September 02, 2005

Political rot

Pro-administration congressmen were gloating as they hammered the last nail into the coffin of the impeachment process versus Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

They had done their “jobs”. They had used their majority in the Justice Committee to kill the amended Lozano complaint. It was the only substantive complaint filed that would have had a ghost of a chance of going to trial in the Senate.

They then proceeded, with pretended seriousness, to determine sufficiency in form and substance of the Lozano complaint. They finally dismissed the latter with the smugness of men who wield the power of numbers but who fail abjectly to demonstrate any shred of moral integrity nor even a modicum of respect for the rule of law.

The pro-impeachment solons, the protesters calling on GMA’s removal from office by any means possible and those who thought the impeachment process would bring out the truth and make Mrs. Arroyo accountable were stunned by the indecent haste and uncharacteristic efficiency with which the Justice Committee disposed of its work.

It was crass railroading utilizing only the most feeble of rationalizations. According to the Counsels for the Defense of Civil Liberties (CODAL):

“It must be noted that, while the Majority portrayed themselves as strict constitutionalist in dismissing the Amended Complaint they were leniently ‘extra-constitutionalist’ in finding the Lozano complaint properly verified, and therefore sufficient in form, in violation of the requirements of the House Rules and the Constitution. The basis of their decision in finding the Lozano Complaint insufficient in substance, is neither strict nor lenient -- because it simply was not based on any rule or law.”

“Verification is when the author of the pleading or complainant attests that: S/he prepared the complaint, and the contents thereof are ‘true and correct’ of his ‘own personal knowledge’ and based on ‘authentic or official documents/records’. Lozano did not state this in his complaint. Therefore his complaint is not verified.”

“It was, however, difficult for the Justice Committee to dismiss the Lozano Complaint for insufficiency in form. They had just previously dismissed the Amended Complaint because the Lozano complaint was supposedly ‘initiated’ first. Dismissing the Lozano complaint on form insufficiency is tantamount to calling the Amended complaint ‘a second complaint’ to a first complaint that was, in the end, not a complaint at all as required by the Rules.”

“On the other hand, the Committee on Justice found the Lozano complaint insufficient in substance because it charges an offense that was outside the current ‘term’ of President Arroyo (having been committed before her term started on June 30, 2004) and that the Lozano complaint is based on the ‘Garci tapes’ which is inadmissible in evidence.”

“The Justice Committee interpretation…makes it impossible for the President to commit betrayal of public trust through electoral fraud because this can only be committed by any president (or any public official for that matter), before their term -- elections happen before the start of the term of a public official...The Constitution did not contemplate this absurdity, which is tantamount to exempting public officials from impeachment for electoral fraud.”

“The justice committee should…merely judge whether electoral fraud, if true, constitutes an election offense -- without looking into whether the evidence that will back up this allegation is admissible since such is a matter of defense for Pres. Arroyo to raise and for the Senate to decide…”

The pro-Gloria majority in Congress has committed the condemnable act of suppressing the truth and subverting the Constitution they swear by through the use of sheer force of numbers and the deliberately erroneous application of rules and jurisprudence.

Although demonstrators calling for Mrs. Arroyo’s ouster came out in force and the middle forces composed of students, church people and professionals as well as prominent personalities such as Ms. Susan Roces and Bishop Antonio Tobias filled the gallery of the plenary hall, the anticipated spontaneous upheaval did not materialize.

Why so? We can only speculate on some key factors. Malacañang and GMA subalterns in Congress succeeded in their tactic of preventing the impeachment proceedings from becoming a venue where damning evidence could initially be brought out and examined under the public’s watchful eye. The reduction of the proceedings to a legalistic debate on procedure rather than on substance wore out the patience and interest of the people until many just tuned off.

This situation is a far cry from the Estrada impeachment trial where the people were riveted to their television screens watching the day-to-day revelations of Estrada wrongdoing until the climax of the suppression of evidence in the “second envelope” that led to the walk-out of the prosecution and triggered people power-2.

The opposition estimates it needs more time to win over the last few votes to reach the 79 needed to impeach Mrs. Arroyo despite the unfavorable Justice Committee report.

Pro-GMA camp estimates that they still have a sufficient number to defeat any other maneuvers the opposition may resort to without provoking public outrage of EDSA-1 or EDSA-2 proportions. They wish to gift Mrs. Arroyo with the image of having emerged victorious from the impeachment battle in Congress before she leaves for the US this month.

On the surface, it appears that the pro-GMA representatives not only have the upper hand numerically, but have superior tactics and better estimates as well, including a more accurate reading of the public mind.

But not really. The more the pro-GMA forces resort to the tyranny of sheer numbers, quid-pro-quos, under the table deals, and other sordid political maneuvers, the more they educate the people in a negative way on what Congress really is and stands for – not the rule of law, not truth nor justice, and certainly not good government nor the welfare of the people.

Even if the premeditated killing of the impeachment process by the pro-GMA congressmen doesn’t result in a spontaneous outpouring of popular outrage at this time, it doesn’t mean GMA is off the hook and has decisively won the battle for the people’s hearts and minds.

The Arroyo administration looks to frustrating the impeachment process to earn a new lease on life. It only manages to further expose the rot of the oppressive political system it currently lords over. That is something the Arroyo clique does not have the means to contend with.

2-3 Sept. 2005


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