HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Friday threatened to file an impeachment complaint against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo for undermining the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte before the international community.
The threat came on the same day Alvarez and presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella claimed Robredo could be behind Thursday’s filing of an impeachment complaint against Duterte, by arguing that she would benefit from the President’s ouster.
The Davao del Norte lawmaker and Malacañang also scored Robredo’s video message before a United Nations meeting on illegal drugs in Vienna, Austria on March 16, where the Vice President spoke out against Duterte’s anti-drug war and the so-called “palit-ulo” scheme, wherein the police would take a member of the family of a drug suspect without a warrant if the suspect didn’t want to surrender.
Alvarez claimed Robredo had betrayed public trust by maligning the Duterte government.
“I am studying it (filing an impeachment versus Robredo). If I find enough evidence to prosecute here, we have to see if it can stand trial before the Senate [impeachment court],” Alvarez said in an interview over CNN Philippines.
“In my lifetime, this is only time that a high-ranking government official brazenly maligned our country before the international community. What will be its economic effects?” Alvarez added.
An impeachment complaint needs an endorser from the ranks of House members for it to become a verified impeachment complaint. The majority of the members of the House justice panel would have to vote that the verified complaint is sufficient in form and substance before it is subjected to plenary debate.
At least 98 or a third of the House members would need to vote in favor of the impeachment complaint to hale the respondent before the Senate impeachment court.
Reacting to Alvarez’s threat, Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list, who filed the impeachment complaint against Duterte, said: “That is Speaker Alvarez’s way of deflecting the issue away from Duterte and cover his crimes in the bloody war on drugs.”
“Filing an impeachment against [Robredo] because of her speech before the UN is clear indication that this administration does not accept criticisms, a mark of a dictator,” he added.
Alejano says Duterte should be ousted for the killing of 7,000 drug suspects, the Davao Death Squad’s execution of 1,400 individuals when Duterte was Davao City mayor, hiding wealth of as much as P2.2 billion, and hiring 11,000 ghost employees at Davao City Hall.
Afraid of recount?
Earlier on Friday, Alvarez accused Robredo of seeking to impeach the President, claiming the Vice President was raring to oust Duterte.
“Definitely, she’s behind it (impeachment complaint). Who else would benefit from that?” Alvarez said.
“It is so clear. She even made a video speech for the United Nations, complaining about what is happening to our country,” he added.
Alvarez also claimed the Vice President was afraid of a recount of the votes for the vice presidential race and lose her post in the process.
Robredo beat former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. by 263,473 votes in the May 2016 polls. Marcos has a pending protest versus Robredo’s victory before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
Robredo’s camp refuted Alvarez’s claims, saying the Vice President does not want to involve herself in any impeachment bid.
“What the Speaker said is false, and the Vice President and the public knows that. Even Representative Alejano said that it was Magdalo group who is behind the impeachment and the Vice President has nothing to do with it,” Georgina Hernandez, spokeswoman for Robredo, said in a television interview.
Hernandez also dismissed the claims of the President’s allies, led by Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, that Robredo shamed the country by raising the issue of the bloody war on drugs before the United Nations.“The victims of the war on drugs have sought the help of the Office of the Vice President over their plight because they fear the police, and we have asked the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police to respond to such claims of the victims way back January 24. Our office, however, is yet to receive any response,” Hernandez pointed out.
“What we are just saying here is for the administration to live up to its promise that they will investigate these extrajudicial killings; rid the police ranks of corrupt ones; and make the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings accountable. This is not about shaming our country. What the Vice President said were facts, and the public have known these facts for so long because they were already raised by various organizations ahead of us,” Hernandez added.
‘Pathetic stateof affairs’
Malacañang on Friday also linked Robredo to the impeachment complaint filed against President Duterte, which it said was part of an attempt to destabilize the government.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said it was more than coincidence that Robredo’s video message critical of the administration was released around the same time as the filing of the complaint.
“While the President previously ruled out the Vice President’s involvement in any destabilization attempt, the release of her UN video message lambasting the administration’s war on drugs before an international audience and the filing of an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives which happened on the same day, seems too neat to be written off as mere coincidence,” Abella said.
“If it is not her personal intent, she may have played into the hands of those who wish to use her as a political animal. Either way it is a pathetic state of affairs for her,” he added.
The Palace has insisted there was no basis to impeach Duterte, saying the President was not guilty of culpably violating the Constitution, engaging in bribery, betraying public trust, and committing graft and corruption and other high crimes.
On Friday, Abella called the impeachment complaint against Duterte the latest move in an “orchestrated effort of a well-funded destabilization campaign.”
“That Alejano filed his case on the last day of the Congressional session, secures him a whole month and a half to malign President Duterte without being challenged by fellow legislators. This campaign has provoked abrupt reaction and unwarranted threats from the European Union, spooked by the so-called ‘rights reports’ from high-handed NGOs; and a video at the UN that baselessly pillories the Philippine National Police,” Abella said.
“The instigators of this cynical campaign include senators and higher officials who attack the very institutions fighting the crime and contraband that tripled during their term. These are apparently desperate acts to protect their threatened vested interests,” he added.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE