Reality Check – booting President Duterte out

A PETITION in change.org entitled “18 Million Signatures a PLEA for Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s Peaceful Resignation and Removal” has been circulating on social media and as of this writing it has been there for 14 hours and garnered 3,666 supporters.

oustd30

It started as a call to “oust” President Duterte, but apparently the petition’s author, one Maria Lota Matias of Bacoor, Cavite, scaled it down a notch for fear of legal ramifications:

I have changed the name of this petition upon research and advisement of an acquaintance from the Media.
Please use the new hashtags:
#PDUTERTERESIGNNOW
#REMOVEFMREMAINS@LNMB

I maintain that this petition’s objective is a simple plea for PRRD to resign and a pray for removal of FM remains at LNMB. (I know we can’t do this alone. We need everybody’s help. We can’t change the court’s judgement, but we can let our thoughts be heard through this petition.)

CLARIFICATION:
Terminologies like “oust” of “kick out” was just a term and does not necessarily mean the literal idea. We changed it as per advisement that it could be viewed as an “offensive term”.

The petition is basically a rundown of articles and stories that justify the plea, and it is addressed to “The Filipino People” for action.

Nice, I believe, using this form of social media engagement in for fist-pumping street mobilization. I don’t know if she will reach her 18 million supporters, but good luck to her. To say the least, this should be an interesting thing to watch from the standpoint of a communications practitioner and student of social media.

I have a number of observations, though. Whether or not they are valid only time will tell. But these observations are based on what have been experienced with these types of social media actions in the past:

  1. Signing an online petition does not necessarily translate into action. In the past we’ve noted that people felt that they’ve done their duty by clicking their support for the petition. It’s that “click the ‘Like’ button on Facebook.” So easy to do and after doing it they feel happy and content for having participated.
  2. The petition is addressed to “the Filipino People,” not to Duterte specifically or copy furnished to his closest functionaries or advisors. The thing is, being a government official Duterte is subject to the code of conduct for ethical practices which mandates that any communication or petition he receives he must act on in 15 days. Without him as the recipient or subject of the petition, why would he even listen to it, even if it does have 18 million signatories?
  3. Online petitions are not verifiable in so far as the signatories go. Warm bodies marching on the streets, that’s verifiable. In fact, as a counter move what if Mocha Uson or Duterte’s troll brigade counter with their own petition supporting Duterte? What will it do to this resign petition?

There are more observations about online petitions, but will just stick with these, Meanwhile, perhaps we can look into getting the president out of office outside of his resigning on his own. And that would be impeachment. To review, let’s look at the pertinent provisions in the Philippine Constitution:

ARTICLE XI – ACCOUNTABILITY OF PUBLIC OFFICERS

Section 2. 

The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.

Section 3.

  1. The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.
  2. A verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution or endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter. The Committee, after hearing, and by a majority vote of all its Members, shall submit its report to the House within sixty session days from such referral, together with the corresponding resolution. The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within ten session days from receipt thereof
  3. A vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House shall be necessary either to affirm a favorable resolution with the Articles of Impeachment of the Committee, or override its contrary resolution. The vote of each Member shall be recorded.
  4. In case the verified complaint or resolution of impeachment is filed by at least one-third of all the Members of the House, the same shall constitute the Articles of Impeachment, and trial by the Senate shall forthwith proceed.
  5. No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.
  6. The Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment. When sitting for that purpose, the Senators shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the Philippines is on trial, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside, but shall not vote. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.
  7. Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines, but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to prosecution, trial, and punishment, according to law.
  8. The Congress shall promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the purpose of this section.

 Pretty tight, especially with coming up with the charges which is from the very beginning. And, as stated time and again, it isn’t a judicial proceeding but a political one, thus the make-up of the House of Representatives must be taken into account.

Definitely, it’s safe to assume the president Dutere will resist his ouster all the way. But, hypothetically, whether by resignation or impeachment you happen to succeed in getting president Duterte out. Don’t you think this will happen with least resistance from him AFTER this matter of the Vice Presidency is resolved? You know, when the matter of Bongbong Marcos’ election protest against Leni Robredo is settled with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal – a body made up of members Supreme Court?

REPUBLIC ACT No. 1793

AN ACT CONSTITUTING AN INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL TO TRY, HEAR AND DECIDE PROTESTS CONTESTING THE ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT-ELECT AND THE VICE-PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE PHILIPPINES AND PROVIDING FOR THE MANNER OF HEARING THE SAME.

Section 1. There shall be an independent Presidential Electoral Tribunal to be composed of eleven members which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the president-elect and the vice-president-elect of the Philippines. It shall be composed of the Chief Justice and the other ten members of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice shall be its chairman. If on account of illness, absence, or incapacity upon any of the grounds mentioned in section one, Rule one hundred and twenty-six of the Rules of Court, of any member of the Tribunal, or whenever, by reason of temporary disability of any member thereof, or vacancies occurring therein the requisite number of members of the Tribunal necessary to constitute a quorum or to render a judgment in any given contest, as hereafter provided, is not present, or for any other good reason for the early disposal of the contest, the Chief Justice may designate any retired justice or justices of the Supreme Court as may be necessary, to sit temporarily as Member of the Tribunal, in order to form a quorum or until a judgment in said contest is reached: Provided, however, That if no retired justices of the Supreme Court are available or the number available is not sufficient, justices of the Court of Appeals and retired justices of the Court of Appeals may be designated to act as Member of the Tribunal.

You can read the rest of the law here.

So, in so far as this Oust Duterte petition goes (ok, ok, plea to resign), maybe we should consider the age-old saying: “Don’t spit in the wind. It may end up on your face.”

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