MANILA, Philippines - The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo is unperturbed by threats of impeachment from allies of the Duterte administration, saying there is nothing new about the allegations hurled against her.
“We are not threatened because we are sure that the truth is on our side. There is nothing new with Speaker (Pantaleon) Alvarez making threats,” Robredo’s spokesperson Georgina Hernandez said in an interview yesterday.
Hernandez said they have yet to consult their legal team, since no formal impeachment complaint has been filed against Robredo.
On Friday, Alvarez said he was considering filing an impeachment complaint against Robredo after the latter criticized the administration’s war on drugs in a recorded video message before a meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria last week.
In the video, Robredo denounced unabated extrajudicial killings and talked about irregularities in the administration’s anti-drug war, including the alleged “palit-ulo” scheme.
Robredo’s camp, however, continued to defend yesterday her video message, stressing that it was not meant to embarrass the country or undermine the current administration.
“We don’t see it as a move to humiliate the country because this was not the first time the international community has heard of what is happening (in our country),” Hernandez said.
Hernandez maintained that the Vice President’s speech was “factual” and based on the accounts of the families of the victims of extrajudicial killings in the government’s war on drugs. She added that Robredo’s report to the UN was “part of her job as a public servant.”
For an official during the Arroyo administration and former delegate to the UN General Assembly (GA), Robredo “misrepresented” and “shamed” the Philippines.
“Robredo shames the nation by portraying the Philippines as a failed state, like Somalia, Eritrea or Liberia where the rule of law has totally broken down, and where the streets are littered with the corpses of the innocent killed by the police,” Rigoberto Tiglao, who served as spokesman for former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said in a recent newspaper column.
Michael Francis Acebedo Lopez, a former delegate to the UNGA, said Robredo misrepresented millions of Filipinos when she addressed the UN commission, highlighting the alleged rights abuses in the administration’s drug war.
Instigator of impeachment vs Rody
Alvarez also tagged Robredo as among the instigators of the impeachment complaint filed against President Duterte by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, who filed the complaint last Thursday purportedly for betrayal of public trust, etc.
Hernandez, however, said that efforts to oust Robredo are more real than the supposed destabilization plot against Duterte.
“Every day, accusations thrown against VP Leni are becoming intense and enormous. I think VP Leni is the one facing (a) destabilization plan,” she said.
As for Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III’s statement on a greater likelihood of Robredo getting impeached than Duterte, Hernandez said that she remains hopeful that the lawmakers “will side with the truth.”
It takes only the signatures of 100 congressmen in the 295-member House to bring any impeachment complaint straight to the Senate and start the trial of any accused official.
University of Santo Tomas professor Edmund Tayao echoed Pimentel’s statement, noting that impeachment is a political process and that the Vice President is in the opposition.
The Duterte administration’s “super majority,” led by Alvarez, who is also secretary-general of PDP-Laban, dominates the House.
“We are not worried and threatened because we believe most of the members of the House of Representatives will stand by their principles, will be reasonable and will side with the truth,” Hernandez said.
Aside from a possible impeachment case, Robredo is also facing an electoral protest from her rival, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Fairness based on facts
Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday asked Robredo to double-check her figures on extrajudicial killings in the country that she cited in the video message to the UN, as she was being unfair to the law enforcement agencies waging the war on drugs.
In her controversial message, Robredo reported that over 7,000 people were summarily executed in the campaign against illegal drugs.
Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) – which was also tapped in the anti-drug campaign – also suffered casualties, according to Lacson.
“Fact is, govt side suffered 38 casualties in 2k (2,000) police opns (operations). She should correct it,” Lacson tweeted.
“I’ve no agenda except fairness based on facts. We owe it to the 38 PNP and AFP personnel killed and 86 wounded in action as of Jan 28, 2017,” he said.
Apparently referring to Robredo, Lacson indicated some groups might be just using her to destabilize the Duterte administration.
“They are leading her to the quicksand to advance their own political interests. I hope she realizes it sooner than later,” he tweeted.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said international human rights groups and detractors are lumping together the over 7,000 recorded killings since July 1 as extrajudicial executions when over 2,500 were from legitimate police operations, and a significant portion of the remainder were plain homicide or murder cases that cannot be attributed to the war on drugs.
Some 70,000 extrajudicial and unresolved killings occurred during former president Benigno Aquino III’s six-year term, according to Cayetano – something that critics and international rights groups should not gloss over in hitting Duterte’s brutal war against drugs.
“There are extrajudicial killings but these are not state-sponsored. There have been 10,000 to 14,000 every year or about 70,000 during the entire Aquino administration,” Cayetano, who based his numbers from records of the PNP and the Philippine Statistics Authority, earlier said.
Taking up the cudgels for Robredo
Liberal Party (LP) members at the House of Representatives have taken up the cudgels for Robredo whom Alvarez wanted impeached – instead of Duterte – for allegedly trying to oust the Chief Executive.
Robredo, the highest-ranking elected LP leader in the country, was cleared by no less than Alejano.
“The VP doesn’t know anything about this (impeachment), and LP also has nothing to do about this,” the former renegade Marine captain, who is an ally of opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, insisted.
Alejano and Trillanes were among the “Oakwood mutineers,” who tried to topple Arroyo in July 2003.
The party-list lawmaker admitted, though, that Trillanes, who is part of their Magdalo faction, was among those who planned it two weeks ago.
House Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo and Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte, LP stalwarts who have allied themselves with the supermajority coalition, appealed to Robredo’s critics, including Alvarez, not to drag her into the controversy.
“In fact the Vice President is very supportive of the government and behind all good programs designed to uplift the plight of ordinary people, especially in providing basic services to them,” Quimbo said.
For Belmonte, the Speaker may have gotten the wrong impression about Robredo.
“I think the Speaker was misinformed,” he said.
“She (Robredo) was elected to serve the Filipinos and this she would do until the last day of her six-year term,” the LP secretary-general said, noting that Robredo is not and will not be part of any destabilization move.
Belmonte also pointed out that Robredo’s video message narrated true stories of people who have approached her to seek help regarding their experience on the government’s war on drugs.
“They said rogue policemen were involved in the killings. They approached VP because they have nowhere else to go,” he said. - With Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla