A former Philippine congressman on Monday filed an impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino for bribery and violating the constitution, but analysts said the popular leader could defeat the motion, thanks to his grip on the legislature.
It is the first time that Aquino, whose popularity rating in the past four years has stayed above 40 per cent, could face impeachment for distributing his discretionary funds to lawmakers, an act the Supreme Court has declared illegal.
"The complaint is based on three grounds, namely, bribery, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution," Augusto Syjuco, who also questioned Aquino's discretionary fund action before the top court, told Reuters. "It has been filed to the records office of the House of Representatives until the resumption of Congress," he said.
The complaint will wait until Congress reopens for its second regular session on July 28, when a sitting member of Congress will endorse it, he added.
Syjuco said the complaint had been signed by 25 other concerned citizens, but he was gathering still more signatures.
Edwin Lacierda, the president's spokesman, dismissed the complaint, saying Syjuco was known for filing cases against the administration. "It's beyond us to comment," he said. "What they do is their business, we will not comment." The votes of about 96 of the 290 members of the lower house of Congress are required to impeach a president, and the votes of two-thirds of the 24 senators are needed to remove him from office.
But Aquino appears to be immune from any impeachment proceedings, after winning unprecedented control of both houses following mid-term elections in 2013. "This is always a numbers game," Ramon Casiple, executive director of the independent Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms (IPER), told Reuters.
"I think the objective is not really to remove the president but bring down his popularity, then everything follows. Aquino is facing a serious threat for the first time." Last week, the Supreme Court said the Aquino administration had violated the constitution when it collected "savings" from executive offices and distributed them to lawmakers to fund projects not approved in the budget.
This action by Aquino coincided with his government's efforts to remove the Philippines' top judge, associated with former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.