Palace men: Destab plan now in play
MALACAÑANG on Thursday belittled the impeachment case filed against President Rodrigo Duterte, but linked it to Vice President Leni Robredo’s statements before the UN as “part of a bigger scheme” to destabilize the government.
“They’re trying to discredit the administration and trying to throw it in doubt,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella told Palace reporters.
Asked for the possible connection of the impeachment raps with Robredo’s statements before a UN narcotics body, Abella said these might all be part of attempts to destabilize the administration.
“Let’s put it this way. It just seems too well coordinated--events like these seem to be too well coordinated as to just be coincidental,” he added.
Minutes before Abella’s statement, Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte at the House of Representatives and accused the President of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, bribery and other high crimes in relation to the government’s war on drugs.
Vice President Leni Robredo, meanwhile, raised before a UN gathering in Austria that the Philippine National Police was detaining innocent people in a “palit-ulo” [exchange heads] scheme, which substituted a missing drug suspect with a relative.
Abella denied that Duterte committed any impeachable offense, as his critics claim.
“First and foremost, no treason, betrayal of trust, bribery, graft and corruption, high crime and culpable violation of the Constitution have been committed,” he said.
“We reiterated that extra—the so-called extrajudicial [killings] are not state-sponsored and the President has made sure that he will not turn a blind eye to all uniformed personnel who violate and abuse their power.”
“No one is truly above the law not even the President but the administration upholds due process and is ready for the consequences of its actions that takes consideration above all the interests of the Filipino people.”
Abella said the President “is ready for the consequences of his actions” and will “uphold due process.”
“Let them talk and pursue what they want to happen,” he said in Filipino.
Abella added that Duterte will not intervene in the affairs of the House of Representatives, when pressed further if the Chief Executive will influence the lawmakers regarding their position on the complaint.
“The President always allows his allies to act independently. He has never manipulated [them] in that sense,” he said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Thursday said the complaint had no factual and legal basis and said he was confident it would not prosper.
“The allegations in the complaint are not anchored on concrete solid evidence that would support findings of any of the enumerated grounds for impeachment,” Aguirre said.
Like Abella, he said impeachment complaint could be part of a wider plot to destabilize the administration.
“This impeachment complaint was nothing but filed in aid of destabilization,” he said.
Aguirre said President Duterte is not at all alarmed by the filing of the impeachment complaint, and would continue doing what is good for the country and the Filipino people.
Solicitor General Jose Calida echoed Aguirre’s position, even as he accused Alejano of acting like a puppet for Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a known critic of the President.
“Representative Alejano is a toady of his braggart patron, Senator Trillanes. They are not even in the league of Don Quixote so this impeachment won’t fly. It will crash like a rudderless plane flown by witless pilots,” Calida said.
Duterte holds majority support in the House, where a vote of one-third of all members is needed to transmit the complaint to the Senate for trial.
The impeachment complaint drew mixed reactions in the Senate.
In a text message to reporters, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Magdalo party-list group “should not be criticized much less mocked” for filing a complaint against the President as they are only abiding by the constitutional process of unseating a chief executive.
“At least this time they are not engaging in another Oakwood type of adventure,” Lacson said, referring to the mutiny of 2003, when Trillanes, Alejano and more than 300 soldiers took over the Oakwood serviced apartment tower in Makati to topple the Arroyo administration.
“Now, whether or not the move will get the one-third votes of congressmen required to impeach the president is another matter,” Lacson said.
He added that another hurdle would be the Senate where at least 16 of 24 sitting senators must vote to convict.
“All I can say is, without necessarily associating myself with them in the matter of impeaching [President Duterte], my simple message is, good luck to them,” he added.
Lacson had earlier accused Trillanes of being part of destabilization efforts to oust Duterte.
He said Trillanes was the handler of Edgar Matobato and retired SPO3 Arthr Lascañas who said Duterte formed the Davao Death Squad, which he used to execute suspected criminals, personal enemies and political opponents when he was still mayor of Davao City.
Senator JV Ejercito said there was no compelling reason to file an impeachment complaint against the President at this time.
“This is not the right time for this impeachment complaint. When will we ever move forward if we have ouster moves like these?” the senator said.
He noted that the situation today was different than when the Magdalo led the mutiny against then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“GMA’s legitimacy was in question then, while President Duterte was given the mandate by the Filipino people,” said Ejercito in reference to Arroyo’s takeover of the presidency from his father, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.
“This is destructive,” he said.
Trillanes said he welcomed the filing of the impeachment complaint.
“It is the last venue left for him to face the allegations against him,” said Trillanes who has recently renewed his allegations that Duterte had stashed in banks over P2 billion in ill-gotten wealth.
He also charged that the extrajudicial killings in the government’s present war against drug suspects and the DDS summary executions were sanctioned by Duterte.
Asked if he thinks Magdalo has the numbers in the House, Trillanes said: “Let’s see in the coming weeks.”
Liberal Party president and Senator Francis Pangilinan said the filing of an impeachment complaint is part of the constitutional process.
“We swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and as such we must respect our constitutional processes whether we agree with it or not, whether we like the outcome or not,” Pangilinan said.
Senator Francis Escudero and Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III deferred comment on the issue as the Senate will sit as an impeachment tribunal if the complaint is forwarded to them.
Escudero said “that is the prerogative of every congressman and rests within the sole jurisdiction and discretion of the House of Representatives.
“They are, after all, mandated by the 1987 Constitution to first determine the strength of impeachment complaints,” he added.
“We’re not supposed to comment in case it reaches the Senate, we will be an impeachment court and therefore should be impartial,” Sotto said.