New complaint in international court eyed vs. Duterte as solons junk impeachment rap

JUNKED. Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas (left, upper) gestures as he stresses a point in the course of grilling complainant Rep. Gary Alejano (Party-list, Magdalo) (middle, upper photo) on the basis for his allegations against the President. Rep. Reynaldo Umali (2nd District, Oriental Mindoro), committee chairman, said Alejano admitted he has no personal knowledge about the allegations and merely cited records of newspaper accounts. All 42 members of the House Committee on Justice present during the hearing voted to junk the impeachment complaint filed against President Duterte for insufficiency in substance. The committee will now prepare its report on the dismissal of the impeachment complaint and will report this out on the plenary. (PC/GE/RBB)

By Daniel llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent

After his impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte was junked in the House of Representatives, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano on May 15 said his political aggrupation is considering filing another case against the President before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Actually, the ICC can proceed but with what happened right now pinapag-isipan ko ho at i-discuss ko sa grupo na sasama na ho kaming magreklamo sa ICC kasi saan ho tayo papunta, kanino ako mag-rereklamo, sa DOJ? Kay Sec. Aguirre? Saan tayo pupunta? Wala ho tayong pupuntahan,” Alejano said at a televised press conference.

“Ngayon, hahanapan nating paraan para makahanap tayo ng hustisya so pag-iisipan ho naming, idi-discuss ho namin na mag-file din kami ng sariling complain namin,” he added.

Alejano’s decision came after his bid to oust Duterte was dismissed at the House of Representatives which is dominated by pro-Duterte lawmakers. The House justice committee declared that the first impeachment complaint filed against President Duterte was sufficient in form but insufficient in substance.

Emerging from a closed-door session after a morning of public deliberations, 42 members of the committee effectively dismissed the complaint, filed by Alejano who accuses Duterte of violating the Constitution.

The complaint, the first against Duterte who was inaugurated president last year, was filed in March by Alejano who accused the president of involvement in the killings linked to the war on drugs and treason in matters of the Chinese maritime dispute.

An impeachment complaint requires the majority vote of committee members to be endorsed to the House plenary, where the complaint would require the vote of a third of the chamber.

Monday’s session was the first step in the impeachment process, with the justice committee tasked to determine whether the verified complaint was “sufficient in form and substance.”

“Form” refers to a complaint’s technical details following established methods, while “substance” refers to material allegations, on whether there is cause for impeachment. It also refers to the jurisdiction of the body deliberating on it, according to a 2008 Supreme Court decision.

House rules also indicate that the requirement of “substance” is met if there is a detailed statement of facts constituting the offense charged.

The House of Representatives has the exclusive power to initiate cases of impeachment, which could be filed by any member of the lower chamber or citizen. Complaints should be accusations on culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes or betrayal of public trust.

At the session, members of the so-called super majority allied with Duterte grilled Alejano on the content of the complaint, which indicates that 8,000 individuals were killed in the context of the war on drugs.

Alejano said that the facts stated in his complaint have been verified, and were partly culled from news reports and testimonies of confessed hired killers who allegedly answered to Duterte orders when he was still Davao City mayor.

Alejano said he had no personal knowledge as a witness but that he had personal knowledge as a complainant based on official records, affidavits of witnesses and Duterte’s own public pronouncements admitting to some killings.  His appeals to be allowed to explain were rejected.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, a member of the committee, however, argued that Alejano should demonstrate personal knowledge of the violations alleged in the complaint.

“Newspaper reports are not authentic records,” Fariñas said, despite anecdotal evidence in news reports of extra-judicial killings in the drug war.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman urged the committee to allow Alejano to be heard, saying to determine substance, there only needs to be a recital of facts on offenses charged and determination that they are under the committee’s jurisdiction.

“While it is true that an impeachment proceeding is a political exercise, it is not a partisan enterprise,” Lagman said.

The dismissal of the complaint was the expected outcome in a Congress controlled by the popular Duterte, whose campaign against illegal drugs enjoys wide support but is also routinely criticized for its violence and high death toll.