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Philippine lawmakers reject Duterte’s impeachment

Congressmen stand up for their vote to be counted as Congress tackles the impeachment complaint against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the House of Representatives in Manila on May 15, 2017. The Philippine Congress rejected on Monday an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte, calling allegations he committed crimes against humanity over the deaths of thousands of suspected criminals “frivolous and baseless”. / AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

Philippine lawmakers on Monday rejected an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte that accused him of a crime against humanity over the deaths of thousands of people killed in his war on drugs.

The complaint alleged Duterte had adopted a state policy of extrajudicial killings that led to more than 8,000 deaths in his first eight months as president, and was involved in mass murder as well as widespread corruption in his previous stint as a mayor of a southern city.

The congressional justice committee quickly dismissed the complaint in its first day of hearings on the issue, overwhelmingly voting that it was “insufficient in substance”.

“The complaint filed was frivolous. How can you proceed if the complaint has no basis,” committee chairman Reynaldo Umali, who is a member of Duterte’s ruling party, told reporters afterwards.

The committee vote effectively ends the impeachment case, which even Duterte’s opponents conceded had little chance of prospering with the president enjoying a commanding majority in the lower house of congress.

A plenary of the lower house still needs to endorse the committee’s decision, although political observers and lawmakers said there was zero chance of Monday’s vote being overturned.

“We have nowhere to go (but) we will find a way to get justice,” opposition lawmaker Gary Alejano, who filed the impeachment case, told reporters.

Duterte, 72, won presidential elections last year after promising to launch an unprecedented crackdown on crime in which tens of thousands of people would die.

Police have reported killing about 2,700 people since Duterte took office at the end of June and immediately launched his war on drugs.

More than 1,800 others have died in drug-related incidents, while about 5,700 other violent deaths are under investigation, according to police data.

At a UN human rights council hearing last week, many countries spoke out against the drug war.

Canada urged the Philippines to “end extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and detention, torture and harassment”, with similar comments made by Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Ghana and other nations.

However many Filipinos support the drug war, and Duterte has also won endorsements from China and some other Asian nations.

A Philippine lawyer last month filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Duterte of mass murder in relation to the drug war.

Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella welcomed Monday’s rejection of the impeachment complaint.

“We maintained that it was from rehashed, trumped up charges aimed at undermining the duly constituted government,” Abella said.




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