An ugly legacy

IT is ironic to listen to Liberal Party politicians complain about a proposal to impeach Vice President Leni Robredo over a video address she made for an international human rights conference in Vienna this month.

“Our people feel both hopeless and helpless,” Robredo told delegates to a side session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs annual meeting, after stating that 7,000 people have been summarily executed in the government’s anti-drug war.

Robredo painted a grim picture of Filipinos living in fear, as she took President Rodrigo Duterte to task for police abuses in his campaign against illegal drugs.

The President’s supporters quickly jumped on this and threatened to impeach her for betrayal of the public trust for making false accusations that brought shame and discredit, not only to the government, but to the entire country.

Without any proof, they also linked her to an impeachment complaint earlier filed by the Magdalo party-list group against President Duterte.

Liberal Party vice chairman Senator Franklin Drilon said there was no basis for filing an impeachment complaint against Robredo, chairman of the LP.

“I could not figure out how you connect criticisms of policies of this administration with betrayal of public trust. Maybe we will wait to see how they connect these,” he said in a TV interview.

Liberal Party officials and Robredo herself also denied any connection to the impeachment complaint filed against the President.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, however, seems adamant and says the supermajority in the House of Representatives has the numbers to send Robredo to an impeachment trial before the Senate, in what is widely seen as a political, not a judicial process.

Robredo’s spokesperson reproached Alvarez, calling his threat “baseless and irresponsible.”

“From what we understand, there is no basis whatsoever for his threats. Issuing such statements was very irresponsible as these had no basis,” the spokesperson said. “They are afraid of dissent so they try to silence detractors. That does not seem right.”

In the House, another LP member, House Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo said Congress should not spend a single second on a “baseless complaint” that was drafted in reaction to Alvarez’s statements.

“It’s a mere scrap of paper that is supported not by any evidence but by mere erroneous conclusions of law. Congress will only end up wasting time better spent on much needed legislation including those on tax reform, criminal justice overhaul, traffic crises act as well as those that seek to make economic gains more inclusive.

“Congress should not allow itself to be used by these recidivist impeachers who trivialize this deeply sacred accountability measure enshrined in our Constitution. We must not allow Congress and its members to be dragged into their petty political charades,” Quimbo said.

“It’s a travesty to our political institutions if we are to allow these people to cheapen this process,” Quimbo added.

Quimbo should know. He was, after all, one of the prosecutors in such a political travesty, which led to the ouster by impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was publicly raked over the coals and convicted of the “high crime” of fudging on his statements of assets and liabilities. Corona’s real crime was his readiness to stand up to then President Benigno Aquino IV on a number of issues, including the fate of Mr. Aquino’s family-owned hacienda.

For this reason, Mr. Aquino mobilized the entire machinery of government—and liberally doled out public funds to lawmakers—to oust the chief justice.

For the Liberals to speak of cheapening the process ignores the lessons of recent history and obscures the fact that it was they that started the ball rolling on trivializing the constitutional remedy of impeachment.

This was the legacy of Mr. Aquino, and it is an ugly one indeed.

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