THE impeachment complaint filed against President Rodrigo Duterte will end up in the dustbin as there is no solid evidence to back up its allegations, lawmakers declared on Saturday.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said the allegations were “pure hearsay, as the complainant alleges facts which he learned from third persons or other sources, not sworn as witness to such facts.”
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano filed the impeachment complaint on Thursday, citing thousands of supposedly drug-related killings, summary executions in Davao City when Duterte was city mayor, as well as alleged graft and corruption in Davao City Hall.
Deputy Minority Leader Harry Roque said the impeachment complaint is “bound to fail.”
“First, he cannot be held liable – meaning he cannot be impeached – for acts which happened before he became president,” the Kabayan party-list representative said in a statement.
“Second, as it stands at the moment, the President’s ties to the extralegal killings in connection with Oplan Tokhang is non-existent at worst and tenuous at best,” he said, referring to the “knock and plead” police operations in which authorities go to the homes of drug suspects to ask them to surrender. Many of the operations turned bloody as the suspects often fought back or resisted authorities.
Roque said the evidence gathered by the Center for International Law, which sued for and was successfully granted by the Supreme Court a Writ of Amparo against Tokhang agents, “suggests more work needs to be done to find a clear link between the police and the President.”
“We are confronted with a figure of 8,000 deaths from Tokhang; yet, how many of these have been properly documented so as to establish clear lines of culpability leading to the President?” he asked.
‘Haste makes waste’
Roque said Duterte’s opponents may have wasted the opportunity to constitutionally oust the President.
“This highlights the importance of case building. Remember that only one impeachment case may be filed against the President per year,” he said.
“In their hasty desire to bring down the President, they may have squandered this opportunity to do so. Haste makes waste,” he added.
Nograles for his part said newspaper articles and those published on websites “amount to hearsay evidence and are therefore not only inadmissible but without any probative value at all.”
“Congress cannot act on something that is based on a chismis [gossip],” Nograles said in a statement.
He described the filing of the impeachment complaint as a “fishing expedition.”
“This is not how due process works. If you have an allegation, you must back it up with evidence. Complaints based on hearsay and barbershop talks can never be used as basis for any complaint,” Nograles said.
The lawmaker agreed that Duterte cannot be impeached for alleged offenses supposedly committed before he became President.
“The offense must relate to his position as an impeachable official, where it has an effect on his efficiency to govern,” Nograles said.
The Constitution provides the House of Representatives exclusive power to initiate impeachment cases. Citizens may file complaints, provided that they get a lawmaker’s endorsement.
The House justice committee then votes on whether the complaint is sufficient in form and substance.
A vote of one-third of the House members is needed for the matter to proceed to the Senate which, under the Constitution, has the sole power to try and decide impeachment cases.