Attempt to oust Duterte over drug killings fails

Lawmaker Gary Alejano filed the complaint in March and also accused Mr Duterte of treason.
Lawmaker Gary Alejano filed the complaint in March and also accused Mr Duterte of treason.

Philippine lawmakers yesterday threw out a bid to unseat President Rodrigo Duterte, declaring the complaint about him regarding the killings of suspected drug users flawed.

Holding its first hearing on the matter and concluding just four hours later, the House of Representatives' justice committee voted unanimously to shoot down an impeachment complaint filed by Representative Gary Alejano as it lacked "substance" and should go no further.

The committee will next recommend the complaint's dismissal by the 292-seat Congress, where Mr Duterte enjoys a super-majority.

Mr Duterte's allies tore through Mr Alejano's complaint, insisting that it is supported by testimonies that congressional panels have already determined to be mere "hearsays", as well as by unverified reports. Representative Harry Roque dismissed it as "at best, a misrepresentation, at worst, a falsity".

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Representative Rey Umali, the committee chairman, called the complaint "frivolous", saying Mr Alejano had admitted he had no "personal knowledge as a witness", and the impeachment complaint had relied on newspaper accounts.

In the impeachment complaint he filed in March, Mr Alejano linked Mr Duterte to the killings of thousands of suspected drug users and traffickers by police and vigilantes, both when he was mayor for more than 30 years of the southern city of Davao and now as President.

Mr Duterte, 72, became President after promising to launch a bloody crackdown on crime. Since he took office in June last year, police have reported killing about 2,700 drug suspects. More than 1,800 others have died in drug-related incidents, while more than 5,700 other violent deaths are under investigation.

Mr Alejano also accused Mr Duterte of amassing two billion pesos (S$56.3 million) in unexplained wealth. He later filed a supplemental complaint accusing Mr Duterte of treason for refusing to assert a ruling by an international tribunal junking China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea.

Mr Alejano argued that he did not have to witness himself an extrajudicial killing ordered by Mr Duterte for his complaint to be considered valid. He said his complaint was based on official records, affidavits of witnesses and Mr Duterte's own public pronouncements.

A frustrated Mr Alejano told reporters later that he would discuss with his colleagues from the Magdalo party whether they should file their own complaint before the International Criminal Court.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2017, with the headline 'Attempt to oust Duterte over drug killings fails'. Print Edition | Subscribe