Leni, LP won’t support Duterte im­peach raps

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By DELON PORCALLA

Fif­teen mem­bers of the Lib­eral Party (LP) al­lied with the su­per ma­jor­ity coali­tion in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives have de­cided to steer clear of the im­peach­ment com­plaints filed against Pres­i­dent Duterte and Vice Pres­i­dent Leni Ro­bredo.

Ro­bredo her­self said in an in­ter­view in Los Baños, La­guna yes­ter­day that a “ma­jor­ity of the law­mak­ers present in the meet­ing were not sup­port­ive of any im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ing whether against the Pres­i­dent or me.”

Ro­bredo was re­fer­ring to an LP meet­ing on Thurs­day that she presided. She said the party would hold an­other meet­ing be­fore Con­gress re­sumes ses­sion on May 2 be­cause many of their mem­bers were out of town and failed to at­tend last

Thurs­day.

The Vice Pres­i­dent said the im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings would be di­vi­sive and po­lar­iz­ing.

Ro­bredo is sup­posed to suc­ceed Duterte if he is re­moved from of­fice but she is also fac­ing an im­peach­ment com­plaint.

LP stal­wart and House Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo – the high­est LP of­fi­cial in the cham­ber – ex­pressed the same be­lief when asked about the party mem­bers’ po­si­tion on the com­plaints.

“It’s just go­ing to be a dis­trac­tion to the im­por­tant work that needs to be done,” Quimbo, who was at Thurs­day’s meet­ing, said of their “com­mon con­sen­sus.”

LP pres­i­dent and Sen. Fran­cis Pangili­nan con­firmed the mat­ter of im­peach­ment was dis­cussed by the LP dur­ing the meet­ing but not as a party.

He clar­i­fied they have no party stand on moves to im­peach Duterte and other im­peach­able of­fi­cials, thus po­si­tions ex­pressed are based on in­di­vid­ual ca­pac­i­ties of mem­bers.

Pangili­nan said he and other LP sen­a­tors would not com­ment on the im­peach­ment com­plaint against Duterte be­cause they could be act­ing as judges if it pros­pers in the House.

Quimbo said it would be best for the House to pri­or­i­tize im­por­tant leg­isla­tive mat­ters than support the im­peach­ment com­plaints.

“We like­wise re­it­er­ated our strong­est com­mit­ment of support to the (Vice Pres­i­dent), our party leader,” Quimbo said.

But a fel­low LP mem­ber, Ifu­gao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, who be­longs to the so­called Mag­nif­i­cent 7 of the in­de­pen­dent op­po­si­tion bloc, said each and ev­ery mem­ber may have to make an in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sion on the im­peach­ment com­plaints, rul­ing out a party con­sen­sus.

“If and when some of us will support the im­peach­ment (com­plaint) against (Duterte), I be­lieve it will not be a group de­ci­sion,” he said.

Their group is led by Al­bay Rep. Ed­cel Lag­man, an­other LP mem­ber but orig­i­nally from the LakasNUCD party.

The im­peach­ment com­plaint against Duterte was filed by Baguilat’s and Lag­man’s col­league, Mag­dalo Rep. Gary Ale­jano, while the case against Ro­bredo – a for­mer Ca­marines Sur con­gress­woman – has yet to be filed.

Duterte is fac­ing var­i­ous charges based on Ale­jano’s com­plaint, in­clud­ing the ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings hap­pen­ing in the coun­try visà-vis his drug war and al­leged un­ex­plained wealth.

Mean­while, Ro­bredo caught the ire of Speaker Pan­ta­leon Al­varez for her video aired in a United Na­tions event where she hit the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s war on drugs.

Mar­cos loy­al­ists Oliver Lozano and Mel­chor Chavez filed an im­peach­ment com­plaint against Ro­bredo also be­cause of the video.

Will Leni be Duterte’s Corona?

Re­li­able sources in the House said the threat of Al­varez to have Ro­bredo im­peached when Con­gress re­sumes ses­sion on May 2 is more than real, car­ry­ing par­al­lelisms with the late chief jus­tice Re­nato Corona’s im­peach­ment dur­ing the Aquino ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The sources said Al­varez, an ally of Duterte be­ing sec­re­tary­gen­eral of the rul­ing PDP-La­ban party and a fel­low Davaoeno, has al­ready gar­nered 100 law­mak­ers who were sup­posed to en­dorse her im­me­di­ate im­peach­ment last March.

Only 97 sig­na­tures out of 293 mem­bers of the House are needed for the com­plaint to be sent to the Se­nate for an im­peach­ment trial – where se­lect House mem­bers who signed the com­plaint will act as “pros­e­cu­tors” while the sen­a­tors will be sit­ting as “judges.”

“This is al­most very rem­i­nis­cent of the 185 law­mak­ers who signed Corona’s im­peach­ment in 2011 with­out even the ben­e­fit of read­ing the com­plaint,” a se­nior con­gress­man, who sought anonymity, said cit­ing the LP’s bold move to send it to the Se­nate for trial.

“And mind you, this may well be the karma of LP who im­peached Corona with hardly any ev­i­dence ex­cept the LP’s tyranny of num­bers,” he warned, not­ing that Ro­bredo is the coun­try’s high­est elected LP of­fi­cial.

Ro­bredo, widow of for­mer in­te­rior sec­re­tary Jesse Ro­bredo who died in a plane crash in 2012, is an ally of for­mer pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III. In late 2011, Aquino wanted “all of the Supreme Court jus­tices ap­pointed by his pre­de­ces­sor Glo­ria Ar­royo” – im­peached, the sources claimed.

For­mer speaker and now Que­zon City Rep. Feli­ciano Bel­monte Jr. sug­gested to Aquino that Corona – whose al­leged mid­night ap­point­ment was up­held over­whelm­ingly by the SC twice – be im­peached first, and that the other mag­is­trates may have to fol­low.

The STAR also learned that Al­varez wanted the Ro­bredo im­peach­ment com­plaint to get past the House jus­tice com­mit­tee of Ori­en­tal Min­doro Rep. Rey­naldo Umali who him­self was – iron­i­cally – in­stru­men­tal in Corona’s im­peach­ment.

“They want the com­plaint sent straight to the Se­nate, just like what they did to Corona,” the in­sider re­vealed, not­ing that they did so with hardly any ev­i­dence, and ended up only find­ing loop­holes in Corona’s de­clared as­sets, which is not even a ground for im­peach­ment.

But the Se­nate at the time voted 20-3 to re­move Corona from of­fice after find­ing him guilty of the charges.

Al­varez de­clared last month that the House lead­er­ship will adopt an in­de­pen­dent pol­icy after Duterte asked his con­gres­sional al­lies to lay off Ro­bredo and let her ful­fill her six-year man­date as duly elected leader.

“We re­spect the Pres­i­dent but we have to do our duty as man­dated by the Con­sti­tu­tion,” Al­varez said.

“There are is­sues where we agree with the ex­ec­u­tive branch, so we support it. But there are also is­sues where we may not agree with the ex­ec­u­tive branch,” he added. –

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