More than 150 sign impeachment rap vs Corona

Posted at 12/12/2011 4:16 PM | Updated as of 12/13/2011 7:19 AM

MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) - More than 150 lawmakers have signed the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Corona, according to several lawmakers attending a House majority caucus, which started on Monday afternoon.

Lawmakers said they will try to file on Tuesday the complaint before the House of Representatives secretary-general.

Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla said he will not be shocked if the votes reach 200. He himself has not read nor signed the complaint.

Only 95 signatures--one-third of the House of Representatives--are needed to impeach Corona.

In a separate interview with dzMM, Remulla said the voting on and signing of the impeachment complaint is not yet over. There are others who have expressed their intention to vote in favor, but are still in their provinces.

He said it was not Liberal Party members alone who signed the complaint. “It was across parties,” he said.

With the number obtained, he said House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte will only now "bang his gavel" for transmittal to the Senate.

In an another interview with ANC's Top Story, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo 'Erin' Tañada III said he was 160th who signed the complaint. As of 5 p.m., the number had already reached 170.

The signatories will then attempt to directly transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate for Corona's trial.

Referral to the Senate will be done tomorrow or Wednesday, before Congress officially goes into recess for the Christmas break at the end of the week, the lawmakers said. 

Direct to the Senate

In the draft complaint obtained by abs-cbnNEWS.com, the lawmakers led by Tañada, Niel Tupas Jr., Joseph Emilio Abaya, Reynaldo Umali and Arlene Bag-ao cited 8 grounds versus Corona, including betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

In an earlier interview, Tañada said that if there is already a one-thirds vote, there is no need to go through the House Committee on Justice, where the “form and substance” of a complaint are supposed to be tackled.

He said the same thing happened during the impeachment of ousted President Joseph Estrada in November 2000.

Tañada said only a minimum of 95 congressmen are needed for the complaint to be directly transmitted to the Senate.  

February start of trial in Senate?

Tañada also dismissed rumors Malacañang allies blackmailed colleagues that their pork barrel will not be released if they refuse to sign the impeachment complaint.

“It was Niel [Tupas] who presented the impeachment complaint before the caucus. He gave all the constitutional grounds of the 8 [articles],” he said. All 8 grounds have been threshed out, he said.

Tañada said he expects Corona's trial at the Senate could start by February, which will give the prosecution and Corona time to prepare and answer the allegations.

He dismissed talks of a constitutional crisis just because Corona is being impeached.

“The court will still be a functioning court. He can still decide cases. It [the impeachment] will not stop him from deciding,” Tañada said.

After the impeachment trial, a two-thirds vote is needed in the Senate in order to remove Corona from office.

Destabilizing move: Marquez

On Sunday, Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said political forces are out to destabilize the high court by “[fomenting] public distrust and resentment towards [it],” In exchange for “ruthless political objectives,” some quarters are doing it even at the risk of sacrificing the country’s constitutional stability, he said.

He also claimed to have received reports that lawmakers may amend its own rules in order to hasten the impeachment process against Corona by “going straight to the plenary, and thereafter transmitting the articles of impeachment immediately to the Senate.”

He explained that Section 2, Rule II of the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings does not allow this.

The rule dictates thus: “Impeachment shall be initiated by the filing and subsequent referral to the Committee on Justice of: (a) a verified complaint for impeachment filed by any Member of the House of Representatives; or (b) a verified complaint filed by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof; or (c) a verified complaint or resolution of impeachment filed by at least one-third (1/3) of all Members of the House.” -- with a report from Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News; ANC; dzMM