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Impeachment complaints filed against Benigno Aquino approved

Two of the three complaints pertain to the discretionary funds scheme for lawmakers

Gulf News

Manila: Members of the lower house of Congress in the Philippines have approved three impeachment complaints filed against President Benigno Aquino.

The majority of members of the House of Representatives’ justice committee voted that the three complaints against Aquino were “sufficient in form as verified by the lawmakers that endorsed the complaints,” said Congressman Niel Tupas, the committee chair.

Two of the impeachment complaints contended that it was unconstitutional for Aquino to use funds under the Disbursement Accelerated Programme (DAP) that he created in 2011, with money saved from line agencies, for the expenditure of senators and congressmen in 2012.

Opposition leaders claimed that they were given additional money from DAP in late 2012, after they had voted for the impeachment of former supreme court judge Renato Corona in mid 2012.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad confirmed that the additional funds given to the lawmakers came from the DAP. The lawmakers said they were never aware of its existence prior to Abad’s explanation.

The Supreme Court ruled last July that the DAP’s creation was unconstitutional, to Aquino’s dismay.

The third impeachment complaint filed against Aquino objected to his approval of the Philippine-United States Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) prior to the arrival of US President Barack Obama in the Philippines in early 2014.

“It seeks greater US military presence despite a constitutional ban on foreign bases and nuclear-powered war material in the Philippines,” said the complaint.

The executive agreement also mandated that it should no longer be voted upon by the senate, the complaint added.

The supreme court has not yet ruled on this issue.

Members of sectoral parties in the lower House of Representatives had endorsed the three impeachment complaints earlier.

Responding to the filing of the impeachment complaints, Communication Secretary Hermino Coloma said at the presidential palace, “We trust the ability of our lawmakers, their use of reason and their sense of fairness that they will do what is right as they study such proposals.”

Aquino is ready in case the complaints are heard and eventually elevated to the senate, said Coloma.

A fourth impeachment complaint had also been filed earlier, but has not yet been voted for at the committee level.

The majority of senators and congressmen are Aquino’s allies.

Last Monday, a coalition of groups representing civil society and church-based associations launched a campaign to gather 10 million votes for the passage of a law that criminalises the president’s ‘pork barrel system’ of dispensing discretionary funds to lawmakers.

It may be recalled that former president Joseph Estrada came to office on a popular vote in 1998 but was ousted in 2001 by military-backed street protests that were launched by those who were outraged at the abrupt ending of his impeachment trial at the senate in late 2000 after he was accused of plunder of public funds.