John Matthew Cruz
ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK President Rodrigo Duterte and members of his official delegation raise their clenched fists in a photo session with a supportive Filipino crowd in Bangkok Wednesday night. Duterte arrived in Manila early Thursday after official visits to Myanmar and Thailand. MALACAÑANG PHOTO
This was echoed by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, who said on Friday Congress had “other important works” to attend to.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and a group of lawyers, however, were undeterred, and vowed to continue building up an impeachment complaint against Robredo.
The group of lawyers led by Duterte supporter Bruce Rivera accused the Vice President of “betrayal of public trust” for speaking out against the drug war in a six-minute video sent to the UN meeting last week.
In a news conference upon his arrival from a trip to Thailand, Duterte told those attempting to oust Robredo to “lay off” and instead respect the Filipino electorate’s decision to elect her as the country’s vice president.
He said Robredo’s remarks should not be used as basis for her impeachment and that she should be given the right to exercise freedom of speech.
“Look, you know, we just had an election. Guys, lay off. Let’s stop it. You can do other things but do not tinker with the structure of government. I will not countenance it,” Duterte told reporters.
“Elected `yang tao e [She was elected]. So why do you have to [impeach her]? Is it just because she keeps on harping on me? Hayaan mo [Let her be], this is a democracy, freedom of speech. There are no overt acts committed,” he added.
Robredo, a human rights lawyer and a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, alleged in a video message sent to a UN meeting last week that targets of the police in anti-drug operations were often beaten up if they asked for a search warrant.
Alvarez, Duterte’s longtime friend and political ally, earlier threatened to file an impeachment complaint against Robredo for betraying public trust because of the video message.
The President himself is facing an impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano over violation of the Constitution, bribery, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, and other high crimes.
Speaking before the Filipino community in Thailand on Wednesday night, Duterte made light of his supporters’ claim that Robredo wants to oust him from power.
He joked that perhaps a better alternative is for Robredo to marry him instead.
“Apurado, gusto ako paalisin. ‘Di pa nga ako dumating isang taon dito paalisin mo na ako. Sige, dalaga man siya, sige pakasalan mo ako [In a hurry, she wants me out. I haven’t even reached one year, you want me out. Okay, she’s still young, okay, marry me],” the President said in jest.
“So dalawa na tayo dito, at least hindi ako mawawalan nang ano, bulong nang bulong na lang ako sa iyo [So both of us are here, at least I won’t run out of…I will keep on whispering to you],” he added.
Duterte then asked Robredo to be patient, claiming she has yet to prove herself to the Filipino people.
“Nagmamadali, maghintay ka. Wala ka pang ginawa sa bayan e [You are rushing, you wait. You haven’t done that much yet for the country],” he said.
The President’s statement came just days after he said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Robredo had a hand in his own impeachment woes.