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Leni too eager to be president – Duterte

President Duterte bows after delivering a speech to the Filipino community in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on Sunday.

MANILA, Philippines - Facing an impeachment complaint and a possible indictment for crimes against humanity, President Duterte lashed out yesterday at his critics, starting with Vice President Leni Robredo, whom he accused of itching to replace him.

“Ang mga kalaban ko, si Leni apurado masyadong maging president (My opponents, Leni, she’s too eager to be president),” he said in remarks before the Filipino community at the Horizon Lake View Hotel in Yangon.

Robredo, in a video message to the United Nations, condemned human rights abuses in the conduct of the Duterte administration’s campaign against drugs.

Her message enraged the administration, with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez threatening to file an impeachment complaint against her.

Duterte also lashed out at Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and belittled the latter’s capability to derail his  presidency, noting the former navy officer’s failed coup attempts during the Arroyo administration.

He dismissed Trillanes as a mere “barking dog” and an idiot who succeeded only in stealing bed sheets and utensils from the Peninsula Hotel where he staged a coup in 2007.

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“He mutinied but when the police arrived he quickly surrendered. Not a single shot was fired,” he said in Filipino.

He also took detained Sen. Leila de Lima to task for allegedly accepting protection money from drug lords serving time at the national penitentiary.

“She is claiming she is a political prisoner. Since when have I detained anyone from the opposition?” he said.

He stressed De Lima was not jailed for political offenses but for using her position to get campaign funds from prisoners.

“It was the secretary of justice herself running, trafficking drugs,” Duterte said, referring to De Lima’s position before her election as senator.

Duterte also parried criticisms that he was tolerating or even encouraging extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs, saying some of the deaths were results of legitimate police operations.

He admitted killings were inevitable as it had been in Davao City, where he was mayor for decades.

“In Davao, I said, ‘do not destroy my city.’ We were struggling then because Davao City was a no man’s land,” he said. “Kung may taga-Davao dito, they or she or he would tell you alas syete sarado na doon (If there’s anyone here from Davao, they, she or he would tell you by 7 p.m. everything there is closed),” he added.

Duterte said he needed to be firm to ensure peace and order in the city, which led Davao to progress.

He pointed out he is just implementing the same strategy on a national scale.

“So I was struggling against all odds. But I was able to make it develop. Nakausap ko mga komunista. Patayan kami sa droga (I talked with the communists. There were deaths due to drugs) and it was a very serious problem then, but I never knew the dimension if I didn’t get elected President of the Philippines,” the Chief Executive said.

He reiterated his war on drugs will not stop until his last day in office. “In Davao I said, ‘I will declare war against you because if you feel that you are destroying my city, I will kill you’. Correct. If you are destroying, you deprive me of my son, my daughter and the future, I will really kill you,” he said. “That should not be a problem.”

Noise, publicity

Earlier, Duterte dismissed as mere noise efforts to discredit his barely nine-month-old presidency.

His toned down statement came days after he accused mining groups of conspiring with the opposition to oust him.

“Yes, it’s all politics actually. In the matter of going after them, it has not reached that level of violence, destabilization. It’s more of publicity,” Duterte said.

The Chief Executive stressed he would not prevent anyone from the opposition from speaking out against his administration “for as long as it is really a peaceful exercise of the freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”

“There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s guaranteed under the Constitution,” he said.

“The talk about destabilization I think is a bit too… well, it is just an exponential word actually. It has no limit,” the President said. “But actually you have to have the kind of situation where there is already violence committed and imposed on the population, whether they are with you or against you.”

Malacañang earlier raised suspicion over what it called the timing of some actions of the opposition, like Robredo’s video message to the UN and the filing of an impeachment complaint against the President by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.

Duterte accused Alejano of doing nothing for the country except to make noise. “What have you done to the country? Nothing. Except to make noise and that really happened during your mutiny… You were forgiven by a president whom I cannot understand,” he said, referring to former president Benigno Aquino III.

“What’s that you’re bragging about? That you now have the chance to show your bravery? Do not s**t with me,” he said.

The Magdalo representative is planning to include in a supplemental affidavit Duterte’s move to allow Chinese ships to conduct research activities in Benham Rise.

“Well, for what? If he wants to fight with China, he can lead. I would be glad to send him as the first batch of delegation of Filipinos who’d want to take the Spratly Islands and all of those they occupied now,” Duterte said in an interview in Myanmar.

“He can go ahead” and fight the Chinese, the President said. “It would be a slaughter for the Filipinos to do that,” he said.

Alejano earlier called on Filipinos to show courage and support the President’s impeachment at the House of Representatives.

Manila Mayor and former president Joseph Estrada, for his part, said Duterte does not deserve to be impeached, saying Filipinos are lucky to have a leader “who has that conviction, willing to risk his life” in pursuing his goals.

Estrada recalled that like the impeachment case filed against him in 2000, the one filed against Duterte was baseless.

“We cannot move on. President Duterte has been in office for less than one year and his critics are now engaging in politics. There are many parallelisms now. What happened when I was still the president, they ganged up on me,” Estrada said. He underwent impeachment trial at the Senate from Dec. 7, 2000 to Jan. 16, 2001 for alleged “bribery, corruption, betrayal of public trust and violation of the Constitution.”

“They are now doing it to President Duterte,” Estrada said, adding they might later regret moving for Duterte’s impeachment.

He said he felt vindicated when Church leaders led by Archbishop Antonio Tobias, and even former president Cory Aquino, publicly apologized to him for supporting moves to oust him.

“I’m asking the people to support President Duterte. He has good intention,” Estrada said.

Lenten ‘ceasefire’

Meanwhile, a supporter of President Duterte is calling for a break from political mudslinging in the spirit of Lent.

“At the outset, I would like to appeal to all political forces for Lenten meditation and reflection, especially in the wake of impeachment charges being hurled against the President and the Vice President by their respective supporters,” Rep. Harry Roque of party-list Kabayan said.

He expressed belief the impeachment complaint lodged by Alejano against the President as well as the one being readied by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez against Robredo “will not prosper due to lack of evidence.”

The former UP law professor called on Alejano to “withdraw” his complaint so as to “prevent an avoidable political turmoil that would paralyze lawmaking in the House of Representatives.”

Another lawmaker, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, shared Roque’s sentiments, saying a healing process should begin.

“The healing process is the most advisable thing to do because this will consolidate our forces,” he said in a chance interview on the sidelines of the weekly Ugnayan sa Batasan News Forum at the House.

Another administration lawmaker, Rep. Salvador Belaro Jr. of party-list 1-Ang Edukasyon, said the impeachment complaint against President Duterte is unlikely to progress. – With Delon Porcalla, Jose Rodel Clapano

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