HOUSE PANEL: De Venecia complaint sufficient in form

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 07:43:00 11/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 4) Members of the justice committee of the House of Representatives have unanimously decided that the impeachment complaint filed by the group of Jose de Venecia III was sufficient in form.

As of posting time, lawmakers are deliberating on what to do with the three other impeachment cases, including the intervention that was filed by the group, led by Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist, blogger, and television host Manolo Quezon III that sought to add the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the list of offenses committed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Supreme Court had declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional.

Quezon City Representative Matias Defensor, chairman of the justice committee, had raised the “prejudicial questions” that must be considered before determining whether the complaint would be sufficient in form and in substance would be:

• Which complaint/ complaints must be considered?
• Is the complaint in intervention allowed by the Constitution, the Rules on Impeachment or the Rules on Criminal Procedure in its suppletory character?
• Is the chairman on the committee on justice correct in returning the Lozano complaint based on the precedent as approved by the committee on justice in the case of the Tamano/ Pulido complaint?

The four complaints submitted before the committee were from:
• Jose de Venecia III, et. al. submitted on October 13;
• Attorney Guillermo Sotto submitted October 23;
• Manuel Quezon III et al submitted on November 12; and
• Lawyer Oliver Lozano submitted directly to the committee on justice and received by the committee secretary on November 17.

But even before the complaints could be deliberated on, Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Teodoro Casiño has asked that his colleagues who have been linked to the alleged bribery attempt by Malacañang last year should inhibit themselves.

Meanwhile, Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez questioned the marathon hearings and appealed for a “more reasonable calendar” so that they could also attend other hearings.

“It’s very hard to distribute our bodies among these committee hearings…We are not allowing ourselves enough time to prepare for other hearings, for example after this, we will have the fertilizer scam hearing,” Golez said.

“This is something we should approach with a lot of circumspection,” Golez said, adding that the fourth impeachment complaint is the most serious one against the President.

Congressman Defensor said the marathon hearings were “not unusual.”

In his opening statement, the justice committee chairman said that “we cannot prolong the process.”

“Let the ax fall if it has to fall. Time is not in our favor, otherwise, we might just succeed to impeach a President who is no longer in Office or has only a few months, weeks, or days left in office,” Defensor said in his opening statement.

Defensor said the House has 83 session days to pass upon the validity of the impeachment complaint, assuming that it would pass the test of form and substance.

The justice committee has scheduled marathon hearings for the impeachment complaint from Tuesday to Friday, starting at 9:30 a.m.

Aside from Casiño, other endorsers of the impeachment complaint who were present were former speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza of Gabriela, and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis.

De Venecia’s son, Jose “Joey” De Venecia III, filed the impeachment complaint together with civil society groups and representatives of human rights organizations.

The endorsers have appealed to majority members in the House to allow the complaint to reach the impeachment trial stage to shed light on allegations against the President.

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