“From his perpetuation of domestic pork barrel corruption to his subservience to foreign military and economic interests and wanton disregard of the environment, Aquino must be held to account beyond the halls of the House of Representatives.” — Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan-PNE
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Progressive groups lamented the killing of the impeachment complaints by the House Committee of Justice last Sept. 2.
“This seems to be orchestrated by Malacañang and the Liberal Party because committee members did not even listen to the arguments establishing the sufficiency in substance of the complaints,” Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said.
Rep. Colmenares, in a statement, insisted that the complaints are sufficient in form and substance but the committee “chose to follow Malacañang.”
“The people expect President Aquino to answer the complaints point by point but it seems he is afraid to answer where he put the P144 billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Not only that, President Aquino sold Philippine sovereignty to the United States not even for a song with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA),” he said, “It is a terrible day for accountability indeed.”
Environmental group Kalikasan – People’s Network for the Environment, one of the complainants, referred to the committee decision as “brazen political gangsterism.”
“With the EDCA riding this poisonous track record, it is clearly a culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan-PNE.
“From his perpetuation of domestic pork barrel corruption to his subservience to foreign military and economic interests and wanton disregard of the environment, Aquino must be held to account beyond the halls of the House of Representatives,” Clemente added.
The first two impeachment complaints were in relation to DAP, a government spending mechanism that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The third complaint tackled EDCA, a military treaty between the US and the Philippine government, which would virtually allow US to deploy its troops, warships, submarines and fighter jets, build bases, and store weapons and war materiel all over the country.
Though voted separately, all three impeachment complaints received 54-4 votes.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), legal counsel of the first impeachment complaint, belied claims of lawmakers that the complaints hold no facts.
“A 78-page impeachment complaint with detailed and clear facts, studied analyses, tables, annexes, law and case citations, painstakingly and carefully formulated, vetted and aided by a team of lawyers — yet insufficient in substance on its face,” lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary general of the NUPL, said sarcastically.
Olalia doubts if members of the Committee of Justice read the complaint.
“In fact, even rifling through the complaint would reveal that any of its more than 264 paragraphs picked at random could invariably stand on its own as sufficient recital of facts supporting the impeachable grounds,” Olalia said.
“Can the members of the ruling administration party still honestly believe and be able to convince their children when they get home tonight that the complaint has no shred of substance at all?” he added.
Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said members of the committee “played blind, deaf and mute to the clamor of the Filipino people for justice and accountability against a budding budget dictator.”
“Legislators were given a choice today – to vote for what is right or for what is convenient. Despite the clear arguments and a substantial recital of facts, they still opted for the latter,” Ridon said.
Though not surprised that the impeachment complaints were junked, the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno still found it revolting.
“This move is a throwback to the days of Arroyo, when the search for truth and accountability was likewise blocked by presidential allies fattened by pork barrel,” Elmer Labog, chairperson of KMU, said.
Charlotte Velasco, spokesperson of the League of the Filipino Students, said most of the lawmakers who voted for the junking of the three impeachment complaints were recipients of DAP projects.
“They have likewise showed their zeal to protect bureaucratic corruption and support Aquino’s fiscal dictatorship being tyrants themselves — tyrants to their mandate as public officials and tyrants to the legitimate demands of their constituents,” Velasco said.
Presidential spokesperson Herminio Coloma Jr. has denied in news reports that the Aquino administration influenced the members of the Committee on Justice that junked all three impeachment complaints.
But Zarate said, “Malacañang’s fingerprints were all over the four-hour poorly scripted show. Very clearly now, President Aquino and Malacañang do not want to answer the P144 billion DAP question.”
“We will bring this to the real judges of history, the Filipino people,” he added.
Push for accountability
Olalia said the partisan junking of the impeachment complaints would not get Aquino “off the hook.”
“By nipping the impeachment proceeding at its bud, the Committee on Justice has once again kowtowed to the whims of the emerging dictator. Laugh while you can, Mr. Aquino, but this is not the last time you will hear from us,” Ridon said, adding that in the parliament of the streets, Aquino do not control the numbers.
Dr. Eleanor Jara, co-convenor of the Rx Abolish Pork, an anti-pork barrel group formed by health workers, said there is a need for the people to push for justice and accountability.
“The death of the impeachment complaints is a proof of the Aquino allies’ mockery of the Constitution, an existing rubber stamp politics and their desire to revive the pork barrel system,” Jara said.
Labog said that while the impeachment complaints in the House of Representatives have been virtually killed, the trial to hold Aquino accountable continues in urban poor communities, work places and schools.
Youth leader Velasco said the death of the impeachment complaints would not mark the end of the people’s struggle to end corruption. “The struggle for genuine system change is far from over,” she added.
During the hearing, lawmakers who defended, even lauded Aquino were booed by the complainants and supporters of the impeachment complaints. Tupas later on asked them to keep their proper decorum and not make a “mockery” of the committee proceedings.
Outside the House of Representatives, members of progressive groups gathered to call on lawmakers to hold Aquino accountable.
After the committee ruled that all three impeachment complaints were insufficient in substance, activists who were inside the Nograles Hall chanted calls to oust Aquino.