May 15 (UPI) — Philippines legislators on Monday unanimously threw out an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte that accused him of leading the mass murder of several thousand people in his crackdown on drug use.
The Justice Committee of the House of Representatives reviewed the complaint and declared it lacked it insuccient. The decision bars any new impeachment case, including by the complaintant, Congressman Gary Alejano, until March.
All 42 members of the committee voted against the complaint and will recommend its dismissal by the 292-seat Congress, where Duterte has a super-majority.
The majority leader, Rudy Fariñas, said that Alejano had no “personal knowledge” of the allegations, which he said came mainly from news reports of the killings.
“Let this proceeding and this impeachment complaint be a lesson to everybody not only now but in the future that you cannot make a joke by utilizing falsities as well as hearsay evidence in trying to remove someone especially one that is occupying the highest position of the land,” Deputy House Speaker Fredenil Castro said in moving for dismissal of the complaint.
Since June when Duterte became president, more than 4,000 people have been killed by the police in antidrug operations or by vigilantes in drug-related cases, according to police statistics.
“Institutions are just unwilling and are unable to prosecute the president,” Alejano said to The New York Times. “What is the people’s recourse? Where will you complain? We will look for other ways to seek justice.”
Alejano filed the complaint in March, accusing Duterte of bribery, murder and crimes against humanity. Also, Duterte had also encouraged police officers to kill during his antidrug campaign, Alejano alleged.
Alejano said he and his advisers are weighing whether to join a case filed at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In that case, a Filipino lawyer alleges Duterte and 11 other Philippine officials committed mass murder and crimes against humanity. His clients are two men who say they were paid assassins for Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City.
Duterte was attending the Belt and Road Forum near Beijing, China.
“We maintained that it was from rehashed, trumped-up charges aimed at undermining the duly constituted government,” Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement. “The president respects a coequal branch of government and does not interfere in the political exercise.”