IT WAS "pure non-sense" to claim that President Rodrigo Duterte could be impeached for making public the list of alleged "narco-politicians," Malacañang said on Saturday, March 16.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement after an opposition lawmaker said that Duterte may have committed an impeachable offense when he named the politicians suspected of having links to illegal drugs.
Panelo said the claim has "no legal and factual basis."
"In other words, it’s pure nonsense," the Palace official said in a statement.
On Friday, March 15, Akbayan party-list Representative Tom Villarin said Duterte's action could constitute a culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution, one of the grounds for impeachment, by "infringing on an individual's right to due process and presumption of innocence.
Villarin's statement came a day after Duterte revealed the names of 46 officials allegedly involved in illegal drug trade, just two months before the May 13, 2019 local and national elections in a bid to guide voters in choosing candidates.
Panelo slammed Villarin for being quick to respond to an issue of "unfamiliar terrain to a non-lawyer like him."
"For the legal education of Representative Villarin, the appropriate charges have already been filed against the personalities contained in the list before the Office of the Ombudsman affording them their right to due process and an opportunity to clear their names before competent authorities," he said.
"The release of their names is nothing more than a release of the names of criminal suspects. Such act cannot be considered a legal transgression, and even more so, an impeachable offense," Panelo added.
The Palace official also lectured Villarin for "further legal enlightenment" by citing a legal maxim, "Interpretare et concordare leges legibus est optimus interpretandi modus (To interpret and reconcile laws with laws is the best manner of explaining or construing them)."
He then said that Duterte, as head of state, has the mandate to serve and protect the people by lookig for ways to dismantle illegal drugs.
"It is paramount that the individual liberties of our citizens should be harmonized with the entire Filipino people’s right to the preservation and protection of their welfare, as well as their right to information on matters of national significance," he said.
"The drug menace has evolved into a national security problem as it threatens to destroy the very foundation of society. The President as head of the state is constitutionally commanded to serve and protect the nation," he added.
Countering Villarin's remarks, Panelo said Duterte would only face an impeachable offense if the Chief Executive fails to perform his duty.
He also stressed that people's "right to safety" prevails over individual rights of individuals who cause harm in the country.
"Individual rights are subordinate to the state’s right to protect itself from its enemies that seek to destroy it. The people’s right to safety prevails over the individual rights of persons piercing and destroying the security net that protects the citizenry," Panelo said.
"It is the failure of the President to perform his constitutional duty of serving and protecting the people that makes him liable to impeachment for such omission is culpable violation of the Constitution and a betrayal of the public trust," he added. (SunStar Philippines)