Estrada v Desierto Digest
ESTRADA VS DESIERTO DIGEST...
Estrada v Desierto
GR Nos. 146710-15, March 2, 2001 Ponente : Puno, J. Facts : 1. In 1998, Joseph Estrada was elected President of the Philippines, while Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo was elected VicePresident. The president was accused with corruption, culminating in Ilocos Sur Governor ChavitSingson’s accusations that the president received millions of pesos from jueteng lords. 2. The Senate and the House of Representatives began early investigations regarding the accusation, while key socio-political figures like Cardinal Sin, former Presidents Aquino and Ramos, the vice president, senior advisers and cabinet members called on the president to resign, and resigned from their cabinet posts themselves. 3. The impeachment trial began on 7 December 2000, with 21 senator-judges presided over by Chief Justice HilarioDavide. At a point when 11 senator-judges ruled against opening a second envelope of evidence showing the president’s P3.3 billion bank account under the name “Jose Velarde”, the public prosecutors resigned and a mass demonstration at EDSA began. 4. CJ Davide granted Senator Raul Roco’s motion to postpone the impeachment trial until the House of Representatives resolved the lack of public prosecutors. 5. With the defection of more officials and of the army and police from the Estrada administration, the president attempted to appease public sentiment by announcing a snap election and by allowing the second envelope to be opened. The measures failed, and the calls for resignation strengthened. 6. On 20 January 2001, the president negotiated with representatives of the vice-president. News broke out that Chief Justice HilarioDavide would administer the oath of presidency to the vice president at EDSA Shrine. Estrada issued two statements - one stating reservations on the constitutionality of Arroyo’s presidency, and another stating that he is incapable of dispensing his responsibilities as president, thus allowing Arroyo to be the acting president. 7. The Arroyo administration was met with acceptance by the different branches of government, by majority of the public, and by the international community. The impeachment trial was closed, despite sentiments such as those of Senator DefensorSantiago that the impeachment court had failed to resolve the case, leaving open questions regarding Estrada’s qualifications to run for other elected posts. 8. The Office of the Ombudsman proceeded to file a series of cases regarding the corruption of Estrada. Estrada filed a motion compelling the Ombudsman to refrain from further proceedings until his term as president was over. He also filed a petition to be confirmed as the lawful and incumbent president, temporarily unable to fulfill his duties, thus making Arroyo an acting president only. 9. The Supreme Court ruled a) to inform the parties that they did not declare the Office of the President vacant on 20 January 2001, b) to prohibit either party from discussing in
public the merits of the case while in its pendency, c) to enjoin the Ombudsman from resolving pending criminal cases against Estrada for 30 days. Issues: I. Whether the petitions present a justiciable controversy. II. Assuming that the petitions present a justiciable controversy, whether petitioner Estrada is a President on leave while respondent Arroyo is an Acting President. III. Whether conviction in the impeachment proceedings is a condition precedent for the criminal prosecution of petitioner Estrada. In the negative and on the assumption that petitioner is still president, whether he is immune from criminal prosecution. IV. Whether the prosecution of petitioner Estrada should be enjoined on the ground of prejudicial publicity Ruling: I. The petitions present a justiciable controversy because the cases at bar pose legal, and not political, questions. Hence, the cases are within the jurisdiction of the Court to decide. · Definition of ‘political questions’: “...those questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of government.” --Former CJ Roberto Concepcion · Arroyo’s government is NOT revolutionary in character, since her oath was taken under the 1987 Constitution. · EDSA II is an exercise of people power of freedom of speech and the right to assembly. It is intra constitutional in this regard (within the scope of the Constitution). The resignation of Estrada that it caused and the subsequent succession of of Arroyo are subject to judicial review.
II. Estrada is NOT a President on leave while Arroyo is Acting President. · Under Section 11 Article VII, Estrada says that only Congress has the ultimate
authority to determine whether the President is incapable of performing his
functions in the manner provided by said provision. · Hence, Arroyo has no power to judge Estrada’s inability to do his job as President. · However, both houses of Congress expressed their recognition and support of Arroyo
as the new President, and it is implicitly clear in this recognition that Estrada’s inability is no longer temporary. Thus, Congress has rejected Estrada’s claim of inability. · Furthermore, Court cannot exercise its judicial power to revise decision of Congress in recognizing Arroyo. To do so would be to transgress
principle of separation of powers, since this is a political issue.
III. Estrada contends that he has not been convicted in the impeachment case and that he enjoys immunity from all kinds of suit. · Executive immunity provision of 1973 Constitution was no longer included in the 1986 Constitution. This is in accordance with SC ruling in In Re: Saturnino Bermudez that “incumbent Presidents are immune from suit or from being brought to court during the period of their incumbency and tenure” but not beyond. · When the president has resigned, then proper criminal and civil cases may already be filed against him
IV. Estrada argued that respondent Ombudsman should be stopped from conducting the investigation of the cases filed against him because of prejudicial publicity on his guilt, and that respondent has also developed bias. · In People v Teehankee, Jr. and Larranaga v Court of Appeals it was laid down that the right of an accused to a fair trial is not incompatible to a free press. Responsible press. · Our judges are smart enough to know the law and to disregard camera drama and off-court evidence. Their exposure to media does not affect their impartiality.