EVEN if it threatens to affect the legislative agenda of the 17th Congress, House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez has vowed to pursue an impeachment case filed against Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, justifying that, in doing so, the lower chamber is only doing its mandate under the 1987 Constitution.
“Whether it will affect or not [our legislative agenda], we are mandated by the Constitution to process all impeachment cases,” Alvarez said in a text message.
But Alvarez’s position appears to run counter to the latest pronouncement of President Duterte. Returning from his official visits from Thailand and Myanmar, the President said he will disallow any attempt to impeach Robredo.
“Guys, lay off. Stop it. You can do other things but do not tinker with the structure of the government. Kakatapos lang ng election, bakit mo sisirain? Malay mo ako ’di na ako magising bukas sa bangungot, eh di okay na, siya na. You know this is a democracy. Leaders are elected. [Even if one] is a son of a bitch, it’s still the people’s choice. Remember that,” he said.
‘Scrap of paper’
Currently, there are at least 39 priority bills that are now pending for congressional action.
These measures include the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution, or Charter change, the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, the proposed Traffic Crisis Act and the proposed salary standardization law.
Earlier, Deputy Speaker and Liberal Party Rep. Romero S. Quimbo of Marikina City said Congress should not waste time on a “scrap of paper”.
“Congress will only end up wasting time better spent on much-needed legislation, including those on tax reform, Traffic Crisis Act, as well as those that seek to make economic gains more inclusive,” Quimbo said.
On Monday lawyer Oliver O. Lozano and Cesar Chavez asked Alvarez to endorse their draft impeachment complaint against Robredo.
“We respectfully request that you endorse the attached complaint for impeachment against Leni Robredo. She is the termite of the government. Her unfaithfulness has extended to the betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution,” they said.
“She betrayed the people by shaming the nation with her dishonest message to the United Nations. [She] is duty-bound to act within the framework of the Constitution, but her acts of dishonesty and moral bankruptcy breached the bounds of the fundamental law,” they added.
A separate group of volunteer lawyers and professors, at the same time, is mulling over to file a second impeachment complaint against Robredo.
At a news conference in Quezon City on Thursday, lawyer Bruce Rivera said his group is already laying the groundwork in drafting the impeachment case against the Vice President, which could take two to three weeks of case-building.
The group is composed of Rivera, lawyers Tom Berenguer and Trixie Angeles, Prof. Antonio Contreras and Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III.
“Leni Robredo has gone too far. We demand accountability. She needs to answer to us now. It is clear that, in her determination to further her political stature, she is willing to bring the Filipino nation to perdition, even at the cost of Filipino integrity and self-determination,” Rivera said.
“We have decided to file for her impeachment. She can no longer be allowed to continue in this manner. Not anymore. Not at our expense,” he added.
Without giving specifics, Rivera said the general grounds for impeachment against Robredo are betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution and other high crimes.
The group is expecting to file the impeachment case at the House of Representatives before sessions resume in May.
Alvarez, however, was quick to dismiss a similar move to unseat Duterte from the Palace.
The House Speaker also expressed confidence that the House Committee on Justice will dismiss the impeachment complaint filed against Duterte.
“Recommendation to dismiss the impeachment complaint is definite,” said Alvarez of Duterte’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Alvarez has tagged Robredo for direct involvement in the filing of the impeachment complaint against Duterte by Party-list Rep. Gary C. Alejano of Magdalo, who filed the impeachment complaint last week.
Alejano said the impeachment complaint was based on Duterte’s alleged culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption and other high crimes.
According to Alvarez, Robredo is likely worried that a recount of the ballots cast for the vice-presidential seat in the last elections would reveal she is not the real winner.
Robredo is facing an election protest lodged by her rival, former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, which recently decided to proceed with the hearing of the case.
Hole in the head
Meanwhile, Nacionalista Party Rep. Luis Raymund T. Villafuerte Jr. of Camarines Sur asked his colleagues to shift their focus on passing important measures.
“We need this impeachment complaint like a hole in the head. I believe that we lawmakers could better spend our time right now crafting reform laws that would help President Duterte achieve his government’s ambitious goal of sustaining the growth momentum, drastically reducing poverty and transforming our country into an upper-middle-income economy by the time his term ends in 2022,” Villafuerte said.
According to Villafuerte, the impeachment complaint filed against Duterte “is an exercise in futility, given his overwhelming support not only in Congress but from the Filipino people, as well.”
“Given that the impeachment process is a numbers game, it is wishful thinking on the part of the President’s critics that they could even reach first base in impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives,” Villafuerte said.
The House Committee on Justice has to decide first if the impeachment complaint against the President is sufficient in form and substance before endorsing it to the plenary.
If the committee finds by a vote of the majority of all its members that a probable cause exists on the basis of the evidence adduced before the committee, it shall submit with its report a resolution setting forth the Articles of Impeachment. Otherwise, the complaint shall be dismissed.
Also, under the rule, a vote of at least one-third of all the members of the House is necessary for the approval of the resolution setting forth the Articles of Impeachment. If the resolution is approved by the required vote, it shall then be endorsed to the Senate.
On the other hand, should the resolution fail to secure approval by the required vote, it shall result in the dismissal of the complaint for impeachment.
Image Credits: AP/Bullit Marquez