The big news yesterday: resignations from the cabinet, even as there were rumors of some stray sheep returning to the President’s fold (the other sheep strongly deny it). The emerging news these days: the focus is shifting to impeachment.
And so, it seems, by Monday we can expect Article XI* of the Constitution to start heaving into effect. Impeachment will be the buzzword of the day(s) yet again (more on the topic here). To help separate the noise from facts, I’m organizing a roundtable with some of your favorite bloggers, in the hope that they can serve as another resource besides the ones that will appear in mainstream media. Some have already expressed interest. We just have to sort the mechanics out (and the charges, such as malversation and plunder, which Punzi explains). So far, Sassy, Unlawyer, Edwin Lacierda, Punzi, Newsstand are on board; logistics to be provided by Yuga. Off hand, I’m thinking of two roundtables, the first on impeachment as political or legal exercise, the second on how the blogosphere can compliment or improve on mainstream media coverage of an impeachment trial.
Last night there was an interesting discussion on Tina Monzon-Palma’s show, featuring reps. T. Guingona III and Nograles (House Majority Leader), and attys. Katrina Legarda and Sigfrid Fortun (of whom Legarda says both sides are trying to entice to join them). Guingona was the least impressive of the bunch, though he says the opposition is increasingly prepared to overcome the hurdles in its way: first, that there are now two impeachment complaints; second, that they have to amend the first compliant, filed by Atty. Lozano, before Monday; third, that they have to gather a good legal team (how good? well, it includes, apparently, the young Guingona!); fourth, they need 79 congressmen to send the impeachment directly to the senate and avoid it being kicked around the rules or justice committees in the House.
Legarda and Nograles both say the Lozano complaint, as it stands, is utterly useless and can’t possibly prosper; Fortun said it was only marginally worse than the slipshod complaint against Estrada, which prospered; both Fortun and Legarda said the opposition has to put together a more disciplined and competent team (“with experienced litigators”) compared to the prosecution during the last impeachment.
Nograles let loose an interesting strategy: it would be so easy, he says, for the administration simply to gather 79 signatures from the majority congressmen, shoot off the Lozano complaint to the senate, where it would rapidly be defeated. Guingona says this is not a possibility as they will have everything tidily arranged before the House begins its new session on Monday.
Fortun and Legarda both believe that the Garcillano tapes can be used in the impeachment, as it is a political and not judicial process; the rules of court and evidence are supplements, they said. Edwin Lacierda though, has another take: he examines whether the anti-wiretapping law actually applies to cell phone conversations.
Impeachment arguments, by necessity, will look back as far as the case of U.S. President Andrew Johnson in 1867-68. Most recently, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist has presided over an attempt to impeach Bill Clinton, and had written on impeachment: “Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson” prior to the trial.
My personal view is that the Estrada defense ran into one major problem that they never considered before the trial began. That problem is that for a system of law that relies on pleading before a judge, our lawyers, despite Hollywood movies, don’t realize that an impeachment trial is the only trial by jury provided for under our laws; and that by its nature as a jury trial, tactics and positions that make perfect sense otherwise, become useless and even counter-productive in a jury trial. This was best demonstrated by the frustration and reverses experienced by former Justice Minister and Solicitor-General Estelito Mendoza. His long years of legal wizardry left him ill-equipped to handle a trial involving the judgment of peers instead of the rulings of a single judge. Both sides have to be on guard lest this fatal misunderstanding of the process afflict them again. What is at stake in an impeachment is not life, liberty, or property, but office -and fitness to continue holding it. It involves the gallery as much as campaigning for office did, though instead of millions, the electorate will be 24, though each of the 24 will be fully conscious of the millions that elected -and will elect- them.
Today’s blogosphere round-up begins with two posts by Jove: his post yesterday provides some interesting intelligence, particularly on cabinet members to watch (namely Defense Secretary Nonong Cruz and Labor Secretary Pat Santo Tomas) as well as confirmation that a cabinet coup was really in the offing prior to it’s flopping when the President got word); his latest post discusses the Palace Press Corps being upset over the Palace trying to plug every leak and at the same time inaugurate a new communications plan. His post yesterday though proves that plugging leaks only provides new avenues for sourcing information.
Then there’s Torn and Frayed remembering the England of his youth, and how it was so like the Manila of his present; PCIJ resumes asking, “where in the world is Garcillano?” (with mug shots, to boot); Paeng advises concerned students to focus on keeping their message relevant, and not couched in dated terms, and to be consistent in their behavior, unlike some of the already politically-involved; Newsstand dissects the follies of false unity( as well he should: even when I still supported the President, perpetual calls for unity seemed so useless, since the basis for unity was never defined; today, the call is for loyalty, but which kind? of whatever kind, loyalty is fine as long as it is never blind loyalty). Finally, Mila Aguilar takes a look at Born Again Christianity as a force of capitalist change, in an essay that pays homage to the ideas of Max Weber (his classic work is on the Protestant ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism).
And on the newspaper front, Max Soliven takes a skeptical look at resignations; Dong Puno thinks the end, for the President, is far from near; Alex Magno has a low (and extremely amusing) opinion of the President’s enemies -these two paragraphs on the Makati rally are precious:
The leftist groups, for their part, were too obsessed with finally having their own Edsa-type uprising that they were willing to bed with rascals, plunderers and reactionaries. The consequence was absolute political embarrassment. Not only did the leftist groups allow themselves to merely supply warm bodies for a rally whose tone and content they did not control, they had to endure Richard GomezÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s impoverished poetry reading.
After Susan Roces delivered her non-speech, the microphone somehow got passed to former UP president Francisco Nemenzo. In his own funny way, Nemenzo began rambling about installing a “revolutionary transition government” Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as if determined to scare away support from that whole enterprise. After a few tense minutes, the stagehands grabbed the microphone from him to page for the parents of a lost child. From that moment on, the rally just fizzled out under the sheer weight of its own incoherence.
Bel Cunanan says that in contrast to Makati, the Rizal Park pro-President assembly was a gathering of the true, the good, and the beautiful; Tony Abaya says the vandalizing of the Department of Agriculture by Communists is a sign of socialist things to come, and that (as I’ve been saying) embracing Communists, Estrada Loyalists, etc. all in the name of eliminating the President does no one any good;In Davao, Don Pagusara has a bone to pick with the politically-indifferent; Connie Veneracion has a bone to pick about baby formula (and if you’re in a baby sort of mind-set, check out the blog of a doting new dad, Mr. Nice Guy).
*Article 11 of the Constitution says, of impeachment,
The President, 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.
(1) The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.
(2) A verified complaint may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of 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.