Opposition bets: Duterte can be impeached for statements on West PH Sea
President Rodrigo Duterte can be impeached for acknowledging that China already has possession of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), senatorial candidates from the Oposisyon Koalisyon (OK) said on Wednesday.
OK’s candidates who are also lawyers — human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno and former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay — answered questions on whether the Chief Executive’s statements go against the 1987 Constitution.
“As far as the legal merits are concerned, I believe there are sufficient bases for filing (an impeachment case),” Diokno said in a briefing in Quezon City.
“From any legal standpoint, I would say it is clear that it’s a culpable violation of the constitution,” Hilbay added.
Duterte’s remarks were made in an interview before an Asean meeting in Singapore on November 15. The President warned against military exercises that may create “friction” with China, which he said is already in possession of the South China Sea.
OK candidate and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano lamented this stance amid China’s aggressive moves to claim ownership of huge bodies of land and water in the WPS.
“Nakakalungkot na iyong presidente pa mismo natin ang tila bang sinusuko ang buong bansa (It is sad that it is our president who wants to surrender the whole country),” he said.
The previous administration filed an arbitration case against China, before the United Nations (UN) Arbitral Tribunal. In 2016, the tribunal ruled that China’s nine-dash line, or a demarcation line showing Chinese territories including portions of the WPS, is invalid.
The Duterte administration did not use the tribunal’s decision and opted instead for an independent foreign policy which would strengthen ties with the Asian superpower.
However, all three OK bets acknowledged that there is a slim chance that an impeachment complaint would fly in the House of Representatives, which is dominated by allies of Duterte.
“Political exercise ang impeachment, ultimately, numbers game iyan. At ang tanong ay meron bang pag-asa ang impeachment sa ngayon (The impeachment process is a political exercise. Ultimately, it is a numbers game. The question is, is there hope for an impeachment now)?” Diokno asked.
Hilbay affirmed that the process is political, so he said there is a legal element as well as a political element.
“Kaya importante rin iyong timing sa pag-file ng impeachment complaint (So the timing is important in filing an impeachment complaint),” he added.
Alejano, who previously filed an impeachment complaint that failed to gain traction, also attested that it would be hard to remove Duterte with his allies still in power.
“Hindi po iyan papasa kung hindi sasang-ayunan ng mayorya ng Kongreso, naranasan na po natin iyan (It’s not going to pass if the majority in Congress will not support it. We already experienced that),” he noted. /ee
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