Lawyers to pursue impeach rap vs. Robredo despite Duterte's opposition

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(From L-R) Lawyers Tom Berenguer, Bruce Rivera, and Trixie Cruz Angeles

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 23) — Not even President Rodrigo Duterte can stop his supporters from filing an impeachment complaint against Vice President Leni Robredo.

A group composed of lawyers, professors, and a government official on Thursday rejected Duterte's earlier call for an end to threats to impeach the Vice President.

"We would always support the President but the President cannot tell us what to do," lawyer Bruce Rivera, the group's spokesperson, said in a press briefing. Rivera previously served as legal counsel to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

Rivera said the group's members are "not blind followers" of the President.

"If we see fit that Leni Robredo should be impeached, even against the will of the President then what can we do? We are Filipinos, we are not Duterte supporters only," Rivera added.

Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III first told CNN Philippines on Saturday, that a group of "topnotch" lawyers had started a case build-up for Robredo's possible impeachment.

The group said they have so far found three possible grounds for Robredo's impeachment: betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and other high crimes. They refused to elaborate.

But Rivera said Robredo's video message to the United Nations, criticizing the country's war on drugs "triggered" the group's filing of an impeachment rap.

Although everyone has right to free speech, Political Science Professor Antonio Contreras said Robredo is not an ordinary citizen, and should be careful of what she tells other countries about the Philippines.

The Office of the Vice President has said Robredo is ready to face any impeachment complaint that could possibly be filed against her.

But her lawyers said the Vice President's statements are not enough legal basis for the impeachment complaint.

Meanwhile, lawyers Tom Berenguer and Trixie Cruz Angeles are also part of the group seeking Robredo's ouster.

Angeles was part of the legal team of former Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial in 2012.

The Senate ruled to impeach Corona over misdeclaration in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Contreras said they are also looking into Robredo's supposed misdeclarations in her SALN, and would include these in the impeachment complaint once they have enough evidence.

The group hopes to file the impeachment case against Robredo by May, when the House of Representatives resumes session.

This could be the second complaint filed against the Vice President.

Marcos loyalists Atty. Oliver Lozano and Melchor Chavez already filed a separate draft impeachment complaint against Robredo on Monday at the House of Representatives, calling her "the termite of Government."

Alvarez also disagrees with Duterte

Since the group's members are not lawmakers, they would need a representative from the House to endorse their complaint.

Densing said House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez already expressed his intention to endorse the group's complaint. Alvarez earlier told CNN Philippines he is studying the possibility of filing an impeachment rap against Robredo.

Read: EXCLUSIVE: Alvarez eyes impeachment rap vs. Robredo; OVP says it's 'baseless'

Alvarez on Thursday said although he respects Duterte's plea for an end to attempts to unseat Robredo, he said he is not following the President this time.

"We may agree with him regarding many issues but this time, we disagree with him because we are a separate branch of government and we are mandated by the Constitution to process all impeachment complaints because we have the exclusive jurisdiction for that," Alvarez told CNN Philippines' Balitaan.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.