The Arroyo Supreme Court has shown its fangs again in its hasty decision to stay the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. It thereby laid the ground for a possible constitutional crisis, particularly if the House Committee on Justice proceeds with its September 28 scheduled meeting. It also opens the way for impeachment of the Supreme Court members who voted for the stay.
The constitution mandates in Article XI (Accountability of Public Officers), Section 3. (1): The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment. Again, it states in Section 8 of the same Article: The Congress shall promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the purpose of this section.
The House justice committee had voted earlier that the two complaints, filed with it at the same time, were both sufficient in form and substance. Supreme Court, voting 8-3-4, cited the one-year ban on a second complaint. Surprisingly, it stayed both complaints, defying its own logic and reasoning.
The Supreme Court, I think, has acted with indiscretion on this one. The House Committee has not yet come out with the committee report which may include determining whether to consolidate or not the two complaints. The internal process of the Committee is not yet finished. By jumping the gun, the Supreme Court (or the majority who voted for the staying) renders itself vulnerable to the charge of undue interference with another branch and thereby violates the principle of separation of powers.
The justices who voted for the decision left themselves vulnerable to their own impeachment. They have shown a political bias and can be charged of betrayal of public trust.
The path towards a clash of political will between the two branches of government has been opened. If nobody backs down, there will be a constitutional crisis.
On a more politically-framed scenario, there is an emerging political crisis between the Aquino administration and the political forces aligned with the former Arroyo administration. With the perceived vulnerability of the Aquino administration in the Luneta hostage crisis and consequent probable lowering of President Noynoy’s popularity rating and internal squabbling among his supporters, the Arroyo forces are becoming confident and are coming out of the woodworks. From day one of the Aquino administration, they have gone on an undeclared war against it, just as they did when Erap Estrada was voted into office.
Sooner or later, this has to be resolved. The political drama bears watching out for.