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Digest Author: Margreth Rizzini A.

Estrada v Desierto
GR NO. 146740-15 & 146738
Petitioner: Joseph Ejercito Estrada
Respondent: Aniano Desierto, in his capacity as Ombudsman, Ramon Gonzales, Volunteers
Against Crime and Corruption, Graft Free Philippines Foundation, Inc., Leonard De Vera, Dennis
Funa, Romeo Capulong and Ernesto B. Francisco, Jr.; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Petition: Question the legitimacy of the assumption as President of the Republic of the Philippines by
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Ponente: J. Puno
Date: March 2, 2001; April 3, 2001
On January 20, 2001, President Joseph Estrada (petitioner) sent a letter to the Senate President
Pimentel and Speaker of the House Fuentebella. The letter declares that he is unable to exercise the
powers and duties of his office. Thereby, declaring the Vice President to be the Acting President by
operation of law and the Constitution. Without knowledge of what had transpired, Vice President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took her oath of office as President. Four days following the receipt of the
letter, the House of Representatives and Senate passed Resolutions No. 175 and 176 which expresses
its support to the new administration. On February 7, both houses confirmed her nomination of Senator
Teofisto Guingona Jr. as Vice President of the Philippines through Resolution No. 82. Also, Senate
passed Resolution No. 83 which officially terminates and closes the impeachment court on the ground
that Senate had failed to decide on the impeachment case and that resolution was left open and
questionable as to whether or not then President Joseph Estrada was still qualified to run for another
elective post. A day after, the Senate passed a resolution which certified an existence of vacancy in
Senate. Consequently, COMELEC is mandated to fill such vacancy through election. From then on,
both Houses started sending bills to be signed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo such as the Solid
Waste Management Act and the Political Advertising Ban and Fair Election Practices Act.
Despite the lapse of time, Joseph Estrada continues to claim that his inability to govern is only
momentary. He alleges that he was only on leave; therefore, he did not resign while President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo was allowed to be the Acting President. Hence, this petition.
1. Do the petitions involve a political question?
2. Did Joseph Estrada resign as the President?
3. Was Joseph Estrada temporarily unable to act as president?
4. Does Joseph Estrada still enjoy immunity from suit?
1. No. The cases at bar pose legal questions rather than political questions. The court held that the
cases present principal issues require the proper interpretation of certain provisions in the 1987
Constitution. Likewise, the calls for a ruling on the scope of presidential immunity from suit and
correct calibration of right of petitioner against prejudicial publicity are within the scope of legal
2. Yes. The meaning of sec. 8 Article VII of the Constitution is under scrutiny of the said petition
regarding the issue on whether Joseph Estrada did resign at the time President Gloria Arroyo took
oath. It is evident that there must be intent to resign and acts of relinquishment. The validity of a
resignation is not governed by any formal requirement as to form. It can be oral, written, expressed
or implied. In the case at bar, facts show that petitioner did not write any formal letter of
resignation before he evacuated Malacaang Palace in the afternoon of January 20, 2001 after the

oath taking of the respondent. The court resorted to use the totality test. The test determines
whether the petitioner resigned through assessing facts and circumstantial evidence that bear
material relevance on the issue from the totality of his acts and omissions before, during and after
January 20, 2001. The court held the following acts of relinquishment of the petitioner:
Acknowledged of the oath-taking of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Left the Palace for the sake of peace and for the healing process of the nation and not because
his inability
Expressed his gratitude to the people for the opportunity to serve them
Assured he will not shrink from any future challenge
Called on his supporters to join him in promotion of a constructive national spirit of
reconciliation and solidarity.
3. No. The court held that both houses of Congress have recognized respondent Arroyo as the
President. Implicitly, it was clear recognition that petitioner Joseph Estrada is no longer
temporary. Congress has clearly rejected petitioners claim of inability. With this, the court cannot
exercise its judicial power for an issue on full discretionary authority which has been delegated to
the Legislative branch. The question is political. Hence, cannot be decided by the Court without
violating the principle of separation of powers.
4. No. The court held that the cases that were filed are criminal in character. Plunder, bribery and
graft and corruption are the charges being filed. The legislative intent of the said provision only
covers political in character.
Dispositive: Petition is DISMISSED.
1. Did Joseph Estrada resign or is considered to have resigned as the President under section 8
Article VII of the Constitution?
2. Was Joseph Estrada temporarily unable to act as president?
3. Was the declaration of presidential incapacity implied?
1. Yes. As held on the previous decision, the petitioner has resigned from office before respondent
Arroyo took her oath as President when the court assessed it through the totality test. It held that
such facts show acts of relinquishment on the part of the petitioner.
2. No. As held on the previous decision, under section 11, Article VII of the Constitution, Congress
has the ultimate authority to determine the question as opined by the petitioner himself. The
determination of Congress is a political judgment, which the court has no power to review.
3. No. In the previous decision, the court held that said declaration of presidential capacity is implied
with both Houses expressing their cooperation. However, the Supreme Court ruled that there is
nothing in section 11 of Article VII of the Constitution which states the declaration by Congress of
the Presidents inability must always be a priori or before the Vice-President assumes the
presidency. In the cases at bar, special consideration should be given to the fact that the events,
which led to the resignation of the petitioner, happened at express speed and culminated on a
Saturday. Congress was then not in session and had no reasonable opportunity to act a priori on
petitioners letter claiming inability to govern. Nevertheless, Congress made a prior recognition by
the Senate President and Speaker of the House of President Gloria Arroyo as the constitutional
successor of Joseph Estrada. Moreover, it was followed by post facto resolutions to confirm the
recognition. Thus, these acts cannot be dismissed as merely implied recognitions of respondent
Arroyo as the President of the Republic.
Dispositive: Petition is DISMISSED.