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Opinion

Impeaching the VP

The broader view - Harry Roque - The Philippine Star

The tallest tree catches the most wind, a Chinese proverb goes. Vice President Sara Duterte – she of the 32-million plus people’s mandate – continues to be relentlessly targeted by an unholy alliance, based on a common political interest, among the Opposition, leftist groups, and two-faced UniTeam alliance members. Despite a dip in recent public opinion surveys, Inday Sara remains a highly trusted government official and a formidable candidate in the 2028 presidential elections. At this point, politicos eyeing the presidency see her as the biggest stumbling block to their ultimate goal. They treat her like sand in their eyes, someone they cannot tolerate. Hence, the series of political demolition jobs against Inday.

Recently, there have been reports that several Congressmen want to unseat her through impeachment. The Vice President can be removed from office in the same manner as the President, according to the 1987 Constitution.

Impeachment Initiative

During the Duterte administration, several political personalities allied with the supermajority in the Upper and Lower Chambers wanted to remove the overcritical yet unpopular Vice President Leni Robredo from office. I recall the politicians presenting the impeachment case against Robredo to then-President Rodrigo Duterte. Digong gave the thumbs down right away. His response was: “What for? She does not pose a threat to the government. Most of our people would not believe her anyway.”

From the onset, the most popular post-EDSA Revolution president never took the Opposition seriously. He knew that any destabilization plot against him would spectacularly fail. The ex-VP and most Liberal Party candidates, who raved against Duterte for six long years, got pulverized by the erstwhile solid UniTeam in the last elections. Likewise, the incessant anti-government rantings of many party-list groups cum sympathizers of the CPP-NPA terrorist eventually led to a humiliating defeat.

In a political plot twist, his daughter Inday finds herself in the middle of impeachment rumors. The Lower House gossip mill has been churning nonstop since the legislative body rejected the VP’s request for Confidential Funds in the 2024 national budget. Mindful of her oath to preserve our strong and peaceful Republic, Inday has let go of the divisive issue. She would no longer pursue the additional funds that could have assisted or improved the lives of poor families that the Office of the Vice President (OVP) serves across the country.

Allegedly, several House leaders and political parties want to impeach Inday for utilizing contingency funds (coming from the Office of the President or OP) without authority from Congress. But how come they are only targeting the OVP? Should they not hold the OP accountable, too, for releasing the funds? Should they not apply the equal protection clause in this case?

As regards the impeachment report, the House Majority Leader has made a denial. But a Makabayan bloc member stated otherwise. The representative has alluded to an ongoing discussion among Congressmen to impeach Sara.

As early as September, the Makabayan bloc has mulled filing an impeachment complaint against VP Sara. On another front, arch-critics of the Duterte and Marcos families have filed petitions before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of the contingency fund transfer, as well as the constitutionality of confidential and intelligence funds.

Removal from Office

What does our Constitution say when there is a vacancy in the OVP? The incumbent President is required to nominate a replacement from among the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. He or she shall assume office upon confirmation by a majority vote of all the Members of both Houses of Congress, voting separately. Such was the case of the late Senator-turned-Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr., the first appointee to the second-highest post in the land.

It follows that the incumbent Senate President, the current House Speaker, or any legislator is eligible to become Vice President once the position is declared vacant. Who to nominate is the President’s prerogative. Of course, it would help the lawmaker’s cause if he or she is close to the sitting chief executive by friendship, consanguinity, or affinity.

Let me be clear. I am not accusing any elected lawmaker (particularly in the Lower House) of salivating over the position of Inday Sara. However, each legislator is a potential beneficiary of a vacancy in the OVP. 

The legislative body enjoys the exclusive power to initiate impeachment cases against the President, VP, Members of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman, who has violated the Constitution, committed high crimes, or betrayed public trust. A vote of at least one-third of House Members must either affirm a favorable resolution with the Articles of Impeachment of the House Committee or override its contrary resolution (Article 11, Section 3).

Take note that most of these politicos are members or affiliated with the UniTeam. They benefited from Inday’s decision to forge an alliance with President Bongbong Marcos, Jr. And it includes Speaker and UniTeam stalwart Martin Romualdez. In the spirit of unity, healing, and reconciliation, Inday gave way to PBBM to end the politics and culture of hatred that have bedeviled the nation since 1986. She campaigned hard for him in the Visayas and Mindanao, where he had a weaker support base. If Inday was power-hungry, she could have been sitting in Malacanang Palace now. But she knows her public service record and experience are not yet ripe for the position. Therefore, I am disappointed that Speaker Romualdez has failed to scuttle the political noise within his turf. He and his allies continue to downplay the rift in the alliance. But their actions continue to betray their words.

Will the impeachment case against VP Sara prosper? Given my experience in filing impeachment cases against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and ex-Comelec chair Andy Bautista, I do not think so. Without the imprimatur of the sitting president, any impeachment process that does not involve the chief executive is bound to fail.

Will the President support the impeachment process against Inday Sara? As Inday’s other half in the UniTeam alliance, I hope not. It is time for PBBM to break his silence. I urge him to tell the Filipino public in unequivocal terms if he still stands by Vice President Duterte.

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IMPEACHMENT

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