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Minority, Senate chief clash on impeach bids

Liberal Party (LP) senators in the minority and Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, who is President Duterte’s partymate, crossed swords yesterday on the impeachment complaint lodged against Vice President Leni Robredo as Pimentel asked “who took the first swing?”

The LP in a statement urged Pimentel “to focus on the numbers that matter: the thousands of unresolved murders, the rising prices of basic goods, and the 13-million hectare undersea region rich in minerals and biodiversity of Benham Rise. These are the numbers that we should all be focusing on, not the 100 votes of congressmen on the impeachment case threatened by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Solicitor General Jose Calida on Vice President Robredo.”
Robredo is an LP member and is now considered the symbolical head of Duterte’s critics.
Pimentel said the failure of the LP to “denounce” the impeachment case filed against Mr. Duterte raised suspicions that “if they are not behind it, they are part of it.”
“Let us say that the LP did not handle the filing of the impeachment process. I hope they denounce the people behind the impeachment process, they are not denouncing this so there are doubts (over their not being part of the ouster plot),” he said.
“So who took the first swing? This led to the reaction of the Speaker (Pantaleon Alvarez) that he has the numbers. That’s the problem, they woke up a giant which is Alvarez,” Pimentel added. The LP said in its statement that Vice President Leni Robredo’s video message to a United Nations (UN) event (denouncing Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs) is within her prerogative as an elective official and citizen of the country. 

“The video message showed the world that the Philippines enjoys democracy where dissent is respected,” it added.
The LP stressed that “instead of the life and death issues that confront our people every day like putting food on the table and our children’s safety, security, and future, politics is dominating the national discourse.
“Let us, the country’s elected national leaders, all return the focus on what the people sent us to the Senate to do: to improve their and their children’s lives,” it added.
Pimentel said while he has not actually watched the video Robredo submitted to the UN that “even if ever I watch it, I will keep my sentiments to myself.”
Pimentel noted a pending election protest against Robredo filed by former Sen.Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr and said it should push if ever the Vice President is impeached.
“The protest case’s purpose is to determine who really won in the last VP elections and if there’s a vacancy because of impeachment, the successor, chosen by the President from Congress, holds the post subject to the outcome of the election protest. That’s my understanding on that,” he said.
Pimentel said the impeachment of Robredo would not make Marcos her automatic successor.
“He (Marcos) should win the election protest (first),” he said.
Pimentel dared the LPs in the Senate to denounce the impeachment comolaint against Duterte. There has been no response.
He reiterated the chances of Robredo being impeached are higher than the same being done on Mr. Duterte. “What I know is that the Speaker has 230 plus followers in the House of Representatives. From partymates alone, he has 109. It is more than the threshold number of 100. You better interview them for their individual sentiments,” he said.
‘Most hardworking’
The minority senators also claimed that they proved to be the “most hardworking” among their peers and they have records to prove this claim.
Minority Leader Franklin Drilon scoffed at those in the majority saying that their ranks have proved to be working all this time and not hampering legislative work as what had the leadership of the upper chamber claimed when they were booted out of the majority bloc last February 27.
Pimentel said “work in the Senate has been hampered by the blurring of lines between the majority and the minority to the detriment of public interest.”
“There have been instances where the majority, instead of closing ranks, ended up divided,” he said.
“The records will bear this out. Five of the seven bills approved on third reading and two of the three Senate bills passed on second reading were sponsored and authored by members of the minority,” Drilon claimed.
“I am proud of our performance. We are the most productive group in the Senate. We did the lion’s share of the work in passing landmark legislation and bills of national significance,” Drilon, vice chair of the Liberal Party (LP), said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson echoed Pimentel saying their supposed “accomplishments” were made while they were still aligned with the majority bloc.
“(The) minority (is the) ‘most productive.’ Agree, except that they were in the majority (bloc) during their period of productivity,” Lacson said in his twitter account.
Drilon was initially elected last June, immediately after the present Congress’ opening last July, as president pro tempore and his allies from LP – Senators Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Bam Aquino and Leila de Lima along with their ally from Akbayan Party, Sen. Risa Hontiveros – aligned themselves with the majority bloc comprised of known supporters of the administration.
They, however, were stripped of their committee chairmanships last February 27, along with Drilon’s position of president pro tempore and he was replaced by then Minority Leader Ralph Recto.
They were prompted to join the minority bloc which only has one member left, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV as his two other colleagues, Recto and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero joined the majority bloc.
Nonetheless, Drilon stressed that their legislative performance only proved that they were never and will never become a stumbling block to a productive Senate.
“Our being vocal against some policies of the government should not be mistaken as obstructionism or as part of an imagined destabilization. While we may criticize or oppose, the minority bloc has shown that it has also been supportive of legislative proposals that would benefit our country and our people. To those who would insist otherwise, I would encourage them to just work as hard as we in the minority bloc do,” he said.
“Some are perhaps not aware that in Congress, many members can become co-sponsors or co-authors but the legislators who conduct and actively participate in committee hearings and defend the measures on the floor are the ones who do the most work to get the bill passed,” said Drilon.
“Our being vocal against some policies of the government should not be mistaken as obstructionism or as part of an imagined destabilization. While we may criticize or oppose, the minority bloc has shown that it has also been supportive of legislative proposals that would benefit our country and our people. To those who would insist otherwise, I would encourage them to just work as hard as we in the minority bloc do,” challenged Drilon.
Drilon also vowed that the minority would continue working hard to steer the passage of important measures when Congress resumes session in May.
Erap calls for unity
Recalling his impeachment by Congress back in 2000, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada today called on the Filipino nation to stand behind Mr. Duterte amid the impeachment complaint filed against him last week.
Estrada said the country is lucky to have a President like Duterte “who has that conviction, willing to risk his life”, especially in his fight against illegal drugs.
“We cannot move on, politics has again dominated. President Duterte is not even one year in his post,” he said.
“There are several parallelisms. What happened to me then, they ganged up on me,” Estrada recalled the time an impeachment complaint was filed against him, and his subsequent impeachment trial at the Senate from December 7, 2000 to January 16, 2001.
He recalled the time the Church leaders and former President Cory Aquino publicly apologized to him for supporting moves to oust him.
Aquino issued the public apology on December 22, 2008 during a book launching event in Mandaluyong City attended by Estrada. Aquino told Estrada “Edsa II” was “a mistake”.
“All of us make mistakes. Just forgive me,” Aquino told Estrada, who then responded by saying he was finally “vindicated” and it was “the best Christmas gift he received” that year.
Saying he does not want Duterte to suffer the same fate, Estrada asked the public to support the President.
“I’m asking people to support President Duterte. He has the good intention. Let us support him to end the drugs problem which is our number one enemy. I support him all the way,” he said.
Back then, Estrada recounted that he was unjustly removed because he stepped on the vested interests of several powerful people.
Shelve impeach bids — solons
Allies of the Duterte administration yesterday called on members of the opposition in the Lower House to shelve the impeachment complaint against the president in exchange for the freezing of the planned impeachment complaint against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe and Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque recalling the impeachment complaint against the president would sway administration allies to put off the planned impeachment complaint against the vice president.
Roque warned that the majority bloc has the numbers to impeach Robredo while the impeachment complaint against Duterte may well have at most ten endorsers.
“I estimate that there will be no more than ten who will support the impeachment and I would be among those who will oppose that impeachment against President Duterte,” Roque said in a press conference yesterday.
Amid his appeal to Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano to withdraw the impeachment against Duterte, Roque also appealed to Speaker Alvarez to shelve plans to impeach the vice president. Angie M. Rosales, Pat C. Santos, Gerry Baldo

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