Complainants correct flaws in impeachment rap vs Bautista
Two complainants seeking the impeachment of Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Andres Bautista have moved to correct a defect in their complaint, which could have put it at risk of being junked for insufficiency in form.
It’s not yet clear, however, if the House justice committee will accept the amended verification sheet, as the panel tests the impeachment complaint for sufficiency in form and substance on Wednesday.
Former Negros Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, in a motion filed last week, asked the committee to accept a substitute verification to their complaint correcting the flawed wording in the original document.
In the substitute verification, the two complainants attested to having read the complaint and “the allegations therein are true of our own knowledge or based on authentic records.”
Their original verification read in part: “…We have caused the said complaint to be prepared and have read the contents thereof; and that the allegations therein are true of our own knowledge and belief on the basis of our reading and appreciation of documents and other records pertinent thereto.”
Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque, one of three House members who endorsed the complaint, said it complied with the House impeachment rules and “should now proceed to the next step.”
He said the potential defect noted by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and justice committee chair Reynaldo Umali “has already been corrected” with the filing of the substitute verification.
Last week, one of two impeachment complaints filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was dismissed for insufficiency in form as a result of incorrect wording in the verification sheet.
Roque had defended the phrasing of the complaint, but Fariñas revealed that Roque did so because the same wording had been used by the complainants in verifying their complaint against Bautista.
But Roque argued that the impeachment rules did not specify the form of verification.
“The Rules of Court, which is suppletory to impeachment rules, requires that allegations in a pleading must be based on the complainant’s personal knowledge or authentic documents,” he said.
“Once a complaint hurdles the formal requirement, it will then go to a vote on the sufficiency of its allegations. The Rules says that a complaint is sufficient in substance ‘if there is a recital of acts constituting an offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee,’” he added.
Roque said the Supreme Court (SC) itself laid down the guidelines with respect to noncompliance with the requirements on or submission of a defective verification and certification against forum shopping.
“In Fernandez v. Villegas (G.R. No. 200191, Aug. 20, 2014), the SC ruled that ‘(a)s to verification, noncompliance therewith or a defect therein does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective,’” the lawmaker said.
“’The court may order its submission or correction or act on the pleading if the attending circumstances are such that strict compliance with the Rule may be dispensed with in order that the ends of justice may be served thereby,’” Roque added, quoting the SC decision.
“We are confident that with the substituted verification, the committee will find the complaint sufficient in form and in substance,” Roque added.
But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said he expected the Bautista complaint to be dismissed for insufficiency in form.
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