Philippine Lawmaker Files Impeachment for Rodrigo Duterte over Resigned China Stance

Philippine Lawmaker files impeachment for Rodrigo Duterte over resigned China stance Philippines lawmaker, Gary Alejano, filed supplementary charges on March 30 to an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte, citing his passive response to China’s activities in the South China Sea.

Alejano is an opposition Congressman and a representative of the Magdalo group . In an effort to keep the complaint in the public spotlight and prevent Congress from immediately dismissing it, Alejano submitted it two weeks ago; a day after the House of Representatives went into recess.

The impeachment complaint accuses Duterte of the following: culpably violating the Constitution, engaging in bribery, betraying public trust, committing graft and corruption, and omitting other high crimes.

Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo stated that Alejano's complaint was groundless propaganda and part of a coordinated conspiracy by Duterte's opponents.

Since his incumbency began, Duterte has flip-flopped several times on Philippines-China relations. In July 2016, after three years of deliberation on the South China Sea dispute between China and Philippines, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) issued a ruling in favor of the latter. The PCA concluded that China had no legal basis to claim “historic rights” to the regional oil and gas, and Duterte welcomed this decision.

In spite of the ruling and his initial opinion on the matter, Duterte has since said that the Philippines cannot simply resume control of the resource-rich Scarborough Shoal because the Philippine’s military is no match for China’s powerful forces. He also added “Even if I like to claim it all, I have no capital, even the rigs and everything, we cannot afford it”

Duterte openly expressed his affinity for China, intensifying his charm offensive to encourage billions of dollars worth of Chinese investment, a stark contrast with his open hostility towards the United States. In October 2016, Duterte announced military and economic separation from the United States, which has historically been one of the country’s closest allies.

Alejano’s complaint alleges that in failing to invoke the tribunal ruling and, instead, declaring an inability to stop China, shows a disregard of the Philippines’s rights. Moreover, a recent survey in the Philippines found that 84 percent of Filipinos want the government to assert sovereignty over the contested South China Sea. Thus, Duterte appears to be betraying public trust, as Alejano contended in the complaint.

If at least one third of the House affirms Alejano’s complaint when they reconvene on May 2, it will be then forwarded to Senate for an impeachment trial presided by the Chief of Justice. A conviction and removal of President Duterte would ensue if two thirds of Senate members accede to the complaint. Nevertheless, Duterte counts 267 of 292 House Representatives as allies, thus the impeachment will likely be unrealistic.