Palace cool to Rody as impeach prosecutor

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Palace cool to Rody as impeach prosecutor

Malacañang is cool to the proposal to make President Rodrigo Duterte a prosecutor for the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is cool to the proposal to make President Duterte a prosecutor for the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Officials stressed Duterte is busy with government affairs as the nation’s Chief Executive.

Lorenzo Gadon, the lawyer who filed an impeachment complaint against Sereno, wants Duterte to become part of the panel that would prosecute Sereno.

Gadon filed an impeachment complaint accusing Sereno of not fully declaring her wealth and lavish lifestyle. Sereno’s camp has denied the allegations and has expressed confidence that she would overcome the complaint against her. 

The House of Representatives justice committee declared the complaint against Sereno has sufficient grounds to proceed. A third of the 293 House members is required to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, whose members will serve as trial judges.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said questioning Sereno during the impeachment trial is best left to prosecutors. 

“That is the proposal of attorney Larry Gadon, that the President should be given the chance to cross examine and become a special prosecutor. Of course that would be up to the President if he would accept it,” Andanar told dzBB yesterday.

“If you ask me, I think it would be better if the job is left to the prosecutor,” he said. 

“He has a lot of work to do but then again, it is also a good opportunity for our countrymen to see how good President Duterte is as a prosecutor... That would be up to the President.”  

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo described the proposal to make Duterte a prosecutor of Sereno as “pure nonsense.”

“The President is constitutionally prohibited to hold any other office during his tenure. Even assuming that there is no prohibition, such position diminishes the office of the presidency and departs from his functions and duties as mandated by the Constitution,” Panelo said.

He said the House of Representatives had the exclusive power to initiate all kinds of impeachment and its members are tasked to prosecute the impeachable officers in impeachment trial in the Senate. 

“As he (Duterte) has repeatedly said he respects the independence of the two co-equal branches of the government and he will never interfere with their constitutional functions,” Panelo said. 

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella previously said Duterte has evidence to prove Sereno is corrupt and would release it at the right time. 

Duterte has accused Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales of allowing themselves to be used by groups who want to oust him and to destabilize the government. The President made the allegation as the Ombudsman is conducting an investigation on the allegation that he has billions in undeclared wealth. 

Last month, Duterte threatened to investigate the ombudsman, whom he accused of selective justice and to reveal the alleged irregularities in the anti-graft body.  

Days after he issued the threat, Duterte formed a Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) to probe lavish lifestyles and graft and corruption activities, and recommend punishment against erring officials. The PACC also has the power to subpoena individuals and documents and to tap the security forces to enforce an order. 

Sen. Franklin Drilon explained the PACC has no power to discipline the Office of the Ombudsman and other constitutional bodies and government branches that are not under the executive branch.

But Andanar stressed the PACC was formed to look into the corruption of officials in the executive branch. He also denied the PACC would supersede the functions of the Office of the Ombudsman. 

“It shows that the President is dead set to stopping corruption,” he said. 

“The PACC is really for the appointees of the President.” 

Andanar also clarified Duterte’s comment that he would let the military and the police step in if he, Morales and Sereno do not reach an agreement. 

He said the President is aware that the military is capable of ousting a government just like what happened during the two popular revolts in 1986 and 2001.

“What the President was saying that since the military has the capability, the power, they can conduct an investigation,” Andanar said. 

Andanar noted Duterte has asked the military and the police to oust him if his savings in the bank are more than P40 million. 

“He’s saying that the military is the only organization in our country that can bring down a government. The President has the guts to tell that to the military and that is how confident he is that his money is not more than P40 million.” 

Asked if there are destabilization plots against the President, Andanar said: “What we heard are the same ones disclosed by the President and Solicitor General (Jose) Calida. These scenarios are never-ending.” 

Calida has claimed members of the opposition, communist rebels and some members of the clergy are plotting to oust Duterte. 

“There are different sectors and interests moving in our society. Let’s just wait for the process to flow,” Andanar said.   

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