Impeaching PNoy a waste of time - Bernas

Posted at 07/02/14 8:46 PM

MANILA - Constitutional law expert Fr. Joaquin Bernas of the Ateneo Law School said it will be very difficult to oust President Benigno Aquino III over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Bernas said the only way to make the President accountable is through impeachment, but he said this is practically impossible since Aquino controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

He said impeachment is a political process where the representatives act as the accuser and the Senate as the judge.

But since Aquino has the numbers in both houses of Congress, by mere votation, impeachment will not prosper.

"Impeachment, even if there are grounds, is difficult because it is under the control of Congress, and Congress is controlled by him (Aquino). So I don't see how it will prosper, it will be a waste of time," Bernas said.

He added that there is actually no clear legal basis to convict the President in the event of an impeachment.

A possible ground of culpable violation of Constitution may not even strongly stand to convict the President. Culpable means intentional, and that the accused must have knowledge that what he is doing is wrong.

In the case of DAP, Bernas said: "It seems to me it's more of ignorance of the Constitution, and ignorance is not a ground for impeachment."

He also said that to convict the President, one has to prove that the money benefited Aquino, something that has to be backed up by credible evidence.

"If you know what was done, if it was misused, that's another thing. But here, is there evidence that the money was misused? It was given to Congress."

Bernas, however, said petitioners against the DAP may go after Budget Secretary Butch Abad since he has no immunity from suit.

"Butch Abad is the one orchestrating all this. I don't know how much Constitutional law he knows," he said. "I don't know who is his professor of Constitution here, not me, but he should have known better."

But how can a President surrounded by numerous legal advisers be made ignorant about the Constitution?

Bernas believes the President was fatally ill-advised by his legal team on this one.

"They didn't know what they are doing, they thought they were doing the right thing. It's more of ignorance of the law. If they have known the law, it's very clear in the Constitution that they cannot do this," he said.