MANILA - House Committee on Justice Chairman Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali on Tuesday said Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano's impeachment complaint may have had better chances of passing if he acted as an endorser instead of a complainant.
Alejano, in filing the impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte as a complainant, should have personal knowledge of his allegations, according to Umali.
"Otherwise, the pleading that you filed is a mere scrap of paper," he said in an interview with ANC's Beyond Politics.
Umali's committee on Monday recommended that Alejano's impeach bid be junked for lack of substance because Alejano supposedly presented mere hearsay in accusing Duterte of supporting summary executions of drug suspects, operating a death squad in Davao City, and having a "defeatist" approach towards Beijing's assertiveness in the South China Sea.
Umali, who filed the impeachment complaint against former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012, said what Alejano should have done was "to get the witnesses who had personal knowledge and then him only acting as an endorser."
"That would have been different," he said.
The other mode, he said, was what they did in the Corona impeachment case, where 188 members, or more than a third of the House, filed and signed the complaint and then it went directly to the Senate acting as an impeachment court.
"Look what happened to us. We were also subjected to the same procedures, rules on impeachment, rules of court, and rules of evidence in the course of the trial and this is what we wanted to avoid now," he said.
"This is the reason why as early as now, we’re already applying the rules," he added.
Umali said the lawmakers were prepared to to go longer with the proceedings, but many failed to realize that that impeachment is a "legal proceeding" and is not like any other hearing that they conduct in Congress.
"They must have not realized that we cannot liken this to a regular hearing that we conduct. Instead, when Cong. Alejano came to us, he is coming not as a congressman, but as a complainant," he said.
"As a complainant, if you will liken this to preliminary investigation, you’re not allowed to give opening remarks—only the chair does that. And we are acting as prosecutors or investigating prosecutors asking you, ‘What is your case? What is your evidence and what is your allegation?’ and look at your verification."
Though the rules allow lawmakers like Alejano to stand as complainants to impeachment cases, they should have personal knowledge on their allegations.
Alejano, however, admitted that he had not personally witnessed the drugs-related killings that he accused Duterte of sponsoring.
The House justice committee is looking at submitting its recommendation to the Committee on Rules by next week and forwarding it to the plenary by the end of May.