Impeachment try an uphill battle

rodrigo duterte

INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

Allies of Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano on Friday agreed that it would be extremely hard to gather the 97 signatures needed to impeach President Duterte, but the complaint could well “catch fire” over the Holy Week break.

Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin, a fellow member of the “Magnificent 7” independent minority bloc, said the charges laid out in Alejano’s 16-page complaint were serious enough to warrant the House leadership to not dismiss it outright.

“It should be given due course and witnesses heard,” he said.

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While getting 97 signatures — representing one-third of the 292 House members — would be difficult, Villarin said recent developments in the chamber, particularly the contentious death penalty vote that led to the ousting of 12 House leaders, could change minds.

“I agree with him that it’s an uphill battle to get 97 signatures. But with the vindictive policy of stripping House committee chairs from those who exercised their conscience vote on the death penalty and possibly the bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old, the complaint could catch fire,” Villarin said.

Alejano timed the filing of his complaint on the first day of the congressional recess, saying he wanted to give his colleagues the chance to “reflect” on things. Congress will resume its session on May 2.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, a member of the Liberal Party (LP), clarified that Alejano’s impeachment move was an independent action of the Magdalo group.

“Well first of all, it’s a Magdalo initiative that’s independent of the authentic minority. Some of us are individually supporting it while others are still studying whether it will be productive or tactically a good move for the opposition,” he said.

As for the LP, Baguilat said the party had not yet given its position on the complaint yet, “although it respects Alejano’s and Magdalo’s right to file impeachment.”

On the other hand, Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque, a member of the official minority group in the House, said the impeachment complaint was “bound to fail.”

“First, [Mr. Duterte] cannot be held liable—meaning he cannot be impeached—for acts which had happened before he became President,” he said in a statement.

“Second, as it stands at the moment, the President’s ties to the extralegal killings in connection with ‘Oplan Tokhang’ is nonexistent at worst and tenuous at best,” Roque said.

Roque, a former University of the Philippines law professor, said Alejano’s filing was premature. “This highlights the importance of case-building. Remember that only one impeachment case may be filed against the President per year,” he said.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Friday accused  Vice President Leni Robredo of having a hand in the impeachment complaint filed by Alejano against the President.

Alvarez suggested that Robredo might be concerned about the possible recount of the votes in the vice presidential election.

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