Majority of the 60 members of the committee are members of the ruling Liberal Party of President Aquino, contributing to the tense atmosphere during the hearing especially at the voting on the first two impeachment complaints.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — In a full-house hearing this morning, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Justice approved as sufficient in form all three impeachment complaints against President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. The fourth impeachment rap filed by ACT Teacher’s Rep. Antonio Tinio, which seeks to impeach Aquino on the basis of an allegation that he has been colluding with legislators in inserting PDAF-like pork in the budget, had reportedly failed to make it in time for the committee referral of the three complaints.
Majority of the 60 members of the committee are members of the ruling Liberal Party of President Aquino, contributing to the tense atmosphere during the hearing especially at the voting on the first two impeachment complaints. By the time the third impeachment complaint came up, the members of the committee just seconded and sub seconded the motion to approve it, and no voting by standing up (like in the first two) was conducted as it became clear the Liberal party was after showing “liberalism.”
To be ‘liberal’ for the sake of justice or to be strict with rules?
The bones of contention hurdled before the impeachment complaints were approved as sufficient in form have to do with whether the committee on justice will be too technical about rules or if it would rather judge on the complaints’ “essence,” as Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares put it during the first volleys of arguments.
“We should not set a precedent. We should follow the rules. We are impeaching no less than the President. If we are going to be lax, the impeachment process would be cheapened,” said Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone.
The rules he referred to have something to do with whether the committee will let Bayan Muna correct their perceived “defects” in the first impeachment rap or whether the said “defects” will constitute insufficiency in form.
The technicality in question for the first impeachment complaint was the seeming inconsistency in the document on the identification of the groups that filed the complaint, which Bayan Muna endorsed. “Did the I refer to Renato Reyes Jr. of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Dante Jimenez of VACC, as the document and signature indicated, or is it Bayan and VACC?” Rep. Rudy Fariñas asked.
Some members asked if Bayan Muna was willing to amend the impeachment complaint to correct the seeming ‘defect,’ and another was heard commenting, “That’s right, let’s shame them.”
What followed was the first break called by Rep. Neil Tupas, committee chairman.
When the committee resumed hearings, the fact that the impeachment complaint was duly verified and endorsed by Bayan Muna representatives resulted in 53 affirmative votes that the first impeachment complaint is sufficient in form.
The second impeachment complaint took a considerably longer and more tensed discussion, as members of the Liberal Party took turns criticizing the document particularly on the verification of the identity of its complainants. Most are student leaders; the complaint was endorsed by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, who is also a lawyer.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez repeatedly drilled his points about the lack of verification on the complainants. Rodriguez insulted the complainants by telling them that they should have consulted a real lawyer when they drafted the document. Rodriguez repeatedly said the complaint is just a scrap of paper and the mistake or lack in verification was “fatal.”
But Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon and even other Liberal Party representatives including Marikina 2nd district Rep. Romero Quimbo said the verification requirement was already met as “the young kids swore to the House secretary general himself.”
Other members of the committee also said even the courts do not dismiss cases based on verification issues.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the impeachment complainants had followed the same rules and procedures in the impeachment complaint filed against former Chief Justice Renato Corona and former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. He asked the lawmakers in Filipino, “Do procedures differ for impeachment complaints supported by Aquino and complaints lodged against Aquino?”
Rep. Romero Quimbo bristled at the question and reminded Colmenares that “practically all members of LP voted for the first complaint.”
He asked the complainants not to “bother with innuendos” and that he for one is “extremely in favor of voting for the validity of the impeachment complaint.”
Forty-two members of the committee voted in the affirmative that the second complaint filed by youth leaders is sufficient in form, seven voted against it.
There were last-ditch efforts by Rodriguez to have pages five to 27 and 64 to 66 deleted, but the committee had voted to approve the entire document by then and as Rep. Apostol said, “We should be liberal on everything.”
So when it came to the third impeachment complaint, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi de Jesus said there will no longer be a need to call for liberality as their impeachment complaint has been duly verified, and she moved that it be declared as sufficient in form. She was immediately seconded and sub-seconded and the committee soon approved it also.
The next hearing on Sept. 2, would tackle the impeachment complaints’ substance. If the complainants were given two minutes each to defend its sufficiency in form, they would each be given 10 minutes to defend its sufficiency in substance.
A staff of Rep. Ridon told Bulatlat.com that the House deliberations regarding the sufficiency in substance of the impeachment complaints would encounter rough sailing. He said it was only during the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona and former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez where the deliberation had been quick for both form and substance.
Edre Olalia, one of the counsels of impeachment complainants from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), told Bulatlat.com that the said congressmen’s ‘liberality’ seems contrived or unnecessary as the complaints by and of themselves complied with test of sufficiency of form. He said they are looking forward to the committee focusing on the serious, sufficient and substantial averments of the complaints.