MANILA, Philippines – “The time has come to end this culture of impunity from all corners of this government. The democracy we fought for demands nothing less.”
Legislators who either belong or are allied with the Liberal Party (LP) issued the statement following the passage of a measly P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for 2018, and afer the House justice committee deemed one impeachment complaint agaiinst Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as "sufficient in form and substance."
“We express our deep concern over the rising trend established by the Duterte Administration in the silencing of the opposition and, now, even independent personalities who refuse to be co-opted,” the legislators said in a joint statement released on Wednesday, September 13.
During the House plenary debates on the proposed 2018 budget, the House appropriated only a P1,000 budget for the CHR, a constitutional body mandated to check on the abuses of state forces. Hours before the lawmakers released the statement, the House committee on justice moved forward on one of two impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The statement was signed by the following:
The group is a mix of Liberal Party members who belong to either the majority or the “independent minority” or opposition bloc.
Akbayan is a long-time ally of the LP and Villarin is a member of the opposition bloc. Rocamora, meanwhile, is a member of the ruling PDP-Laban and is part of the majority.
“There seems to be a ‘Leilanization’ of those who dissent against the injustices and wrongdoings we see in this government. They started with Senator Leila de Lima, and now, they are trying to bring down Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a trumped-up impeachment complaint,” the group said.
De Lima, one of Duterte’s fiercest critics, is in prison for drug charges that she had categorically denied, and had called herself a victim of political persecution by a "vindictive" Chief Executive. (READ: De Lima in jail: 'I never imagined Duterte would be this vindictive')
Bag-ao and Belmonte, members of the justice committee, thumbed down all motions to declare the two impeachment complaints against Sereno sufficient in form or substance.
The group said the administration “does not embrace and, more so, attacks checks and balances, is looming closer towards becoming a dictatorship.” They cited the cases against Sereno, the “targeting” of youths, allegations of cheating against LP chairperson Vice President Leni Robredo, and moves to unseat the Ombudsman, as examples of the administration’s rejection of dissent.
“The pattern is clear. They are employing fear to defeat facts,” said the group.
“This regime seeks to show its strength through political persecution and harassment. However, by doing so, the only reality it exposes is that it is desperate and weak. We will not stand by their hubris while our democratic institutions are being trampled,” it added.
It is not clear, however, if the statement will signal a shift in alliances, particularly for the majority-allied legislators. (READ: The fall of the 'dilawang' Liberal Party)
After De Lima was jailed and LP senators stripped of committee chairmanships, the bloc eventually shifted to the majority.
In the House, legislators who remained with the party were allowed to choose if they wanted to join the majority or the opposition.