THE House of Representatives on Tuesday threw out the three impeachment complaints filed against President Benigno Aquino 3rd, freeing the President from facing another impeachment complaint at least for a year.
The House justice committee, which is dominated by allies of the President, found the complaints against Aquino insufficient in substance. The voting was 54-4.
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.
Several lawmakers said the panel’s ruling virtually killed the impeachment complaints.
“The vote of insufficiency of substance effectively saves the President from any further threat of impeachment for another year as provided for by the Constitution,” a statement issued by the House said.
Under the law, no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.
Rep. Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list said the impeachment complaints are deemed dismissed.
“Dismissal is equivalent to its end,” Tugna told The Manila Times in a text message.
The justice panel’s ruling enraged members of the Makabayan bloc that endorsed the impeachment complaints. The group, composed of legislators from the party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan and Anakpawis, maintained that 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,” he added.
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, according to Rep. Elpidio Barzaga.
In order to overturn the justice panel’s ruling, a one-third vote of all the members of the House of Representatives is needed. The House currently has 290 members, making 97 the “magic number” to reverse the voting.
“But if the outcome of the vote on the sufficiency of substance, 54 against 4 would be the indicator of the voting in the plenary, then it would be safe to say that the Makabayan group would not be able to muster the one-third vote. Hence I would say that the three impeachment complaints against the President are already a dead because and the voting in the plenary will just be a formality and would be the final nail to the coffin, so to speak,” Barzaga said.
Malacanang welcomed the panel’s ruling.
“The committee on justice of the House, after a thorough review of the allegations in terms of its substance, has dismissed the complaints against the President,” Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte told media in a statement. “We take note that the process took place with transparency, not just according to the rules, but to give the proponents every opportunity to make their case,” she said.
Rep. Niel Tupas, Jr., chairman of the justice committee, said the ruling reflects the stand of the majority in the House of Representatives.
“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,” Tupas said.
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.