An opposition lawmaker in the Philippines has filed an impeachment complaint against controversial President Rodrigo Duterte, accusing him of crimes ranging from abuse of power to running his own “death squad” when he was mayor of Davao. The president has dismissed the claims, as he looks to ramp up his deadly war on drugs and seeks to silence any dissident voices.
The complaint was filed by lower house representative Gary Alejano, who admitted it would be an “uphill battle” to impeach the president given support for him in both houses of parliament but said it would give the people of the Philippines a chance to voice their opinion on Duterte.
Alejano said Duterte’s actions were a “culpable violation of the constitution, engaging in bribery, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, and other high crimes.” Responding to the complaint, a spokesman for Duterte said the representative was “scraping the bottom of the barrel” with this complaint. This isn’t the first time Duterte has faced such damning allegations. International rights groups have said his policies and practices amount to human rights abuses.
Duterte has been accused by political opponents and human rights groups of running “death squads” during his time as mayor of Davao from 1988 to 1998. Last August a former hitman testified before a senate committee that he had been hired to kill alleged criminals and political opponents under Duterte mayorship of Davao.
The impeachment complaint was filed just over a week after Duterte restarted his deadly war on drugs. Dubbed “Operation Double Barrel” Duterte’s aggressive and violent program targeting drug dealers and users was temporarily suspended in February after rogue police officers killed a South Korean businessman. The program had claimed the lives of at least 7,000 people since its launch in June 2016., according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
On March 7, Duterte restarted the operation, with Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa promising the new campaign — now called “Operation Double Barrel: Reloaded” — will be “less bloody if not bloodless,” this time around.
As well as ignoring calls from the international community to stop his bloody campaign, Duterte has also sought to stamp out any opposition voices in his own country.
Last month one of the only politicians to vocally oppose the war on drugs was arrested on bribery charges. Leila de Lima, a senator who led the senate’s Justice and Human Rights Committee, faces allegations of taking bribes amounting to the equivalent of $100,000 from drug lords during her tenure as justice secretary. Duterte publicly said De Lima should hang herself.
The chances of Duterte suffering the same fate as South Korean President Park Geun-hye did last week are slim. He commands strong support in both houses of Parliament, and for the complaint to move forward, it would require the support of at least a third of the members of the lower chamber — which is unlikely to happen. Last week a vote on the revival of the death penalty saw Duterte’s block win a commanding victory by 217 to 54.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said: “All I can say is, without necessarily associating myself with them in the matter of impeaching [Duterte], my simple message is good luck to them.”
Despite Alejano’s claim that his complaint would give the public “a voice to oppose and fight against the abuses and crimes” of the president, Duterte continues to enjoy strong support from Filipino voters. An opinion poll carried out in December found that 8 out of 10 Filipinos were satisfied with Duterte’s war on drugs.