'Hearsay' evidence spells end of Alejano complaint
MANILA (UPDATED)- The House of Representatives justice committee on Monday shot down the impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte for lack of sufficiency in substance.
This after several House leaders argued that Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano cited mere hearsay in accusing Duterte of operating a death squad in Davao City, sanctioning killings in his war on drugs, keeping secret wealth and inefficiently handling the West Philippine Sea dispute with China.
A total of 42 lawmakers in the justice committee voted that the complaint was insufficient in substance. The committee however voted that the complaint was sufficient in form.
The vote was made after House justice panel chairman Reynaldo Umali suspended the proceedings for a while so his committee can hold an executive session.
Lawmakers were in executive session for about an hour to decide after a justice committee vice-chair Vicente Celoso pointed out that the 1 year bar against multiple impeachment complaints will only apply if there is a finding of insufficiency in substance.
Under the rules, insufficiency in form means the complaint can be returned to the complainant to fix the defect.
The ruling came after House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas noted that Alejano based his allegations on media reports, the Senate testimony of self-confessed hitmen, unauthenticated bank documents and the affidavit of Senator Antonio Trillanes.
"Iyung narinig mo o nabasa mo sa diyaryo o naikuwento sa iyo -- that is hearsay evidence and that will not stand trial," Fariñas said.
"If you have a complaint against an impeachable officer and you're information are not of your own personal knowledge, let that person be the complainant and then you will endorse."
Alejano himself admitted that his complaint was mainly based on "open sources," but insisted that these could not be deemed hearsay because he personally reviewed that information.
"Hindi ako witness ng pagbaril, ng mga biktima ng war on drugs.
I am a witness to the affidavits, to the testimonies, and lahat po tayo nakadinig, siguro po hindi naman tayo nasa ibang bansa, alam po natin na may patayan sa lansangan. Yun lang ho yung punto natin," he said.
Deputy House Speaker Fredenil Castro moved for the dismissal of the complaint, saying: "Let this proceeding and this impeachment complaint be a lesson to everybody not only now but in the future that you cannot make a joke by utilizing falsities as well as hearsay evidence in trying to remove someone especially one that is occupying the highest position of the land."
Among those who echoed Castro's stand were congressmen Harry Roque, Salvador Leachon and Rodante Marcoleta.
With the ruling, Alejano will not even be able to present witnesses or evidence, Duterte will also not be required to submit an answer.
As President, Duterte is made immune from suit by the 1987 constitution, and can only be held accountable once he is out of office.-with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News