Speaker ready to act on Robredo impeachment case
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez seems hell-bent on impeaching Vice President Leni Robredo, suggesting he’s prepared to defy President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to his allies to “let her be,” and describing her as a thick-skinned official who has betrayed the public trust.
“We respect the opinion of the President, but we are mandated by the Constitution to process any impeachment complaint that is submitted to the House of Representatives,” Alvarez said in a television interview on Thursday. “We have separation of powers.”
Marcos loyalists Oliver Lozano and Melchor Chavez earlier submitted to the Speaker’s office an impeachment complaint alleging that Robredo betrayed the public trust when she submitted a six-minute video criticizing the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs to the 60th United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs annual meeting in Vienna last week.
Any citizen may file an impeachment complaint provided it is endorsed by a member of the House so the case against Robredo is not yet considered filed.
“We are still studying it carefully, because this is not just a numbers game. We need substance, meaning to say the complaint should be complete with evidence, so that it can stand trial in an impeachment court. That’s it,” Alvarez said.
But he appeared to agree with Lozano and Chavez on at least one point—that Robredo acted irresponsibly in criticizing the government’s bloody war on drugs before a UN-affiliated body.
“Yes, it’s true she’s entitled to freedom of speech. But it does not exempt any official from an irresponsible act,” he said.
“And if you watched it, it was so irresponsible. For the first time in the history of the Philippines, such a thick-skinned official of government submitted a clip to the United Nations to destroy the country. That, for me, is a betrayal of public trust,” Alvarez said.
‘Guys, lay off’
Speaking to reporters shortly after his arrival on Thursday from official visits to Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand, Mr. Duterte urged his allies in Congress to stop moves to impeach Robredo.
“Look, you know, we just had an election. Guys, lay off. Let’s stop it,” Mr. Duterte said when asked if there was a basis for the move against Robredo.
“You can do other things but do not tinker with the structure of government. I will not countenance it,” he added.
A Vice President is needed in case something happens to him, he said. “You never know, I might not wake up tomorrow from a nightmare, then OK. It would be her turn.”
On Wednesday night during a meeting with a 2,000-strong Filipino community in Bangkok, Mr. Duterte lamented that his running mate in last year’s elections, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, lost. “You chose the woman. She’s in a hurry to get me removed.”
The crowd booed Robredo as the President went on his blasts against the Vice President. “She’s in a hurry. Just wait. You haven’t done anything for the country yet,” he said.
Trillanes, De Lima
Mr. Duterte also slammed his archcritics—Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Leila de Lima—who were likewise booed.
Trillanes, he said, was collecting money from big businessmen. “That’s true. Big businesses are afraid of him,” he said.
The President again cited how the narcotics trade boomed when De Lima was justice secretary.
He said the senator, whom he said went into drug trafficking, also wanted to oust him. De Lima, who is detained on drug charges, has denied wrongdoing.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson urged Mr. Duterte’s allies to heed the call of the President.
He noted that Mr. Duterte was also facing an impeachment complaint from Trillanes’ Magdalo associate in failed coup attempts against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Both of them are facing impeachment complaints with probably different motives but the impact on our democratic exercise may be the same since they just got elected nine months ago,” Lacson said in a text message.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III conceded that impeachment was “divisive and time consuming” and that it “distracts from other important work.”
Said Trillanes of Mr. Duterte: “Let’s not take his word for it. He is double-faced. We should monitor his lieutenants if they would follow through.” —WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA, CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO AND NESTOR CORRALES IN BANGKOK
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