Seares: Impeach Duterte? They don’t have the votes. Arrest threat was needless.

“IMPEACH ako? Kulungin ko silang lahat. Subukan nyo.”--- President Duterte, June 27, 2019

There can be no impeachment complaint that will succeed in the coming Congress. The House where impeachment is decided will throw it out. Assuming, by a long stretch of the imagination, it will reach the Senate, the “august” senators-judges will find the President not guilty. Both houses of Congress are dominated by Duterte’s allies.

So what’s all the anger over the talk of a few critics of President Duterte? Last Thursday, he said he would arrest all those who will try to impeach him. “Just try me,” he said.

Theories on pronouncement

One, it was just an outburst, a flash of anger, more at the criticism than the threat it carried. Tit for tat, threat for threat, impeach me, I arrest you.

Two, he was joking again.

Three, he seized a chance to cow the opposition and at the same time display some theater.

Look what set off the speculation that he could be impeached: the President called “senseless and thoughtless” the provision in the Constitution (1) asserting exclusive economic zone in archipelagos, waters, and territorial sea and (2) requiring that government protect the nation’s marine wealth and limit their use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.

Is it impeachable?

Duterte swore to defend the Constitution before he took office. Now he is criticizing the entire charter for one provision that he does not believe in, arguing that since China will merely consider our Constitution as “toilet paper,” there’s no point in enforcing it. But would his talk, along with his official moves on the crisis with China, amount to impeachable offense?

Again, the House will decide that it is not impeachable. If he is impeached, which will not happen, the Senate will rule that no offense was committed.

“I” card raised

There are reasons the impeachment card is being raised and argued about in the public forum.

The opposition has been trying to persuade the nation that the President is taking the country on a “perilous course, a path that can lead to loss of basic rights and freedoms.”

Duterte, on the other hand, has been saying that his methods work and the changes he will make in the next three years will avert ruin and destruction. The results of the last elections, which shut out the opposition in the Senate race, show he is way ahead in the competition for public support.

A question asked

The threat to arrest those who will resort to impeachment, a recourse provided by the Constitution, was apparently unnecessary. Or did the President deliberately toss it on the air to gauge public response, something like: “I may need to behave like a dictator. Would you allow me to?”

The June 27 remark was probably not in a fit of anger. Not a joke. Not a lash-out from the bully pulpit.

It could be that question for the public, Would you want the nation to thrive but with the Constitution consigned to the toilet?

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