Alvarez impeachment threat is ‘harassment’ – Robredo legal adviser

Patty Pasion
Alvarez impeachment threat is ‘harassment’ – Robredo legal adviser
'You have the Speaker – no less – saying this is an impeachable offense... That already [raises questions] on how fair the process will be,' says vice presidential legal adviser and ex-lawmaker Barry Gutierrez

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo may be ready to face the potential impeachment case against her, but her camp admits the threat issued by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is “frightening.”

“This is the first time in my recollection of the impeachment proceedings that at the onset of the process, you have the Speaker – no less – saying this is an impeachable offense,” vice presidential legal adviser Barry Gutierrez told Rappler in an interview on Monday, March 20.

“That already [raises questions] on how fair the process will be, with its leader saying without any evidence that this should be an impeachable offense,” the former lawmaker added, noting that the pre-judgment can lead to political harassment.

While Gutierrez maintained that Alvarez’s allegations are baseless, he cannot deny that impeachment has always been a numbers game. Alvarez and around 260 other lawmakers in the House of Representatives are allies of President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Duterte claims Robredo in a hurry to become president)

“We take it seriously, the fact that Speaker Alvarez has the numbers. But in terms of the case having substance, it doesn’t have. But that’s the gap between political reality and the legal merits,” Gutierrez said.

Alvarez said last Friday, March 17, that he is planning to file an impeachment complaint against Robredo, accusing her of betrayal of public trust after she issued a video to the United Nations (UN) that criticized the government’s bloody war on drugs.

Robredo’s camp has since pointed out that the Vice President stated widely reported facts in the video.

Liberal Party (LP) senators also backed Robredo, saying the video message only shows democracy is at work. They also urged Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, a staunch Duterte ally, to focus on issues rather than impeach Robredo. (READ: Planned impeachment complaint vs Robredo ‘leaves bad taste’ – opposition

Alvarez, who is inspecting tourism facilities around the country while Congress is on a Lenten break, has not yet filed a complaint against Robredo. But Marcos loyalists Oliver Lozano and Melchor Chavez have submitted a complaint that they drafted, seeking the Speaker’s endorsement.

LP stalwart and Marikina City 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo called Lozano and Chavez’s complaint “baseless” and a “mere scrap of paper.”

Unfazed

Amid talks of impeachment, Monday started as usual for Robredo.

At 7:30 in the morning, she graced the flag-raising ceremony of the Quezon City Hall to launch her project “Istorya ng Pag-Asa” – a call for inspirational stories that will be collected and compiled in a coffee table book.

Right after that, she attended the Women’s Month celebration of her office’s Angat Buhay partners also in Quezon City. Angat Buhay is the Vice President’s flagship anti-poverty project. 

Asked about Robredo’s disposition, vice presidential spokesperson Georgina Hernandez said the VP just continues to focus on her work. (READ: Impeachment a numbers game? Robredo to rely on lawmakers’ principles

“Now more than ever, the Vice President sees the urgency of really pushing for the anti-poverty programs on the ground. Fighting the real battle many Filipinos are facing. [It’s] really to support and address issues on poverty,” said Hernandez in an interview with Rappler.

“This is just a part of governance,” she added.

Gutierrez also said the staff of the Office of the Vice President have gotten used to political attacks in the past 8 months.

“From the start, the level of attacks has always been like that. They have never really let up since the campaign… we just live with it while focusing on the important task at hand. Angat Buhay, that’s [the Vice President’s] engagement, and the issue of human rights, we just have to focus on that.” – Rappler.com

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Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.