THE opposition can wield their right to lodge an impeachment case against President Rodrigo Duterte without getting arrested, Malacañang guaranteed Tuesday, July 2.
Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo clarified that Duterte's pronouncement that he will throw anyone who will try to impeach him in jail was a mere "expression of displeasure."
"'Yun namang salita ni Presidente (With regard to the President's pronouncement), that was only an expression of displeasure, disappointment. It is a righteous indignation," the Palace official said.
"He could not understand why critics and detractors cannot appreciate what he's doing. They cannot visualize why he's doing this. He is doing this because he is following the directive of the Constitution to serve and protect the people. He wants to avoid any arm struggles between two countries because that will endanger the security of the nation," he added.
On June 9, 22 Filipino fishermen were left in distress at sea after their boat, which was anchored near Recto Bank, was rammed by a Chinese vessel. The Chinese abandoned them. A Vietnamese boat later rescued the Filipinos.
Duterte had downplayed the incident as a "little maritime incident" and refused to assert the Philippines' sovereign rights over the area, which is within the country's exclusive economic zone but is also part of the South China Sea claimed by China.
Duterte had also refused to invoke the constitutional provision that states that only the Filipinos can exclusively fish in the area and described this as "thoughtless" and "senseless".
Under the 1987 Constitution, a president can be impeached for "culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust."
Police General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said on Monday, July 1, that the police force would not hesitate to arrest anyone who may be found committing violations in filing an impeachment complaint against the Chief Executive.
Panelo, however, said that mere filing of impeachment complaint against Duterte does not warrant arrest of the one who filed the case.
Asked if filing of impeachment case against the President could be considered as a violation, the Palace official said: "No it's not. It's not because it's every citizen's right."
Despite Albayalde's remarks, Panelo said there was no need to remind the PNP to avoid taking Duterte's pronouncement literally.
"You don't need to remind them, they know their law," Panelo said.
Meantime, Panelo maintained that Duterte cannot take an "aggressive and reckless" action, as it would be unacceptable to China.
Panelo insisted that confrontational response from the President could only trigger "war" between Manila and Beijing.
"Ang problema, pinipilit niyo na gusto niyo, aggressive, reckless. Hindi pipwede 'yun. We're in a civilized country. Tapos na ang mga World War something (The problem is you keep on saying that the President should take aggressive, reckless response. That cannot be done. We're in a civilized country. And World War II already ended)," he said.
"When there is war, oh eh 'di everyone is affected -- lives, properties. 'Yun ang ina-avoid ni Presidente. Gusto niya, peaceful tayo diyan, mag-usap na lang tayo (That's what the President is avoiding. He wants a peaceful resolution)," he added. (SunStar Philippines)