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MANILA, Philippines – Youth organizations on Tuesday, July 22, filed the second valid impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III at the House of Representatives over the controversial spending program known as the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Kabataan Representative Terry Ridon endorsed the complaint. Ridon is a member of the leftist Makabayan Coalition in the House whose 3 members endorsed the first impeachment complaint against Aquino filed on Monday.
A total of 25 student leaders and campus journalists led by the youth group Youth Act Now accused Aquino of committing 3 impeachable offenses: culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and graft and corruption.
The complainants also cited earlier revelations made by Senator Jinggoy Estrada that the Aquino administration bribed legislators with funds sourced from DAP to impeach then Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Back then, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad denied the allotments were bribes but rather funds under DAP, a program that enabled the executive branch to transfer funds from slow-disbursing projects to fast-disbursing ones to boost the economy. Malacañang gave some senators P50 million each from DAP for their pet projects, in addition to their pork barrel known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund, also the subject of controversy.
The petitioners said Aquino committed “no less than 116 count of technical malversation” for approving and implementing 116 projects under DAP.
The Supreme Court has declared several acts under DAP unconstitutional, but the President has said the verdict was difficult to accept and understand. Despite the unanimous ruling against the constitutionality of DAP, the government has asked the Supreme Court to reverse its ruling on the controversial program.
At a news briefing on Tuesday, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said Malacañang is unfazed by the latest impeachment complaint against the President.
“He knows that the representatives of the people will consider public welfare in their decision,” Coloma said in Filipino.
Asked whether Malacañang’s confidence is based on its number of allies in Congress, the Palace official said it is counting on the lawmakers to base their decision on “reason” and the “truth.”
“Reason should be the primary basis of the representatives. In their decision, they will surely take into consideration the sentiments and welfare of the people. It cannot be denied that numbers are important here, because the impeachment complaint would be subject to a vote. But we still believe that truth, reason, and public welfare should prevail,” Coloma said.
Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr, who chairs the House committee on justice, told reporters that lawmakers are expecting Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr to refer the impeachment raps to the committee when Congress resumes session after the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 28.
“We will give it our utmost priority because it’s an impeachment, it takes precedence over all other pending matters in the committee on justice, so once referred, we will set a hearing and we will vote on the first day on the sufficiency in form,” Tupas said.
Aquino’s allies in the House are confident that the impeachment complaints will not prosper beyond the committee level.
Complainants need to get the votes of at least one third of the House membership to approve a resolution to impeach the President. At least 244 or about 85% of the more than 290 lawmakers in the House belong to the administration-backed majority bloc.