A Philippine opposition lawmaker filed an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, appealing for his removal for committing high crimes, betrayal of public trust and abuses of power.
Gary Alejano, Lower house representative, accused Duterte of a laundry list of offences that he said were worthy of impeachment. The offences include concealing assets and conflicts of interest to drugs-related extrajudicial killings and running an alleged "death squad" when he was Davao City mayor.
In the past, Duterte had faced similar allegations from a number of critics and human rights groups, but he had rejected all those acquisitions vehemently. On Thursday, Duterte's spokesman said Alejano was trying to create doubts among the public about the administration.
In response to this, Alejano said that he was trying to give a chance to the Filipinos to speak up against a powerful president. "Our goal with this complaint is to be a vehicle for Filipinos to have a voice to oppose and fight against the abuses and crimes of President Duterte," Alejano told a televised news conference. "We know it's an uphill battle ... but we believe that many will support this complaint," he added.
According to Alejano, Duterte's actions were a "culpable violation of the constitution, engaging in bribery, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption and other high crimes". He accused Duterte of having a state policy of killing drug offenders.
More than 8,000 people have been killed in the nationwide anti-drugs crackdown since Duterte took over office seven months ago. According to police, some 2,555 were killed during raids and sting operations. Moreover, almost 48,000 drug suspects were arrested.
The human rights groups believe that many of these killings were extrajudicial executions committed in cooperation with the police. However, the authorities vigorously denied involvement in thousands of mysterious killings of drug users.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the complaint was part of a wider plot by opponents to undermine the Duterte administration. "It seems rather dramatic that everything seems to be so coordinated at this stage," Abella told Reuters. "It looks like they're scraping the bottom of the barrel."
Alejano said that he is aware that he might have difficulty in getting house support behind his impeachment bid. He said in spite of the allegations, Duterte's popularity rating remains high and he enjoys big support in the bicameral Congress. "We know the numbers are against us, and we are facing a big challenge," Alejano said.
"But we still believe that impeachment would be fought not only inside the halls of Congress but also outside. There's the church, schools, civil society and the many Filipinos who did not vote and do not support and not in favour of the policies under president Duterte," he added.