AN opposition lawmaker on Thursday filed the first impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte over thousands of supposedly drug-related killings, summary executions in Davao City when he was city mayor, as well as graft and corruption, charges immediately belittled by administration officials and congressional allies.
The impeachment complaint was lodged less than a year since the President assumed power by Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list. The ex-Marine who joined the failed 2003 Oakwood rebellion against the Arroyo administration is now going through the constitutional route of ousting presidents.
“The President should be impeached due to culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, betrayal of public trust graft and corruption and other high crimes,” Alejano told reporters.
Alejano’s impeachment complaint accused Duterte of being behind the supposed 7,000 deaths of drug suspects and the Davao Death Squad’s execution of 1,400 individuals; hiding wealth of as much as P2.2 billion from his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth; and hiring 11,000 ghost employees when he was Davao City mayor.
“We are scared, but we can’t let this prevail over our mandate to serve the people,” Alejano said.
Impeaching the President is a long and very political process.
Under the Constitution, a verified impeachment complaint, meaning a complaint endorsed by a House member (in this case, Alejano) would have to be included in the House of Representatives’ order of business within 10 session days and referred to the proper committee within three session days thereafter.
Alejano’s impeachment complaint won’t get anywhere until May 7, when Congress resumes sessions after a Lenten break.
In the event that Alejano’s impeachment complaint is referred to the House justice committee, the panel will determine if the complaint is sufficient in form and substance, by a majority vote of its members.
If approved, the House justice panel will have to come up with a report to be submitted to House leaders within 60 session days. The complaint must reach the plenary within 10 session days after the House leaders receive the House justice panel’s report.
At least one-third of the 292 House members, or 98 lawmakers, need to vote in favor of the impeachment complaint to subject Duterte to an impeachment trial before the Senate.
For Rep. Karlo Nograles of Davao City, the impeachment complaint filed by Alejano lacks the proper form and substance.
“It does not have any proper grounds to merit an impeachment because it is based solely on conjectures, supposition, hearsay and wild imagination. Their allegations are baseless and have no evidence. They said it themselves that this is an uphill battle. By conceding the fight immediately even before the first shot is fired, clearly they know they have nothing against the President,” Nograles, chairman of the House appropriations panel, said.
“This is a shotgun approach. They are pushing their luck,” Nograles added.
‘Dramatic and coordinated’
Duterte’s legal lieutenants belittled the impeachment complaint, with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd maintaining that the President committed no impeachable offense and would not be impeached.
“The impeachment complaint has no factual and legal basis. The allegations in the complaint are not anchored on concrete or solid evidence that would support findings of any of the enumerated grounds for impeachment. Mere allegations without proof are not evidence,” he said.
For Solicitor General Jose Calida, those who want to impeach the president “must be dreaming.”
“They are not even in the league of Don Quixote. Impeachment won’t fly. It will crash like a rudderless plane flown by witless pilots,” Calida said in a text message.
Aguirre claimed the move was part of a destabilization plot against the Duterte government.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella likewise said the impeachment complaint was part of “dramatic” and “coordinated” efforts to destabilize the administration.
He noted that the complaint came on the heels of Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo’s video message that was scheduled to be played before the 60th annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria.
“First and foremost, no treason, betrayal of trust, bribery, graft and corruption, high crime and culpable violation of Constitution has been committed. We reiterated that the so-called extrajudicial [killings]are not state-sponsored and the President has made sure that he will not turn a blind eye to all uniformed personnel who violate and abuse their power,” Abella told reporters.
“It just seems rather dramatic that everything seems to be so coordinated at this stage with acts of trying to discredit the administration and trying to throw it in doubt,” he added.
‘No compelling reason’
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said an impeachment case is the last thing the country needs. “There is no compelling reason to file an impeachment complaint against the President at this time,” Ejercito said.
Other senators had a different view.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a member of the Senate majority bloc, said the Magdalo group should not be criticized for filing the impeachment complaint.
He said he preferred that the group chose a constitutional way of removing a sitting president instead of resorting to extra-constitutional means like the 2003 mutiny against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“It is the constitutional way of booting out a sitting president, so Magdalo party-list should not be criticized, much less mocked, for filing the impeachment complaint,” Lacson said.
Liberal Party President Sen. Francis Pangilinan called for respect for the impeachment process.
“We swore an oath to uphold and defend the constitution and as such we must respect our constitutional processes whether we agree with it or not, whether we like the outcome or not,” he added.
WITH JOMAR CANLAS, CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA