August 18, 2005

Impeachment farce

Anyone who has taken the time to drop by Congress to observe the ongoing Justice Committee hearings on the impeachment complaint against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will certainly end up uninspired and likely, frustrated. This is supposed to be the constitutional process by which a President may be removed from office for due cause but it is turning out to be a farce. It certainly looks like heyday for those engaged in suppressing the truth and abetting Malacañang’s cover-up of Mrs. Arroyo’s impeachable crimes.

The legal technicalities raised by the anti-impeachment congressmen are calculated to delay if not prevent all together the ventilation of the grounds for the impeachment complaint. De Venecia’s minions, masquerading as honorable ladies and gentlemen of the House of Representatives, know only too well that at the minimum, the opposition hopes that they will be able to make their case before the bar of public opinion, even if in the end, they fail to come up with the critical 79 votes for impeachment. Together with the maneuvers of GMA lawyers, the interminable delays at the Justice Committee hearings are all clearly intended to thrown a monkey wrench into the entire proceeding and stall it indefinitely, if not squelch it outright.

The apparent strategy of the Arroyo administration is this:

  1. Appear to give the impeachment complaint due course but delay discussions especially on sufficiency in substance and probable cause to prevent pro-impeachment congressman and complainants from presenting evidence that may further inflame the people;
  2. Insist on the Justice Committee’s recognition of the earlier suspicious complaint filed by Atty. Oliver Lozano to prevent the amended complaint by the opposition from progressing. Take note that this earlier complaint is so deficient it leads one to suspect it was filed with the intent to fail so that no other impeachment complaint can be filed against the President within the same year. On the other hand, the amended Lozano complaint filed by 41 congresspersons not only has more substance in terms of grounds cited for Arroyo’s impeachment but is also more firmly in the hands of the opposition;
  3. Worse comes to worse, use the advantage of having the overwhelming majority of congresspersons who are loyal to De Venecia and GMA, to vote down the impeachment complaint. The last move will only be resorted to when the political situation has been massaged in favor of Mrs. Arroyo so that such a brazen move will not trigger public outrage that can fuel street demonstrations anew.

But for this strategy to work, Malacañang must be able to erode the public’s belief that GMA connived with Comelec Commissioner Garcillano to rig the presidential elections as revealed in the “Hello, Garci” tapes. This is the purpose of DENR Secretary Mike Defensor’s belated attempt to throw doubt on the tape’s authenticity and its evidentiary value in the impeachment process by misrepresenting and lying about a US expert’s opinion. The demolition job against witnesses to the involvement of Mrs. Arroyo’s close family members in illegal gambling is meant to blunt the opposition’s offensive on the issue of corruption that reaches all the way up to the President’s office. At the same time Malacañang persists with its propaganda barrage that all of GMA’s political woes are the result of a well-orchestrated and coordinated opposition plan to destabilize and unseat her so that they make take over.

Meanwhile, Malacañang is trying mightily to stave off an acute deterioration of the economic situation from the impact of skyrocketing oil prices and the impending implementation of the expanded value added tax pending the Supreme Court’s anticipated lifting of its temporary restraining order. Mrs. Arroyo has to contend with the expected adverse findings of an International Solidarity Mission and an International Tribunal set to give its verdict on the Arroyo regime’s human rights record this week.

In fact the Arroyo camp is so paranoid and desperate it has resorted to using the police as well as the intelligence service of the armed forces to undertake an illegal, warrantless raid and seizure of materials from the San Mateo house of an opposition witness on electoral fraud. Indeed, as Executive Secretary Ermita himself admitted, Malacañang will move heaven and earth to prevent the impeachment complaint against Mrs. Arroyo from reaching the Senate. This includes doing everything to make sure that no new scandal involving Mrs. Arroyo explodes in these precarious times.

Those who said that the impeachment process was the way to go in resolving the present crisis of the Arroyo government are one of the following:

  1. Sympathetic to the GMA regime and want to use the impeachment process as a tool for GMA’s political survival; or
  2. Are still undecided or remain unconvinced about GMA’s guilt or at the very least, think she deserves some kind of due process and consider the impeachment as the means by which the truth will finally be determined; or
  3. Are convinced Mrs. Arroyo should step down but buy the line that the impeachment process is the only constitutional way; that forcing her out of office through street demonstrations will undermine democratic institutions and is a recipe for anarchy or even the seizure of power by opportunists; or at the very least rejects the uncertainty that such a scenario offers.

Of the latter two, there are those who are just politically naïve or perhaps ignorant about the workings of Congress and the realpolitik operating behind the scenes in an impeachment. Thus they think that congresspersons should just be allowed to do their work with the least interference from anyone. In this manner, they remain passive.

However there are those who know that political pressure must be made to bear on the situation in the House otherwise the administration congressmen will be able to maneuver the defeat of the complaint. These are the ones who patiently go to the Justice Committee hearings only to be disappointed again and again.

Those who know that the cards are stacked against the impeachment complaint are hoping for the chance that the opposition may be able to air the damaging evidence against GMA and thus rouse the people to action. They also consider that the volatile political environment during Congress deliberations can develop in such a way that a sufficient number of congresspersons may be swayed to sign the complaint.

Whatever the outcome of the impeachment hearings, it could either be the spark needed to turn up the political heat to maximum or it may merely contribute to further building up the heat until it is brought to a boil by another development, another trigger. Time is not on Mrs. Arroyo’s side; the people can afford to wait and gather strength in the Parliament of the Streets where money, power and arms are not at all the decisive factors.#

18-19 August 2005


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