MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Fifteen Liberal Party lawmakers allied with the House majority have agreed not to support any impeachment complaint filed against the “leaders of the land.”
Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo, Marikina 2nd District Representative, said on Friday, April 21, that this was the “common consensus” reached during the Thursday meeting of the LP lawmakers with their chairperson, Vice President Leni Robredo, where the impeachment issue was among the topics discussed.
“We strongly believe that the taking up by the HOR (House of Representatives) of any impeachment complaint today will only be divisive as well as polarizing. It will only serve to distract us from the many important matters that Congress should be giving priority to,” said Quimbo.
“For these very imperative reasons, the LP House majority caucus members present categorically took a position that we will not support any of the impeachment complaints filed against the leaders of the land,” he added.
The LP lawmakers made the stand over a month after Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano filed the first impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Alejano wants Duterte impeached over Benham Rise, West PH Sea row)
In response, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is mulling filing an impeachment complaint against Robredo for alleged betrayal of public trust for her video message on Duterte’s war on drugs played at the sidelines of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna, Austria.
Marcos loyalists Oliver Lozano and Melchor Chavez have asked Alvarez to endorse their draft impeachment complaint against Robredo while Duterte supporters are drafting another complaint against the Vice President.
In a statement on Sunday, April 23, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government welcomes the LP’s position not to support any impeachment moves against Duterte.
“President Duterte being the duly elected leader of our country with no less than 16 million Filipinos who voted for him. Any act to remove him from office is an attempt to subvert the people’s will,” Abella said.
He added that any impeachment process would be “counterproductive” to the Philippines and its economy.
“We therefore have to seize our economic momentum and not de derailed by destructive politics,” he said.
‘Strongest commitment of support for Leni’
Quimbo also reiterated the LP’s “strongest commitment of support” for their “party leader,” Robredo, who continues to be the subject of a black propaganda campaign.
The House leader issued the statement when asked about the outcome of the LP lawmakers’ meeting with Robredo in her office on Thursday.
Fifteen out of the 32 LP lawmakers met with Robredo in her office on Thursday, April 20, and “came to a common consensus” on their stand on the impeachment efforts against the top Philippine leaders.
These 15 lawmakers are part of the 27 who signed a coalition agreement with Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) last year. The remaining 5 are part of the independent minority bloc, serving as the House opposition.
Quimbo said the meeting was originally scheduled before the 17th Congress went on its Lenten break but it was moved to April 20, due to conflicts in schedule.
Apart from the impeachment issue, the LP members also discussed party dues and proposed schedules for the second half of the year.
“We will have subsequent meetings before Congress opens in May to update LP members who were out of town and thus could not attend the meeting,” said Quimbo.
Under the 1987 Constitution, any member of the House of Representatives can initiate a verified impeachment complaint against the President, Vice President, members of the Supreme Court, members of constitutional commissions, and the Ombudsman. Any Filipino citizen may also file a complaint, but it has to be endorsed by a lawmaker. (READ: FAST FACTS: How does impeachment work?)
Quimbo had earlier said the impeachment complaints against Duterte and Robredo are both “doomed to fail.” He believes the House would be better off tackling more important legislation.
Quimbo said then that LP lawmakers will fight for Robredo if an impeachment complaint is filed against her.
What about the LP opposition lawmakers?
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr, an LP lawmaker who is part of the House opposition, said Quimbo’s statement is consistent with the party stand.
“That’s consistent with the party position. What’s important is that the party member members will aggressively block the complaint against VP Leni Robredo,” he told Rappler in a text message.
Baguilat said LP members in the opposition bloc have yet to discuss their stand on the Duterte impeachment complaint.
“If and when some of us will support the impeachment against the President, I believe it will not be a group decision,” he said.
LP lawmakers in the majority bloc have also yet to decide whether or not to continue their coalition agreement with PDP-Laban.
“It is also expected that those who will stay with the majority will not support the Duterte complaint,” said Baguilat.
Robredo said in an interview that she will have a separate meeting with the LP minority lawmakers.
LP senators have already joined the minority bloc after they were stripped of their leadership positions. Senator Leila de Lima, an LP member and Duterte’s fiercest critic, was arrested over drug charges in February. – With a report from Patty Pasion/Rappler.com
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