Government official threatens VP Leni Robredo with impeachment for supporting UNHRC investigation on drug war 

Photo: VP Leni Robredo/FB.
Photo: VP Leni Robredo/FB.

A Philippine government official has threatened Vice President Leni Robredo with impeachment, all for expressing support for the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) decision to investigate the Duterte administration’s bloody drug war.

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner Manuelito Luna said on Saturday that Robredo’s “expression of support” for a UNHRC resolution that calls for the probe may be a cause for impeachment.

“For the nth time, she has made it appear that the government is guilty of human rights abuses, and that’s [a] betrayal of public trust,” Luna said in a statement, according to ABS-CBN News. “It’s about time that she should be held to account for her political sins against the Filipino people.”

According to the Philippine Constitution, “betrayal of public trust” is an impeachable offense.

Luna, a lawyer from the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption group, has filed complaints against a number of government officials including former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, President Benigno Aquino III, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, The Philippine Star reported. He also sought to disqualify President Rodrigo Duterte as a presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.

Robredo, a vocal critic of the drug war and a member of the opposition Liberal Party, welcomed the UNHRC resolution and told radio station DZMM that it was unnatural for the government to be against it.

“If it were me, I would even invite [the UN]. ‘OK, come here so you can see that your accusations are wrong’,” she said in Filipino.

She said that she would entertain UN investigators who come to the country because the Philippines is part of the UN.

The vice president is not much bothered by Luna’s impeachment threat. Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez said that she is ready to face any impeachment case.

“A person who has not committed anything wrong does not fear an investigation,” he said during Robredo’s radio show yesterday, according to The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

During an interview with ANC this morning, Luna said that he does not actually plan to file a case against Robredo but won’t “meddle” if other groups do so.

“It’s a warning so she can also think it over, that she has to temper her statements. Although I respect her, she’s a politician, she’s a lawyer like me but she has to temper her statements,” he said.

Luna also claimed that as vice president, Robredo cannot have a different position on the UNHRC resolution from that of the Philippine government’s.

He said this is an impeachable offense and cited section 4(f) of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers and Employees, which states that “public officials and employees shall at all times be loyal to the Republic and to the Filipino people.” However, the law does not explicitly say that this extends to loyalty to the president.

Duterte has criticized the UNHCR resolution and called those who backed it “idiots” for not understanding the Philippines’ problems. The Department of Foreign Affairs also called the resolution’s approval a “travesty” for encroaching on the Philippines’ sovereignty.

The resolution was approved on Thursday after 18 out of the council’s 47 members voted for it. UNHCR High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet now has a year to prepare a comprehensive written report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that 6,600 drug suspects have been killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016, to May 31, 2019. However, some say that the deaths are underreported, with the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights reported in December that the number could be as high as 27,000.

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