Impeachment Case vs Abalos Endorsed at House
Byline: BEN R. ROSARIO
In just a matter of four days, a second impeachment complaint was filed yesterday at the House of Representatives against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr.
Unlike the first complaint which lacked endorsers, the latest charge sheet was endorsed by two members of the chamber's minority bloc.
Iloilo Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico, a former opposition member of the House, filed the 64-page complaint at 3:20 p.m. yesterday, accusing Abalos of four impeachable offenses, namely culpable violation of the Constitution, graft and corruption, bribery, and betrayal of public trust.
Opposition Reps. Teofisto Guingona III (NP, Bukidnon) and Teodoro Casino (Bayan Muna) endorsed the complaint which stemmed from Abalos' alleged role in "brokering" the scandal-ridden $329 million National Broadband Network (NBN) project which the government had awarded to China's ZTE Corporation.
Zamboanga City Rep. Ma. Isabel Climaco, a member of the House majority, also sent her endorsement of the complaint. She is scheduled to verify this through oath on Monday.
House Secretary General Roberto Nazareno said Suplico's complaint will immediately be sent to the Office of Speaker Jose de Venecia who, under the House impeachment rules, is given 10 session days to refer the case to the Committee on Justice.
Nazareno also said that the first complaint against Abalos is now officially rejected for lack of endorsers.
Filed last Monday by lawyer Oliver Lozano, the first impeachment complaint also named President Arroyo and the five other Comelec commissioners as respondents.
"We have an open-and- shut case against Abalos. I was told a big number of private persons, non-government organizations and members of the civil society want to back the complaint as intervenors. They are most welcome," said Suplico.
Suplico and volunteer lawyers brought at least 10 sets of the complaint to Nazareno. Each set contained 64 pages of the complaint and over 1,300 pages of documentary evidence.
The documentary evidence included affidavits of businessman Jose de Venecia III, copies of the signed NBN contract, press releases, counter-proposal of telecommunications firms Amsterdam Holdings Inc. and minutes of the public hearing on the issue conducted by the Senate.
Given much weight in supporting the charges against Abalos were the Senate testimonies of De Venecia III, son of Speaker Jose de Venecia, and Commission on Higher Education Chairman Romulo Neri, former director general of the National Economic Development Authority.
Suplico said Abalos violated Article IX-A, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution for "his financial interest and direct indispensable participation" in the facilitation of the NBN contract between the government and the ZTE Corp.
He said in De Venecia III's affidavit, the Speaker's son stated that he accompanied Abalos in meetings with ZTE officials and with Philippine government officials who knew about the NBN project wherein they discussed the project.
Quoting the young De Venecia, Suplico said in one meeting, Abalos "flexed his muscles by bragging before ZTE officials that he was to be "the most powerful man in the Philippines starting January 15 because I'm the Comelec chair."
Despite his knowledge of the NBN deal, Abalos failed to take legal steps to stop the government from entering into the contract considering that it was approved during an election period, Suplico said.
"Clearly, therefore, Abalos, Sr. committed at least two culpable violations of the Constitution - the proscription against financial interest imposed upon members of Constitutional Commissions such as the Comelec, and the deliberate failure or refusal to perform a positive duty imposed by the Constitution, for him to enforce and administer all election laws and regulations - for which he must be impeached," said Suplico. …