Minority Solons: House Justice Panel Ignored Facts of Impeach Rap

Leaders of the minority bloc at the House of Representatives have criticized their colleagues in the majority for ignoring the facts related to the fourth impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


Leaders of the minority bloc at the House of Representatives have criticized their colleagues in the majority for ignoring the facts related to the fourth impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“The voting was done along party-lines and not on the merits of the case or on the recital of the facts,” said Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo in an interview with Bulatlat.

Minority Leader and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora made a similar observation in an interview on GMA 7’s Unang Hirit. “The voting was done strictly along party lines,” Zamora said.

Filed on Oct. 13, the complaint accuses Arroyo of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Consitution, bribery, graft and corruption and other high crimes.

Among the grounds cited against Arroyo in the new impeachment complaint is the overpriced NorthRail Project, which largely involved a $400-million loan from China’s Export-Import Bank. Other grounds involving corruption, which were cited in the complaint are the National Broadband Network (NBN deal) between the Philippine government and China’s ZTE Corporation, the ZTE-Mt. Diwalwal mining contract, and the fertilizer funds scam. The alleged distribution of cash gifts amounting to half a million pesos each to congressmen and local officials at Malacañang in October 2007, the so-called “Hello Garci” controversy, and human rights violations were also cited.

The complainants are businessman Jose de Venecia III, son of former House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr.; Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos; Erlinda Cadapan, mother of missing University of the Philippines (UP) student Sherlyn Cadapan; former Transportation Secretary Josie Lichauco; lawyer Harry Roque; Iloilo Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico; nationalist and civil libertarian Renato Constantino, Jr.; singer Leah Navarro; businessman Henri Kahn; Francisco Alcuaz; actor Rez Cortez; Virgilio Eustaquio; Jose “Linggoy” Alcuaz; Danilo Ramos of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines); Concepcion Empeño, mother of missing UP student Karen Empeño; Elmer Labog of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement); Armando Albarillo, now one of the “Southern Tagalog 72”; Roneo Clamor of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights); and Bebu Bulchand.

On Nov. 18, the House Committee on Justice ruled that the complaint was “sufficient in form.” On Nov. 26, however, the same committee declared the complaint “insufficient in substance” by a vote of 42-8.

Those who voted to declare the complaint insufficient in substance were Capiz Rep. Fred Castro (Lakas-CMD); Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman (Lakas-CMD); Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan (Lakas-CMD); Negros Oriental George Arnaiz (NPC); Iloilo Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. (Lakas-CMD); Cebu Rep. Pablo John F. Garcia (Kampi); Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Promdi-BOPK-Lakas); Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier (Lakas-CMD); APEC Rep. Edgar Valdez; Bohol Rep. Edgar Chatto; Lanao Del Sur Rep. Faysah Maniri Racman Dumarpa (Lakas-CMD); Leyte Rep. Eufrocino Codilla Sr. (Lakas-CMD); Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Belma Cabilao (Lakas-CMD); Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao (LP); Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Antonio Cerilles (NPC); Masbate Rep. Rizalina Seachon Lanete; Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison (Lakas-CMD); Bohol Rep. Roberto Cajes (Lakas-CMD); Tawi-Tawi Rep. Nur Jaafar (Lakas-CMD); La Union Rep. Victor Ortega (Lakas-CMD); Lanao Del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong (Lakas-CMD); Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona (Lakas-CMD); Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao (NPC); Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Kampi); Quirino Rep. Junie Cua (LP); Cebu Rep. Pablo P. Garcia Sr. (Cebu-Kampi); Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga (Kampi); Surigao del Norte Rep. Francisco Matugas (Kampi); Sultan Kudarat Rep. Arnulfo Go (Kampi-PTM); Manila Rep. Ma. Theresa Bonoan-David (Kampi); Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas (LP-Ugyon); Parañaque Rep. Eduardo Zialcita (Lakas-CMD); Quezon City Rep. Bingbong Crisologo (NP); Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin (Lakas-CMD); Batangas Rep. Victoria Reyes (Lakas-CMD); Agusan del Norte Rep. Jose Aquino II (Lakas-CMD); Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor (Lakas-CMD); Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Maranon III (Kampi) for Rep. Ma. Amelita Villarosa; Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong (Lakas-CMD); Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar (Lakas-BOPK); Bukidnon Rep. Candido Pacrudo Jr. (Lakas-CMD) for Rep. Eric Singson; and Manila Rep. Maria Zenaida Angping (NPC).

Those who voted to declare the complaint sufficient in substance were Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Liza Largoza-Maza, Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III, Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño (NP-UNO), Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (PMP-UNO), Makati City Rep. Marlen Abigail Binay (UNO/PDP-Laban), South Cotabato Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custidio (NPC-AIM), Ocampo, and Zamora.

“Although we were given a chance to recite our facts and present additional information to back up the charges, one point we objected against is the position of the majority that the charges related to the NBN and NorthRail deals, the ‘Garci’ tapes, the fertilizer scam, the extrajudicial killings and others are rehashed and should no longer be considered because these were included in previously dismissed complaints,” Ocampo said. “Our contention is that there was never any chance to study the merits of the earlier complaints, which were dismissed on the basis of technicalities.”

“Neither did they listen to our demands that those congressmen who received ‘cash gifts’ from Malacañang last year or who were involved in the fertilizer scam be disqualified from voting or should inhibit themselves,” Ocampo added. “The chairman of the Justice Committee said he was not qualified to rule on the motion, and none of those congressmen volunteered to inhibit themselves.”

The Philippines has seen the yearly filing of impeachment complaints against Arroyo since 2005. The grounds had covered almost all impeachable offenses: bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution.

These complaints, however, were invariably thrown out by the administration-dominated House of Representatives due to sheer technicalities.

During the hearings of the Committee on Justice, the majority members repeatedly argued that there was no evidence in the impeachment complaint that directly linked Arroyo to the alleged impeachable offenses.

“The matter of evidence should be taken up during the stage where the President is to be asked for a response to the charges,” Ocampo however said.

Zamora, a bar topnotcher, agreed. “At this stage, what is needed is not evidence, but a recital of facts,” he said.

Ocampo said the only remaining hope for the complainants and their allies at the House of Representatives is for the Justice Committee’s report to be rejected at the plenary level this coming Dec. 2 by the constitutionally required 1/3 vote.

Zamora, however, is not very optimistic about this prospect. “Only a miracle remains to be hoped for,” he said. (Bulatlat.com)

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