'This is a democracy': Int'l court may be next for Duterte

Hours before the House Committee on Justice began its hearing, Vice-President Leni Robredo on Monday claimed that the impeachment case filed by Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano against President Rodrigo Duterte will not prosper.

Although the committee's decision, taken after 42 of 49 members voted against the complaint, still needs the endorsement of the lower house, there is nearly no chance that it will be overturned in view of Duterte's commanding majority there as well.

The majority leader, Rudy FariƱas, said that Congressman Gary Alejano, who initiated the complaint, had no "personal knowledge" of the allegations, which he said were taken largely from news reports of the killings.

Farinas further said that Alejano's allegations are based on hearsays and he does not have any personal knowledge if 8,000 suspected drug users were killed as part of the president's campaign against drugs dubbed as "Tokhang" (which means knock a door in the Southern Philippine dialect). Since he took office in June a year ago, police have reported killing about 2,700 drug suspects.

Alejano said he might now convince his allies to put their weight behind the ICC case, because there were no Philippine institutions able to hold Duterte to account.

"The problem here is that you took it upon yourself that to say that the material allegations in your complaint were true and correct".

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"For me, any complaints that will be brought before the DOJ (Department of Justice) fiscal must be resolved properly so we don't need to ask for the help of others", Robredo said.

Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the junking of the complaint was expected because it was built on falsehoods and meant to "besmirch the reputation" of Duterte.

These investigations on alleged extrajudicial killings supposedly perpetrated by the Davao Death Squad (DDS) failed to point to Duterte, who was then the mayor of Davao City. But Alejano insisted that his best evidence against the President are his own statements on the drug war and the country's ties to China.

Romel Bagares, a human rights lawyer at the Center for International Law in Manila, said the House's decision shouldn't be a surprise given that a majority of the 292-member House supports the president. "But it does raise the question: Is this development proof there can't be any accountability for alleged wrongs in the Philippines?"

Alejano, a former Marine captain, accused Duterte of bribery, murder, and crimes against humanity. Police statistics show that more than 4,000 people have been killed by police in drug raids, or during drug-related conflicts, since he came to power last June.

Nograles noted that Duterte, who has garnered 16.6 million votes in the presidential race, can not be impeached as it tramples the will of the people and the "essence" of democracy.

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