Impeachment mode up
Bautista, Sereno, Morales, Robredo face ouster threat
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will support any move—even impeachment—to rid government of corruption, the Palace said Monday.
“Without making references to any particular individual, the President, of course, is highly supportive of all moves that will set the house, the Philippine government in order,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said when asked if Duterte would support impeachment complaints against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, whose estranged wife accused of amassing almost P1 billion in undeclared wealth.
“He’s been very clear about that. That is one of his campaign promises. And so, each and every act—each and every move that entails bringing about a correction in our institutions—is a welcome one and one I’m sure he is supportive of,” he added.
The statement was in stark contrast to the President’s statement that he would not meddle in the row between Bautista and his wife Patricia, who had filed an affidavit against him before the National Bureau of Investigation, and who had talked with Duterte about her allegations.
Abella insisted, however, that his statement was general, and did not refer to any particular person.
An ally of the President, lawyer Larry Gadon, filed an impeachment complaint against Bautista before the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday.
Lawmakers have noted, however, that the correct venue for impeachment complaints is the House of Representatives.
Former Negros Oriental representative Jacinto Paras said he was planning to file an impeachment complaint before Congress this week, saying that he had already talked to a member of the House who will endorse the complaint.
The quarrel between the Bautistas went public after Patricia accused the Comelec chairman of receiving kickbacks from automated poll service provider Smartmatic and keeping ghost employees during his stint as chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government.
The President said he met with the Bautistas individually, and that he advised the Comelec chairman to fix his quarrel with his wife.
Aside from Bautista, three other top officials—Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Supreme Court Chief Maria Lourdes Sereno and Vice President Leni Robredo—face threats of impeachment from administration allies.
The Volunteers against Crime and Corruption accused Morales of dispensing “selective justice” after she cleared former President Benigno Aquino III in the disbursement acceleration program case in the complaint filed by the group of Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate in July last year.
Morales, instead, ordered the filing of a case of usurpation of legislative powers against former Budget secretary Florencio Abad for supposedly changing the definition of savings, a power that belongs to Congress, by impounding P72 billion worth of unused appropriations and diverting them to DAP.
Losing senatorial candidate and former Manila councilor Greco Belgica also filed a disbarment case against Morales before the Supreme Court and also threatened to file an impeachment complaint against Morales as Congress resumes its second regular session.
Supreme Court Chief Maria Lourdes Sereno, meanwhile, faces two impeachment raps filed by Gadon and VACC, for betrayal of public trust when she procured a Toyota Land Cruiser amounting to P5.1 million, and for failing to truthfully disclose her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) and alleged obstruction of justice when she ordered Muntinlupa judges “not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila M. De Lima.”
Die-hard Duterte supporters Bruce Rivera and Trixie Angeles also filed impeachment complaints against Vice President Leni Robredo for allegedly betraying public trust over a video message criticizing the country’s bloody drug war before the United Nations. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez likewise threatened the same for her criticisms against the administration.
In the case of the four officials, all of whom had close ties to the previous administration, no lawmaker has endorsed the complaint, a requirement to move the process forward.
Under the Constitution, the President, Vice President, members of the Supreme Court, the constitutional commissions, and the Ombudsman can be removed from office only through impeachment.
So far, only Duterte has faced a formal impeachment case, filed by Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo, who accused him of pursuing a state policy of killings in his anti-drug war and amassing illegal wealth worth P2.2 billion. The House committee on justice junked the complaint for lack of substance.