An opponent of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who was reportedly complicit in two separate coup attempts against a previous president, has filed a motion to impeach Duterte, accusing him of violating the constitution through the rampant use of extrajudicial killing and corruption.
Congressman Gary Alejano said in an interview Thursday that his impeachment motion was “the fight for all Filipinos” and that, due to Duterte’s strong support in the legislature, he did not expect his motion to succeed. “I just provided a venue for expression,” he admits to the local outlet Rappler. “Now, it is the responsibility of every Filipino and every member of this House to decide on their own and based on their conscience on what they’re seeing right now.”
Alejano has emphasized that “there is nothing extralegal” in his complaint before the legislature. “We are not staging a coup d’etat or any other means to oust Duterte.” Alejano is in a delicate position that necessitates this clarification, the Philippine Inquirer claims, because he has participated in recent two failed coup plots: in 2003 and 2007, both against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Alejano’s complaint accuses Duterte of bribery, corruption, and violations of due process. In particular, Alejano claims Duterte has hired 11,000 “ghost employees” and was personally behind the Davao Death Squads, a group of thugs who allegedly killed drug suspects so the court system did not have to properly try them. These transgressions allegedly occurred during Duterte’s 22-year tenure as mayor of Davao City, a southern metropolitan center many credit Duterte with turning into a safe tourist destination in an otherwise unstable region.
ABC News notes that Alejano is unlikely to succeed in impeaching Duterte as he would need one-third of the lower chamber to vote in favor in order to send the proposal to the Senate, also controlled by Duterte allies.
Duterte’s supporters in the government have responded to the impeachment attempt with scorn. “They are not even in the league of Don Quixote so this impeachment won’t fly. It will crash like a rudderless plane flown by witless pilots,” House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said of the “stupid” proposal.
“The allegations in the complaint are not anchored on concrete solid evidence that would support findings of any of the enumerated grounds for impeachment. Mere allegations without proof are not evidence. It was filed in aid of destabilization. Suntok sa buwan yan (It’s a long shot),” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said of the motion.
Solicitor General Jose Calida branded the move “a desperate attempt of spoiled grown up brats to destabilize our country.” Salvador Panelo, the president’s attorney, called the accusations “black propaganda.”
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters Duterte opponents were “scraping the bottom of the barrel” and accused a coalition of opponents of attempting to stage a coordinated effort to undo the will of the people in electing the president. “It just seems rather dramatic that everything seems to be coordinated at this stage,” he said, correlating the impeachment attempt with calls for Duterte to be tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Philippine news network ABS-CBN notes that an attorney representing a man who claims to have served Duterte as his personal hitman has threatened to bring Duterte to the ICC. Tony La Viña, an international legal expert, told the outlet that an impeachment attempt could be used to argue to the ICC that it is, in fact, the court of last resort in his case. The ICC, and international courts like it, will often reject cases if the plaintiffs have not yet exhausted all legal avenues available domestically to enact justice.
“Maybe you have to try impeachment first. Even if there’s no chance for it to succeed, then you can say to the ICC, ‘We tried going after the president with the only recourse we have,’” La Viña explained.
Duterte has repeatedly defended the use of extrajudicial killing to eliminate the threat of drug traffickers throughout the country under his presidency. He has dismissed human rights advocates as not properly understanding the suffering of the Philippine people who have been plagued by a drug epidemic throughout the past decade.
“When you kill criminals, that is not a crime against humanity. The criminals have no humanity. God damn it,” Duterte said this month, responding to a human rights NGO’s condemnation of his presidency.
Estimates of the number of people who have died in extrajudicial killings range from 3,000-8,000 since Duterte took office in June 2016.