Ex-Magdalo mutineer to file impeachment case vs Duterte
MANILA — The first attempt to unseat President Duterte will be made today (Thursday, Mar. 16) at the House of Representatives with the filing of an impeachment complaint by former junior rebel officer-turned-congressman Gary Alejano of the Magdalo party-list group.
Alejano, in an advisory to reporters, said he would file the complaint at 10 a.m. before the House Secretary General.
On Tuesday, the congressman, a member of the opposition bloc known as the “Magnificent 7,” said Duterte could be impeached for giving up the Philippines’ sovereign rights over Benham Rise to China.
He said Duterte might have committed a culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution by refusing to take China to task for its recent incursions in Benham Rise, an underwater landmass declared by the United Nations to be part of the country’s continental shelf in 2012.
Although the landmass is not part of Philippine territory as normally defined, the country exercises the exclusive right to exploit and explore its natural resources. Other states, however, may enjoy the right of “innocent passage” and freedom of navigation in those waters.
The 13-million hectare Benham Rise, or Benham Plateau, is located off Isabela and Aurora provinces in the country’s eastern seaboard. It is potentially rich in mineral and natural gas deposits.
Alejano, a former Marine captain, is closely tied with Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, with whom he has a history of staging a coup attempt.
Under the Constitution, an impeachment complaint may be filed by a House member or any other citizen with the endorsement of a House member. Once properly received, it is to be included in the order of business and referred to the proper committee which will determine whether it is sufficient in form and substance.
Alejano has strongly denounced what he called “intrusions in our sovereign territory” by Chinese ships that have been spotted in the area.
He cited the opinion of expert Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, that: “The region may not be ‘territory’ in the same sense as land territory, but it is definitely ‘territory’ for the purpose of Philippine laws and regulations over natural resources.”
“The 1987 Constitution considers as legally part of the National Territory all areas over which the Philippines has sovereign or jurisdiction; Benham Rise falls squarely within the definition,” he said, quoting Batongbacal. SFM/rga
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