the house committee on justice may motu propio (on its own) decide today to merge the three complaints and thus “creating” merely one complaint where it is incorporated all petitioners as complainants in such, and then listing in it all the particulars and basis of complaints, from betrayal of public trust to bribery. In this manner, it is completely avoided that one single complaint may violate the constitutional limitation on the number of impeachment complaint initiated against the President.

The suggestion presented above is never farfetched or strange since the regular Rules of Court also allows merger and consolidation of parties although in a much stricter way. Section 6 of Rule 3 of the Rules of Court allows the joinder of parties into a singular complaint where they all have similar causes of action arising from a transaction or series of transaction. The house committee on justice may just emulate this rule in order to resolve the present debacle at hand.
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