The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the sole mandatory organization of lawyers in the country, urged the public to be cautious in using impeachment against government officials.
“It is true that impeachment is one of the tools found in the Constitution to exact accountability,” said the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) through its president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo.
“Still, we are reminded that impeachment is bitter medicine. While impeachment is by and large a political exercise, it should be used sparingly and only in the gravest of instances,” it read.
This came after impeachment complaints were filed before the House of Representatives against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Commission on Elections Chairperson Andres Bautista.
The complaints against Sereno included her alleged questionable administrative orders, allowance granted to her top aide and other members of her staff without getting Court en banc approval, frequent foreign travels, alleged anomalous purchase of a luxury car, and undeclared earnings from her role in the government’s expropriation case versus the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc.
On the other hand, the impeachment complaint filed against Bautista was all based on his alleged failure to resolve the voter data breach and the tweak in the script of the transparency server in the 2016 elections. Just recently, his estranged wife, Patricia, also claimed that he has unexplained wealth.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) is also preparing an impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales over the accusation that she committed selective prosecution of cases against former President Benigno Aquino III, who appointed her. She was also accused of filing “losing” cases against Aquino over the SAF 44’s death in the Mamasapano encounter.
“May we express the hope that impeachment as a process is not being brandished as a weapon of submission, thereby defeating Constitutional design that the judicial branch be insulated from considerations other than the facts and the law in discharging its function of adjudication,” the IBP said.
The IBP also urged the Congress that the Philippine Constitution “jealously protects the independence of the Judiciary as it is concededly the weakest of all three branches of government. As the unelected branch, the judiciary’s sole standard of action is the rule of law rather than the public pulse.”
“It is an assault upon the Constitution and the very ideal of limited government that is enshrined in it, when impeachment is misused as the very tool to undermine judicial independence,” the statement read.
The organization also warned that the “frequency and rate of these impeachment initiatives dilutes its power, strains the limited resources of Congress and, presents troubling questions whether like any other device, impeachment is being wielded wisely or carelessly.”
“Impeachment is a scalpel, not a broadsword and, even if it were the latter, no sword retains its sharpness if swung too far and, too often.”
The IBP vowed to “closely and impartially monitor the proceedings with the view that our institutions are preserved, not diluted.”
‘Good Morning IBP’
In reaction to IBP’s statement, netizen Bernard Ong lauded their recent actions over the killings during police operations and the caution the organization issued against the filing of impeachment cases.
According to Ong, these actions from the lawyers’ organization seemed to be an indication that they have “woken up” as they urged transparency in anti-drug operations, sued cops involved in the killing of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, and cautioned Congress to properly use the power of impeachment.
“They really have no choice as their profession – law – becomes obsolete & meaningless when rookie cops take on the role of accuser-judge-executioner,” Ong wrote on September 6, in reaction to IBP’s recent actions condemning killings.