‘Duterte impeachment headed for graveyard’
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - May 5, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  A member of the House committee on justice predicted yesterday that the impeachment complaint against President Duterte would be killed in one or two hearings.

“Maybe, it will be knocked out in our first hearing, during which we will tackle the issue of sufficiency of form,” Rep. Rodel Batocabe of party-list group Ako Bicol told the Serye Café news forum in Quezon City.

Batocabe said if members see defects in form, they might move for dismissing the complaint outright.

He said issues of form include the sworn statement structure of the petition, proper notarization and attestation that the complainant’s allegations are of his personal knowledge.

Batocabe said if the committee determines that the petition is sufficient in form, it is unlikely that it would find enough substance in it that would merit further hearings and prolonging the impeachment process by requiring Duterte to answer the complaint and the complainant to present witnesses.

“I think it will not go past two hearings,” he said.

Batocabe was more blunt than his committee chairman, Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali. 

Umali told reporters on Wednesday that his panel would “dispose of” the complaint filed by Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo “in one or two hearings.”

He refused to say if “dispose of” meant dismissing the petition, claiming that would be prejudging the case. It is not hard though to predict that Duterte allies, who dominate the justice committee and the House, would send the complaint to the graveyard.

Batocabe said the prevailing sentiment in the House “is against any impeachment process.”

“We feel that an impeachment process is a big distraction to the work that we have to do as a law-making body. Besides, we cannot impeach a highly popular president and an equally popular vice president. This process is more political than legal,” he said.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas has hinted at the speed with which the House would deal with the Alejano complaint.

“Since we only have 13 session days before our sine die adjournment (on June 3), we have to act with dispatch,” he said on Wednesday.

He said the impeachment petition would most likely be referred to the committee on justice on Tuesday.

Batocabe said if the committee receives the complaint on Tuesday, hearings would start the week after.

That would leave the panel nine session days to tackle it and submit its report to the House, he said.

Among other charges, Alejano has accused Duterte of pursuing a state policy of killings in his anti-drug war and of illegally amassing wealth worth more than P2 billion.

The President has denied the accusations.

While the impeachment process against the Chief Executive gets moving, the complaint against Vice President Leni Robredo – presented to some congressmen by lawyers Bruce Rivera and Rose Cruz Angeles – is in limbo for lack of an endorser.

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