YOUTH organizations, student leaders and campus journalists filed a second verified impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday over his Disbursement Acceleration Program, parts of which were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon endorsed the complaint filed at the office of the House secretary general by the 25 youth and student complainants led by anti-pork barrel youth alliance Youth Act Now, accusing the President of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and graft and corruption.
“Since Aquino has shown a clear lack of delicadeza (sense of propriety), wisdom and humility to resign from office over his culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and graft and corruption, the concerned citizens led by youth and student organizations come to Congress today to avail themselves of the constitutional process of impeachment to hold him accountable,” the complainants said in the preface of the complaint.
Ridon appealed to the House leadership to look at the merits of the complaints and vote on it based on their conscience.
“Aquino shouldn’t try to bribe the House and the Senate again. He should respect the constitutional process. If he can’t stand the heat of the impeachment, and if he has any sliver of delicadeza left, he should know what to do,” Ridon said.
Ridon also slammed Malacañang for its earlier pronouncement that the filing of the impeachment complaint was premature since a motion for reconsideration on the DAP was still before the Supreme Court.
“There was nothing premature in the funneling of over P140 billion in public funds to choice projects and the transformation of taxpayers’ money into presidential pork barrel. Besides, it is never too early for the people to demand accountability,” Ridon said.
He urged colleagues in the House to endorse the impeachment complaint filed by the youth groups, especially lawmakers “who know things about DAP that the public has yet to discover.”
“We ask members of Congress who know anything about the DAP scandal to come forward and endorse this complaint. We will propose that your endorsement be considered by prosecutors in case you face prosecution over DAP. There may be witnesses here in the House. Come out, come out wherever you are. It is time to side with the Filipino people,” Ridon said.
Apart from committing culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust through the creation and execution of DAP, petitioners also argued that Aquino attempted to corrupt public officials by allotting extra funds to them right after the impeachment trial of his political nemesis, then Chief Justice Renato Corona, which they said was a crime under the law.
The petitioners also argued that Aquino “committed no less than 116 counts of technical malversation for approving and implementing the 116 DAP-funded projects.
Youth Act Now national convener and lead complainant Victor Villanueva said the impeachment process would give Aquino and the public the “opportunity to present all sides of this large-scale theft of public funds.”
“As we know, Aquino enjoys presidential immunity from suit. Initiating the impeachment process is our only constitutional recourse to stop the President’s deranged, self-absorbed, and arrogant administration from further violating the Constitution,” Villanueva said.
On Monday, the first valid impeachment complaint was filed against President III by 27 individuals led by the left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), 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.
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., who chairs the House committee on justice, maintained that his panel would exercise fair play in the impeachment process against President Aquino provided that complaints are verified.
“We will act on these cases as long as they comply with the requirements,” said Tupas, an administration ally and a prosecutor during the Corona impeachment trial.
In the Palace, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said lawmakers who will go through the impeachment complaint should consider “the sentiment and welfare” of Filipinos.
“Reason should be the primary basis of our lawmakers. In making their decision, we are sure they will take into consideration the sentiment and welfare of our people,” Coloma said.
“It cannot be denied that numbers are important because they will be voting to either pass or junk the impeachment complaint. But we believe that truth, reason, and the welfare of our people should prevail,” he added.
“The President is guilty of tyrannical abuse of power and gross exercise of discretionary powers through his blatant and willful disregard of the prerogatives reserved by the Constitution for the co-equal branches of government,” the youth petitioners said in their complaint.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Tuesday that no DAP funds were released for the compensation of Hacienda Luisita landowners, contrary to the claim of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairman Rafael Mariano.
He said the P7.93 billion funds released to compensate Hacienda Luisita landowners were sourced from the General Appropriations Act in 2010 and 2011, and not through the DAP.
“The KMP is making a factual error in their impeachment complaint. The funds that they’re referring to were already part of the Department of Agrarian Reform’s 2010 and 2011 budgets for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. These allotments were not released through the DAP, nor were they augmentations to the DAP’s budget for CARP,” Abad said.
He said P3.97 billion was allocated for CARP in the 2010 GAA and another P3.97 billion was released to DAR in 2011.
“If you check the list we uploaded on the website, you’ll see that item no. 24, or ‘DAR: Landowners’ Compensation’ does not specify an amount for proposed funding. The fields for ‘Allotment Releases’ and ‘Balance’ for landowners’ compensation are also blank. That’s because all we did was release the Notice for Cash Allocation (NCA) for the CARP so the funds could be released to the proper beneficiaries,” Abad said.
“We wanted to expedite the release of these funds so we could quickly turn over the land due our farmers. The DAP allowed us to do precisely that, so that Hacienda Luisita farmers could finally own the land they’ve worked on for so long,” he added.
Earlier, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said there is no need to conduct a loyalty check among the allies of the Palace in the House of Representatives over the impeachment complaints filed against Aquino.
“Each House member will have to use their own discernment in appreciating the allegations of the impeachment complaint,” Lacierda said.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday deferred action on the administration’s motion for reconsideration on their decision against the DAP.
Instead of dismissing outright the appeal filed by the Executive department, the justices resolved during an en banc session Tuesday to require the nine groups that challenged the DAP before the Supreme Court to file their respective comments on the Palace motion with 10 days.
In a nationally televised speech last Monday, the President warned the Supreme Court justices not to go head to head with the Executive branch, as this might require intervention from Congress.
A court observer said the Court could have dismissed the motion if no new arguments are raised.
Given the 13-0 unanimous decision against the DAP, a reversal of the ruling seemed far-fetched.
In its motion for reconsideration filed July 18, the Palace said the economic stimulus program was designed to accelerate public spending and did not violate the Constitution.
In justifying good faith behind DAP, the Palace urged the justices to consider institutional competence and the value of bureaucratic practices in understanding the constitutional role of the Executive in managing the economy, the authority of Congress to define savings, the shared role of the political departments in preparing the budget and the limited role of the Supreme Court on these matters.
The Office of the Solicitor General also argued the the Supreme Court erred in applying the doctrine of operative fact, which recognizes the validity of the assailed law or action prior to the determination of its unconstitutionality as an operative fact that produced consequences that cannot always be erased, ignored or disregarded.
The Palace also turned the tables on the Court by citing the supposed cross-border transfer of funds committed by the Supreme Court in 2012.
Also on Tuesday, Senator Jinggoy Estrada said he would not support any impeachment complaint against the President, saying this would only divide the nation.
“The country has a lot of problems to solve. Just let the President finish his term in 2016. We are already tired. The people are already tired (of the political chaos),” said Estrada, who is under detention on plunder and graft charges over the pork barrel scam.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, meanwhile, urged the public to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution.
“To insist that ours be a government of laws and not of men is not to subordinate the human person to the law, but to uphold the equality of all before the law so that the powerful may not trample upon the weak and so that all enjoy the freedom of the sons and daughters of God,” the bishops said in a statement signed by CBCP President Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
The statement was made after the first valid impeachment was filed against President Aquino on Monday.
The bishops called on the faithful to “submit to the Constitution” for it is “the prime expression of the covenant by which the Filipino people have determined the form and the operations of their government.”
“Let the government show the citizenry that the law is at all times to be obeyed, for only under such a regime are rights and liberties safeguarded,” Villegas said.
The CBCP also said that the decision of Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz to sign the impeachment complaint against President Aquino did not reflect an official Church stand.
“I have no doubt that the good Archbishop himself will like it clarified that his decision to be one of the complainants is his alone, in the exercise of his discretion and as a result of his personal discernment,” Villegas said.
“As in the past, Archbishop Cruz has exhibited a lively interest in the events of our day, as should all Catholics. It should also be clear, however, that the position that any bishop takes on any particular issue is not necessarily that of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines,” Villegas added. – With Rio N. Araja and Ma. Jerrylyn B. Damaso
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