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Readings on Impeachment: Basis and Intent, of the Framers of the 1987 Constitution

Theoretical basis for impeachment as a procedure for removing officials, and the intentions of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, and other items.


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  2. I. Political theory underpinning impeachment: Much of the discussion on impeachment inevitably returns to Alexander Hamilton, and the case he made for impeachment in the Federalist Papers. Hamilton's characterization of impeachment as a "grand inquest" has endured, being cited by Commissioner Aquino in the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, for example.
  3. A. Federalist No. 65 and Federalist No. 66 contain justifications for impeachment as a process, and why impeachment was vested in the legislature and not the courts.
  4. B. Background on the evolution of senate impeachment trials in America:
  5. C. Historians and scholars on impeachment
  6. 1. Political Scientist, later president, Woodrow Wilson on impeachment and its purpose: deterrence, and to channel public outrage over an official into the institutional arena for resolution. His pointing out that impeachment is meant to have a deterrent effect, was an argument apparently familiar to framers of the 1987 Constitution.

    "The benefit of such a provision is twofold. First, the salutary fear of the probable coming of a day of account will restrain the evil practices of some bad men and self-seekers; secondly, the legal outlet of accusation gives vent to peccant humors in the body politic, which, if checked and driven inward, would work to the utter ruin of the constitution."
  7. 2. Robert Black on the impeachment of U.S. President Andrew Johnson, and the role of public opinion and partisanship:

    "...the Framers of the Constitution would probably not have been shocked by that dimension of the case. They expected partisan excesses by the House’s prosecutors to be redressed by trial before the Senate where, as Hamilton wrote, the 'security to innocence' afforded by the requirement of a two-thirds vote to convict 'will be as complete as itself can desire.' As Michael Les Benedict points out, if politics motivated the majority that voted to convict, it equally actuated the minority that voted to acquit."
  8. 3. An American lawyer, who served as counsel for an impeached Federal judge (Walter Nixon) summarized what is political about an impeachment: 

    “Impeachments are too important to leave to the courts, Hamilton wrote, because of the political character of any attempt to remove a high official. And only the Senate ‘would possess the degree of credit and authority’ to acquit an accused on charges approved by the House of Representatives.”    
  9. II. Debates in the 1986 Constitutional Commission: The Journal of the Constitutional Commission contains the published transcripts debates and discussions and sponsorship speeches, of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1986 Constitution. They show the thinking, understanding, and intentions of the commissioners as they drafted the Constitution.
  10. 1. In  Volume 2, R.C.C. No. 40, July 26, 1986, Commissioner Maambong pointed out the frustrated effort to impeach President Marcos in 1985 was something the commissioners clearly had in mind as a negative example; he then proceeded to ask a series of questions to establish what the commissioners had in mind as to the purpose and nature of impeachment, referring to American examples. 

    Next, he proceeded to ask whether impeachment was criminal in nature (it was not); and whether impeachment was a political act (it was); and from there, to an enumeration, and definition, of what constitute impeachable acts.
  11. 2. Record of the Constitutional Commission, Proceedings and Debates, p.  272, Commissioner Regalado also asked questions to obtain a definition, for future reference, as to a new impeachable offense added by the commissioners --"betrayal of public trust"-- which, Commissioner Romulo replied, was added as a "catchall phrase." The sponsor of the amendment to create this new kind of impeachable offense, Commissioner de los Reyes, then added that the offense was added because of the failed impeachment effort against President Marcos. 

  12. 3. On July 28, 1986, there was a debate on the proposal made by two commissioners, Aquino and Guingona, for the impeachment process to be radically changed. They proposed that Congress should only be involved in the formulation and approval of Articles of Impeachment, but thereafter, the courts should then conduct the actual impeachment trial. This was rejected by the sponsors of the provisions on impeachment.

    Commissioner Aquino at one point was asked if she was proposing judicial review for impeachment and she answered "No."
  13. 4. On the same day, Commissioner Rigos proposed an amendment, which was accepted by the sponsors of the provisions on impeachment. The proposed amendment underscored the sole and exclusive power of the Senate with regards to impeachment trials.