PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has accused Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo of being in a hurry to become president, a week after he cleared her of alleged involvement in efforts to destabilize the government.
The President named Robredo as among his political enemies in remarks before the Filipino community in Naypyidaw, Myanmar on Sunday night.
“My enemies, [including]Leni, she’s in a hurry to become president,” Duterte said.
He also lashed out at Robredo’s allies and two of his fiercest critics, senators Leila de Lima, the former Justice secretary who is in jail on drug charges, and Antonio Trillanes 4th.
“Trillanes is a barking dog…You have seen his behavior, it’s the same as de Lima’s. She (de Lima) says she’s a political prisoner. Since when? Since when did I jail the opposition? It was the secretary of Justice herself running, trafficking drugs,” the President said.
Duterte had cleared the Vice President of links in the alleged destabilization plot being brewed against him. But on Sunday, the President said he would “not be surprised” if Robredo was involved in plots to oust him.
“I don’t meddle in her life. Hopefully, she will not meddle in my affairs,” he said.
“I never lifted a finger against anybody. I’m beyond politics. I do not want to tinker with it,” the President added, repeating remarks he made in Davao City before leaving for Myanmar.
On Friday, a top Duterte ally, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, threatened to file an impeachment complaint against Robredo for allegedly undermining the Duterte administration before the international community.
Alvarez issued the statement after Robredo sent a video message to a United Nations meeting on illegal drugs in Vienna.
In the six-minute video, Robredo scored the war on drugs and the alleged “palit-ulo” practice of the police to arrest members of a drug suspect’s family should he or she refuse to surrender. The Filipino phrase palit-ulo roughly translates to “head swap.”
Solicitor General Jose Calida has volunteered his services to a bid to impeach Robredo.
“VP Robredo debased her office and herself by betraying the trust of our people. The carping VP has joined the ranks of the destabilizers,” Calida said.
The threat against Robredo came after Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte on Thursday over drug-related deaths as well as killings and corruption in Davao City when Duterte was mayor.
Alejano, who was with Trillanes in the failed Oakwood rebellion against the Arroyo government in 2003, has said Robredo had nothing to do with the complaint.
‘Ready to face impeachment’
Robredo’s camp said the Vice President was ready to face the impeachment process and that she had nothing to apologize for, as she only told the truth on the Duterte administration’s bloody anti-drug war.
Georgina Hernandez, spokeswoman of Robredo, made the stance in connection with the call of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) that Robredo should issue a public apology for her UN video message.
“But what we are stressing here is that Speaker Alvarez has no basis to file an impeachment complaint, and he should be responsible in making statements,” Hernandez said in a news conference on Monday afternoon.
“We don’t see any reason why the Vice President should apologize because she just amplified the voices of the victims in need,” Hernandez added.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd earlier said an impeachment complaint against Robredo could easily hurdle the House of Representatives, which is packed with at least 200 allies of President Duterte.
Robredo’s legal consultant Barry Gutierrez branded Alvarez’s move as political harassment.
“We are confident that the Vice President did not commit an impeachable offense. Truth-telling is not an impeachable offense,” Gutierrez said.
The Vice President’s camp also pointed out that their office had alerted the Philippine National Police (PNP) of the public’s concerns over the bloody anti-drug campaign and asked for data on drug-related deaths in a letter dated January 24. But there was no response.
“In the course of my visits to barangays (villages) in different provinces, I have been approached by citizens, sectors, and advocates expressing a variety of concerns on the implementation of the anti-drug campaign.
These documents will allow me to respond more effectively to the issues that have been raised,” the Vice President’s letter read.
Disbarment for ‘treachery’
The VACC described Robredo’s video message as an “act of treachery” and said it could seek her disbarment.
VACC founder Dante Jimenez said an apology was the least Robredo could do, as she put the country in a bad light.
If the Vice President fails to make a public apology, the VACC will file a disbarment case against her, as her actions were “unbecoming of a lawyer.”
Jimenez called on Robredo to explain where she got the information on the number of drug-related deaths and the alleged “palit-ulo” scheme.
WITH A REPORT FROM LLANESCA T. PANTI AND KENNETH HERNANDEZ