Philippines Congress dismisses impeachment motions against Aquino

Philippine President Benigno Aquino gestures as he delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) during the joint session of the 16th Congress at the House of Representatives of the Philippines in Quezon city, metro Manila July 28, 2014. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (Reuters)

MANILA (Reuters) - Lawmakers allied with Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday threw out three impeachment motions in the House of Representatives, the first political challenge to the popular leader in four years. The impeachment motions stemmed from Aquino's controversial economic stimulus fund, which the Supreme Court declared partly illegal in July, and a new military agreement with the United States. Voting 54-4, the justice panel in the lower house of Congress declared the complaints "insufficient in substance", dismissing the three motions only after two hearings. "This is a terrible day for the Filipino people," said Neri Colmenares, a left-wing member of Congress. "We only had two meetings, are you rushing these proceedings?" It will now go before a plenary session of the 290-member legislature, where Aquino's opponents number only 40 in total. To overturn the justice panel decision, 97 votes are needed. Aquino's predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo survived five impeachment motions in as many years because her allies also dominated Congress. "These impeachment complaints filed against President Aquino is nothing more than a harassment case and a clear case of a political demolition," said Congressman Jerry Trenas, a staunch ally of the president. (Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)