LIBERAL Party senators yesterday said Vice President Leni Robredo’s sending of a video message to an event of the United Nations is within her prerogative as an elected official and a Filipino.
In a joint statement, the LP senators also said the video message, wherein their party mate criticized President Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs, “showed the world that the Philippines enjoys democracy where dissent is respected.”
The LP senators came to Robredo’s defense after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez last Friday threatened to file an impeachment complaint against her for betrayal of public trust for allegedly smearing the country’s reputation before the international community.
On Sunday, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said an impeachment complaint against Robredo might prosper and reach the Senate, unlike the impeachment case filed against Duterte last Thursday, which he said is doomed to fail because its proponents would not be able to get the support of at least 98 congressmen, or the required one-third vote, for the complaint to be transmitted to the Senate.
The LP senators said: “We urge Senate President Koko Pimentel to focus on the numbers that matter: the thousands of unresolved murders, the rising prices of basic goods, and the 13-million hectare undersea region rich in minerals and biodiversity of Benham Rise. These are the numbers that we should all be focusing on, not the 100 votes of congressmen on the impeachment case threatened by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Solicitor General Jose Calida on Vice President Robredo.”
The LP senators are Senate President pro tempore Ralph Recto, minority leader Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Paulo Benigno Aquino, and Leila de Lima, who is detained on drug charges.
Aquino, deputy minority leader, said an impeachment complaint against Robredo may reach the Senate if the House leadership “will bully and threaten the congressmen, like what happened in the death penalty vote.”
Pimentel said he agreed with LP senators that legislators should concentrate on their work in the Senate instead of engaging in “theoretical discussions” regarding the impeachment of Robredo.
He also challenged LP senators to denounce the impeachment of President Duterte if the party indeed had no hand in it.
“Let us say LP has no hand in it (filing of impeachment against Duterte), I hope they denounce the people behind the impeachment process. (But since) they are not denouncing, doubts have been raised that LP is behind it,” Pimentel said.
Asked if Duterte is behind the planned filing of an impeachment case against Robredo, Pimentel said no. “It’s the Speaker’s original idea… he suddenly realized there is this avenue when an impeachment complaint was filed (against Duterte) which you pointed to us.”
When asked if Duterte should denounce the filing of an impeachment against Robredo, if it pushes through, Pimentel said, “Hindi (No). Si Presidente actually ay hands off.”
Recto, who is a member of the majority, said there is no betrayal of public trust as far as the video message is concerned and that it is part of democracy to criticize government policy.
“That’s how I see it. Everyone is free to criticize the government. Everyone is free also to criticize what Leni did, the Vice President, right,” Recto said.
Lawyer Oliver Lozano, a habitual filer of impeachment complaints at the House, asked Alvarez to endorse his six-page 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,” Lozano told the Speaker in a letter.
The impeachment complaint – signed by Lozano and Melchor Chavez, a radio commentator who was declared a nuisance bet by the Commission on Elections in the 2013 senatorial elections – is yet to be filed before the office of House Secretary General Cesar Pareja.
Lozano, a former legal counsel of former president Ferdinand Marcos, used the same ground of betrayal of public trust in his complaint, quoting from column of Rigoberto Tiglao, who was the Arroyo cabinet who belied Robredo’s claim that 7,000 people have been summarily executed since July last year under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
The complaint said the respondent “has done injustice to the Filipino people and disservice to the nation,” he said.
“She betrayed the people by shaming the nation with her dishonest message to the United Nation,” the complaint said. “The respondent is duty bound to act within the framework if the Constitution but her act of dishonesty and moral bankruptcy breached the bounds of the fundamental law.” – With Wendell Vigilia