MANILA, Philippines – Tensions escalated in a press conference after lawyers and bloggers supporting President Rodrigo Duterte clashed with two reporters on Thursday, March 23.
The following Duterte supporters, who dub themselves the "Impeach VP Leni Team," held a press conference at the Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City to declare their plan to draft an impeachment complaint against Vice President Leni Robredo:
The conflict began when dwIZ reporter Jill Resontoc asked where the group will get its funds as it builds its impeachment case against the Vice President.
Rivera denied they are being funded by anyone and explained they are using money out of their own pockets.
"Kapag nagmi-meeting kami, kanya-kanya kaming bayad kasi (Whenever we hold our meetings, we pay for our own because) if you notice, this is the popular misconception that we are funded by anyone. We are not funded by anyone. We are doing this. We have our own careers at hand," said the lawyer, a former legal counsel of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Resontoc then asked the same question, noting that the group's members are vocal supporters of the President.
"That does not make Duterte our principal… Ibig mong sabihin, kapag 5 kaming lahat ay Duterte supporter, si Duterte na ang aming backer? Hindi po totoo 'yan. Parang pang-LP (Liberal Party) po yata 'yung dialogue na 'yan," said Rivera.
(That does not make Duterte our principal. You mean to say if 5 of us are Duterte supporters, then Duterte is our backer? That's not true. That's like dialogue of the LP.)
His reply elicited hearty laughter from the crowd mostly composed of bloggers and other lawyers supporting Duterte.
The Duterte administration has long accused the LP, the once-ruling party, of plotting against the President. LP stalwarts, including party chairperson Robredo, have repeatedly denied this. (READ: Duterte on impeachment vs Robredo: 'Stop it')
Reporters just doing their jobs
As the pro-Duterte crowd continued to laugh, Ben Rosario, a veteran reporter from the Manila Bulletin, then decided to stand up for the media.
"'Wag 'nyong lalagyan ng malisya! Reporter po kami… 'Wag hong gano'n!" said Rosario.
(Don't put malice on this! We are reporters… Don't be like that!)
Actress Vivian Velez, who was filming the press conference via Facebook Live, replied, "But we are also answering it!… Sumasagot lang din naman kami (We are just answering you)!"
Five days ago, Velez joined a small group of pro-Duterte supporters who staged a picket outside Robredo's office to call for her resignation.
More people in the room then joined in on the exchange. This prompted Angeles to stand up and try to calm everyone.
Resontoc, who asked the question that began the conflict, then told Velez: "Malinis 'yung tanong ko (I asked my question without malice)."
Velez replied, "Malinis din 'yung sagot namin (We answered without malice as well)."
Rivera, the Impeach VP Leni Team spokesperson, then tried to pacify the situation.
"Hindi namin kayo pinapatamaan. 'Wag kayong ma-hurt," he said. (We're not alluding to you. Don't be hurt.)
The mood during the press conference became calmer after Angeles facilitated the order of reporters and bloggers who wanted to ask questions to the group.
Should the Impeach VP Leni Team push through with their plan, their impeachment complaint will be the 2nd one drafted against Robredo.