When is an impeachment proceeding deemed initiated?

Our Constitution provides that no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.

In other words, it prohibits the initiation of more than one impeachment proceedings within one year against the same impeachable public officer.

And this holds true even if the subsequent impeachment proceeding is for a different ground.

According to Lawyer Hector S. De Leon, “the obvious purpose” of this prohibition “is to protect the official concerned against harassment for political reasons.”

But when is an “impeachment proceeding” deemed “initiated” for purposes of applying this prohibition?

In a case decided in 2003, the Supreme Court gave an answer to this question.

In that case, the Supreme Court said in essence that an impeachment proceeding is deemed initiated when a verified impeachment complaint is filed before the House of Representatives and referred to its Committee on Justice for action.

Borrowing the words of Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J. during the oral arguments in that case, “this is the initiating step which triggers the series of steps that follow.”

[References: Section 3(5) of Article XI (Accountability of Public Officers) of the 1987 Constitution, Francisco, et. al. v. House Speaker, et. al., G.R. No. 160261, November 10, 2003, Page 343 of the Textbook on the Philippine Constitution (2005 Edition) by Hector S. De Leon, and Pages 442-443 of The 1987 Philippine Constitution: A Comprehensive Reviewer (2006 Edition) by Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J./Author’s Note: This was first posted on the Internet on August 23, 2014]

 

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