4th impeachment rap filed vs Noy over ‘hidden pork'
By Jess Diaz Updated Tuesday August 12, 2014 - 12:00am
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MANILA, Philippines - A fourth impeachment complaint has been filed with the House of Representatives against President Aquino, this time over his administration's alleged "hidden" pork barrel funds.

Fifteen private citizens and Rep. Antonio Tinio of party-list group Alliance of Concerned Teachers filed the new case yesterday.

Malacañang denied it was keeping pork allocation and promised to let the latest impeachment case take its course.

Tinio served as an endorser of one of the first three complaints, which, according to Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, were to be referred to the committee on justice in yesterday's plenary session.

Under the House rules on impeachment, referral to the justice committee of a complaint or complaints sets into motion the impeachment process and insulates the impeachable officer from any other case.

This means that the fourth complaint may already be barred under the rules.

In their complaint, Tinio and his colleagues accused Aquino of violating the Constitution and betraying public trust for allegedly perpetuating the congressional pork barrel.

They said Aquino allowed House members to realign their 2014 Priority Development Assistance Fund in the national budget despite the ruling of the Supreme Court declaring PDAF as unconstitutional.

They said the PDAF was realigned to six agencies, including the Department of Health (DOH) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

To support their accusations, they included in their complaint audio recordings and public admissions of officials who they claimed were handling the diverted funds of House members.

Among the pieces of evidence accompanying the complaint were audio recordings of a House executive session where CHED Chairman Patricia Licuanan was discussing scholarships, and of DOH Undersecretary Janette Garin discussing medical assistance funds with lawmakers, as well as press statements of regional directors of the Department of Labor and Employment on the pork barrel-funded programs they handle.

"With his perpetuation of these informal practices, Aquino is the mastermind behind hidden congressional pork barrel and is forcing the entire bureaucracy of the involved agencies to implement illegal acts," the complainants said.

The first three complaints were based largely on the Supreme Court ruling declaring the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional.

Aside from DAP, the third case questions the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement the government has signed with the United States.

Anti-impeachment

Some 40 party-list groups, however, have vowed to block the impeachment moves against President Aquino.

In a news conference, officers of the Party-list Coalition said Aquino's impeachment "is not only improper but untimely and without public support."

Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe, coalition spokesman, said he and his House colleagues have better things to do "than trying to oust a leader who enjoys wide popular support."

He said the impeachment process should not sidetrack the House, since the chamber has more important issues to address.

In its statement, the Party-list Coalition said the impeachment effort by seven left-leaning party-list representatives was a "futile exercise."

The coalition's move to frustrate the impeachment process followed that of more than 30 lawmakers belonging to the Visayas bloc led by Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez.

What hidden pork?

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda denied there is hidden PDAF and shrugged off the fourth impeachment complaint against the President.

"We will let the impeachment complaint, the impeachment proceeding take its course in Congress," Lacierda said.

Lacierda said they were not familiar with the supposed closed-door meetings at the House where executive officials reportedly spoke about the continued use of pork funds for projects.  - With Aurea Calica

 

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