House distracted by impeachment trial, says Belmonte
MANILA, Philippines—Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. admits that the House of Representatives has been distracted from its legislative work by the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, but says he is pleased that the chamber still managed to pass 50 bills of national importance during the first three months of the trial.
Prosecuting Corona in the Senate for graft, culpable violation of the Constitution, and betrayal of public trust is an arduous and overwhelming task, but Belmonte says he is proud that none of the congressmen who brought the impeachment complaint has backed out.
“Let’s put it on record that not a single one of these 188 congressmen plus 13 ever recanted or said that what they did was wrong. Thank you for your fortitude, for standing by the vote we had,” Belmonte said in his closing address as Congress adjourned last week for Lent.
“We have to admit that the impeachment trial was very daunting and really quite difficult,” Belmonte said. “I myself who has been there before, I know how difficult it is from the point of view of the people that we have sent there. They were the managers, they were the people who spoke for us. There were a lot of things said about them but at the end of the day, let’s admit it, the people and all of us here, or most of us here, have realized that they had a daunting job but they did it.”
Belmonte was referring to criticisms that the impeachment case was poorly prepared and suffered from lack of research. Pundits claim that the complaint could have been fine-tuned had it been sent through the normal impeachment process of filtering the charges at the committee level rather than speeding it through a caucus of the majority that took only five hours, from filing to approval to transmission to the Senate.
Surveys made shortly after the prosecution rested its case after presenting only three of the eight articles of impeachment showed a majority of the respondents wanting Corona to be removed from office.
Belmonte conceded that the House had been distracted by the trial, but still managed to pass 50 national bills. “We have to admit to ourselves that there were times when the focus had been on the impeachment trial. I remember when I was a member of the impeachment team, you can’t think of anything but focus on it,” Belmonte said.
With the onset of Lent, Belmonte said the House members agreed to use the period for deep reflection and enlightenment. He advised the defense in the trial to do the same.
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