MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – An opposition lawmaker believes Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s presence during the committee hearing on the impeachment complaints against 7 Supreme Court (SC) justices was an indirect message to lawmakers to junk the complaints.
This was Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman’s reply when asked on Tuesday, September 11, what message Arroyo’s presence possibly meant to the members of the House committee on justice.
The panel deemed the impeachment complaints filed against SC Chief Justice Teresita de Castro and 6 associate justices as insufficient in substance, effectively dismissing them.
“I think, as I’ve said, we saw the writing on the wall because her presence would be really an implied go signal to junk the complaints, as all of the members present, both majority and minority, except for Representative [Ramon] Rocamora, decided or voted to jettison the complaints,” said Lagman in a press conference after the hearing.
Arroyo attended the first few minutes of the hearing, but she soon left without speaking a word. She sat beside committee on justice chairperson and Oriental Mindoro 1st District Representative Salvador Leachon.
Lagman, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, and Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr had filed impeachment complaints against the SC justices who voted in favor of the quo warranto petition that nullified the appointment of Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice.
The opposition lawmakers wanted to impeach De Castro and associate justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr, and Alexander Gesmundo.
Not even a chance to discuss
Baguilat said he was hoping his colleagues would have at least allowed deliberations on their accusations against the SC magistrates.
“Sana man lang nabigyan ng pagkakataon na mapag-usapan (I wish they have given us the chance to talk about it)…. At the end of the day, we’ll be voting if it has basis,” said Baguilat.
“Pero wala eh (But it didn’t happen). Parang (It’s like) we just surrendered our mandate, our only constitutional mandate to apply checks and balances in the judiciary,” he added.
Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, another opposition legislator, also said it was obvious the justice committee members already wanted to dismiss the impeachment complaints.
“It’s budget season and the majority of the House members perhaps were inclined to be more on the side of looking after their respective constituencies rather than the bigger picture that this complaint's import on our society. Of course, practically it’s also election time. It’s just around the corner,” said Villarin.
“So you can see from the demeanor of many of the House committee members that they just wanted to have that complaint dismissed as soon as possible,” he added.
Villarin was initially among the signatories in the impeachment complaints, but he failed to sign the documents when Lagman, Alejano, and Baguilat filed them on August 23. He was disallowed by the justice panel to become a complainant.
Leachon explaions Arroyo's presence
Leachon, however, said Arroyo's presence should not be "singled out to that effect."
He said the Speaker was notified about the hearing just like any other ex-officio member of the committee. Ranking members of the House automatically become members of committees by virtue of their posiitions.
"First, Mam SGMA was notified to be there as ex-officio member just like other officio members who were there. Second, It's her right to be there as Speaker of the House," said Leachon.
He added Arroyo's had been attending other committee hearings.
"So her attendance this morning at the impeachment proceeding must not be singled out to that effect," said Leachon. – Rappler.com