Codal Condemns Attempts to Subvert Impeachment Proceedings

By Counsels for the Defense of Liberties
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CODAL sees the hand of Malacañang in the recent withdrawal by Rep. Amang Magsaysay (Association of Volunteer Educators Party-list) of his signature in the impeachment complaint, taken in the light of disbursement of road users tax funds, appointment of relatives of members of Congress to juicy government positions and bribery attempts reported by Rep. Rolex Suplico and Rep. Magsaysay himself. The hundreds of millions released by Malacañang to members of the House of Representatives virtually wiped out whatever “savings” gained by the government from the decrease in the Priority Development Assistance Fund of each member of the House imposed in this year’s budget. President Arroyo is being charged with buying the 2004 Presidential Elections. Now, she is suspected of attempting to buy the 2005 impeachment proceedings. In both cases, she used public funds.

Railroading of the impeachment proceedings by using government funds is in itself an impeachable offense. Using tax revenues, such as the aptly called “rail-road users tax,” for the private interest of the President belies the governments sincerity in its tax drive to address the fiscal crisis. Offering government positions, including cabinet positions, to weaken the impeachment complaint also violates the dictum that “public office is a public trust.”

The claim of Rep. Amang Magsaysay that he is withdrawing his signature because he lacks the personal knowledge if the president indeed committed impeachable offenses is a weak attempt to justify such as shamefaced reversal of position. Rep. Magsaysay has personal knowledge of the act of bribing him to ensure that he will not sign the impeachment complaint against President Arroyo. This in itself constitutes an impeachable offense against President Arroyo and it is difficult to understand how Rep. Magsaysay can claim that he has no knowledge that the President committed anything wrong. As a representative of educators who are expected to teach ethics and know right from wrong, the turn around of Rep. Magsaysay violates the principles and advocacies of his constituency.

His claim that he was not furnished a copy of the complaint when he signed it is also untrue. Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares, CODAL convenor and one of the lawyers of the Impeachment Legal Team swears that he personally handed Rep. Magsaysay a copy of the impeachment complaint during one of the meetings of the impeachment group. Furthermore, Rep. Magsaysay could remain as an endorser of the complaint even if he insists “he has no personal knowledge” of the charges.

Fiscals or public prosecutors have no personal knowledge of the information they file in court, and endorsers of the impeachment complaint who will act as prosecutors, may endorse and prosecute said complaint despite lack of personal knowledge. Rep. Magsaysay, if he is true to his avowed commitment to truth and justice should remain as
endorser of the complaint. This will really test whether he received “benefits” from Malacañang.

Moves by members of the Majority to lawyer for President Arroyo or weaken the impeachment complaint is not only unethical but is actually violative of Section 14, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution which provides: Section 14. No Senator or Member of the House of Representatives may personally appear as counsel before any court of justice or before the Electoral Tribunals, or quasi-judicial and other administrative bodies. Neither shall he, directly or indirectly, be interested financially in any contract with, or in any franchise or special privilege granted by the Government, or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including any government-owned or controlled corporation, or its subsidiary, during his term of office. He shall not intervene in any matter before any office of the Government for his pecuniary benefit or where he may be called upon to act on account of his office.

In fact, any member of Congress who decided in one way or the other on impeachment-related issues because they were given benefits through the road users tax, appointment of their relatives to juicy government posts or given cash by Malacañang, may be charged with criminal offenses under various anti-graft laws.

The recent development is a clear sign that President Arroyo does not wish to answer the complaint of the people against her. Unfortunately for President Arroyo, her attempts to avoid being impeached, has led her to commit more impeachable offenses.

Reference Person:

Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares
(Convenor and Spokesperson)
August 24, 2005

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