The House justice committee on Tuesday found the three impeachment complaints against President Benigno 3rd sufficient in form.
The panel, headed by Rep. Niel Tupas, Jr. of Iloilo, accepted the complaints through three separate votings even if the first impeachment complaint and the endorsement sheet of the lawmakers identified different sets of complainants.
Of the three impeachment complaints against the President, two involved the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) while the third is about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed between the Philippines and the United States that allows the increased presence of American troops in the country and grants them access to Philippine military bases. The Supreme Court declared the DAP unconstitutional in July.
All the three complaints accused the President of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte raised a technical problem in the first impeachment complaint, saying the endorsement of the lawmakers identified the complainants as Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. In the complaint, however, Renato Reyes et. al were listed as the complainants.
Reyes is the secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, which is affiliated with Bayan Muna party-list lawmakers Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, the two legislators who endorsed Reyes’ impeachment complaint.
An impeachment complaint is deemed valid by the Secretary General of the House of Representatives if it is endorsed by a member of the House.
“For a member of an organization to represent the organization in the complaint, there should be Board Resolution allowing it. In this case, our colleagues are apparently endorsing an impeachment complaint with non-existing complainants because their endorsement says Bayan Muna, not Renato Reyes,” Fariñas pointed out.
He, however, made a motion that the justice panel should allow the endorsers to amend their endorsement.
Although lawmakers found the complaints sufficient in form, Tupas said the real battle will be the discussions and voting on the sufficiency in substance next week.
“The spirit of liberality cannot be applied on substance. The crucial thing here is the determination of the sufficiency in substance because once we find the complaint sufficient in substance, we will order the respondent to answer [the allegations]. It will open the respondent to all sorts of questions,” Tupas pointed out.
Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz agreed with Tupas.
“The question is whether it will be also sufficient in substance and whether it will get the required number of votes from members of Congress, that is the question,” he said.
Cruz noted that the complaints “will not pass through the test of numbers, but it will pass through the test of form, substance and truth.”
The prelate, who was among those who endorsed the first impeachment complaint, said he signed the complaint as a manifestation of his dissatisfaction with the Aquino government.
The impeachment complaints against Aquino were endorsed by Colmenares, Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, Alliance of Concerned Teachers’ Rep. Antonio Tinio and Gabriela Rep. Emmi De Jesus.
Malacanang on Tuesday said Aquino is ready for any possible outcome of the impeachment trial.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President remains unaffected by the impeachment move.
“Nananalig naman po kami sa kakayahan ng ating mga mambabatas, sa kanilang paggamit ng katuwiran at sa kanilang sense of fairness, na gagawin po nila ang nararapat sa kanilang pag-aaral ng mga panukalang ito [We trust the ability of our lawmakers, their use of reason and their sense of fairness, that they will do what is right as they study such proposals],” Coloma added.