DLSUD: Impeaching a College Student Council Officer

As far as I can recall, no University or College Student Council officer have been subjected to impeachment proceedings ever since the 2008 USC Constitution took effect two years ago. Except for now, when the current President of College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Student Council, CEATSC, recently sought my advice on how to initiate one against their fellow officer.

Without going into the details of this controversy so as not to prejudice the impeachment proceedings and its subject student council officer, I would just explain how the impeachment proceeding works under the current 2008 USC Constitution.

For impeaching officers of the University Student Council’s Executive Board, the steps to follow have been clearly spelled out in Article VII: Accountability of Student Leaders/Officers.

In layman’s terms here are the steps:

First, any of the following grounds must be present; culpable violation of the constitution, meaning there is a deliberate and wrongful breach of the constitution; gross inability to perform his/her official functions as a council officer; malversation of council funds; and becoming an officer in another student organization during his/her term as a council officer. (Sec. 4, Art. VII)

Second, the impeachement proceeding can be started internally or externally. Internally by a resolution either from the Executive or Legislative Board of the USC, alleging that an officer has committed any of the acts mentioned above. Externally, an ordinary student can file an impeachment case against a student council officer which must be endorsed by a majority of either Executive or Legislative Board. (Sec. 5, Art. VII)

Both internal and externally initiated impeachments proceedings will continue if the resolution is approved by a majority of either the Executive o Legislative Board as the case may be.

Third, once the resolution is approved, it will then be filed to the Office of Student Services through the Student Development and Activities Office. (Sec. 6, Art. VII)

Fourth, both the Executive and Legislative Boards of the USC will then convene in a special joint session, to sit as the impeachment body that will deliberate on the impeachement case. Unless it is the USC President who is being impeached, he will preside over the impeachment deliberations. Whoever the presiding officer is, he/she will have no voting power. (Sec. 8, Art. VII)

To impeach an officer, a three-fourths (¾) vote of all the members present is required. (Sec. 8, Art. VII)

The OSS Dean, USC Adviser and SDAO director shall be present during deliberations but only to witness how it will go on. They cannot participate in the deliberations. (Sec. 8, Art. VII)

During the deliberations, it is required to strictly observe procedural and subtantive due process. Meaning the subject officer of the impeachment proceedings must be given the opportunity to be heard, examine the evidences against him, present evidence or witnesses for his defense, and cross-examine the witnesses against him. If he even so chooses, he can have a counsel present to defend himself. (Sec. 10, Art. VII)

The body has a maximum of thirty working days to resolve the impeachment case once it is filed to the SDAO. (Sec. 9, Art. VII)

Judgement in an impeachment case is limited only to the removal from office of the subject officer. (Sec. 11, Art. VII)

An officer removed from office through impeachment can file an appeal of the decision to the Magistrate as explained in Article XII.

Now that the impeachment process is clear, I would like to point out that this process is applicable only to the Officers of the USC Executive Board. In Article XIV of the 2008 USC Constitution, College Student Councils are not mandated to follow this procedure when it comes to impeaching one of their own officers. It is because College Student Councils have some distinct and separate attributes that are unique to them and the 2008 USC Constitution respects that.

However, it is wise and prudent that the impeachment process for USC EB Officers be used as a model and modified accordingly, to suit the unique attributes of each College Student Council.

Application in the College Student Council level

The impeachment process will follow essentially the same procedures. The only changes would to particpants in the process and the timing of their participation.

First, instead of the USC Executive and Legislative Board, it would be the College Student Council’s EB and LB who will approve any impeachment resolution by a majority vote of either body as the case may be.

Second, the approved resolution calling for the impeachment of an officer will then be filed with the College Dean’s Office, copies can also be furnished to the USC Executive Board and OSS/SDAO for information purposes.

Third, the CSC EB and LB will convene in a special joint session to deliberate on the impeachment case. The College Student Council President will be the presiding officer. Again, he/she will have no voting power when judgement time comes.

Fourth, the College Dean, OSS Dean or SDAO director and USC President can be invited only to witness the proceedings.

Fifth, as always, procedural and substantive due process must be strictly observed.

Sixth, three-fourths (¾) vote of all members present is an ideal number to impeach an officer and remove him/her from office. Of course, it can be up to the College Student Council to change that number of votes as they see fit.

Seventh, an impeached officer can file an appeal to the Magistrate since it was specially created for the said purpose.

At this point, I would include a couple or more pieces of advice to both the USC and CSC with regards to fine-tuning the Impeachement process.

An implementing rules of procedure for impeachment proceedings must be created so that the present and future student council officers will be properly guided. It will fill the gaps in the general provisions of the 2008 USC Constitution and avoid the abuse of the impeachment process and the miscarriage of justice.

A separate rules of procedure on impeachment deliberations or trial must also be created for same rationale and objectives mentioned above.

Impeachment proceedings may seem a difficult and complicated exercise, but it is a necessary and vital tool in disciplining student council officers in a fair, democratic and just manner.

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