MALACAÑANG said that it was “pure nonsense” to presume that President Duterte can be impeached for releasing the list of politicians involved in the illegal drug trade ahead of the 2019 midterm polls.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement after Akbayan partylist representative Tom Villarin said that President Duterte’s action of releasing the list of narco-politicians could constitute an impeachable offense for culpable violation of the Constitution.
“[It] has no legal and factual basis. In other words, it’s pure nonsense,” Panelo said.
“The opposition party-list congressman is quick to respond to an issue of unfamiliar terrain to a non-lawyer like him,” he added.
According to Panelo, Duterte reading the names of the personalities in the narco-list can be compared to releasing the names of criminal suspects, adding that charges have actually been filed against them.
“For the legal education of Rep. Villarin, the appropriate charges have already been filed against the personalities contained in the list before the Office of the Ombudsman affording them their right to due process and an opportunity to clear their names before competent authorities,” he said.
“The release of their names is nothing more than a release of the names of criminal suspects. Such act cannot be considered a legal transgression, and even more so, an impeachable offense,” he added.
The Palace official also said that it was only right for the people to be informed about those involved in the illegal drug trade.
“To the further legal enlightenment of Villarin, it is hornbook doctrine that in construing laws or constitutional provisions, one must harmonize the same with other dictates of the law pursuant to the legal maxim: ‘Interpretare et concordare leges legibus est optimus interpretandi modus,’” Panelo said.
“It is paramount that the individual liberties of our citizens should be harmonized with the entire Filipino people’s right to the preservation and protection of their welfare, as well as their right to information on matters of national significance,” he added.
Panelo then said that President Duterte has the duty to protect the nation and releasing the narco-list was one way of doing it. He added that not doing so would have been an impeachable offense.
“The drug menace has evolved into a national security problem as it threatens to destroy the very foundation of society. The President as head of the state is constitutionally commanded to serve and protect the nation,” he said.
“Individual rights are subordinate to the state’s right to protect itself from its enemies that seek to destroy it. The people’s right to safety prevails over the individual rights of persons piercing and destroying the security net that protects the citizenry,” he added.
“It is the failure of the President to perform his constitutional duty of serving and protecting the people that makes him liable to impeachment for such omission is culpable violation of the Constitution and a betrayal of the public trust,” he continued.
On Thursday, Duterte released the names of 46 local officials involved in the illegal drug trade, The list included the names of 33 mayors, 8 vice mayors, 3 congressmen, a board member, and a former mayor.
Before reading the list, Duterte said that his decision to name the drug personalities was anchored on his trust on the government agencies which have vetted the narco-list.
The President said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has filed administrative cases against the officials on the narco-list on March 14 at the Office of the Ombudsman.