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House officially junks Duterte impeachment complaint

PLENARY. The House of Representatives votes on the committee report junking the impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte on May 30, 2017. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives formally rejected the first impeachment complaint filed against President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, May 30.

With a vote of 217-4-0, lawmakers approved House Resolution (HR) Number 1015 explaining lawmakers’ reasons for junking the impeachment complaint filed by opposition lawmaker and Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano. (READ: House committee junks Duterte impeachment complaint)

Only Alejano, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, and Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin – all opposition lawmakers – thumbed down the resolution.

The resolution was based on the House justice committee’s report saying Alejano’s lack of direct personal knowledge of his accusations made them reject the impeachment complaint.

According to the committee report, Alejano testified under oath saying he had "personal knowledge" of his allegations against Duterte.

These include the President’s alleged involvement in the Davao Death Squad, the ongoing bloody war against drugs, the hiring of "ghost" employees when Duterte was still Davao City mayor, his supposed unexplained wealth, and the President’s approach in handling the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute.

But on May 15, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas grilled Alejano and made the latter admit he merely based his accusations on online sources, newspaper reports, and other intelligence materials.

This was not acceptable to the justice committee members.

"[The] members of the committee stated that the term ‘personal knowledge’ as used in the Verification refers to knowledge or information that are derived from one’s own perception, and that knowledge derived from secondary sources do not constitute ‘personal knowledge’ and are therefore considered hearsay," said the committee report.

Alejano also admitted his lawyer prepared Annexes A to F of the complaint, but the documents did not contain his lawyer’s signature.

The justice committee voted 41-1-0 to say the impeachment complaint was sufficient in form, "despite some defects, based on liberality and in the interest of substantial justice."

The impeachment complaint, however, was no longer deemed sufficient in substance by all 42 legislators present during the May 15 hearing, which only lasted 4 hours.

Duterte enjoys a strong legislative shield in the House, where he counts at least 267 out of 292 lawmakers as his allies.

A total of 121 lawmakers are also members of the President’s party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali, justice committee chairman, is also a PDP-Laban member. –