In yesterday’s news, the phrase “constitutional crisis” had been uttered by at least two personalities in connection with the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Supreme Court Spokesman and Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said: “No doubt, we are staring a constitutional crisis right in its face, however prudence dictates that I must confine myself to these few observations.”
IBP President Roan Libarios purported said as much, adding that: “We are concerned with the impeachment against Chief Justice and its chilling effect on the Supreme Court as an institution … because the impeachment is based on the decision made by Congress, which is now claiming authority of interpreting what the law is.”
But what is a constitutional crisis?
A constitutional crisis does not occur when branches of government collide. The Constitution outlines the powers of the functions and powers of the three co-equal branches of government. The Constitution also provides an outline of how gridlocks among the branches of government are resolved. A constitutional crisis exists when the Constitution or the legal system does not provide for a mechanism or framework to resolve the gridlock or controversy.
The Philippine Constitution provides for a system of checks and balances. While each branch is supreme in its own sphere, the Constitution also provides for a system for each branch to “check” the other branches. The Constitution provides the ONLY way for a justice of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice included, to be removed from office — through impeachment. The Constitution grants Congress the power of impeachment.
Of course, both Congress and the President cannot arrogate unto themselves the judicial power given to the courts under the Constitution. “Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.” If Congress or the Executive has any problem with that, then the solution is to amend the Constitution, not destroy the institution.
With all due respect, there is no constitutional crisis. None yet. Maybe the term “constitutional crisis” makes good media sound bite. Maybe people would be more interested with a “crisis”, but the purported “constitutional crisis” that we have now is an illustration of how the system of checks and balances work under the Constitution.
[So, what's your take on the current situation? Use the comment section below.]
Update (Results, as of 22 March 2012):
Poll question: Do you agree with PNoy’s attack against Corona?
Yes (18%, 70 Votes)
Yes, kulang pa nga (16%, 61 Votes)
Yes, pero sobra na (7%, 26 Votes)
No (14%, 54 Votes)
No, abuso na (45%, 181 Votes)
Total Voters: 392