Rep. Umali refutes stonewalling impeach bids at House
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairperson of the House justice committee, refuted criticisms that the impeachment of presidents and other impeachable officers became more difficult following an amendment to the impeachment rules at the House of Representatives.
Umali was reacting to insinuations that the holding of impeachment proceedings in Congress became almost impossible after the House justice committee recommended an amendment to the House impeachment rules making an impeachment complaint easily dissolved or rejected based on insufficiency of form.
Umali’s justice committee earlier dismissed Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano’s impeachment complaints against President Rodrigo Duterte due to lack of substance.
“Finally, the committee on justice recommends that the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the House of Representatives be amended to explicitly allow the dismissal of impeachment complaints based on insufficiency of form,” the committee reported to the plenary.
House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas first proposed the amendment to prevent representatives from endorsing a complaint based on hearsay evidence.
Umali said the more stringent House rules on impeachment do not necessarily mean an impeachment proceeding would now be impossible.
The impeachment proceedings originate in the lower house, according to the 1987 Constitution.
“Not necessarily because you know, what is important is that whoever will stand trial can really present his case with convincing evidence,” Umali said.
According to the existing House impeachment rules, the justice committee is tasked to determine the sufficiency of form of an impeachment complaint if it is duly endorsed and verified by a House member.
The lower house approves an impeachment complaint for sufficiency in form as long as it is duly endorsed and verified by a House member.
The committee, however, may dismiss the complaint on the basis of insufficiency of substance if the recital of facts fails to constitute the offenses charged.
Umali was then asked if the impeachment of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 would have not been made possible if the amended impeachment rules were applied then.
Umali said the dismissal due to insufficient substance of Duterte’s impeachment complaints is different from the situation when the House, acting as the prosecutor, approved the articles of impeachment against Corona for undeclared wealth.
Umali said the lower House was able to muster 188 votes, more than the one-third vote required under the rules, which approved the articles of impeachment that was later on transmitted to the Senate to act as the impeachment court. Umali was then a prosecutor for the lower House.
Umali said he himself was grilled by the Senate impeachment court in 2012 when he vouched for the authenticity of the bank documents handed over to him by a credible source then described as “small lady.”
Umali stood by his story that the “small lady” at the Senate premises handed over to him the documents, which included supposed photocopies of Corona’s specimen signature cards on his Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) dollar deposits.
Those pieces of evidence served as the basis for the subpoena issued by the Senate impeachment court to scrutinize the Chief Justice’s bank account records.
Still, Umali slammed Alejano for preparing an impeachment complaint that is not based on personal knowledge.
“I went through a lot also during my time when the ‘small lady’ came out and I was investigated. Tiningnan yun kung saan binigay sa akin yun (They looked into it on who gave me the documents) because whoever provides that information can be liable under the Bank Secrecy Law so hindi ganun ka-simple yun (so it’s not that simple),” Umali said.
“But here comes Congressman Alejano, presenting papers, actually matrix of the many so-called accounts or moneys of the Duterte family. Saan nya kinuha yun? (Where did he get it?) And then he claims it is authenticated or authentic. How can that be authentic when the Bank Secrecy Law prohibits the divulging of those kinds of information, much more the record,” he added.
Umali said Alejano may still amend his impeachment complaint after the one year ban lapses. Umali earlier said the one year lapse for filing of impeachment complaints against Duterte would start on May 9, when the complaints were referred to the justice committee.
“Because the one-year ban rule started on May 9, when we started our impeachment proceedings. Now he can come back and lay the basis for all those things he wants us to appreciate now, even if it’s haphazardly. To my mind and to the mind of the many members, the complaint was frivolous,” Umali said.
According to Section 3, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, no impeachment proceedings should be initiated against an impeachable officer more than once within a period of one year.
According to the approved committee report, the verified complaints were sufficient in form, but were defective and insufficient in substance especially after Alejano admitted he had no personal knowledge on the allegations in the complaints. JPV/rga
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