The House Committee on Justice threw out the three impeachment complaints against President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday.
The panel, through a 54-4 vote, found the complaints against Aquino insufficient in substance. Two of the three complaints stemmed from the implementation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was outlawed by the Supreme Court in July. The third complaint involves the Philippines’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States.
“The pulse here is the reflection of the sentiment of the entire House [of Representatives]. We allowed four hours of debate and all the opportunities [to speak]were given to the endorsers. Walang laman yung complaints [The complaints are empty]. It is hard to force it if the complaints are really empty,” Rep. Niel Tupas, Jr., chairman of the justice committee, told reporters.
The three complaints accused the President of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and graft and corruption.
It was Rep. Romero Quimbo of Marikina City (Metro Manila) who first called the complaints empty.
“The past Presidents have been mobilizing the generated [government]savings. It has been clear that it was allowed, until the Supreme Court decided that it is not, although there is no finality on such decision yet. Culpa means willful. Has the President stolen the DAP money? Has the President pocketed the money? Are there [pieces of evidence]to prove that he used [this]money to build a number of houses and accumulated millions in his bank accounts like in the case of the President we previously impeached?” Quimbo said, obviously referring to former President Joseph Estrada.
The Makabayan bloc, composed of legislators from the party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan and Anakpawis were outraged, saying the President should be impeached for corruption.
“By nipping the impeachment proceeding at its bud, the committee on justice has once again kowtowed to the whims of the emerging dictator. Laugh while you can, Mr. Aquino, but this is not the last time you’ll hear from us. The fight against the yellow dictatorship will continue in the parliament of the streets. There, I assure you, Mr. Aquino, you don’t control the numbers,” Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon fumed.
“Congress has played blind, deaf and mute to the clamor of the Filipino people for justice and accountability against a budding budget dictator. Legislators were given a choice today, to vote for what is right and what is convenient. Despite presenting clear arguments and a substantial recital of facts, they still opted for the latter,” Ridon said.
The justice panel will make a report on its decision to junk the impeachment complaints before submitting it to plenary. The plenary can overturn the report with a majority vote, but this is unlikely considering the overwhelming vote against the President’s ouster.