Lawmakers in the Philippines unanimously voted to throw out an impeachment complaint against President Duterte today (Monday, March 15).
The complaint accused him of orchestrating mass murder, holding undisclosed wealth and surrendering the country’s sovereignty in the South China Sea.
The Justice Committee of the House of Representatives, which is controlled by supporters of the president, reviewed the complaint and declared it “insufficient”.
The majority leader, Rudy Fariñas, 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.
Mr Alejano has accused the government of being unwilling to act. “Institutions are just unwilling and are unable to prosecute the president,” he said.
“What is the people’s recourse? Where will you complain? We will look for other ways to seek justice.”
The move comes after a complaint was filed against the president at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Last month a Filipino lawyer for two men — who claim they were paid assassins for Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City — asked the court to charge the president and 11 other officials with mass murder and crimes against humanity.
Mr Alejano said he and his advisers were considering joining the case — which can only proceed when all domestic avenues of seeking justice have been exhausted.
Romel Bagares, a human rights lawyer at the Centre for International Law in Manila, told the New York Times that the House’s decision “shouldn’t really be a surprise” given that a majority of the 292-member House supports the president. “But it does raise the question: Is this proof there can’t be any accountability for alleged wrongs in the Philippines?” he asked.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the president welcomed the dismissal of the complaint. “We maintained that it was from rehashed, trumped-up charges aimed at undermining the duly constituted government,” he said in a statement.
“The president respects a coequal branch of government and does not interfere in the political exercise.”
The president of the Senate, Aquilino Pimentel III, said that the upper house of Congress respected the decision.