Prior to the Senate impeachment court’s conviction of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona on Tuesday for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Philippine Constitution by a vote of 20-3, there have been seven unsuccessful impeachment attempts in Philippine history.
The political leaders who were subjected to such attempts were former presidents Elpidio Quirino, Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos, Corazon Aquino, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, and former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
The following were the specific cases:
1949 – President Elpidio Quirino
Quirino’s rival party, the Nationalist Party led by Samar Rep. Agripino Escareal and Leyte Rep. Juan Perez charged the president with various charges including alleged nepotism and alleged misappropriation of funds. Since there was no precedent, the House of Representatives created a seven-man panel led by Congressman Lorenzo Sumulong to investigate the cases. After 24 hearing days, the committee voted to dispose the impeachment complaint, ruling that the charges were either groundless or not impeachable.
1964 – President Diosdado Macapagal
The Nationalist Party once again threatened another president with impeachment, this time Macapagal, due to various allegations ranging from illegal rice importation to prejudicial dismissal of officials. Following the same hearing by a Congressional Committee, the charges were later dismissed on the basis of lack of evidence, and the president was acquitted.
1985 - President Ferdinand Marcos
Following the alleged high crimes that hounded his presidency, Marcos was also accused of various charges including graft, plunder, having unexplained wealth and granting of monopolies to his alleged cronies. Members of Congress led by 56 assemblymen first received an exposé alleging the Marcos family of acquiring real estate in the United States. However, the complaint did not prosper as it was dismissed by the House Committee on Justice for insufficiency in form and substance.
1988 - President Corazon Aquino
Aquino was accused by some lawmakers of charges ranging from graft to violation of the Constitution. It was also at this time when her administration grappled with several coup attempts at a time of economic difficulties. However, the accusations were dismissed due to lack of evidence, and the impeachment did not prosper.
2000 – President Joseph Estrada
Accused of bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution, Estrada was the first president to be impeached in the House of Representatives. His trial began in December and ended in less than a month after prosecutors from the House of Representatives walked out of the Senate impeachment court. They alleged that some Senator-Judges were biased particularly after they voted not to open the infamous second envelope which prosecutors believed would bolster the case against Estrada. The walkout led to the second EDSA People Power Revolution and the rise to the presidency of then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
2003 – Chief Justice Hilario Davide
Solons from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) led by then Rep. Gilberto Teodoro accused then Chief Justice Davide of culpable violations of the Constitution, various counts of transgressions against the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, multiple acts of malfeasance and abundant breach of public trust, and thoughtless extravagance in the disbursement and use of the Judiciary Development Fund. The exercise almost triggered a constitutional crisis since the Supreme Court disregarded Congress and took cognizance of the case granting the petitions of some lawyers who assailed the constitutionality of the impeachment case. The case failed to prosper since the Senate decided to respect the Supreme Court decision, since the senators had not yet receive the impeachment complaint when the petitions were filed at the High Tribunal.
2005-2008 – President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Probably the president with the most number of impeachment complaints, Arroyo was already being hounded by impeachment in the House of Representatives since she won the presidential election against Fernando Poe Jr. The charges hurled against her included cheating, bribery, graft and corruption and other crimes, though they were all dismissed by the House Committee on Justice due to insufficiency in substance. The proponents of the impeachment move failed to get one-third of the votes from about 230 members of Congress.
2011 – Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez
Another impeachment that prospered in the House of Representatives was that against Ombudsman Gutierrez who was impeached by majority of the members of the House of Representatives for betrayal of public trust after eight hours of deliberations. It marked the first time that an Ombudsman was impeached. Gutierrez was accused of inaction on high-profile cases including the fertilizer fund scam, the controversial NBN-ZTE deal, Mega Pacific poll automation contract, Euro-Generals cases, 1995 death of Navy Ensign Phillip Pestaño, and for having low conviction rates. However, the trial was aborted following the Ombudsman’s resignation days before the start of her trial in the Senate.
By BRYAN VILLASANA