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‘Impeach killers’ DAP recipients

Opposition lawmakers vow to revive fight during the plenary

LAWMAKERS who killed three impeachment complaints against President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday were themselves recipients of some P203.5 million in funds illegally diverted through the Disbursement Acceleration Program, one of the complainants said Wednesday.

“The biggest injustice is that Aquino allies who benefited from DAP killed the impeachment to defend their pork barrel benefactor in Malacanang,” said Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, which accused the President of a culpable violation of the Constitution based on the disbursement of P144 billion DAP funds from 2011 to 2013.

The justice committee headed by administration ally Rep. Niel Tupas of Iloilo junked the three complaints by a vote of 54-4.

“Many of those who voted to kill the impeachment were themselves DAP recipients in the past,” Reyes said, citing House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez II, Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, Dasmariñas Rep. Elpidio F. Barzaga Jr., Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali, and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone.

“The committee chairman Tupas who presided over the massacre did not vote but was also a DAP recipient. That’s how rotten the system has become,” Reyes added.

Of the 54 panel members who voted to dismiss the impeachment complaints, the biggest DAP allocation of P203.5 million went to Gonzalez, the ruling Liberal Party’s party whip in the House, said Reyes, citing a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Malacanang is delusional if it thinks justice was served. Look at the list of justice committee members voting against impeachment and the list of lawmakers involved in questionable DAP and PDAF releases and you’d see similarities,” Reyes said.

Reyes said the second biggest allocation amounting to P88 million went Aggabao, president of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, a member of the majority coalition in the House.

Another coalition member, National Unity Party’s Barzaga, got P60.5 million for his district and city, whose mayor is his wife, Jenny.

LP spokesman Evardone got P62.7 million, Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo was given P10 million, Umali received P15 million and Tupas got P12.5 million. All are Liberal Party stalwarts.

Reyes recalled that Evardone, Quimbo, Umali, Aggabao, Barzaga and Tupas were instrumental in the ouster of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, and that President Aquino used the DAP to dish out rewards to those who signed the impeachment complaint or voted to convict Corona.

Evardone was the president of the 188 Movement, the same number of lawmakers who signed the impeachment complaint against Corona.

Quimbo was assigned as impeachment trial spokesman for the prosecution while Tupas, Aggabao, Umali and Barzaga served as congressmen-prosecutors at Corona’s impeachment trial before the Senate.

Tupas presided over Tuesday’s hearing on the three impeachment complaints that were trashed four hours after the complainants presented their charges against the President.

While House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. was not present or did not vote for the dismissal of the impeachment, Reyes said he made clear that he felt the complaints were “weak.”

Belmonte received an allocation of P16.5 million in DAP funds.

“The injustice is that they sought to protect the President in order to preserve a rotten system of patronage and corruption,” Reyes said.

Reyes said the complainants and anti-pork advocates would bring the fight against pork outside of Congress.

“We now bring the contents of the impeachment complaint to the people, in the schools and communities. The fight for accountability will continue outside Congress,” Reyes said.

Although the committee report will still go to the plenary, Tupas said that the dismissal of the three

complaints at the committee level was the end of the impeachment game, and that there was no longer any chance for the complainants to win.

“The committee on justice is the mirror image of the House of Representatives when it comes to impeachment. And I am very confident that whatever the committee on justice says will be sustained by the plenary. In other words, the complaints will be dismissed,” Tupas said in an interview.

But Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate; and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio insisted that their fight would not end with the orchestrated killing at the committee level of the three impeachment complaints filed against President Aquino.

“There is still the plenary and we are calling on all out colleagues who want to reassert the power of the purse of Congress over the purse to vote and support the impeachment. The people are asking for accountability and they want to know where the P144 billion DAP funds were sourced and where it went,” said Colmenares, who endorsed the first impeachment complaint.

“The complaints are not only sufficient in form and substance, they are more than enough to merit an answer from President Aquino,” he added.

Colmenares, a House deputy minority leader, also accused Malacanang and the ruling Liberal party of orchestrating the dismissal of the impeachment complaints.

Only Colmenares, Zarate, and Gabriela party-list Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus voted in favor of the complaints.

“It was a shameless massacre of a constitutional process of accountability all in the name and in defense of the corrupt pork barrel system that President Aquino fattened into a new porcine level,” Zarate said.

“Malacanang’s fingerprints were all over the four-hour poorly scripted show. Very clearly now, President Aquino and Malacanang do not want to answer the P144 billion DAP question. We will bring this to the real judges of history, the Filipino people,” Zarate added.

Tinio said the decision of the committee was obviously railroaded and that the endorsers of the complaint were not given enough time to present their case before the committee.

He vowed to fight for the ouster of the President despite the lack of support from the House members who are mostly allied with the administration.

“We will take the debate to the plenary,” Tinio said.

Tupas said that one-third of 290 House members or 98 lawmakers are needed to reverse the decision of the committee.

“Assuming it happens – for the sake of argument – the plenary will then ask the House committee on justice to draft the articles of impeachment and we will submit these to the Senate. But in reality, this is not going to be the case,” Tupas said.

Tupas said the decision of the committee to dismiss the ouster complaints against the President would likely be adopted by the plenary.

Also on Wednesday, a group of health professionals criticized Aquino’s allies for junking the impeachment complaints.

At a news conference in Quezon City, Jossel Ebesate, a registered nurse and Alliance of Health Workers president, slammed the 54 members of the House of Representatives for killing the impeachment complaints against the President.

Ebasate was joined by Edward Malzan, Philippine Nurses Association vice president; Eleazar Sobinsky, Lung Center of the Philippines Employees Association Inc. president; Joseph Carabeo, a community doctor and co-convenor of Rx Abolish Pork Bark System Movement; Eleanor Jara, a doctor and another co-convenor, and Sean Herbert Velchez, a registered nurse and National Orthopedic Hospital Workers’ Union president.

“The allies of the President in Congress have rallied behind him by quickly killing the impeachment complaints filed against him,” Ebasate said.

The government has failed to improve the health care system, look after the welfare of the patients, and improve the lives of the doctors and nurses, he said.

“Our health care system is almost at the deathbed. We are working 24 hours round the clock for the patients, but the government has not done its part,” Velchez told the conference.

“The health care system has not been upgraded, while billions and billions of pesos are lost due to corruption and misappropriation of public funds,” he added.

Carabeo said the House committee on justice swiftly junked the three impeachment complaints because most of its members belonged to the Liberal Party, of which the President is the chairman.

They praised the members of the Makabayan bloc for standing their ground. – With Rio N. Araja

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