The word “impeachment” has been used more often these days in the Philippines and in the United States as more and more critics of both President Donald Trump and President Rodrigo Duterte have taken to social media to denounce the actions and policies of the two leaders.
This talk about impeachment is not a new thing. Actually many people are very familiar with this constitutional procedure for removing a sitting president from office.
The usual route for changing an administration is through presidential elections, but for terms of four years in the U.S. and six years in the Philippines, many find these too long for presidents who in their first months have already done major missteps in their jobs as chief executives.
The Philippines and the United States have many things in common with regards to their political systems particularly their form of government with three branches.
In the United States Constitution it is stated that "The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," while in the 1987 Philippine constitution the grounds for removal from office on impeachment are for “conviction of, . . . culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”
Impeachment though does not imply “forceful removal.” Under the constitution of both the U.S. and the Philippines, impeachment takes place in the House of Representatives if a majority approves the submitted articles of impeachment. The impeachment proceeding then goes to the Senate where a two-thirds majority vote is required to convict the president which would then lead to his or her removal.
In the Philippines, no impeachment proceedings can be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.
President Rodrigo Duterte has not completed the first year of his six-year term of office and an impeachment complaint was already filed against him in the House of Representatives citing murder, crimes against humanity in connection with the extrajudicial deaths and his alleged involvement in the Davao Death Squad, and corruption, as grounds.
This impeachment complaint might not prosper since President Duterte has the support of the majority in the House of Representatives. But with the call from the international community to revoke Philippine trade privileges in a bid to hold President Duterte accountable for his alleged support of the killings in his war on drugs, and if the nation’s economy gets into a downward state, Duterte’s popularity can wane fast and realignment of political forces will surely take place.
President Duterte may also be violating the constitution in his handling of the territorial issues against China since he is mandated to defend the national territory.
Outside of elections, only two Philippine presidents were “booted out” of power. First, there was President Ferdinand Marcos who fled the Philippines during the 1986 EDSA People Power uprising and the second, President Joseph Estrada, left Malacanang Palace after another people’s uprising in 2001. In Estrada’s case, he was deposed in a “constitutional-coup” and replaced by his vice president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. President Estrada allegedly “resigned” or was “incapacitated” and this led to Macapagal-Arroyo being sworn as president.
In the U.S., articles of impeachment were passed against then President Richard Nixon by a congressional committee but Nixon resigned before the House of Representatives could vote on his impeachment.
President Bill Clinton was impeached by the lower house and tried in the senate but was acquitted and remained in office.
There are many issues surrounding the Trump presidency that are being collected and investigated that may potentially be impeachable offenses. However at this time, with Trump’s political party having control of both houses in congress, the possibility of his impeachment is still remote.
Remember Nixon and Clinton faced impeachment when their respective parties were not the majority in congress. For Trump to be impeached, members of his own party would have to turn against him.
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.