FILING an impeachment case against President Rodrigo Duterte is acceptable, but "threatening him with an impeachment" may be considered "criminal in nature," a Cabinet official said Wednesday, July 3.
"When you say impeachment, filing an impeachment complaint is not a crime per se," Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles told reporters.
"It was in the context that if you are threatening the President to do some sort of action and then you threaten him with an impeachment complaint, the mere fact that you are threatening the highest official on the land, the mere fact that it's the threat, if it goes into the realm of threat, then it may be criminal in nature," he added.
Nograles was reacting to statements by critics that the President could face impeachment for failing to enforce Section 2, Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution, which mandates the government to "protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens."
Duterte, in turn, has threatened to put in jail those who will attempt to impeach him.
The opposition commented on the issue after Duterte downplayed the allision between a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese trawler near Recto (Reed) Bank on June 9 as a mere "maritime incident".
The Filipino boat was anchored near Recto Bank when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel. Instead of helping the Filipino crew, the Chinese immediately left the area.
The 22 Filipino fishermen were later rescued by Vietnamese fishermen who found the Filipinos clinging to pieces of wood from their boat.
Asked if the critics' pronouncements could be considered a threat, Nograles said, "No."
"Depende nga (It depends), depending on the circumstances," he said.
On Wednesday, July 2, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said anyone is free to exercise his or her right to lodge an impeachment complaint against the President without getting arrested.
Earlier, though, Panelo was confident that such a complaint would not prosper because majority of the members of Congress are allied with Duterte.
For Nograles, an impeachment case that may be filed against Duterte would not prosper because of "weak" and "shallow" argument.
"As far as the impeachment case is concerned, kung anuman ang mga nasasabi ngayon na i-impeach daw si Pangulo (whatever they say that the President can be impeached), I don't think they have a case. They don't have a strong case against the President," the Cabinet Secretary said.
"It won't fly. It simply won't fly. Kung anuman ang allegations ngayon, manipis. Wala, mababaw (The allegations are too weak and shallow)," he added. (SunStar Philippines)