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Philippine lawmaker seeks to impeach Duterte over drug fight

Philippine lawmaker seeks to impeach Duterte over drug fight

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine lawmaker filed an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday because of the thousands of deaths in his anti-drug crackdown and alleged corruption, although the bid faces an uphill battle with Duterte’s allies holding an overwhelming majority in Congress.

Rep. Gary Alejano’s complaint filed at the House of Representatives alleged Duterte violated the constitution, committed bribery and corruption and betrayed the public trust with his actions, including the crackdown that has sparked extrajudicial killings and his failure to declare huge bank deposits as required by law.

“We are of the firm belief that President Duterte is unfit to hold the highest office of the land and that impeachment is the legal and constitutional remedy to this situation,” said Alejano.

Although opposition lawmakers lack the numbers to impeach Duterte, Alejano said there was a need to stop his “excesses and crimes.” A vote of a third of the House’s more than 290 members is needed to send the complaint to the Senate for trial. More than 260 of House members belong to a pro-Duterte bloc.

“We understand that in terms of numbers we face an uphill battle,” he said. “But precisely, the battle for impeachment must be fought both inside and outside the halls of Congress,” adding public pressure should sway lawmakers to vote rightfully.

“Our role … is merely to be the gate-openers for those who want to be a part of this historic and moral crusade,” Alejano said.

Alejano cited the more than 8,000 deaths of drug suspects under the crackdown in underscoring the urgency of the first impeachment attempt in Duterte’s presidency. Other opposition politicians have backed calls for such a move.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a Duterte ally, called the impeachment bid “stupid,” saying it was based on fabricated allegations. “They are not even in the league of Don Quixote so this impeachment won’t fly. It will crash like a rudderless plane flown by witless pilots,” government Solicitor-General Jose Calida said.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella suggested the impeachment bid and opposition criticism were possible efforts to destabilize the Duterte administration.

Alejano, a former marine officer who was accused of involvement in a failed coup attempt several years ago, denied his complaint was part of an extraconstitutional attempt to unseat Duterte.

In his complaint, Alejano echoed rights activists’ label of Duterte as a “cheerleader” for encouraging the “summary executions” of drug suspects in violation of their rights to life and due process.

He cited the president’s repeated threats to kill drug lords and order to law enforcers and civilians to shoot drug suspects if they fight back, as well as the Senate testimony of a retired police officer and a former militiaman who said they were members of a death squad under Duterte when he was a southern mayor. The two separately testified they were involved in hundreds of killings of drug suspects and political opponents of Duterte in Davao city.

Duterte has denied he condoned extrajudicial killings. He has not responded in detail to the two men’s allegations.

Alejano’s complaint also cited accusations by opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who accused Duterte of failing to declare more than 2 billion pesos ($40 million) in bank deposits as required by law. Duterte has denied any wrongdoing.

In November 2000, the House sent impeachment charges for largescale corruption against then-President Joseph Estrada to the Senate for trial for the first time in Philippine history. Prosecutors walked out of the trial two months later due to an impasse over evidence, sparking massive protests that forced Estrada to leave the presidential palace.

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Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.

Jim Gomez, The Associated Press

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