Fate of the impeachment complaints

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Thursday, August 28, 2014


THE complainants won round one of the impeachment battle with President Aquino when the House Committee on Justice declared that the impeachment complaints, all three of them, are sufficient in form. It’s still premature, though, for Aquino’s loyal
supporters to wail and gnash their teeth or for his haters to jump with glee.

The militant lawmakers who signed/endorsed the complaint knew this. Aquino’s allies in the Justice committee made certain that they did. The committee was being charitable to the complainants. Even the Palace is unperturbed.

The real hurdle should come next week when the 55 congressmen who compose the committee will determine if the complaints are sufficient in substance. Is there “a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee”?

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Let us assume that in the spirit of more Christian charity, the committee decides that the complaints are sufficient in substance. Then, they summon the President to answer the complaint. After the period to answer expires, without or without the President replying, the proceedings go to the next stage which is the determination of probable
cause. Does the complaint allege sufficient grounds for impeachment?

Let us take a look at the three impeachment complaints.

The first two are based on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

The third is for Aquino’s entering into the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States. In all three cases, Aquino is being accused of committing a culpable violation of the Constitution.

The congressmen, most of them I presume, are still smarting from the loss of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) by virtue of a Supreme Court decision declaring it unconstitutional. The DAP, considered a distant cousin to the PDAF, suffered the same fate.

How could the congressmen declare that Aquino has committed a culpable violation of the Constitution in implementing the DAP without pointing the same guilty finger towards them for maintaining the PDAF?

The Edca, on the other hand, is not as despised as the DAP or the PDAF. In fact, I doubt if it is despised at all, except by the leftist militants. Despite the anti-American sentiment that these militants are trying to whip up, majority of our countrymen still look up to the Americans. Rightly or wrongly, they consider the USA as ally and protector. Who do you think do the people expect to come to our rescue if China attacks us?

The point is that any attempt to impeach the President for strengthening the country’s ties with the USA will be a hugely unpopular one. I’m sure the committee members already have that in mind.

The process of determining both sufficiency in substance and the existence of probable cause is pretty much subjective. It depends on the individual member’s interpretation of the facts and the law. If the Committee members say that they did not find anything in the complaint that would warrant Aquino’s impeachment, who can argue with them? Not even the Supreme Court can alter their decision.

Oh yes, Congress can by a vote of at least 1/3 of its members. In fact, under the rules on impeachment, the complainants could have sped up the impeachment process by having the complaints signed by at least 1/3 of all its members. The Speaker would have had no choice but to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

That the complainants did not do this indicates the certainty of their not being able to get the required number. That number is beyond their reach, whether in getting their colleagues to sign the complaint or in overturning a decision of the Committee on Justice dismissing it.

It is a doomed adventure, this attempt to unseat the President before the end of his term.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 29, 2014.

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