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G.R. No.

146738, March 2 2001


Estrada vs Desierto G.R. No. 146710-15; Estrada vs Arroyo
[Immunity from Suit; Resignation of the President; Justiciable controversy]
On December 7, 2000 impeachment proceedings were begun in the Senate during which 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, 2001, the AFP and PNP 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, 2001, the 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 a petition to
enjoin the respondent Ombudsman from conducting any further proceedings in cases filed against him until his
term as president ends. He also prayed that he be declared as the lawful and incumbent President of the
Republic of the Philippines although 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
exercise of the people power of revolution which
overthrew the whole government

extra constitutional and the legitimacy of the new


government that resulted from it cannot be the
subject of judicial review
presented a political question

EDSA II
exercise of people power of freedom of speech and
freedom of assembly to petition the government for
redress of grievances which only affected the office of
the President
intra constitutional and the resignation of the sitting
President that it caused and the succession of the
Vice President as President are subject to judicial
review
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 issues
President 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 coequal 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.