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Not Digong, but Leni

If President Rodrigo Duterte asks that Vice President Leni Robredo must not be impeached, does that mean that she shouldn’t be? A group of pro-Duterte lawyers and bloggers disagrees.

The group calling itself Team Impeach Robredo held a press conference yesterday to announce that it was going ahead with the plan to build an impeachment case against the vice president, regardless of what Duterte thinks. The effort, it said, goes beyond the President and seeks to make Robredo accountable for ruining the country’s reputation abroad.

It’s all about defending the country, according to the group. The same country that Robredo allegedly betrayed when she forgot her oath to defend it and lied before an international forum about the true situation in the Philippines.

Lawyers Bruce Rivera, Trixie Cruz Angeles, Tom Berenguer and Ahmedy Paglinawan, together with political science professor Antonio Contreras and Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III, explained that while they were all supportive of Duterte, they are not “minions” who will blindly do whatever the President wants. The President’s declared opposition to the impeach-Leni campaign, they said, actually proves that the group has nothing to do with Malacañang.

Neither is the point of the exercise, they said, to get back at the political enemies of Duterte who earlier filed an impeachment case against the president in the House of Representatives. “We are not a gang that retaliates when we get hit,” Rivera explained.

Even winning the impeachment case, according to the proponents, is secondary to getting Robredo to explain why she has been painting such a dire picture of the country, thereby scaring away foreign investors and tourists who only hear about the Philippines from the one-sided anti-Duterte coverage in the Western media. And what really made them decide to prepare a suit against Robredo was her ill-advised decision to send a videotaped speech at the sidelines of a United Nations conference in Vienna, Austria last week, where the vice president used the trappings of her high office to pass on unverified and even totally untrue reports as gospel.

In that controversial speech, Robredo revealed a heretofore unheard-of policy of holding hostage or even killing the relatives of drug users and pushers wanted by the police—a fantastic claim about a so-called “palit ulo” scheme that she has not yet backed up with actual cases. She also repeated the canard that more than 7,000 people have been killed in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, a figure of dubious provenance that the foreign press has always taken as unassailable truth.

Of course, the police and other official sources have denied that either assertion is factual, being based only on reports in the press that are unflattering to Duterte. That, and the revelation of PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa that Robredo never verified the “facts” she presented in Vienna with official sources, proved to be the tipping point for the anti-Robredo group.

“We don’t believe that she can be impeached on the basis of one speech,” Rivera explained. “But there have been many incidents in the past, too many to count, when Robredo can be proven to have betrayed her oath to defend the country.”

It’s really not about Duterte as much as it is about Robredo. And the people who want Robredo removed will not be dissuaded, even by the man who inspired them to take action.

* * *

If the move to impeach Robredo teaches the Vice President anything, it should be this: She cannot just bad-mouth the Philippines abroad without suffering any consequences.

The trouble with Robredo is that she has decided to exploit her position as the second-highest official in the land in order to push her particular brand of partisan politics—even outside the country, where the media have decided that Duterte is the worst thing that ever happened to the Philippines. Her use of the Philippine flag and her office’s official seal as the backdrop of her speech in Vienna is proof that she wants to give her pronouncements an air of official sanction, never mind if it damages the country that she represents on the international stage.

But Robredo still cannot get it through her head that she is not just any other Filipino when she speaks abroad. She is still the vice president, and if she had any prudence or common sense at all, she should have realized that she cannot play the role of chief critic of the government when she is outside the country —especially if she plays fast and loose with the facts about such serious matters as the reported extrajudicial killings that have gotten the Western media all het up about Duterte.

That Robredo cannot even grasp such a basic concept as her true role when she is talking about her country when she is overseas speaks volumes of her lack of understanding of the vice presidency. If only because of her cluelessness, she deserves to be haled before an impeachment court and taught a simple lesson:

If you can’t say anything good about your country in a foreign land, maybe you should just smile your sweetest smile and shut up. If even the most recent Filipino worker sent overseas understands this, I don’t know why Leni can’t.

Topics: Jojo Robles , President Rodrigo Duterte , Vice President Leni Robredo , impeachment , Team Impeach Robredo
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