Belmonte Nixes plans to oust 2 SC justices

Manila, Philippines - Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. thumbed down yesterday plans of a fellow senior member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) to push for the impeachment of at least two Supreme Court (SC) justices.

Belmonte also insisted during a news conference the LP is not behind the threat of Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali to rally the majority bloc in seeking the ouster of two SC justices for alleged turn-around decisions on vital constitutional issues.

Umali accused the High Court of “judicial despotism” in connection with changes in its ruling on several legal controversies, including rulings on the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the election protest against Marinduque Rep. Regina Reyes.

The United Nationalist Alliance assailed Umali’s action, saying this is part of an arm-twisting tactic aimed at pressuring the High Court into upholding the constitutionality of the multi-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program.

In a press statement yesterday, UNA secretary general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco accused the LP of initiating “persuasion flights” over by trying to get support for a resolution telling the High Court to respect the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal in resolving the protest against Reyes, also an LP member.

“The Liberal Party has started passing around this week a resolution to test the waters to see if congressmen are receptive of another impeachment complaint, and drive a strong message to the Supreme Court that Congress has the numbers to impeach the justices. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal is to protect the DAP,” Tiangco said.

Last Tuesday, Umali declared on the floor he is contemplating on pursuing a “fourth and fifth” impeachment bid, in addition to the three others he had previously initiated.

I’m against this. It is not a fun thing to do, Belmonte told reporters.

The House leader admitted there is a possibility that SC justices will feel pressured with an impeachment threat.

“With me saying no, it certainly lessens the pressure,” he said.

Umali dangled the impeachment threat following the issuance of two recent rulings that allegedly reversed its previous decisions on the same legal controversies.

In a privilege speech last week, the LP lawmaker assailed the magistrates for reversing previous decisions that upheld the constitutionality of the PDAF.

In a recent ruling, the High Court unanimously declared the PDAF unconstitutional.

Umali also accused the SC of encroaching on the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal which should be the rightful body to decide on the case against Reyes.

Reyes is the subject of a protest filed by former Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, son of SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco.

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