MANILA - The three impeachment complaints against President Benigno Aquino III were declared sufficient in form at the House Justice committee, but not without going through intense and heated grilling by the President's allies.
The complaints, which say there was betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution over the Disbursement Acceleration Program and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, were all referred to the Justice committee by the plenary at the same time even if they were filed on different dates.
Jurisprudence dictates that these are all considered as validly initiated and not covered by the constitutional restriction against multiple impeachment complaints against the same official during the same year.
A fourth complaint, which tackled the alleged perpetuation of the unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), is already covered by that rule since it was not referred on the same day.
The impeachment complaints are expected to face an uphill battle.
Over 200 Aquino allies dominate the lower House. The Justice committee is chaired by Liberal Party member and Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., a top official of the LP, previously said the complaints have weak basis.
The next step after the vote on sufficiency in substance is the separate votes on sufficiency of the grounds, the finding of probable cause at the committee, and the final impeachment vote at the plenary.
An impeachment complaint must gather the votes or signatures of some 97 congressmen, or 1/3 of the total number, before it is elevated for trial at the Senate.
There are 54 regular members of the committee.
During the hearing, the first impeachment complaint over the DAP saw 53 votes on the sufficiency in form. The complaint will be amended by the secretariat to correct discrepancies between the complaint and the endorsement.
The second complaint got 42 votes in favor, 7 against, and 4 abstention. The objection stemmed from the alleged lack of proper IDs by complainants. A lack of ID means failure to meet requirements for verification.
The third complaint was declared sufficient in form without objections.
The next impeachment hearing on the vote on substance will be next Tuesday, September 2.