House bars inclusion of Moro homeland accord in impeachment proceedings

By CARMELA FONBUENA, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Nov 19 2008 11:42 AM | Updated as of Nov 19 2008 08:07 PM

Voting 35-4, the House Committee on Justice on Wednesday ruled against the inclusion of the “complaint-in-intervention” filed by political analyst Manolo Quezon and two other complaints filed by lawyers Oliver Lozano and Guillermo Sotto against President Arroyo.
 
“The chair rules that the same be returned,” panel chairman Matias Defensor said of the three complaints that followed the first impeachment complaint filed national broadband deal star witness Jose “Joey” de Venecia III and opposition lawyer Harry Roque.
 
With objections from opposition solons, the matter was put to a vote. Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño appealed the ruling of Defensor and sought the consolidation of Quezon’s complaint-in-intervention with the one filed by de Venecia.

"We should allow other people to include other causes of action against the President. Such should not be merely put aside," Casiño said.
 
The de Venecia complaint accused the President of culpability in the US$329-million national broadband deal with Chinese company ZTE Corp., the P728-million fertilizer fund mess that was purportedly used to finance her 2004 presidential bid, the alleged bribery of House members and human rights violations under her administration.

On Tuesday, the committee unanimously declared the complaint as “sufficient in form.” The committee will now move on to the more challenging part, which is to determine the complaint’s sufficiency in substance.”

Quezon’s complaint-in-intervention seeks to include the alleged constitutional violation of Mrs. Arroyo by allowing government negotiators to enter into a Moro homeland accord with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The agreement that allows for a Bangsamoro Juridical entity was declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that the said complaints could not be labeled as supplemental complaints, amended complaints, or complaints of intervention, given that all were subject to the one-year bar rule. Under Section 3, Article 5 of the Philippine Constitution, no impeachment complaint against the same official may be entertained more than once within a period of one year.

"The Sotto complaint and the Quezon complaint in intervention, as well as the Lozano complaint in intervention, belong to this class of prohibited pleadings. Consequently, this committee has no jurisdiction or competence to consider these complaints," Lagman said
 
“Regardless of the title, the nomenclature cannot excuse itself from the one year ban,” said Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan in agreement with Defensor.
 
“Otherwise, there will be no end to the litigation. It will be an endless impeachment proceeding,” added Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga.
 
Defensor said Quezon’s complaint-in-intervention may only be entertained once the principal complaint—referring to the de Venecia complaint—has been declared “sufficient in substance.”

Grave abuse of discretion?
 
Quezon, who was present in the committee hearing, expressed disappointment with the majority decision.
 
“The majority is hiding behind technicalities. It shows that they don’t want to face the issue and make the proceedings longer. It’s grave abuse of discretion,” he said.
 
Quezon maintained that the Moro homeland accord is a strong case against President Arroyo. “If they will discuss the Memorandum of Agreement on the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, they will surely lose,” he said.
 
“Congressmen are like fiscals. If there is a case, it is their obligation to strengthen the case,” he said.