Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez argued that the filing of the complaint was premature since the SC decision, which the lawmaker said serves as the primary basis of the case, is still the subject of a motion for reconsideration filed by the executive branch.
The Supreme Court declared 3 specific executive acts under DAP as unconstitutional. Started in 2011, the executive branch stopped the program even before the SC could release its verdict. (READ: Where did DAP funds go?)
The sponsors, meanwhile, used proceedings that were followed during the impeachment trial of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in 2010 to counter technicalities raised by lawmakers opposed to the complaint.
Colmenares noted that Congress had given a go signal to the impeachment complaint against Gutierrez even if a separate case against her had yet to be resolved by the court.
"If the committee found substance (to impeach) Gutierrez on the basis of a low conviction rate, what more if the case involves P144 billion (in DAP funds)?" Colmenares said.
Tupas ruled that the case before the court is a separate process from the impeachment complaint filed before Congress.
Even if the SCdeclared certain acts under DAP, a government spending program meant to pump-prime the economy, as unconstitutional, Aquino allies argued that the SC also recognized operative fact, a doctrine which recognizes that even if a law is declared void, its effects prior to its declaration of nullity is left undisturbed.
But sponsors countered that the SC only recognized operative fact on projects under DAP but acknowledged that there is liability on the part of the authors and implementors of the now defunct program.
Aside from citing the same issues raised in the SC decision as basis for the impeachment complaint, such as the cross-border transfer of P144 billion worth of funds under DAP, the second impeachment complaint sponsored by youth and student leaders used as evidence declarations made by Senator Jinggoy Estrada that DAP was used to bribe senators to impeach former chief justice Renato Corona.
Isabela Representative Giorgidi Aggabao hit the complainants for using Estrada's allegations as factual basis even if they do not identify who, when, and where the bribery attempts were made.
"If we take away the high-flying rhetorics of the complaint, it would fall short of what a fiscal would require from a case," Aggabao said.
The complainants did not have enough evidence to their prove allegations, said Marikina City Representative Miro Quimbo.
"Mayroon bang ebidensiya na may ninakaw ang Pangulo - may bahay na naipatayo, bank accounts tulad ng dati? Wala kahit isa. Walang itinago; inilista lahat," Quimbo said.
(Is there evidence that the President stole anything, had houses built [from the money], bank accounts, such as before? There is not a single one. Nothing was hidden; everything was listed.)
On the matter of EDCA, a deal that gives US troops wider access to Philippine bases and allows joint activities between the two countries' militaries, complainants alleged that Aquino committed culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust by "sacrificing the sovereignity" of the Filipino people without even consulting Congress.
But lawmakers said impeaching the President may not be the best recourse to sort out grievances against the deal.
"If we oppose EDCA, the right venue to raise this is the Supreme Court. This is not enough basis to impeach the President," said Ako Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe.
Public support questioned
At the beginning of the hearing, Colmenares appealed to the committee to approve the substance of the impeachment complaints to allow Aquino to answer the allegations presented in the complaint.
"Let the President defend himself. It's not the committee's role to lawyer for him," Colmenares said.
Administration allies opposed this stand.
Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas raised a counter-argument against Colmenares' statement that the committee was "lawyering" for the President.
"This is not lawyering. Just like [in trial courts], we just want to see to it that no useless action is brought to trial. We are protecting the unnecessary dragging of an impeachable official here," Fariñas said.
Administration allies took the opportunity to highlight indications showing that there was lack of public support for the impeach moves.
"Kataka-taka po sa akin na sa unang pagkakataon ng kasaysayan, sa mga ibang miyembro ng minorya pati po ng independent bloc, wala po kahit isa man lang na sumusuporta dito. Pagpapakita po na hungkat – empty – itong impeachment complaint," Quimbo said.
(It's curious why for the first time in history, even other members of the minority bloc and the independent bloc – not one of them expressed support for this. This only goes to show that this impeachment complaint is empty.)
Even the man who stands to gain the most from Aquino's impeachment opposes the move, said Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga.
"When we say that the people want this, what is your basis? Even the Vice President who will be the biggest beneficiary does not want this complaint to push through," Barzaga said.
With all 3 complaints now dead even before Aquino could answer the allegations, Kabataan Representative Terry Ridon said they are eyeing the filing of technical malversation and possible plunder charges against Aquino when he steps down from office in 2016.
In Malacañang, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma was asked whether the Palace played a hand in the result. Coloma gave assurances it did not.
"Wala pong ginamit na impluwensiya ang ating Pangulo at ang pamahalaan (The President or the administration did not use any influence," he said.
Another Palace official noted the “transparent” House proceedings on the impeachment complaints against the President.
“The Committee on Justice of the House, after a thorough review of the allegations in terms of its substance, has dismissed the complaints against the President. We take note that the process took place with transparency, not just according to the rules, but to give the proponents every opportunity to make their case,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a statement. – Rappler.com