THE first valid impeachment complaint was filed Monday against President Benigno Aquino III, accusing him of betraying the public trust and knowingly violating the Constitution with his Disbursement Acceleration Program, parts of which were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
Three left-wing lawmakers from the Bayan Muna party-list group endorsed the impeachment complaint filed with the House of Representatives by 27 individuals, setting the stage for its eventual transmittal to the House committee on justice.
Two earlier impeachment complaints were filed against Aquino but failed to gain the endorsement of any member of Congress, making them invalid.
The Youth Act Now and the Kabataan party-list groups said they too would be filing their own impeachment complaint against President Aquino. Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said he would endorse that complaint.
Ridon said the youth group’s complaint would take the President to task for violating the Constitution, not only through DAP, but also through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States.
Another party-list group, ACT Teachers led by its representative in Congress, Antonio Tinio, said a group of teachers and individuals were also poised to file their own complaint to impeach the President.
On Monday, complainants led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) accused Aquino of betrayal the of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for continually defending the DAP, even after the Supreme Court struck down key provisions as unconstitutional.
The complaint also alleged that the DAP benefitted President Aquino’s family.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, one of the three lawmakers who endorsed Monday’s impeachment complaint, said the President and his cohorts in the Palace should be held accountable for the misuse of public funds in the guise of the DAP.
“The one who should answer for large-scale corruption in the Aquino government is none other than the President himself,” Zarate said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares expressed the hope that their colleagues in Congress would support the impeachment complaint, and that the President’s allies in the House would not dismiss it outright.
“We hope we will not go back to the time of President Gloria Arroyo when impeachment was just a numbers game,” he said.
House Secretary General Marilyn Barua-Yap, who received the impeachment complaint filed with her office, said the complaint will be referred to the Office of the Speaker.
The Constitution provides that a one-third vote of all members of Congress is enough to automatically send a verified and duly endorsed impeachment complaint to the Senate for trial.
It prohibits, however, the initiation of more than one impeachment proceeding against the same official within the same year.
Monday’s impeachment complaint cites the following grounds for Aquino’s removal from office:
Culpable violation of the Constitution --- The complainants said Aquino culpably violated several provisions of the Constitution when he knowingly, willfully and intentionally usurped the powers of the legislature and undermined the system of checks and balances. These include constitutional provisions that bar the transfer of appropriations, that guarantee the legislature’s power of the purse and that compel the President to faithfully execute the laws. “These acts patently violate the principle of separation of powers,” the complaint reads.
“The unconstitutional and void acts include premature pooling of funds that are not in reality savings, the cross-border transfer of funds to augment the appropriation of other offices outside the Executive branch, funding of projects that are not covered by the GAA [General Appropriations Act] and the use of unprogrammed funds.”
Betrayal of public trust through the following acts: a) Perpetuating and exacerbating the corruption-ridden and patronage-driven system of pork barrel when he created a new and bigger presidential pork barrel; b) Committing tyrannical abuse of power when he usurped the legislature’s power of the purse; c) Violating his oath of office to faithfully and conscientiously fulfill his duties; d) perpetrating at least 116 counts of the crime of technical malversation; and e) Corrupting public officials when he approved pork barrel through DAP, illegally centralizing P144 billion in public funds and rechanneling them to his pet projects and favored politicians such as the P17.3 billion additional pork for lawmakers, P6.5 billion additional pork for local government units and local projects such as the P2 billion for road repairs in his home province on Tarlac; violating Congress’ power of the purse; failing to preserve and defend the Constitution; and releasing additional billions in pork barrel to senator-judges to unduly influence the impeachment trial against former chief justice Renato Corona.
“The administration has invoked good faith even as it sought a reconsideration of the Court’s ruling,” the complainants said, but said the President could not invoke good faith or the regularity of his acts because he created, implemented and defended the dAP and all unconstitutional acts under it.
“He approved, ordered and committed the acts and practices declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. His 12 years of experience as part of the governmental branch with the sole power of appropriation negates any pretension that he does not know the legal implications of his actions,” the complainants said.
The executive summary of the complaint also pointed out that President Aquino cannot invoke the Revised Administrative Code as a justification for the legality of the DAP.
“Section 39 of the Revised Administrative Code is completely repugnant to the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land and was effectively repealed in the Supreme Court in the Demetria ruling,” the complaint said.
“Contrary to the myth that President Aquino makes us want to believe, DAP is not beneficial to the economy. These ‘economic benefits’ were only alleged by President Aquino but also been proven false by various studies. DAP is essentially presidential pork barrel and can never be beneficial to the poor and the economy.” the complaint added.
Also part of the complaint is the allegation that DAP benefitted President Aquino’s family.
Based on the DAP authorizations memos signed by President Aquino, the complaint said, P5.564 billion from the DAP was allocated for the Department of Agrarian Reform on Oct. 12, 2011, of which P5.432 billion was for landowners’ compensation. The memo did not specify which landowners would get the funds, however.
The Supreme Court earlier order Hacienda Luisita, owned by the President’s clan, should be distributed to farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Palace officials said Monday there was no need for a loyalty check among its allies in the House in the wake of the new impeachment commplaint.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Palace would leave it up to Congress to deal with the complaint.
“I understand this is the first time it has been endorsed. We will defer to the House of Representatives. They have the House rules to deal with such an impeachment complaint,” Lacierda said.
Asked if there was a need for a loyalty check, Lacierda said: “Each House member will have to use their own discernment in appreciating the allegations of the impeachment complaint.”
Both the House and the Senate are controlled by the President’s Liberal Party, leading even the complainants to acknowledge that ousting Aquino through impeachment would be an uphill battle. – With Joyce Pangco Pañares
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.