Congress goes back to work today, and its morning session, which both houses usually devotes to the pro forma task of inviting the President to address the legislature, and for the legislature to convene in the afternoon for the purpose. Instead this morning’s Congressional proceedings will be dominated, instead, by the question of the President’s lawyers complicating the opposition intention to amend the original impeachment complaint, in the House, and a possible struggle for the leadership of the Senate (PCIJ reported over the weekend on the frantic efforts by the administration to prevent an immediate transmission of any impeachment complaint to the Senate, and Tina Panganiban-Perez some days back, did the same thing). Fr. Joaquin Bernas, in an uncharacteristically sarcastic column, first sets aside a fact-finding commission as not only premature, but hopelessly flawed, and he strongly suggests the President is being dishonest when it comes to her saying she prefers impeachment:
…the President is also aware of the moves in Congress to impeach her and that among the impeachment charges to be filed against her are actions or omissions related to the conduct of the last presidential elections. She has openly declared that impeachment is what she wants. Meanwhile, her critics in the House of Representatives are struggling to convince her supporters in the House to cooperate in bringing the impeachment charges to trial by the Senate. But she has hired a lawyer, Pedro Ferrer, whose move is being read as an attempt to block the impeachment. Thus, although from one side of the mouth she’s saying that impeachment is the proper way to deal with the accusations against her, from the other side, she’s saying she wants to frustrate the impeachment…
Finally, he suggests the Presidential Electoral Tribunal might still have a chance to redeem itself:
…can something still be done about this? Let me make a shot in the dark. Under the present circumstances, where there is a clamor for an impartial body to look into the Gloriagate scandal, the Supreme Court may yet be persuaded to reopen the FPJ protest, as an act of judicial statesmanship… That question, after all, is what is tearing the nation apart.
As precedent for such an act of statesmanship by the Supreme Court, we might consider the two stages that the case of Avelino v. Cuenco went through in 1949. In the first stage, the Court said it had no jurisdiction over the case and dismissed Avelino’s petition. In the second stage, when the problem persisted and the clamor from all quarters for the Court to decide became very loud, the Court assumed jurisdiction and decided in favor of Cuenco. Peace followed.
This afternoon, Congress convenes on the premises of the House of Representatives in order to hear the President deliver her State of the Nation Address. My column today provides some background facts on this ritual of state: I oppose boycotts of the ceremony but the Senate opposition, it seems, is boycotting anyway and the House opposition might follow suit. The Manila Times takes a look at the symbolism of fashion at the event, while another report says the speech will be a first in more ways than one.By the way, Jove Francisco makes the case for his network’s coverage of today’s events.
Doris Bigornia, reporter for ABS-CBN, told me last night that the anti-GMA protesters have been restricted to the vicinity of Ever Gotesco, which if you know the area leading to the House of Representatives, is pretty far away. Usually, protesters are allowed as far as St. Peter’s Church, which apparently will be restricted to less “hard-core” protesters. A pro-President rally will also take place in front of the Sandiganbayan. Bigornia said the militant protesters, angry at being kept so far away from the House, will make every effort to at least make it to the St. Peter’s Church vicinity. There is thus the possibility that the pro- and anti- groups might clash (which the Left says is a military plot and which the military says is a Communist plot, though from what I understood, Bigornia seemed convinced both sides are plotting a confrontation in the streets).
In the pundit roundup, lawyer Avelino Sebastian, Jr. puts forward some legal scenarios for succession; Dan Mariano says both sides of the political divide are deadlocked; Rudy Romero proclaims today’s speech the President’s valedictory; Lito Banayo muses on emigration and Bailey bridges; Ellen Tordesillas reports that Renato de Villa thinks soldiers will inevitably intervene in politics; JB Baylon says, with some sadness, that the President has a “cheating heart”; Benedicto Bacani looks at the crisis and implications for the Mindanao peace process;
In the news: a few days back, the New York Times reported a manhunt for an Abu Sayaf leader is underway;
The blogosphere has Paeng musing on “objectivity,” and wonders why taking a stand seems so bad to some people; JJ Disini expresses discomfort over Senator Joker Arroyo’s uncharacteristic muteness in the face of recent events; Edwin Lacierda thinks the speech isn’t worth dying for; Newsstand mourns the death of the “Strong Republic,” and notes how today’s speech is very much the President’s game; Gari will be on the streets today and takes a look at protest strategies; since surveys are very much in the news, Madame Chiang takes an amusing look at one of my all-time favorite TV shows, “Yes, Minister,” and how some dialogue applies to us today;