MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday, September 13, led Liberal Party (LP) members in denying an alleged plot to unseat President Rodrigo Duterte.
Robredo, a member of the Duterte Cabinet and the highest elected LP member, said in a statement that she will clarify the matter with the Chief Executive, who had made the allegation himself on Monday.
"There are no moves from the Liberal Party to unseat the President....I plan to clarify this with the President to clear the misinformation and assure him of the party's commitment to the reforms for our Filipino people," the Vice President said.
Proof of this, she said, is the LP leadership's consistent show of support for the new administration. "Members of the party coalesced with the majority in the House and the Senate," she added.
Robredo said she has been pushing for anti-poverty programs and policies to complement the administration's program.
"We've been coordinating with the relevant government agencies so that our office can help in the rehabilitation effort that needs to accompany the campaign against illegal drugs," she added.
LP lawmakers also denied the alleged party-led ouster plot against Duterte, which the President bared in a speech on Monday, September 12.
"Hindi po sinabi ng Pangulo kung sino 'yung mga yellow. But on the part of the Liberal Party, wala po kaming binabalak na gano'n," Drilon told reporters.
(The President did not say who these yellow forces are. But on the part of the Liberal Party, we do not have any plans like that.)
"We have not met on this and we deny that we are part of such plot if indeed such plot exists. The Liberal Party has nothing to do with it," Drilon said.
Referring to the LP's political color, Duterte said in a speech on Monday that there are "yellow" forces out to build a case against him and impeach him.
Other LP members in the Senate, senators Francis Pangilinan and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, dismissed the allegation as "simply not true."
"I can confidently say that no plot exists. In fact, the leader of our party is a valued member of President Duterte's Cabinet," Aquino said.
'Big fat lie'
Senator Leila De Lima – one of the President's fiercest critics – called the accusation a big fat lie.
For De Lima, it is just part of the Duterte administration's "wild imagination."
"Naku, Diyos ko, saan na naman kaya nanggaling 'yan? Malaking kasinungalingan po 'yan. It's just again a figment of their wild imagination. Wala ho gano'ng plot," De Lima said.
(Oh my God, where did that come from? That's a big lie. It's just a figment of their wild imagination. We don't have such a plot.)
While no names were mentioned, De Lima felt alluded to by Duterte. She said her actions and words might have been misconstrued again, citing her investigation into the spate of extrajudicial killings, her stance against the state of national emergency, and against the recent presidential remark on the planned execution of Mary Jane Veloso.
"Baka kasi ako lang nakikita na naman, since LP nga ako, since yellow ako. Siguro ganyan na naman interpretation nila sa mga pinaggagagawa ko at mga pinagsasasabi ko," she added.
(Maybe they are only seeing me since I'm LP and since I'm yellow. Maybe that's their interpretation on what I've been doing and saying.)
"Since yellow ako, ang interpretation nila may plano akong i-oust o i-impeach ang ating Pangulo. So saan na naman po nanggaling 'yan?" De Lima said.
(Since I'm yellow, maybe their interpretation is that I have plans to oust or impeach the President. Where did that come from again?)
Despite this, De Lima said the Senate probe into the drug-related killings would still push through on Thursday, September 15, as she vowed to continue to condemn summary executions.
Four LP congressmen also denied plans to impeach Duterte – LP vice chairman and Quezon City 5th District Representative Feliciano Belmonte Jr, Northern Samar Representative Raul Daza, Caloocan City 2nd District Representative Edgar Erice, and Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman.
In a text message to Rappler, Belmonte reiterated an earlier statement saying an impeachment case against Duterte is unlikely. (READ: Belmonte: 'Zero' chances for Duterte impeachment)
"I don't think so. First, he is overwhelmingly popular, which amounts to a public approval of his programs. Secondly, he has overwhelming majority in the House where impeachment starts," said Belmonte.
He is among the 28 out of the 33 LP congressmen who are allied with the House supermajority. Daza, Erice, and Lagman are part of the so-called "Legitimate 8" House minority bloc.
Lagman, however, said Duterte might be the one setting up an impeachment case against himself.
"It is the President who might be, so to speak, impeaching himself, for his improvident and ill-conceived statements, unmindful of adverse or compromising consequences. Definitely, there is no plot from the Liberal Party to impeach the President," said Lagman.
"He must have the foresight of knowing in advance of what are the consequences of his utterances," the lawmaker added.
Lagman was referring to Duterte's knack for making pronouncements which are often later clarified by his spokesmen. (READ: Duterte's shock and awe)
On September 12, Indonesian President Joko Widodo disclosed that Duterte had given the "go ahead" if Mary Jane Veloso, who is on death row in Indonesia over drug trafficking, "were to be executed."
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella later clarified that Duterte meant he would first await the resolution of Veloso's pending case before a Philippine court before he appeals for the grant of clemency to the Filipino worker.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr on Tuesday also clarified Duterte's statement against the presence of US special forces in Mindanao, saying this did not signal a shift in Philippine policy on the US. – with a report from Patty Pasion/Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org