Timing is everything: Duterte impeachment proponent to lobby Congress colleagues

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Magdalo Party-List will be busy over the Congress break as they lobby supporters among the lower house for the impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte.

When asked on CNN Philippines' The Source if they would be asking congressmen to back their plan over the recess, Magdalo Party-List Representative Gary Alejano said, "Yes, definitely."

On March 16, Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against President Duterte over several charges, particularly "culpable violation of the Constitution, engaging in bribery, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, and other high crimes."

The complaint was filed just after the House of Representatives adjourned the 17th Congress as it went on recess ahead of the Lenten holiday. This was done to avoid the complaint being quashed by Duterte allies.

"We know that they have the numbers and we are witness to how they passed the death penalty bill," said Alejano. "(If we) file it on session days, definitely they are going to railroad it."

The controversial death penalty bill sailed through Lower House with a 217-54-1 vote on March 7. Opposition lawmakers slammed its quick passage from the first to third readings.

Related: House votes on death penalty in third reading

Alejano said they were already receiving calls from lawmakers who expressed their support for his impeachment complaint and wanted to examine it further.

"Meron nang tumatawag sa amin, humihingi ng kopya [Some have been calling us, asking for a copy], they want to study it," said Alejano.

"They said, 'Even before reading the complaints, I am supporting it but I need to know the details so that eventually... I know what to say,'" he added.

However, Alejano refused to divulge a specific number of congressmen who backed the impeachment complaint.

While Alejano admitted that it is "a numbers game," he added he is confident that members of the House of Representatives "know the facts."

"I think the members of the House are not robots," he said.

"Even if they have their own personal and political interests, at the end of the day, I believe that they love this country. They love this democracy, and I'm appealing to that."

Alejano said that the complaint is now with the Office of the House Speaker, who is expected to include it in the House agenda and refer it to the Committee on Justice.

The approval of one-third or at least 98 of the 292 members of the lower chamber is needed to send an impeachment complaint to the Senate.

Burden of proof

Alejano considers several of Duterte's threats against drug pushers to be the policy pronouncements that enabled the "killing crime suspects without trial or due process of law."

He believes Duterte's statements "encouraged, condoned, and tolerated" extrajudicial killings.

Alejano said proof of his further involvement with vigilantism was in the testimonies of self-confessed hitmen Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascanas, as well as the results of a Commission on Human Rights investigation.

But legal experts are not so confident that the impeachment case will prosper.

Related: Impeachment rap vs. Duterte bound to fail - legal experts

On the other charge of graft and corruption against Duterte, Alejano admitted that they did not yet have any official papers to prove the President's alleged corruption due to the Bank Secrecy Law.

When CNN Philippines Anchor Pinky Webb asked if it was clear there were no official documents, Alejano said yes.

"But if we ask AMLC officially... then we can prove to them that it's true," said Alejano, referring to the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

Senator Antonio Trillanes, a member of the Magdalo Party-List, previously alleged Duterte had amassed over ₱2 billion in various Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) accounts.

The senator, a fierce Duterte critic, produced documents that were provided by a "concerned citizen" that he cited as proof of this amount.

While Duterte supposedly ordered AMLC and BPI to open his accounts, Alejano maintained he did not sign any supporting documents of authorization.

Related: Duterte orders AMLC to release info on his net worth

On House Speaker

Alejano said he was "saddened" by the reaction of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who claimed after the impeachment complaint was filed that "Everyone is entitled to their own stupidity."

Related: Pro-admin lawmakers, officials say impeachment complaint vs. President won't prosper

"I would have expected from the Speaker to be more mature and professional, because it reflects on his person, on his position, and the institution," said Alejano.

Alvarez, a Duterte ally, also tagged Vice President Leni Robredo to be behind the complaint, and said he was also looking to file an impeachment complaint against her.

Alejano reiterated that Robredo had nothing to do with their complaint against Duterte.

"It's the right of any member of the House to file an impeachment complaint," he said. "But the point is, pag sinabi niya [if he says] filing (a complaint) is stupid, why is he filing his own impeachment complaint?"

He also believed that the House Speaker may have earned the ire of several congressmen over the railroading of the death penalty bill, and some resulting beef against him might work in the Magdalo Party-List's favor.