By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte cannot be impeached for releasing the list of politicians supposedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after Akbayan party-list representative Tom Villarin claimed the President’s action could constitute an impeachable offense for culpable violation of the Constitution.
Panelo said Villarin does not know what he is talking about.
“[It] has no legal and factual basis. In other words, it’s pure nonsense,” he said Saturday morning.
“The opposition party-list congressman is quick to respond to an issue of unfamiliar terrain to a non-lawyer like him,” he added.
“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.
Right to be informed
Panelo, who is concurrently the Presidential legal counsel, said it is only right for the people to be informed of those who are 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 added.
“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.
“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,” Panelo explained.
“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 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 said drug personalities was anchored on his trust on the government agencies who have vetted the narco-list.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) vouched for the accuracy of the list claiming it went through vigorous, meticulous and sufficient verification and revalidation process for 14 months.
“This is only the partial list of narco politicians. Others are still being revalidated while there are some who were transferred to the civilian list since they are no longer holding or running for public office,” the PDEA added. (With a report from Chito A. Chavez)