LAST week, we were treated to the prospect of two separate impeachment complaints rolling this early into the Duterte administration.
The first was filed by an ex-mutineer who threatened to blow up the Makati business district in 2003, now congressman Gary Alejano of the Magdalo rebel faction that is now a party-list group. Alejano was with Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th in the infamous 2003 Oakwood rebellion, and held Makati, and the economy, hostage to their desire to overthrow the Arroyo government.
Now Alejano is shunning extra-constitutional means and has embraced the tortuous and extremely political route of impeachment. Alejano wants President Rodrigo Duterte impeached for being behind the supposedly thousands of drug-related deaths in the government’s anti-drug war. He accuses Duterte of corruption for allegedly hiding P2 billion in bank transactions in his statement of assets and liabilities. Two more accusations hark back to when Duterte was mayor of Davao City – masterminding hundreds of killings carried out by the so-called “Davao Death Squad” and hiring thousands of “ghost employees” at city hall.
The other is still a threat. Perhaps caught off-guard by Alejano’s strategy of maximizing the shelf life of his impeachment complaint by waiting for the congressional recess to file it – thereby depriving Duterte’s allies of the opportunity to immediately consign it to the wastebasket – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has threatened to file his own impeachment complaint against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
Alvarez and presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella accuse Robredo of being behind the Magdalo complaint, without offering any evidence except that the Vice President would benefit from it, being Duterte’s constitutional successor.
His thunder stolen by Alejano, serial impeachment filer Oliver Lozano found his cue, and post-haste filed an impeachment complaint against Robredo. The charge: betrayal of public trust, for sending a six-minute video to a United Nations anti-narcotics convention in Vienna, Austria, where she deplored the drug-related deaths and bared the supposed “palit-ulo” or “head swap” scheme, the alleged practice of the police to arrest members of a drug suspect’s family should he or she refuse to surrender.
These impeachment complaints make for great headlines and coffee shop debates. But the nation needs two impeachment trials like it needs two holes in the head.
The raps against Duterte are a sham, and that against Robredo will likely turn out the same. Both are being pushed by rabid partisans who want to settle scores more than they want to follow the rule of law.
Yes, Alejano is no longer a mutineer, but seems still capable of his old ways when he said people should be scared more if the Magdalo were quiet (and presumably up to something destabilizing). Alejano would do well to listen to the counsel of his betters in Congress – first build up a case before levelling a charge. Duterte cannot be impeached for his actions as mayor of Davao. As for the drug killings, Duterte did not pull any trigger. He needs to tie the President to the executions; it would be difficult to do that with news clippings.
As for the “hidden” P2 billion, the one who first brought it up, Trillanes, has so far only shown computer spreadsheet printouts. Alejano offers hardly any real evidence.
Robredo, meanwhile, may have committed a shameful and dishonorable act by airing the country’s dirty linen via video in Vienna. This is bad publicity for Duterte and yes, the Republic, and burnishes the international image of Robredo, but hardly constitutes betrayal of public trust. It will not fly.
Rather than toy with impeachment, Congress would be better off dealing with the still lengthy list of items in the legislative agenda, among them tax reforms and amendments to the anti-money-laundering law, the Bangko Sentral charter, and the build-operate-transfer law.
Congress needs to foster an environment supportive of high and sustained economic growth by shoring up government finances, strengthening banks, and upgrading the country’s infrastructure, rather than fuel another boom-bust cycle. This can be done not by converting Congress into a daily impeachment circus or telenovela, but by keeping the legislative mills grinding.