Dateline Seattle: Robredo’s political future
Is it time to impeach Vice President Leni Robredo? After almost two weeks of senseless and quasi-dictatorial posturing by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Solicitor General Jose Calida, who both want Robredo impeached, there has been a similar clamor from some sectors notably the followers of Bongbong Marcos. Oliver Lozano, a former lawyer of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has immediately filed an impeachment complaint against Robredo, accusing her of violating the Constitution and betraying public trust. The anti-Robredo groups cite betrayal of public trust, economic sabotage and even treason as their reasons why Robredo should be impeached. The call for Robredo’s impeachment began when she decried in a video that was recently shown at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Drugs in Geneva the growing death tolls from the government’s war on drugs. By doing so, her detractors claim that she put the country in bad light, and that she is part of a destabilization plot to oust President Duterte. Ergo, impeach her. Duterte was quick to respond, claiming that he had no hand in the threat of his allies to impeach Robredo. If true, Duterte could have easily picked up the phone and told Alvarez to cut his plan. End of the story. But there was no such move from Duterte. By inference, one can conclude that he tacitly favors and supports the call for Robredo’s ouster. The big winners if Robredo is impeached will be Marcos and Duterte: Marcos, because his ambition to be the president of the Philippines is getting closer to becoming a reality; Duterte, because he considers Robredo a political gadfly. But is it really possible to impeach Robredo? Of course. Impeachment is a political act. It is a numbers game. Alvarez has the numbers. The members of Congress can easily be swayed – others say they can be bullied under threat like what happened during the “passage” of the death penalty bill – to follow the whims of the speaker who appears to be willing to do anything for the president. Simply put, just about anything now is possible in the Philippines. Robredo is hated by the allies of the administration because ever since she decided to be the voice of the opposition, she fearlessly criticizes the government. As a result, her family has been maligned in the social media. Her daughters have been threatened. She has gotten the ire of the likes of Alvarez and Calida and has been accused of plotting to oust Duterte. Her advocacy to speak the truth has been misinterpreted as nothing but an indication of her desire to replace Duterte. Admittedly, it’s important to recognize the political reality that anything can happen. Duterte may not finish out his term as president. He is 71 years old and rumored to be sick. God forbid, he could suffer a heart attack any time. Duterte’s life does not depend on Alvarez or on the number of his allies. So it makes sense that, as part of their strategy, Robredo’s detractors want her removed from office. Seeking the removal of a vice president from office doesn’t happen automatically. But given the political reality that Duterte’s allies hold a majority of seats in Congress, which votes on the article of impeachment, Robredo could be easily impeached, not due to the merits of the case, but due to their numbers. But it’s not the end of the road for Robredo. From Congress, where Robredo might be impeached, the ball goes to the Senate that will eventually decide the case. Here the bar is higher. Two-thirds of the Senate is required to impeach Robredo, that is, a total of 16 allies of Duterte are needed to oust Robredo. Of course, it’s possible that a few of Duterte’s allies (the wavering ones) in the Senate will abandon him when the political wind changes direction. Many Filipino politicians, especially the known opportunists and survivors, shift their allegiance when social and political conditions change. They are not called “balingbing” (turncoats) for nothing after all. There is hope that when domestic and international pressure is on, coupled by persistent people’s protests and demonstrations, a few wayward senators might fall back into line and feel empowered to block Robredo’s ouster. Such is not a far-fetched scenario given the Filipinos’ intolerance for political vendetta and manipulations.