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Duterte faces additional impeachment rap over Benham Rise, China sea deals

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(Photo from pcoo.gov.ph)


QUEZON CITY (PhilAmPress/PhlTodayUSA) — President Rodrigo Duterte is facing a supplemental impeachment complaint over allegations he secretly allowed China to explore Benham Rise, a Philippine territory, and disputed areas like the Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.


The complaint was filed by Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano, who filed earlier an impeachment complaint against Duterte over killings linked to his war on drugs and allegations he kept secret bank accounts.


Alejano is a former military officer who joined then Navy officer now Senator Antonio Trillanes IV in failed coup attempts to topple then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo immediately dismissed the supplemental impeachment complaint filed against President  Duterte as a mere propaganda ploy meant to garner publicity for Magdalo Partylist and its representatvie Alejano.


Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, meanwhile, said the impeachment complaints would not prosper as the House of Representatives is dominated by the President's allies.


Malacanang, on the other hand, dismissed the impeachment as part of an alleged plot to destabilized the Duterte administration.l


Alejano filed the additional complaint over allegations that the President secretly allowed China to explore territorial waters.


In the complaint, the mutineer-turned-lawmaker alleged that Duterte “failed and/or refused to assert the country's exclusive sovereign rights and maritime rights and territorial rights over Benham Rise and Panatag Shoal and the rest of the West Philippine Sea.”


Alejano claimed that President Duterte's actions amounted to betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of Constitution and dereliction of duty.


But Panelo said this was all nonsense.


“It is nonsense geared for propaganda and publicity for himself,” the Presidential lawyer said in a statement.


In fact, the additional complaint may even be invalid under the law, he added.


“It may even be deemed to be a second impeachment complaint which is a prohibited complaint under the one year prohibition limiting the filing to only one complaint in a year,” Panelo said.


Alejano filed the 13-page supplementary complaint before the Secretary General of the House of Representatives. The lower chamber, meanwhile, could not act on the complaint as Congress is in recess.


 Alejano said Duterte failed to assert the country’s sovereign and maritime rights over the disputed islands, accusing the latter of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and other high crimes.


“Respondent Rodrigo Roa Duterte betrayed the public trust reposed upon him, culpably violated the Constitution and committed the high crime of dereliction of his sworn duty as President when he utterly failed and/or refused to assert the country’s exclusive sovereign rights and maritime rights and territorial claims over Benham Rise and Panatag Shoal and the rest of the West Philippine Sea,” Alejano said.


Alejano argued that Duterte took a “defeatist” stance with China as the Asian superpower has been actively building military outposts on disputed islands in the South China Sea.


“While no one is expecting Duterte to declare war with China over these territorial disputes, as President and Commander-In-Chief and Chief Diplomat of the country, he should condemn China’s aggressive actions and expansionism, and insist it to respect the exclusive sovereign rights, and maritime and territorial claims of the country through diplomatic and peaceful means,” Alejano said.


On March 16, Alejano filed the first impeachment complaint against the President on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, and other high crimes.


Alejano sought the ouster of Duterte for his state policy on drugs which resulted in a spate of summary executions and extrajudicial killings; his alleged links in the vigilante killings by the Davao Death Squad; and his alleged P2.2 billion hidden wealth.


Last year, an international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines over its claims in the West Philippine Sea, particularly Panatag Shoal, which China has claimed to be its own.


President Duterte has repeatedly said that he would not discuss the ruling with China at present as he sought to build warmer ties with the superpower.


He however stressed that he is not ceding the territory to Beijing and assured that he will bring it to the table at the proper time.


Meanwhile, Chinese ships have reportedly sailed in Benham Rise for three months from December last year.


Benham Rise, a 24-million-hectare undersea plateau off the coast of Aurora province touted to have vast natural gas deposits and mineral resources, has been awarded to the Philippines by the United Nations in 2012.


Duterte has said that Chinese ships can sail through the area based on freedom of navigation “but cannot build any structures” there.


Earlier this month, Alejano filed the first impeachment complaint against Duterte.


The impeachment complaint is based on alleged killings and corruption supposedly committed by Duterte both as President and as then mayor of Davao City.


Malacañang dismissed the complaint as part of a larger and well-orchestrated destabilization plot against President Duterte.


Meanwhile, Duterte called out his critics for seemingly making a big fuss about the “oxygen converter” found in his bedroom stressing that it is nothing new since he had already disclosed his health woes when he ran for the Presidency.


In his speech during the oath-taking ceremonies for newly-appointed government officials, the President scored critics for taking potshots over his supposed use of the contraption.


Earlier, photos of the "oxygen converter" beside Duterte's bed on Wednesday has fanned speculations about his health on social media.


“Kagaya nung picture sa ‘yung birthday ko -- kasi ‘yung na-picturan ‘yung kuwarto ko may converter sa oxygen, karami na namang ano,” he said.


But he said the contraption should not be an issue anymore since everybody knew beforehand about his afflictions.


“Di ba sinabi ko sa inyo, I never lied. Tinatanong ako doon sa debates: anong sakit mo? Sabi ko Barrett dito sa inom pati ano, Buerger’s because of smoking,” the President said.


During the campaign, Duterte admitted that he had Barrett’s esophagus and Buerger's disease.


Because of these, the President said he has long been using the ‘oxygen converter’ whenever he sleeps to promote circulation.


“So ang circulation ko hindi maganda, lack of oxygenation. Ako gagamitin ko ‘yun kasi ang brain ko daw suffers lack of oxygenation. Matagal ko nang ginamit ‘yan. When I said that I -- wala akong tinago eh. May nakita nila ‘yung parang oxygen. It’s not really an oxygen, it’s a converter. Wala naman akong tinago,” Duterte said.


He said that the oxygen converter is even used as a beauty product and proceeded to tease the women in the audience to use it.


“If you want to remain beautiful, use it, it’s good. Totoo. That’s sinabi ng mga doctor. Sabi ng mga doctor, use it kasi kung babae ka para gumanda ka lalo,” Duterte said.

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