MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima, the fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, said the chief executive can be impeached for "promoting" and admitting the killings of alleged criminals.
De Lima said this in an interview with CNN International on Thursday, December 15, while she was in the US to receive recognition from the 46-year-old Foreign Policy magazine based in Washington, DC.
"Mass murders certainly fall under the category of high crimes and high crimes is a ground for impeachment under our Constitution," De Lima said in the interview.
"We do have an unfit President. He just confessed to doing the killing of people in Davao and we know that he's the one promoting and encouraging and tolerating these killings and therefore, that is an impeachable offense," the senator added.
De Lima said such acts could be counted as culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust – two of the possible grounds for impeachment under the law.
Duterte earlier admitted personally killing drug suspects when he was Davao City mayor. It was the same accusation of witness Edgar Matobato, self-confessed hitman of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), who said Duterte ordered and participated in summary executions.
"I know it because – I am not trying to pull my own chair – in Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the [police] that if I can do it, why can't you?" Duterte said during the Wallace Business Forum in the Palace.
"I go around in Davao [on] a big bike and I would just patrol the streets and looking for trouble. I was really looking for an encounter to kill," he said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, longtime friend of the President, said there is nothing wrong with Duterte killing suspects, as such acts could be done under "justifiable circumstances." He also said Duterte was, again, only exaggerating.
It was De Lima who launched a Senate probe into the spate of extrajudicial killings amid Duterte's ongoing war on drugs.
De Lima was eventually ousted as chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and was replaced by Senator Richard Gordon.