A committee of the Philippine parliament on Monday found an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte was “insufficient in substance,” rejecting it and effectively putting an end to the case.
The complaint, filed in March, alleged that Duterte had adopted a state policy of extrajudicial killings during his war on drugs, leading to the death of more than 8,000 people in the first eight months of his presidency. It also accused him of involvement in mass murder, and of widespread corruption during a previous term as mayor fo the southern city of Davao.
The Justice Committee of the House of Representatives, which is dominated by Duterte allies, noted that the filer of the complaint, opposition lawmaker Gary Alejano, had no personal knowledge of the alleged offenses.
“The complaint filed was frivolous. How can you proceed if the complaint has no basis?” said committee chairman Reynaldo Umali, a member of Duterte’s ruling party.
‘It will be a dictatorship’
Although the committee’s decision, taken after 42 of 49 members voted against the complaint, still needs the endorsement of the lower house, there is almost no chance that it will be overturned in view of Duterte’s commanding majority there as well.
The dismissal means that any new impeachment complaint can now not be filed until next March.
Alejano warned that the decision would allow Duterte to continue with what he called a dictatorial form of leadership.
“I assure you, if we allow the president that kind of power in violation of the constitution, if we allow it further, it will be a dictatorship,” he told reporters after the vote.
Bloody campaign against drugs
Duterte won presidential elections last year pledging to carry out a massive crackdown on crime in which tens of thousands of people would die.
The president himself has admitted killing crime suspects while mayor of Davao, but has denied any involvement in killings of more than a thousand drug users and petty criminals in the city between 1998 and May 2016 that human rights groups allege were carried out by death squads.
Since Duterte took office as president at the end of June, police have reported killing some 2,700 people, with Duterte calling for addicts to be slaughtered and promising to pardon police if they are found guilty of murder in the course of his drug war.
Human rights groups, however, put the number of suspected drug dealers and addicts killed much higher, at 7,000-9,000.
The United Nations, the European Union and the United States have all criticized Duterte’s methods, but surveys show that he remains a popular president at home.
Last month, a Philippine lawyer also filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) allegedly that Duterte had been responsible for mass murder. However, the ICC has so far not said whether it will follow up on the complaint, and its rules demand that all legal remedies must first be exhausted in the Philippines.
tj/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)