IN a bid to contest the one-impeachment-complaint-per-year rule, two groups yesterday filed separate supplemental impeachment complaints against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, highlighting, among others, that she betrayed public trust when she “tolerated the commission of a crime” in connection with the controversial national broadband network (NBN) project.
The arguments of both complaints were hinged on allegations that:
- Arroyo did nothing about the P200-million bribe offer, despite having been informed about it, made by former elections chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. to then National Economic and Development Authority director-general Romulo Neri for the approval of the NBN project with the Chinese company, Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited (ZTE);
- Arroyo did not act on the alleged involvement of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo in the deal, telling another contractor to “back off” and leave the project to ZTE and for standing to earn a kickback of $70 million from the $329-million project.
In an interview with ANC, Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles said the supplemental complaints could no longer be entertained since an earlier impeachment complaint, filed by lawyer Roel Pulido and described as a “fake” and a “sham,” has already been referred to the Committee on Justice.
Click here for a copy of the impeachment complaint filed by Pulido.
“A new impeachment complaint would really be a problem because it cannot be done. The rules are very clear: you can only file one complaint in a year against a person,” Nograles said, explaining that the one-year rule starts once a complaint has been referred. “We followed the same rule last Congress; we voted it down.”
It would be recalled that in May 2005, when the very first impeachment complaint against Arroyo was filed, groups sought to file an amended impeachment complaint to the Oliver Lozano complaint, which also proved to be a weak one. The House voted to bar the amended complaint, partly based on the one-year rule, and eventually dismissed the Lozano complaint, which was declared sufficient in form but lacking in substance.
But Black and White Movement lawyer Edwin Lacierda said the filing of supplemental complaints does not violate the constitutional provision that only one impeachment proceeding can be initiated against the same official in a period of one year.
“The impeachment proceeding is still ongoing. The filing of the supplemental to the Pulido complaint will not translate to a second impeachment proceeding,” he argued. Arroyo’s allies maintain though that an “impeachment proceeding” starts at the moment the complaint is referred to the committee.
He added that in the oft-quoted Francisco v. House of Representatives case, where the exclusion of a second impeachment complaint is justified, the ruling makes no mention of supplemental complaints.
“A supplemental complaint, unlike an amended complaint, does not extinguish the Pulido complaint,” he said.
Moreover, Lacierda said that even the 13th House Rules have no reference to supplemental complaints. “According to the House Rules, in the event there are matters which are not expressly provided for in the House Rules, the Rules of Court will apply in a suppletory manner. Since the House Rules are silent on a supplemental complaint, the congressmen should inquire into Rules of Court which allow the filing of supplemental pleadings.”
The Constitution, Sections 1-3 of Article XI, also do not prohibit the filing of a supplemental complaint.
Bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust
The first supplemental complaint was filed by a group led by Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico and Roque, saying that Arroyo is guilty for violating the Constitution and the Graft and Corrupt Practices Act on four grounds:
- Abetting and/or tolerating the commission of a crime in regard to the broadband scandal, specifically on the issue of bribery, involving no less than the First Gentleman;
- Negotiating for the NBN project with ZTE when the contract was patently illegal and unconstitutional;
- Allowing or encouraging the bribery among congressmen and local government officials to gain support against an earlier complaint filed by lawyer Roel Pulido, thus preventing the filing of a more substantive complaint based on the one-year ban; and
- Orchestrating the “switching” of ballot boxes between January and February 2005 to secure her victory in the 2004 elections.
The second supplement, filed by United Opposition spokesperson Adel Tamano, held similar arguments. In its 38-page complaint, the group asserted that Arroyo is unfit for public office for committing impeachable offenses such as bribery, graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust.
Both complaints stated that Arroyo violated the following laws:
- Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code, for “maliciously refrain(ing) from instituting prosecution or punishment of violators of the law or shall tolerate the commission of offenses;
- Section 1(a) of Presidential Decree 1829, for knowingly and willfully obstructing, impeding or delaying the arrest of suspects and the investigation of criminal cases by preventing witnesses from reporting the commission of any offense;
- Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019, for giving a private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference “[c]ausing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence.”
“She knew about the bribe offer, she knew about the onerous nature of the ZTE proposal, she knew that there were better offers than that of the ZTE…She is in fact part and parcel of the same conspiracy to grant ZTE the NBN contract,” the Tamano complaint read.
The complaint stated that at the very least, the bribe offer involving Neri should have led to an investigation about the culpability of Abalos.
On the distribution of cash gifts, the group said Arroyo “and her agents have bastardized the hallowed grounds of Malacañang Palace, the seat of power, and prostituted it into a shoddy den where bribes are licentiously given.”
A member of the ruling party Kampi (Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino), however, said that the new impeachment move will not prosper since the House opposition do not have the numbers.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye meanwhile said that “despite this minor distraction, the President will remain laser-focused on her principal task of governing this nation.”