Lawmakers choose impeach trial over legislative work

MANILA (Update) -- At least 100 members of the House of Representatives attended the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona Monday to show support to their colleague, Quezon City Representative Jorge "Bolet" Banal, who was quizzed by senator-judges on how he got hold of "leaked" bank documents.

Last week, the manager of the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) Katipunan branch said that Banal had approached him to verify a one-page document.

Banal admitted approaching the bank representative but explained that he obtained the document from an anonymous source. He said he found the photocopied document left in the gate of his house's driveway.

The House holds plenary sessions at 4 p.m. from Mondays to Wednesdays.

Monday's session was opened and immediately suspended due to lack of quorum since one-third of House members attended the impeachment trial. There are 285 members of the House of Representatives.

"At any rate, at the start of impeachment, I think this is only the second time that I myself requested more than the usual contingent. Usually, there are 15 congressmen here in addition to prosecutors," House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told reporters in an ambush interview before Monday's trial.

"Let me just say that the issue of Congressman Banal is only a side issue, which we should set aside so we can get on to the heart of this case which is the impeachment of the Chief Justice," Belmonte said.

According to Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casino, legislators who attend impeachment trials are considered present in the House of Representatives.

An opposition lawmaker criticized the move of the House leadership considering the pending bills and resolutions that needs approval.

In a text message, Deputy Minority Leader Mitos Magsaysay said: "It is definitely affecting our work as the session was only in open-close today and all pending bills and resolutions have remained pending to the detriment of the Filipino people’s interest". (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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