At a press conference on March 16, 2017, Rep. Gary Alejano displays his impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte, pictured with a rifle at far right. Below are Vice President Leni Robredo and House Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez. (Composite image: Candy Cruz Datu)

I’VE GOT TO hand it to Gary Alejano and the Magdalo group. They’ve got a lot of chutzpah. Finally, someone had the guts to call out Rodrigo Duterte and do it in a way that satisfies.

Despite the contempt spewed upon it by the president’s (yes-)men, this complaint is a legitimate Constitutional move that can’t be trashed in a jiffy. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez can get on his high horse and mock Alejano all he wants (you could almost see him bust with pride when he came out with that “level of stupidity” epigram); but he is duty-bound to give the complaint due process. It’s amazing, though, how he dissed it for lacking substance even before he read it; but that’s no surprise, really. He and other officers of this regime have an alarming tendency to conclude before investigating and declare without deliberating. That’s another urgent reason why they must be checked.

I likewise salute Vice President Leni Robredo for her brave, objective report to the 60th United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs on March 13. Her factual presentation was a relief to watch. It was comforting to hear a Philippine official speak forthrightly about what we see happening daily instead of gaslighting and brainwashing us to support a program that is fundamentally indefensible. The timing of her message, though not premeditated, was certainly providential.

It was enough to stir the bees in certain bonnets. Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella looked visibly miffed when he faced the press immediately following Alejano’s announcement on March 16. Abella’s “creative imagination” went into overdrive when he curtly said that the “dramatic” convergence of events seemed to be “too neat to be written off as mere coincidence,” implying that Robredo was machinating the whole impeachment thing. Even while he acknowledged that Duterte himself had cleared Robredo of involvement in the so-called “destab plot,” Abella insisted the vice president may be the unwitting pawn of some conniving “political animal.” Of what particular specie this animal is can only be determined perhaps by the best presidential lackeys in the solar system.

Alvarez quickly ran interference by announcing the next day that he was contemplating filing an impeachment case against Robredo for her video message to the UN. It was unoriginal but it had some intimidation effect; at the least, it caused irritation. For what reason? reporters asked. “Betrayal of public trust,” Bebot replied. Betrayal of public trust, how? reporters queried. Pinagaaralan ko pa rin… Kung sa aking pag-aaral ay meron akong sapat na ebidensiya para i-prosecute ‘yan, we have to see if it can stand trial sa Senado, Alvarez said. Aha, the cart before the horse, yet again. But wait, there’s more.

Solicitor General Jose Calida joined the fray and put the full measure of his legal expertise behind the Speaker’s impeachment move against Robredo, if and when it materializes. “VP Robredo will reap the people’s wrath and contempt for her treasonous act,” he stated. He added that —

Robredo “should be rightfully condemned for slandering and selling out our country and our leaders before the UN.”

“VP Robredo debased her office and herself by betraying the trust of our people. The carping VP has joined the ranks of the destabilizers.”

This is a very interesting, indeed, a disturbing position taken by the country’s “top lawyer.” First, he has publicly condemned Robredo without due process or a proper appraisal of the facts; second, with his precipitate statements, he has infringed Robredo’s constitutional right to the presumption of innocence; third, he has failed to display the objectivity required of a legal officer; and fourth, he is forsaking his duty as Solicitor General to represent the government and its officials, Robredo included.*

At the very least, he should have reviewed the circumstances surrounding Robredo’s act and judiciously waited for Alvarez to file his complaint before making such a sensational offer. But I suppose his perfect bar score of 100% in criminal law pressed him to put himself at the Speaker’s disposal. I would wager that he has made himself liable for civil damages were Robredo in the mood to sue him. In fact, I hope she does.

In this climate, I wonder if she would succeed, though. People in all branches of government seem to be afraid — intimidated by the gun-toting, foul-mouthed “Punisher” in the Palace who likes to brag about his hold on life and death. They seem to fear those closest to him who have his ear and his heart, who can make him “change his mind” and to whom he bares his “humanity.” At a recent dinner with select senators, Duterte again poured on the charm, causing Juan Miguel Zubiri to gush about how he and his fellow lawmakers were ‘touched’ at how Mr. Duterte showed his human side.” Imagine, they were touched merely because Duterte acted like their homeboy. What a guy. How can you go against your homie?

What are the people’s chances then? What is our hope? How can we proceed to sue this government for righteousness and morality and our basic rights, most significantly our right to life and security and peace? For this is what Robredo told the UN forum we need, and for this she is being charged with betraying our trust. Betraying our trust?, when all she has done is to fulfill with faithfulness the trust her electors have given her. What a travesty.

I long for the return of normalcy to this country, when definitions of right and wrong are not reversed and truth is not upended. I congratulate Rep. Alejano and the Magdalo group, and Vice President Robredo — and yes, even Senators Antonio Trillanes, Risa Hontiveros, Bam Aquino, Kiko Pangilinan, and the detained Leila de Lima, as well as the countless vocal freedom-loving Filipinos  — for having the boldness to proclaim what many feel in their hearts but are afraid to pronounce. I echo their call to speak up and speak out against the distortion of mores that is now our reality. I appeal to those who remain silent in apathy, fear, or lethargy to rouse themselves and join the loudening clamor. This is not a time for timidity but courage.

Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:9)

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:9-10)

*The Office of the Solicitor General shall discharge duties requiring the services of lawyers. It shall have the following specific powers and functions:

1. Represent the Government in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals in all criminal proceedings; represent the Government and its officers in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the Government or any officer thereof in his official capacity is a party. (emphasis supplied)

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