The best-laid plans of the Yellows have a tendency to blow up in their faces. This time, the blast threatens to cause real and lasting damage to their bid to seize power once again.
The people behind the plot to embarrass President Rodrigo Duterte before the international community certainly got more than they bargained for. Their champion and president-in-waiting, Vice President Leni Robredo, will herself soon face an impeachment complaint—the first who held that office to be seriously threatened with removal from office.
Please don’t bother parroting the line of the enemies of Duterte that recent events do not prove that there is a conspiracy against the incumbent. Allow me to give a brief rundown of the activities by the Yellows who may not be out to remove the president, but who certainly want to pressure his government in the form of coordinated attacks from the general direction of Western Europe.
First, the lawyer of discredited witness Edgar Matobato said he would go before the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to file charges of crimes against humanity against Duterte. Then, right before the close of Congress’ sessions last Thursday, the fellow coup-plotter of Duterte foe Senator Antonio Trillanes, Rep. Gary Alejano, filed an impeachment case against Duterte – the legal basis that the Matobato case supposedly needs to merit the attention of the ICC, which requires the exhausting of available remedies for a Philippine president immune from suit.
Then, Robredo sent a videotaped speech that was shown on the sidelines of a conference by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, during which she accused Duterte of ordering the killing of more than 7,000 people and allowing a strange new “palit-ulo” scheme to be employed—with no real evidence in both instances—to hostage family members of drug suspects. The video of a smiling Robredo detailing the killings was shot with the seal of the vice president’s office and a Philippine flag in the backdrop, giving it an air of official sanction, even if an actual representative of the country (who didn’t know about the tape) was attending the event officially.
Finally, at the end of last week, the European Parliament issued a resolution calling on Duterte to release Senator Leila de Lima, who is detained on drug charges, calling her a “prisoner of conscience.” The Yellows immediately warned of economic sanctions on the Philippines from the European Union if De Lima was not freed, even as they ignored the damage that Robredo had already done in Vienna with her ill-advised taped speech.
But the Yellows and their European partners in their weeklong efforts didn’t count on the snowballing move to impeach Robredo, as well, for her involvement in all of this. And unlike the Duterte impeachment bid, which nearly everyone realizes will not even get the required one-third vote of the Lower House, the case that will be filed against Robredo may make her the first vice president impeached and removed from office.
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In Myanmar, Duterte noted that Robredo just can’t seem to wait for her turn at the presidency. I’ve never really understood this need on the part of the vice president to keep sniping at Duterte, but maybe that’s just how she rolls.
Now she will reap the whirlwind that is the result of her impatience. Already, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Solicitor General Jose Calida have expressed support for an impeachment complaint that may be filed against the intemperate Robredo.
And most analysts I’ve talked to consider the chances of an impeach-Leni complaint getting the required 98 approving votes in the House (a third of the membership) that will automatically transmit the document to the Senate and convene it into an impeachment court headed by the Supreme Court chief justice as good to excellent. The grounds for the complaint, which I heard will focus on the charge of betrayal of public trust (for disparaging her own country abroad, during a UN conference) are also much more solid than the ones used to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 for failing to declare his assets.
The Senate, of course, will be a different battleground altogether, with the law requiring two-thirds of the chamber voting to impeach in order to remove Robredo from office. That means a total of 16 senators of the 24-member Senate.
By the way, the prime mover of the Corona impeachment in the Senate five years ago, Senator Franklin Drilon, has already thrown his considerable weight behind the belief that there is no basis to accuse Robredo of betrayal of public trust. I beg to disagree with Drilon, especially if the group now busy drafting the proposed impeachment complaint can prove that the vice president has been engaging in a non-stop campaign to vilify Duterte and has merely taken her roadshow abroad, when she shouldn’t have.
But that’s life, I guess. If De Lima is now suffering the fate she and her former boss Noynoy Aquino decreed for former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, I think it’s just right for Robredo to feel what Corona must have felt during his own kangaroo impeachment trial.
As the young people say, karma has gone digital. How quickly the wheel has turned for the Yellows.