'Don't use impeachment as tool for political reasons' – lawmaker

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers on Thursday, December 8, said there is a need to study first whether or not President Rodrigo Duterte should be impeached for declaring he would not allow policemen tagged in the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr to go to jail.

Asked if the President's statement is enough basis for an impeachment complaint, Dinagat Islands Representative Kaka Bag-ao answered no.

"Tingin ko, hindi. Tingin ko mahalagang pag-aralang mabuti siya. Ayaw natin na gawing political na instrument lamang 'yung impeachment," Bag-ao told reporters after an Amnesty International forum on Thursday.

(I don't think so. I think it's important to study this carefully. We don't want to use impeachment only as a political instrument.)

She continued: "Sa dami ng karanasan ko sa impeachment, tingin ko ay mahalaga na, una, naintindihan ng taumbayan, at pangalawa, ay may basehan talaga kung tingin natin ay ang isang opensa ng ating mga opisyal na nasa Constitution na kailangang i-impeach ay impeachable."

(Based on my experiences regarding impeachment, I think it's important that one, the public understands the process, and two, that there is basis if we think that the offenses of those officials who the Constitution says can be impeached are really impeachable.)

"Otherwise, sa tingin ko, hindi dapat siya ginagamit na instrumento or tool for political reasons only."

(Otherwise, I think impeachment shouldn't be used as an instrument or tool for political reasons only.)

While she agrees that a President's statement can be considered a policy pronouncement, Bag-ao disagrees that the facts and circumstances surrounding the statement can already be treated as impeachable.

"Kailangan natin ng matibay na ebidensya, kailangan natin ng facts. So hindi madaling tumalon sa ganoong conclusion. Dapat medyo matibay 'yung ating alegasyon at ang ating ebidensya at argumento for it or against it."

(We need solid evidence, we need facts. So it's not easy to jump to that conclusion. We have to make sure our allegations, evidence, and arguments for it or against it are solid.)

Siquijor Representative Ramon Rocamora agreed with Bag-ao that the "case" needs to be studied first, since impeachment is a "serious undertaking" and is "not an easy thing to do."

On the part of the Senate, Senator Risa Hontiveros said "nothing could possibly reach the Senate" if no impeachment complaint emanates from the House of Representatives. 

Meanwhile, Amnesty International Philippines chairperson Ritz Lee Santos III said the country needs to learn from its experiences regarding impeachment cases.

"Hindi ganung kasimple 'yung proseso. 'Yun nga, lagi kaming babalik na, let justice run its course," he told Rappler.

(The process is not as simple as that. That's why we will always go back to this: let justice run its course.)

It was Senator Leila de Lima who first said Duterte may be impeached for declaring that he "will not allow" Police Superintendent Marvin Marcos and cops involved in the operation against Espinosa to go to jail despite official findings that they are liable for murder.

According to De Lima, the President's pronouncement is tantamount to "betrayal of public trust."

Under the 1987 Constitution, a president may be removed from office if he or she is convicted of "culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust."

But Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo dismissed De Lima's claim on Thursday, saying Duterte cannot be impeached based on his declaration, which is "not even an offense." – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.