3 impeach complaints vs Aquino ‘sufficient in form’

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MANILA -- The House of Representatives committee on justice voted on Tuesday to declare as sufficient in form the three verified impeachment complaints against President Benigno Aquino III.

Iloilo Representative and committee chair Niel Tupas Jr., during the discussion of the separate complaints, applied the "principle of liberalism" on determining the sufficiency of each case despite some objections from certain lawmakers from the majority bloc.

In the first complaint, which was filed by militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and endorsed by Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares, committee senior vice chair and Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Farinas questioned Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes for being the listed complainant since Bayan and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) are the ones listed in the endorsement resolution.

Farinas immediately filed a motion so that petitioners can amend some errors in the complaint despite protest from some allies of the President in the ruling Liberal Party.

In the end, the House panel approved Impeachment Case 001 with 53 affirmative votes while House deputy speaker Sergio Apostol (Leyte) was the only lawmaker who registered a negative vote.

Aquino impeachment
MANILA. Members of the House committee on justice voted on Tuesday as sufficient in form the three verified impeachment complaints filed against President Benigno Aquino III. (John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)

The first impeachment complaint accuses Aquino of violating the Constitution through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez questioned the second impeachment complaint filed by various militant youth groups led by 15 students and endorsed by Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon, claiming it was "substantially defective."

Rodriguez said "there is no proper verification" made by Ridon being the endorser since he "has no direct knowledge with the complainants."

He said proper verification is needed in filing any case as required by the Supreme Court (SC).

"Any complaint without proper verification is just a scrap of paper," the Cagayan de Oro lawmaker said.

Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone backed Rodriguez's argument, saying the House panel should follow the rules in determining the complaint's sufficiency in form.

"We should follow rules because we are impeaching no less than the President," Evardone said.

But Colmenares defended Ridon, saying the formula used in the first and second complaint is the same procedure applied during the impeachments of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

"The complainants here followed the rules," the House Senior Deputy Minority Floor Leader said.

When panel chair finally ruled the division of the House, Impeachment Case 002 received 42 affirmative votes, seven negative and four abstentions.

Like the first complaint, the second impeachment case accuses the Chief Executive of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and graft and corruption over the DAP.

Also, the House panel unanimously voted to declare as sufficient in form the third impeachment case, which accuses Aquino of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust for agreeing to sign the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the government of the United States.

The complaint was endorsed by Representatives Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela party-list.

The House panel will meet again on Tuesday next week to determine whether the impeachment complaints are sufficient in substance.

"The most crucial is the substance because once the complaints pass the substance, you will order the respondent to answer and you will open the respondent to all sorts of questions," Tupas said.

Administration allies in the House already predicted that the impeachment cases would lead nowhere at the end of the day because the process is a political exercise, which means "it is a numbers game."

Based on the impeachment rules, the requirement of substance is met if there is a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee.

The committee is mandated to submit a report telling stakeholders that they had dismissed the complaint if the committee finds that the complaint is not sufficient in substance. However, if they found the complaint sufficient in form and substance, they will furnish the respondents copy of the resolution and allow them to answer the complaint within 10 days from receipt of the notice.

The House justice panel will determine whether the complaint alleges sufficient grounds for impeachment after receipt of the documents from the complainants and respondents. If it does not exist, the committee will dismiss the complaint. If sufficient grounds exist, the committee will conduct hearings, which will be open to the public to determine if probable cause exists on the basis of evidence submitted to it.

Tupas said that if probable cause exists, the panel will submit a resolution to plenary.

A vote of at least one-third of the 290-member House is needed for the approval of the resolution setting in motion the Articles of Impeachment. (Sunnex)

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