Impeachment raps to intimidate justices?

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 09 2013 06:19 PM | Updated as of Dec 10 2013 07:35 AM

MANILA (UPDATED) - Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Secretary-General Renato Reyes on Monday claimed that the threat of an impeachment complaint against sitting justices of the Supreme Court (SC) could be an attempt to stop the High Court from declaring the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional.

This early though, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte is keeping his distance from the planned impeachment complaint of Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali.

Reyes, in a statement, said, "There was an earlier threat of impeachment vs the SC justices by an LP member. Nothing is impossible at this point. It appears to be a way of threatening the court in relation to the DAP."

"Malacañang is exerting great effort to secure an SC victory and avoid possible suits from its use of the DAP," he added. "This is one fight the Palace can't afford to lose. It's possible that the Palace will attempt to sway the court. They only need 7 votes to have the petitions dismissed (if Presbitero Velasco inhibits again)."

This, as the Supreme Court on Monday postponed the continuation of the DAP oral arguments from December 10 to January 28, 2014.

DAP critics claim that the program was used to ensure the support of senators in the impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona.

"Oral arguments on the DAP are crucial, as [these bring] us closer to the resolution of pending petitions seeking DAP's invalidation," Reyes said. "We would like to remind the public that the SC decision declaring PDAF unconstitutional does not spell the end of the pork barrel system."

"If DAP is retained, this will strengthen the position of President Aquino as the 'pork barrel king' since lawmakers will more than ever depend on presidential pork. The battle against DAP will prove to be decisive in ending presidential pork and the pork barrel system," he said.

Umali, meanwhile, denied any correlation between the DAP and his plans to impeach as many as 3 justices.

"Not true. If there is such a perception, then it does not speak well of the court and people who think that way, have no respect for the Supreme Court because they admit that the court can be swayed or threatened," he said.

"I have more respect for SC as an institution. If the justices are worth their salt, they will not be intimidated, pero kung sila ay may kasalanan they should feel threatened," he added.

Umali said he is still working on gathering support for his impeachment complaint, which he has yet to discuss with either President Aquino or Speaker Belmonte.

Belmonte, for his part said, “if he does that, he will have to do it in his personal capacity."

"I myself have been a key player in impeachment cases. To be frank, I’m against filing of any impeachment against justices. However much we disagree or affected, the fact of matter is still, it doesn't qualify as one of those grounds for impeachment," he added. "Mas maganda na iyung we don’t get involved, we don’t put any pressure on the Supreme Court. At any rate, one guy out of 290 doesn’t amount to a threat of any kind."

Umali last week raised the specter of impeachment , claiming some of the justices committed “betrayal of public trust” by flip-flopping in their ruling on the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) and the disqualification of Marinduque Rep. Regina Reyes.

The SC recently declared the PDAF unconstitutional and moved to unseat Reyes over citizenship questions.

Umali said he will file his impeachment complaint against some justices of the Supreme Court soon.

Umali, a signatory to the Gutierrez and Corona impeachment complaints and a prosecutor in the Corona trial, said he is now drafting the complaint but didn't say who among the justices are named in the complaint.

Umali told ABS-CBN News on Friday that as many as 3 justices may be charged with impeachment.

“I do believe that these justices of the Supreme Court betrayed pubic trust when they did flip-flopping decisions. They should have looked at the impeachment against Chief Justice Corona when we raised the issue in one of articles. I don’t think they learned their lesson, they continued to flip-flop," he said.

Umali last week cited the Supreme Court’s reversal of previous rulings upholding the legitimacy of the PDAF of lawmakers and the candidacy of Reyes.

He added that the SC's reversal because of the allegations of a pork barrel scam is an "example of how this court can be despotic in their ways."

He said the Supreme Court has its own pork barrel -- the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF). "The JDF is a creation of law by President Marcos. What’s unconstitutional is certain fees collected by judiciary (don't) go to government coffers. This is something (going) against the grain of the Constitution."