House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on Wednesday said Magdalo party-list lawmaker Gary Alejano and his allies cannot use the International Criminal Court (ICC) to oust President Duterte from office.
In an interview, the majority leader said the ICC is a criminal court of last resort that has no business in the removal of a sitting head of a country.
"Hindi naman pwede makialam ang ICC. Makikiaalam ang ICC kung criminal offenses eh yun nga halimbawa kaya nakita niyo sa mga allegations, nagkalat doon ang crimes against humanity...Nilalagay nila para gamitin sa propaganda," he said.
The congressman said that instead of filing a complaint against Duterte before the ICC, critics should wait until the end of Duterte's term before filing criminal charges.
Only when the judiciary refuses to take action on the complaints, despite clear evidence, can a crimes against humanity charge be filed before the ICC, he said.
Fariñas said the only way to oust the President right now is through impeachment.
"[The] ICC cannot have any jurisdiction about the Office of President Duterte. Kung pinag-uusapan aalisin siya sa pwesto o hindi, walang pakialam ang sinuman diyan. 'Yan (ay) karapatan lamang ng sovereign Filipino people through their elected representatives kaya nga ho sa impeachment Kongreso lang ang pwede, House and the Senate, dahil kami po ang kinatawan ng taumabayan. Ang taumbayan lang ang makakaalis sa presidente through us," he said.
JUNKING THE IMPEACHMENT
The House justice committee on Monday found an impeachment complaint against President Duterte lacked substance and should go no further, a widely expected outcome underlining the maverick leader's steadfast legislative support.
Committee members unanimously voted to shoot down the complaint by Gary Alejano, a member of a minority bloc, and will recommend its dismissal by the 292-seat Congress, where Duterte enjoys a super-majority.
Alejano accused Duterte of high crimes and betrayal of public trust by concealing assets, supporting summary executions of thousands of Filipinos in his war on drugs, and having a "defeatist" approach towards Beijing's assertiveness in the South China Sea.
The panel's decision to declare the complaint insufficient in substance came a few hours into proceedings that focused heavily on Alejano's admission that he had not personally witnessed the drugs-related killings that he was accusing Duterte of sponsoring.
Alejano was furious that the panel was unwilling to hear what he said was extensive evidence from witnesses and survivors of drugs-related violence that would prove "the government is killing them".
He said the committee made a decision based purely on Duterte's popularity and would be responsible for a dictatorship taking shape.
"I assure you if we allow the president that kind of power in violation of the constitution ... If we allow it further, it will be a dictatorship," he told reporters.
"We are sending the message to the president, 'yes, you continue, we will allow you'."
IMPEACHMENT BEFORE ICC
According to Fariñas, it is obvious that Alejano and his allies have a plan against Duterte, which includes the botched impeachment case he filed against the President at the Lower House.
"Tignan niyo, bakit niya minadaling i-file ito March 16. Bakit mo finile yun naka-adjourn kami. Minadaling finile kasi meron din silang move na nagfile sa ICC during the break," he said.
Political commentators earlier said Alejano's impeachment effort had an ulterior motive: to strengthen a complaint filed by a lawyer last month with the International Criminal Court accusing Duterte of crimes against humanity.
Among the ICC's jurisdictional requirements is that domestic legal avenues to try an individual are first exhausted.
Fariñas said the crimes being alleged against Duterte happened before the latter was elected President. He noted that an official can only be impeached for crimes committed in that particular office.
"You can only impeach an official for acts committed in that particular office. Kung yung ginawa niya nung mayor siya eh wala na dahil in-elect na siya ng mga tao. Nakita nila," he said.
Asked if they will now file a perjury case against Alejano for claiming he had personal knowledge of his complaints under oath, Fariñas said he might if Alejano proceeds to the ICC.
"Wala pang instruction si Speaker sa akin. I don't speak for the House. The Speaker as head of the House, pag sinabi niya gagawin namin pag magfile [Alejano] sa ICC, baka recommend ko rin," he said.
He noted that Alejano and his allies tried to address his initial observation that the impeachment complaint can only tackle matters that happened during the presidency. This is the reason, he said, why Alejano tried to add a supplemental complaint regarding President Duterte's statements on Benham Rise.
"Kaya naghabol ng supplemental complaint na Benham Rise na nga dahil presidente na si Digong noong [lumabas ang] allegations ng Benham Rise,"he said.
The lawmaker said critics of President Duterte should just wait out his term before they can hold him accountable. He noted that the impeachment process is really made difficult to prevent harassment cases against sitting officials.
"It is an administrative action to remove the president from office so maghintay muna sila. Kaya nga gusto ma-impeach dahil di mo naman pwede idemanda si Presidente while in office. Kaya nga importante yung Presidente, he is immune from suit in office eh kaya maghintay sila after 6 years pero gusto nila magmadali gusto nila maalis para ma fil-ean nila ng criminal case," he said.
Farinas also twitted Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes and Congressman Edcel Lagman for criticizing his insistence that personal knowledge of the allegations in the complaint is a requirement.
He said his contention is based on the Rules of Court concerning verification since verification is a requirement of the Constitution.
He noted Alejano would have been better off if he was advised to just be an endorser instead of a complainant. -- With Reuters