(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte, Magdalo party-list group Rep. Gary Alejano
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — People refuse to file an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte because of fear, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said.
"I believe the President has succeeded in sowing fear among the people, even to the members of the House. Takot po sila (They are scared)," Alejano told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday.
The Constitution allows any Filipino citizen to file an impeachment complaint, which has to be endorsed by a member of the House of Representatives.
But Alejano said families of victims killed in the war on drugs do not have the courage and the resources to fight the Duterte administration.
"So ito pong mga ordinaryong mamamayan, ay hindi nga nila makuha yung kanilang mga bangkay sa morge, wala nga silang pangfile ng kaso (These ordinary citizens, they could not even get the bodies [of slain loved ones] from the morgue, they do not have the [money] to file a case), do you think they will come out and then face the consequences?" Alejano said.
"That is why we're standing up for them because they cannot do it by themselves," Alejano added.
Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against the President on March 16, based on allegations of killings, corrupt practices and other illegal acts supposedly committed by Duterte both as President and as then mayor of Davao City.
But the House committee on justice effectively junked the complaint saying it was based on hearsay and therefore insufficient in substance. This recommendation will be submitted to the House plenary which will decide whether or not to uphold the Justice Committee report.
Alejano's claim that a number of congressmen had expressed support for the impeachment bid did not show during Monday's hearing, as all 42 members of the House committee on justice who were present that day voted to dismiss the impeachment complaint.
Alejano still refused to name the lawmakers who want Duterte ousted. He would not even say how many they are.
"What's important is we know the sentiments of the members of the House. And I was told hindi ho sila bulag, alam nila ang nangyayari (They're not blind, they know what's happening). The point is, are they bold enough to come out," Alejano said. '
He added, some of these solons declined to speak against the administration because they are trying to secure political interests in the 2019 elections.
But when pressed for an answer, Alejano admitted he did not expect any one from the 42 justice committee members to vote in favor of his complaint. Seven other members were absent on Monday.
CIBAC party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, one of those who voted to dismiss the impeachment complaint, said it would have been a stronger bid if someone who personally witnessed any of Duterte's alleged offenses filed the complaint.
"Because this time, there will be personal knowledge," Tugna said.
"When you say personal knowledge, according to the rules of evidence, it must be based on your senses. Sense of touch, hearing, smell and of course the most common which is being used in trial, is eyesight," he added.
But Alejano said the witnesses' affidavits, which he thoroughly checked and verified should have been found sufficient.
He also stood by his claims that the President in the conduct of his bloody drug war, violated the Constitution, betrayed public trust, and committed bribery, murder and other high crimes - which are all impeachable offenses under the law.
Alejano said Duterte's public pronouncements encouraged the killing of criminals and drug suspects, espousing a policy of killing without due process.
More than 2,800 drug suspects were killed in police operations in the country's anti-drug campaign since July last year. Of this number, 255 were killed since March 1 of this year, when the drug war was relaunched.
Alejano said an impeachment trial would be the only way to hold the President accountable for his alleged offenses – since the law grants him immunity from suit.
Because the Constitution also prohibits the filing of a new impeachment complaint within a year after the previous case was rejected, Alejano said he is now considering filing a complaint before the International Criminal Court.
Asked about Alejano's plan, Duterte in a press conference upon arriving from Beijing said, "Yeah, he can go ahead. He is free to do it. "This is a democracy," he added.
A communication was already filed before the ICC on April 24. Atty. Jude Sabio, lawyer of confessed hit man Edgar Matobato, charged Duterte with crimes against humanity for the death of 1,400 people in the hands the so-called Davao Death Squad under then mayor Duterte.
Tugna said he personally does not believe the accusations against Duterte in the impeachment complaint.
He also explained three main reasons the committee junked the complaint: "First, it is divisive, second… it will take so much time on the part of the House of Representatives as well as the Senate and definitely it will set aside legislation that could have improved the lives of the citizenry so that is why we decided to dismiss the impeachment complaint."
Tugna was a lead prosecutor during the historic impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012. The Senate ruled to impeach Corona over misdeclaration in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Tugna said he also believes there is no need to file an ethics complaint against Alejano because he acted in "good faith" and did not intend to lie under oath during the proceedings.