House dismisses Duterte impeachment complaint

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 30 2017 06:20 PM | Updated as of May 30 2017 08:11 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte. Reuters

MANILA (UPDATED) – The House of Representatives has dismissed the impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano against President Rodrigo Duterte.

The plenary finally voted on Resolution No. 1015 and the report of the Justice Committee recommending the dismissal of the complaint, which it found to be sufficient in form but insufficient in substance.

A total of 217 representatives voted yes to adopt the resolution and committee report, dismissing the complaint, while 4 voted no to the dismissal. 

No lawmaker abstained from voting.

Those who voted no were Alejano and his allies Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, and Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat.

Under the 1987 Constitution, if an impeachment complaint gets the vote of 1/3 of the members of the House, it can be tried by the Senate. Otherwise, it is dismissed and the respondent is covered by a one-year bar against another impeachment complaint. One-third of 292 lawmakers is 97.

Alejano’s complaint was filed March 16, with a supplemental complaint filed March 30. Both were referred by the plenary to the committee on May 9—the start of the one-year bar for multiple impeachment complaints against the same official.

The complaint was for betrayal of public trust, bribery, culpable violation of the constitution and other high crimes, graft and corruption, in relations to allegations of state-sanctioned killings in the war on drugs, the Davao Death Squad, alleged ill-gotten wealth, and the president's positions on the West Philippine Sea and the Benham rise.

The House Justice Committee unanimously approved the committee report and draft resolution with 17 members of the committee present for the short meeting chaired by Justice Committee Chair Rey Umali.

In its findings, the committee recommended "that the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the House of Representatives be amended to explicitly allow the dismissal of impeachment complaints based on insufficiency in form."

Currently, the Rules of Impeachment explicitly allow the dismissal of a complaint based on insufficiency in substance only. Under current rules, when a complaint is found to lack form, the committee will inform the secretary general within three session days with a written explanation. 

The secretary general will then return the same to the complainants together with the committee's feedback within three session days from receipt of the committee resolution finding the complaint insufficient in form.

During the hearing on the Alejano complaint last week, Duterte's allies wanted the complaint dismissed on insufficiency in form after it was established that Alejano did not have personal knowledge of his allegations, contradicting the complaint's verification section where he testified under oath that the allegations are true of his own personal knowledge or culled from authentic records.

The committee had also pointed out that the report did not present authenticated documents and relied heavily on media reports.

Verification is a key requirement for a complaint to pass the test of form. The committee decided to allow it to pass the test of form this time but ruled it will no longer entertain similar complaints in the future. 

Voting 42-0, it then proceeded to rule that it was insufficient in substance precisely because Alejano did not have personal knowledge.