MANILA, Philippines - The impeachment of Vice President Leni Robredo will push through despite President Duterte’s call to his allies in Congress to stop it.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday bared that Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez would proceed with the impeachment bid even after Duterte called on allies in Congress to drop the plan.
Aguirre said the President’s stand that there should be no impeachment of top executives who have been in office less than a year was a “personal opinion.”
“Impeachment involves the power and discretion of Congress, so it will be a congressional call, not the President’s call,” Aguirre explained in an interview yesterday.
Aguirre vowed to support the impeachment complaint against Robredo based on her video message criticizing Duterte and his administration, which was sent to the United Nations commission on narcotics drugs.
Robredo’s video message, posted by the DRCNet Foundation on YouTube last March 13, was played at the “Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War,” a side session at the 60th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs annual meeting last March 16 at the Vienna International Center.
An impeachment complaint against Robredo was already filed before the House by Marcos loyalist and perennial impeachment complainant Oliver Lozano. A group of lawyers and academics supporting the Duterte administration is also preparing another complaint against her.
Alvarez believes that the Vice President might have betrayed public trust in her video message to the UN. Betrayal of public trust is one of the grounds under the Constitution for impeachment of an official, which law and political experts both consider as a numbers game.
“What she did was she humiliated the Philippines before the international community. I’m sure that aside from damaging the image of the country, that definitely will have effect in the economy,” Aguirre claimed.
Aguirre said the impeachment against Robredo, a vocal critic of the administration’s bloody war on illegal drugs, would succeed if the complainants are able to establish her violations of the Constitution.
“She could be impeached if they could prove that her claim (against the war on drugs) has no factual bases and it greatly damaged the country’s image and economy,” he suggested.
Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier express support to Robredo’s impeachment.
Calida believes its is a “treasonous act” of the Vice President to send a video message to the UN where she criticized Duterte’s war on drugs, which has seen over 7,000 killings in police operations or by vigilantes.
Calida vowed to lend the legal services of his office as a “tribune of the people” to help in the proposed impeachment of the Vice President, saying it is “unfortunate” that Robredo now “will reap the people’s wrath and contempt.”
Duterte asked his allies not to pursue the impeachment of Robredo even as he accused her of being behind the impeachment complaint filed against him by Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo.
Duterte’s super majority coalition in the House of Representatives is expected to throw out Alejano’s complaint. But the coalition has the numbers to impeach Robredo.
Highly reliable sources in the House have hinted that Alvarez, an ally of Duterte, has already garnered 100 signatures from lawmakers who will endorse Robredo’s immediate impeachment.
Only 97 signatures out of the 293 House members are needed for the impeachment complaint to be sent to the Senate, which will serve as an impeachment court. Select House members who signed the complaint will act as prosecutors while senators will be the judges.
“This is almost very reminiscent of the 185 lawmakers who signed (chief justice) Renato Corona’s impeachment in 2011 without even the benefit of reading the complaint,” a senior lawmaker said, referring to the Liberal Party’s move to send Corona’s impeachment complaint to the Senate for trial.
“And mind you, this may well be the karma of the Liberal Party who impeached Corona with hardly any evidence except the LP’s tyranny of numbers,” he added.
Robredo, a former representative of Camarines Sur, is LP’s highest elected official.
The STAR also learned that Alvarez wants the impeachment complaint to get past the House justice committee of Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who was in Corona’s impeachment.
“They want the complaint sent straight to the Senate, just like what they did to Corona,” the insider bared.
Duterte’s allies also enjoy a majority in the Senate, which will try Robredo in case she is impeached by the House. - With Delon Porcalla