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Frustrated Alejano says House members shirked duty

Rep. Gary Alejano gestures as he tries to defend the impeachment complaint he filed against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during a Justice Committee hearing at the House of Representatives in metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Monday, May 15, 2017. Philippine lawmakers have killed the impeachment complaint accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of crimes against humanity for the thousands of people who have died in his anti-drug crackdown. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano on Monday accused the House justice committee of abandoning their duties to make President Rodrigo Duterte accountable in discarding his impeachment complaint.

Speaking to reporters after being denied to explain the merits of his case at the committee hearing, Alejano said the members of the justice panel ceded their independence in the face of massive support for the Philippine leader.

He also blasted them for shirking their responsibility as duly-elected representatives of the people and railroaded the process to jettison his complaint.

Alejano, who filed the first impeachment complaint against the president in March, said that the members of the House should stand up for the victims of the president’s campaign against illegal drugs, which left thousands of people killed in its wake.

He said that since most of the victims were poor, many of them had no means to seek justice for the killings they experienced.

“We have to stand up for the people, for the victims of this war on drugs because we have access to information, we have connection in government. Kami ang nakakaalam e. Yung ordinaryong pinapatay doon takot yun. Wala ngang pang-file ng kaso e. Hindi nga nila makuha yung kanilang bangkay dun sa morge. Aasahan natin silang tatayo para sa sarili nila?” a visibly frustrated Alejano said.

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He called on his colleagues in Congress and the Filipino people to stand up against the mounting deaths in the government’s campaign to rid the country of illegal narcotics.

Alejano said that even if they have not yet experienced the brutality of the campaign they have the responsibility to fight it, warning that if left unfettered the president will someday turn into a dictator.

“Kaya nga porke ba mahihirap ang biktima hindi tayo magsasalita. Porke ba hindi ba umakyat sa bakod natin ang war on drugs wala kayong pakialam. And I assure you if we allow the president that kind of power in violation of the Constitution I assure you 'yung kanyang excess of power aakyat sa bakod niyo even sa fences of the congressmen aakyat 'yan. And if we allow it further wala nang Congress. May diktador na tayo,” he said.

Alejano said that the people’s frustration with the government was not a sufficient reason to allow the president to break the law.

“That’s the reason why bakit may problema pa rin tayo. And because of frustration we will allow the president to violate the laws because we are frustrated? I don’t think so. He’s actually contributing more problems to the country,” he said.

On March 16, Alejano filed an impeachment case against the president for betrayal of public trust and corruption. One of the pillars of his charge was Duterte’s alleged involvement in the deaths of thousands of Filipinos, many of whom urban poor, during the course of the government’s drug war. Early on Monday, the House justice committee junked the complaints after deeming it sufficient in form but not in substance.

Not a popularity contest

The Magdalo congressman severely criticized his colleagues for using the president’s massive popularity in dismissing his complaint and the fact that he had been in office for only less than one year. Alejano said that representatives should be able to decide for themselves and help the people who were in need the most.

“Kaya nga ito ang responsibility ng ating representatives. Ito ang responsibility ng ating representatives. Kasi kugn ang responsibility lang natin e making sa ratings then whatever the people want we will just follow? No! Kaya nga tayo binigyan ng kapangyarihan because they believe that we have the capacity to decide for ourselves and to help the people,” Alejano said.

“So ibig sabihin kapag nagkagulo dyan hintayin lang natin sila? Yung isang taon o ilang taon marami ng pinatapatay. Darating ang time pati ang pamilya natin magiging biktima. Hintayin natin mga one year pa o two years kasi hindi pa siya umabot ng ilang taon? No,” Alejano added.

Alejano said that making the chief executive accountable should be based on the law and the Constitution and not on the popularity of Duterte based on the latest surveys.

He emphasized that no one, not even the president, was above the law and the Constitution.

“Kahit na ikaw 'yung pangulo. You are not above the law. So ngayon kung tatabunan po natin then you are party to this commission of crimes,” he said.

He warned his colleagues that by turning a blind eye on the excesses of the president his colleagues were becoming a party to his supposed crimes.

“Tahasan paglabag ng Constitution natin 'yan. Ang karapatang pantao ng Konstitusyon ng due process of law tahasang paglabag ng Konstitusyon natin yan. And we are sending the message to president yes continue we will allow you. Yes, hindi ako abogado, hindi ako abogado na magaling magpaikot-ikot sa batas. Dati akong sundalo. Ang alam ko lamang e paano i-defend ang bansang ito,”  he said.

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