House committee effectively dismisses impeachment complaint vs. Duterte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 15) — The House Committee on Justice on Monday effectively junked the impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano against President Rodrigo Duterte.

Voting 42 to none, the committee said the complaint was based on hearsay and was "insufficient in substance."

This recommendation will be submitted to the House plenary which will decide whether or not to uphold the Justice Committee report.

The impeachment complaint filed last March 16 was based on claims of killings, corruption, and other illegal acts supposedly committed by Duterte both as President and as then mayor of Davao City. It also stated that Duterte violated the Constitution, betrayed public trust, and committed bribery, murder, and other high crimes in carrying out the drug war.

Related: Duterte faces more impeachment charges over 'inaction' in sea row

During the hearing, fellow lawmakers questioned Alejano's personal knowledge of the impeachable offenses carried out by the President.

Alejano admitted he has no personal knowledge of the supposed extrajudicial killings that happened under Duterte's watch even when he was still mayor of Davao city.

"Hindi ako witness ng pagbaril. Witness ako to the affidavits, to the testimonies," he said, citing the testimonies of self-proclaimed Davao Death Squad members Edgar Matobato and Arthur Lascañas.

Committee Chairman Rey Umali said the Rules on Impeachment will be amended to ensure that complaints are based on personal knowledge of the person filing them.

Umali warned the committee will sue for perjury or file an ethics case against individuals who file "frivolous" complaints.

Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said allegations in an impeachment complaint without personal knowledge is not allowed, saying the claims are mere "hearsay."

The Constitution prohibits the filing of a new impeachment complaint within a year after the previous case was rejected.

Alejano's next step

In a briefing after the committee vote, Alejano said the Magdalo Party List will now shift to supporting the case filed against Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

He said Magdalo will also discuss filing a separate complaint with the ICC.

"Nagpapakita lang 'yung proseso ngayon [The process today just shows], that the institutions including the Congress, is unwilling, and unable to prosecute the President," Alejano said.

Alejano added that he is ready to face any ethics complaint filed against thin.

A communication was filed before the ICC on April 24 by Atty. Jude Sabio, lawyer of confessed hit man Edgar Matobato, charging Duterte with crimes against humanity for the death of 1,400 people in the hands the so-called Davao Death Squad under then mayor Duterte.

Justice Committee Chair: It was not planned

Umali denied that the House Committee had prior plans of junking the complaint, said that the congressmen were just "playing it by ear".

"In fact, we have reserved three days from today until Wednesday (for the decision)," Umali said in an interview on CNN Philippines' News Night on Monday.

Umali added that the committee was initially divided on the complaint's sufficiency in form.

He also said there is a need to clarify the House Rules on Impeachment to allow dismissal of complaints which are deemed insufficient in form or substance.

"Baka magkaroon pa kami ng [We might even have an] issue with the Supreme Court," Umali added.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella in a statement said that the President respects a co-equal branch of government and would not interfere in the decisions made by the House.

"The House has declared the impeachment complaint filed by Congressman Gary Alejano against PRRD as insufficient in substance; we maintained that it was from rehashed, trumped up charges aimed at undermining the duly constituted government," Abella said.