Impeachment in the Philippines

Impeachment in the Philippines is an expressed power of the Congress of the Philippines to formally charge a serving government official with an impeachable offense. After being impeached by the House of Representatives, the official is then tried in the Senate. If convicted, the official is either removed from office or censured.

Impeachment followed by conviction is often the only way to forcibly remove a sitting official. While "impeachment" is often used to refer to the entire process of removing an official from office, it only formally refers to the indictment stage in the House of Representatives, not the trial stage in the Senate. Under the current Constitution, an official can be impeached if one third of the House of Representatives votes in favor. Since it takes only a simple majority to set the agenda or to adjourn the House, it can be difficult for a minority of one third to bring a vote and impeach an official.


Third Republic

President Elpidio Quirino was rice to build public support in an election, illegally dismissing officials, using the military to intimidate the political opposition, and ordering the deportation of an American businessman who was in the custody of Congress in violation of the separation of governmental powers. A Congressional committee dismissed all the charges.

Fourth and Fifth Republic

President-dictator Ferdinand Marcos was accused by 56 lawmakers on 1985 of graft, economic plunder, unexplained wealth, granting monopolies to cronies, and other crimes. the following day the National Assembly committee dismissed the complaints after roughly five hours of discussions for continuing unsupported conclusions.

President Corazon Aquino was accused by lawmakers in 1988 of graft and violating the Constitution. The charges were rejected the following month due to lack of evidence.

President Joseph Estrada was accused of bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution during the impeachment of 2000, to determine the accusations, the House of Representatives choose 11 members to act as prosecutors with the Senate as the impeachment court and the senators as judges. On November 13, 2000, House Speaker Manny Villar sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial.

The impeachment trial started on December 7, 2000 presided by Hilario Davide, Jr. but was aborted on January 16, 2001 after the House private prosecutors walked out from the impeachment proceedings, to protest against the perceived dictatorial tendency of the eleven senator-judges, who supported President Estrada. The walkout led to EDSA Revolution of 2001 and the downfall of President Estrada.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was accused in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 impeachment complaints for different imputations, specially attempting lying, cheating and stealing during 2004 presidential election against opposition candidate Fernando Poe, Jr.. However all impeachment cases were failed due to absence of one third vote from the members of Congress.

Other government officials

Ombudsman Aniano Desierto was criticized by some for not aggressively investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption. The impeachment failed.

COMELEC commissioner Luzviminda Tangcanco was accused of graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution. She allegedly showed bias for the multi-billion-peso voters registration and information system (VRIS) project, deciding to undertake it despite the lack of funds.

Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. was accused of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of the public trust and other high crimes.

COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos was accused of ZTE national broadband network (NBN) deal and Hello Garci controversy but resigned eventually.

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was impeached on March 22, 2011 on charges of the office's underperformance and failure to act on several cases during then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration. The first impeachment complaint against Gutierrez was filed in 2009, but was dismissed later in that year in a House dominated by Arroyo's Lakas Kampi CMD party.

In December 2011, 188 of the 285 members of the House of Representatives voted to transmit the 56-page Articles of Impeachment against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

As of May 29, 2012, only three officials had been successfully impeached by the House of Representatives, but only Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona had been convicted.

Public officials impeached

# Date of Impeachment Accused Office Result
November 13, 2000

Joseph Estrada
President of the Philippines
Trial aborted on January 17, 2001; declared as resigned on January 20, 2001
March 22, 2011

Merceditas Gutierrez
Ombudsman of the Philippines
Resigned on April 29, 2011
December 12, 2011

Renato Corona
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines
Removed and disqualified on May 29, 2012

Impeachable officials

  1. President of the Philippines
  2. Vice President of the Philippines
  3. Justices of the Supreme Court of the Philippines
  4. Members of the Constitutional Commissions:
    1. Commission on Elections
    2. Civil Service Commission
    3. Commission on Audit
  5. Ombudsman

Other officials can be removed from offices but not by impeachment: those under the executive department may be dismissed by the president; members of Congress can be expelled by two-thirds vote of the chamber the member is a part of; local elected officials can be removed from office through recall.

In the 1935 and 1973 constitutions, the President, the Vice President, the Justices of the Supreme Court, and the Auditor General were the impeachable officials.

Impeachable offenses

The Constitution limits the offenses to the following: culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.

In the 1935 and 1975 constitution, betrayal of public trust was not an impeachable offense.

Culpable violation of the constitution

For purposes of impeachment, "culpable violation of the Constitution" is defined as "the deliberate and wrongful breach of the Constitution." Further, "Violation of the Constitution made unintentionally, in good faith, and mere mistakes in the proper construction of the Constitution, do not constitute an impeachable offense."


According to the Revised Penal Code, treason is defined as "Any Filipino citizen who levies war against the Philippines or adheres to her enemies, giving them aid or comfort within the Philippines or elsewhere."


The Revised Penal Code defines bribery in two forms:

Graft and corruption

Any violation of the Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act is an impeachable offense.

Other high crimes or betrayal of public trust

In Francisco Jr. vs. Nagmamalasakit na mga Manananggol ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc., the Supreme Court purposely refused to define the meaning of "other high crimes or betrayal of public trust," saying that it is "a non-justiciable political question which is beyond the scope of its judicial power." However, the Court refuses to name which agency can define it; the Court impliedly gives the power to the House of Representatives, which initiates all cases of impeachment.

Impeaching officials

  1. Any citizen with an endorsement of a member of the House of Representative may file charges.
  2. The House Committee on Justice will decide by majority vote if the complaint has substance.
  3. The House Committee on Justice will decide by majority vote if the complaint is sufficient in form.
  4. The House Committee on Justice will decide by majority vote if the complaint is sufficient in grounds.
  5. The House Committee on Justice will decide by majority vote if there is probable cause in the complaint.
  6. The House of Representatives will vote to impeach the official. A one-third vote is needed.
    • If the vote passes, the complaint will become the "Articles of Impeachment" and the House will appoint prosecutors who may or may not be members of the House.
    • If the vote fails in any part of the procedure, the official accused can't be filed for impeachment for one calendar year.
  7. The Senate will then try to convict the impeached official. Conviction requires a two-thirds vote.
  8. If convicted, there are two punishments the Senate can mete out:
    • Censure or a reprimand, or
    • Removal from office and prohibition to hold any governmental office

In the 1935 constitution, a two-thirds vote was needed to impeach an official by the House of Representatives, while a three-fourths vote in the Senate was required to convict.


The 1987 (current) constitution limits the number of impeachment complaints that can be filed against an official to one per year. There has been controversy over what counts as an impeachment complaint. While some argued that for a complaint to count against the limit it must be voted on, and others have proposed other interpretations, the House has decided that any complaint filed fulfills the quota regardless of how well-formed it is or who filed it. Therefore, supporters of a vulnerable official can file a weak, flawed, or unconstitutional complaint, thereby using up the quota and protecting that official from impeachment for that year.

There has also been debate about whether a year should be a calendar year, say 2006, or a full 12-month period. An example of how this limit works in practice are the attempts to impeach President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. While the Philippine impeachment procedures parallel the United States' impeachment procedures, the two procedures differ in two significant ways: the percentage needed to impeach and the numerical limit on impeachment procedures.


If the President of the Philippines is on trial, such as in 2001, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines shall preside but not vote.

See also

External links

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