Rody to Congress allies: Lay off Leni
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - March 24, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  There’s no justification for having Vice President Leni Robredo impeached, President Duterte told his congressional allies yesterday as he asked them to stop working for her ouster, citing freedom of speech guaranteed under his democratic leadership.

“Look, you know, we just had an election. Guys, lay off. Let’s stop it,” Duterte said in a press briefing upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from his official trips to Myanmar and Thailand.

“Elected yung tao (She’s elected) so why do you have to? Just because she keeps on harping on me? Hayaan mo (Let her be), this is a democracy, freedom of speech,” he said.

Duterte allies in Congress led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez vowed to work for Robredo’s impeachment after she sent a video message to a United Nations body denouncing extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the conduct of the administration’s war on drugs.

Just a few days ago, Duterte told the Filipino community in Thailand that Robredo was itching to become president.

Yesterday, Duterte made clear his Vice President has not done anything to undermine his administration or commit an impeachable offense.

He stressed Robredo’s video message to the UN was only an exercise of her right to free expression.

“You can do other things but do not tinker with the structure of government. I will not countenance it,” the President said, adding that as an elected official, Robredo’s airing her opinion should not be curtailed.

“There is no or there are no overt acts committed,” he said, dismissing allegations Robredo was plotting to oust him. “Kakatapos lang ng election. Bakit mo sisirain ang bayan (Why destroy the country)?” he said.

Duterte maintained he recognizes Robredo’s role as the country’s second highest official mandated to replace him in case he dies or becomes incapacitated.

“Eh ako, malay mo ako baka hindi na ako magising bukas sa bangungot eh okay na (Who knows I might not wake up tomorrow),” he quipped.

The Chief Executive also earlier observed that Robredo did not believe his denial of any role in the so-called Nagaleaks.

Duterte said he would never resort to mudslinging at this point in his career, as he no longer was aspiring for any political position after the end of his six-year term as president.

“You know, this is a democracy. Leaders are elected. You don’t have to be son of a b****, it’s the people’s choice. Remember that,” he said.

In Thailand, his tourism chief Wanda Teo had raised concerns over the ill-effects on tourism of recent political developments, including the filing of an impeachment complaint against Duterte and threats of impeachment against Robredo.

She also urged the media to focus on improvements in peace and order rather than on extrajudicial killings.

‘Marry me’

Earlier in Bangkok, the President said the Vice President should marry him if she wanted to take his place instead of aching to have him removed.

Without mentioning Robredo’s name, Duterte told a raucous Filipino audience that the Vice President was in a hurry to unseat him even if he has only been in office for less than a year.

He said he felt sorry for Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano who was his runningmate but lost to Robredo.

“Eh si yung babae ang pinili ninyo. Apurado, gusto akong paalisin. Hindi pa nga ako dumating isang taon dito, paalisin mo na ako (You chose the woman. She is in a hurry to oust me. I have not been here for a year and yet you want to unseat me),” the President told the Filipino community Wednesday night.

“Sige dalaga man siya. Sige pakasalan mo ako. Dalawa na tayo dito. At least hindi ako mawawalaan ng ano. Bulong ng bulong na lang ako sa iyo. Ba’t nagmamadali. Maghintay ka. Ano bang ginawa sa bayan? (She is single anyway. Marry me. The two of us can run the country. At least I won’t run out of it. I will just whisper. You wait. What have you done for the country?)” Duterte said.

While accusing Robredo of being in a hurry to be president, Duterte said he believes the Vice President was not behind the alleged destabilization plot against him.

His allies’ dislike for the Vice President intensified after her delivery of a video message to the UN denouncing drug-related killings in the country.

Officials have called out Robredo for her statements, saying only about 2,000 people were killed in law enforcement operations while others were executed by vigilante groups.

After asking Robredo in jest to marry him, Duterte made light of criticisms that he is fond of statements degrading to women.

“I have been criticized by women’s (groups). What’s wrong in appreciating beauty?” the President said.

“Alam mo sa buhay na ito, ang regret ko napakaraming magandang Pilipina. Wala lang talagang panahon na. Gusto ko kayo walang panahon eh. Paano (In this life, my regret is there are many beautiful Filipinas. But I do not have time. I want you but I do not have much time. How)?” he added. “So many beautiful women, so short a time.”

Duterte, whose hour and a half long speech was filled with sleazy insinuations and profanities, also joked that he used to be gay.

“Sino ang ano mga gay dito? Huwag kayong mahiya kasi bakla ako noon, sige na. Palit palit ang panahon eh (Who are the gays here? Do not be ashamed because I was one. Go ahead. Times change),” he said.

Senators elated

Meanwhile, senators welcomed the call of President Duterte to spare the Vice President from impeachment, saying such move, if it were allowed to progress, would not only be time consuming but divisive as well.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the impeachment process distracts Congress from other important work and should only be considered as a last resort against officials who commit grave wrongdoing.

“Impeachment is serious business so you just don’t do it lightly for any reason. You do it for grave reasons when you are convinced that there is really a good reason to subject to impeachment high ranking public officials,” Pimentel said.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said that he is against the impeachment, not only of Robredo, but also of President Duterte.

“This will just cause political instability. This is destructive for the economy. Impeachment processes are both destructive and divisive. Instead of pulling each other down, why don’t we just work together, for the better?” Ejercito said.

He said that the President has demonstrated that he respects the mandate given by the people to the Vice President. “It shows that he is a statesman,” Ejercito pointed out.

Sen. Joel Villanueva said he was glad the President made that statement. “We must always protect our democratic space and I am happy that the President recognizes this,” Villanueva said.

Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said he believes the President’s declaration that he was not involved in the moves to have the Vice President impeached.

Based on his observation, Aquino said there are groups that want to create a rift between the President and Vice President.

“Because in the end, the country will be in disarray when they are against each other,” Aquino said. – Alexis Romero, MarvinSy

LENI ROBREDO
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