House not in fighting mood vs. High Court


The House of Representatives won’t lodge impeachment complaints against Supreme Court justices despite the High Court’s adverse ruling on Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or Congressional discretionary fund, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City said Monday.

Belmonte made the clarification in light of the statement of Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro that he is considering impeachment charges against Supreme Court justices for declaring the PDAF unconstitutional and disqualifying Rep. Regina Reyes of Marinduque because of the latter’s American citizenship.

Reyes’ opponent in the 2013 polls is then incumbent Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, son of Supreme Court Justice Presbitero Velasco.

“If he [Umali] does that [file an impeachment complaint], he would have to do that in his personal capacity. I am against any impeachment case on Supreme Court justices. Much as we disagree with them and was affected by their decision, the fact of the matter is that it still doesn’t qualify as a ground for impeachment,” Belmonte, a lawyer like Umali, told reporters.

“He is just one guy out of the 290 [House members]. I don’t think that will prosper. We don’t want to put pressure on the Supreme Court,” Belmonte added.

Umali, however, is unfazed by Belmonte’s pronouncements and has started to gather support from his colleagues.

“We are working on it. I will now start consulting and enjoin support from my colleagues in the House. I hope they will join me because I think there is really something wrong somewhere in how these decisions are being issued by the Supreme Court,” Umali, Chairman of the House Committee on Energy, said in a separate talk.

Umali, a member of the ruling Liberal Party like Reyes and Belmonte, made the impeachment threats to the Supreme Court justices in a privileged speech.

“My colleagues stood up and even clapped their hands so think they are supportive, particularly on Regina Reyes case. When I saw that this case was railroaded to favor the son of one of the sitting magistrates, I thought that people will have to be answerable,” Umali argued

Umali also called out the High Court for its flip-flopping stance on the PDAF, citing that the Supreme Court has ruled it as legal twice before striking it as unconstitutional this year.

“These flip-flopping decisions have been hurting the country and our judicial and political system,” Umali added.

During the 15th Congress, the House impeached then Chief Justice Renato Corona on December 12, 2011 with 188 votes.

The House then served as public prosecutors of Corona before the Senate impeachment court—an event that marked the first time in Philippine history that the Chief Justice was put on impeachment trial.

Corona was eventually convicted by the Senate impeachment court of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for his failure to declare his millions worth of his assets under the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth via a 20 to 3 vote.

Rep. Tobias Tiangco of Navotas, the Secretary General of United Nationalist Alliance, has earlier warned Umali against threatening the Supreme Court with the legality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) yet to be decided by the High Court.

The DAP is a mechanism wherein savings and windfall government revenues are being tapped by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to fund the priority projects of his administration.

Llanesca T. Panti


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