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ESTRADA vs DESIERTO

GR NO 146710 [353 SCRA 452]

- Immunity from Suit; - Resignation of the President - Justiciable controversy - Expanded


power of Judicial Review -

FACTS:

It began in October 2000 when allegations of wrong doings involving bribe-taking, illegal
gambling, and other forms of corruption were made against Estrada before the Senate Blue
Ribbon Committee. On November 13, 2000, Estrada was impeached by the Hor and, on
December 7, impeachment proceedings were begun in the Senate during which more serious
allegations of graft and corruption against Estrada were made and were only stopped on
January 16, 2001 when 11 senators, sympathetic to the President, succeeded in suppressing
damaging evidence against Estrada. As a result, the impeachment trial was thrown into an
uproar as the entire prosecution panel walked out and Senate President Pimentel resigned
after casting his vote against Estrada.

On January 19, PNP and the AFP also withdrew their support for Estrada and joined the crowd
at EDSA Shrine. Estrada called for a snap presidential election to be held concurrently with
congressional and local elections on May 14, 2001. He added that he will not run in this
election. On January 20, SC declared that the seat of presidency was vacant, saying that
Estrada constructively resigned his post. At noon, Arroyo took her oath of office in the
presence of the crowd at EDSA as the 14th President. Estrada and his family later left
Malacaang Palace. Erap, after his fall, filed petition for prohibition with prayer for WPI. It
sought to enjoin the respondent Ombudsman from conducting any further proceedings in
cases filed against him not until his term as president ends. He also prayed for judgment
confirming Estrada to be the lawful and incumbent President of the Republic of the
Philippines temporarily unable to discharge the duties of his office.

ISSUE(S):
1. WoN the petition presents a justiciable controversy.

2. WoN Estrada resigned as President.

3. WoN Arroyo is only an acting President.

4. WoN the President enjoys immunity from suit.

5. WoN the prosecution of Estrada should be enjoined due to prejudicial publicity.


RULING:

1. Political questions- "to those questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided
by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has
been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of the government. It is concerned with
issues dependent upon the wisdom, not legality of a particular measure."

Legal distinction between EDSA People Power I EDSA People Power II:
EDSA I EDSA II
exercise of people power of freedom
of speech and freedom of assemblyto
exercise of the people power of petition the government for redress of
revolution which overthrew the whole grievances which only affected the
government. office of the President.
extra constitutional and the legitimacy intra constitutional and the
of the new government that resulted resignation of the sitting President
from it cannot be the subject of that it caused and the succession of
judicial review the Vice President as President are
subject to judicial review.
presented a political question; involves legal questions.

The cases at bar pose legal and not political questions. The principal issues for resolution
require the proper interpretation of certain provisions in the 1987 Constitution: Sec 1 of Art II,
and Sec 8 of Art VII, and the allocation of governmental powers under Sec 11 of Art VII. The
issues likewise call for a ruling on the scope of presidential immunity from suit. They also
involve the correct calibration of the right of petitioner against prejudicial publicity.

2. Elements of valid resignation: (a)an intent to resign and (b) acts of relinquishment. Both
were present when President Estrada left the Palace.

Totality of prior contemporaneous posterior facts and circumstantial evidence bearing


material relevant issuesPresident Estrada is deemed to have resigned constructive
resignation.

SC declared that the resignation of President Estrada could not be doubted as confirmed by
his leaving Malacaan Palace. In the press release containing his final statement:

1. He acknowledged the oath-taking of the respondent as President;

2. He emphasized he was leaving the Palace for the sake of peace and in order to begin the
healing process (he did not say that he was leaving due to any kind of disability and that he
was going to reassume the Presidency as soon as the disability disappears);
3. He expressed his gratitude to the people for the opportunity to serve them as President
(without doubt referring to the past opportunity);

4. He assured that he will not shirk from any future challenge that may come in the same
service of the country;

5. He called on his supporters to join him in promotion of a constructive national spirit of


reconciliation and solidarity.

Intent to resignmust be accompanied by act of relinquishmentact or omission before,


during and after January 20, 2001.

3. The Congress passed House Resolution No. 176 expressly stating its support to Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo as President of the Republic of the Philippines and subsequently passed
H.R. 178 confirms the nomination of Teofisto T. Guingona Jr. As Vice President. Senate passed
HR No. 83 declaring the Impeachment Courts as Functius Officio and has been terminated. It
is clear is that both houses of Congress recognized Arroyo as the President. Implicitly clear in
that recognition is the premise that the inability of Estrada is no longer temporary as the
Congress has clearly rejected his claim of inability.

The Court therefore cannot exercise its judicial power for this is political in nature and
addressed solely to Congress by constitutional fiat. In fine, even if Estrada can prove that he
did not resign, still, he cannot successfully claim that he is a President on leave on the ground
that he is merely unable to govern temporarily. That claim has been laid to rest by Congress
and the decision that Arroyo is the de jure, president made by a co-equal branch of
government cannot be reviewed by this Court.

4. The cases filed against Estrada are criminal in character. They involve plunder, bribery and
graft and corruption. By no stretch of the imagination can these crimes, especially plunder
which carries the death penalty, be covered by the alleged mantle of immunity of a non-sitting
president. He cannot cite any decision of this Court licensing the President to commit criminal
acts and wrapping him with post-tenure immunity from liability. The rule is that unlawful acts of
public officials are not acts of the State and the officer who acts illegally is not acting as such
but stands in the same footing as any trespasser.

5. No. Case law will tell us that a right to a fair trial and the free press are incompatible. Also,
since our justice system does not use the jury system, the judge, who is a learned and legally
enlightened individual, cannot be easily manipulated by mere publicity. The Court also said
that Estrada did not present enough evidence to show that the publicity given the trial has
influenced the judge so as to render the judge unable to perform. Finally, the Court said that
the cases against Estrada were still undergoing preliminary investigation, so the publicity of
the case would really have no permanent effect on the judge and that the prosecutor should
be more concerned with justice and less with prosecution.