More than enough basis to file impeachment vs Duterte: lawmaker

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 28 2019 11:02 AM | Updated as of Jun 28 2019 11:38 AM

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MANILA - There is more than enough basis to file an impeachment complaint against President Duterte but the move is unlikely to succeed in the 18th Congress, a lawmaker said Friday.

In an interview on ANC's Headstart, ACT Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said the issue of the West Philippine Sea is already a basis for an impeachment complaint against the president.

"Whether or not it will succeed of course, at this point, it's highly doubtful given the fact that there will be a supermajority in the incoming 18th Congress," said Tinio.

Tinio said it would now be a question of timing which "will depend ultimately on the public."

"There's more than enough basis for an impeachment complaint so it's a matter of timing, of making a judgement whether it's the right time to file an impeachment complaint not just be immediately junked, that will move forward and that will have a broad public support," he said.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, has said that Duterte could face a fresh impeachment complaint if government agencies implement his pronouncement that Chinese fishermen can venture into Manila's waters.

Former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said Duterte could be impeached if he fails to defend the Philippine national territory, which includes the exclusive economic zone, as mandated by the Constitution.

Duterte earlier this week was asked if the Philippines should bar China from fishing in Manila's EEZ. The President replied that Beijing and Manila are "friends" and that there should not be any "bloody conclusion."

His spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, later said the government would "tolerate" China's fishermen in the EEZ, where Manila has exclusive rights to resources, based on a 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed court.

NATIONAL PATRIMONY

In a separate interview, Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said allowing Chinese poachers into the Philippines' EEZ violates constitutional provisions on national patrimony, particularly exclusivity of marine resources and fishing grounds in the EEZ, and social justice, particularly rights of fisherfolk using Philippine marine resources to be protected by the state.

"These constitutional mandates are clearly being violated when you allow China or other countries to use these marine resources," he told ANC.

"These are impeachable offenses," he added.

A United Nations arbitration ruling also stated Beijing violated several articles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for interfering with the Philippines' sovereign rights in its EEZ and preventing Filipino fishermen from engaging in traditional fishing at Scarborough Shoal.

"Wala ho basehan for Duterte to allow China or other countries to fish in our EEZ..." Villarin said.

Meanwhile, Tinio said Duterte's threat to jail critics who file an impeachment complaint against him only shows that he is "guilty.

"He probably knows he made certain statements and admissions that are clearly unconstitutional. So as we've seen in the past this is one way he reacts, similar to the filing of the case against him at the International Criminal Court so he responded with threats," he said.

He added that the threats could also be Duterte's way of warding off any attempt to impeach him.

"So what's he's doing now is he's preempting an impeachment by making these threats that anyone who files an impeachment complaint would be jailed," the congressman said.

He pointed out that it is "highly undemocratic" and "unconstitutional" to jail anyone who files an impeachment case.

"Because it's the right of any citizen to file an impeachment complaint," he said.