Kabayan moves to oust Harry Roque again

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The infighting continues.

Kabayan party on Tuesday, August 8, announceFd new moves to oust Representative Harry Roque, who occupies one of their two seats in the House.

In separate press releases, the party announced the filing of a petition before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the filing of an ethics complaint against Roque before the House ethics and privileges committee.

It's the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of infighting in the party. Kabayan, through a vote by its board of trustees last January, removed Roque as a member "and consequently, from representing Kabayan" in the House. They cited his "dishonorable behavior" as reason.

The conflict began in late November 2016 when during a hearing into the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison, Roque and several other lawmakers asked questions about Senator Leila de Lima's personal relationship with her former driver and lover Ronnie Dayan.

Many critics considered the line of questioning lewd and inappropriate.

Roque, however, can only be removed from office through the two ways prescribed by the Constitution, according to election lawyer Emil Marañon III. These are if Kabayan can muster a two-thirds vote of all members of the House, or if the party files a case before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

For the latest attempts to unseat Roque, Kabayan secretary general Joshua Sebastian filed a petition before the Comelec asking it to proclaim lawyer Ciriaco Calalang, the party's 3rd nominee, as Roque's replacement.

The other Kabayan lawmaker, Representative Ron Salo, was the one who filed the ethics complaint before the House committee.

"Despite his expulsion from Kabayan, Roque continues to cling to his post in Congress," said Salo, who added that he "still bears the emotional and psychological scars of the personal allegations and insults directed against him" by Roque during a privilege speech last December.

Roque earlier filed indirect contempt charges against Salo and the latter's chief-of-staff before the Supreme Court (SC).

Forum shopping?

In a message to media, Roque's office said the 6 ethics complaints filed against Salo were found "sufficient in form and substance" by the House panel.

"We feel confident that the proper fora will address the Kabayan Party-list dispute to our advantage," Roque's office said.

In another statement, Roque accused his party mates of forum shopping.

"If I were their lawyer, I would seriously ask whether Comelec is the proper venue for such an action, considering that Mr. Salo’s camp also has a pending case with the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal raising the same groundless issues. Any law student will know that what this new case means is that they are engaging in forum-shopping.

"Does my second nominee's and his ilk now doubt their own filing with the HRET that they have now resorted to raising and rehashing the same groundless issues in another form in another venue – this time the Commission on Elections? With this new filing, it appears so." – Rappler.com