The headlines are, of course, House panel kills impeachment bid (Inquirer), Impeach bid junked (Malaya). Arroyo survives 2nd impeachment fight (Times). For the officially-authorized version of events, see the Manila Standard-Today report.
Actually, the strongest argument made by administration defenders was that the rules, as adopted by the House, put the determination of “substance” ahead of the enumeration or even examination of any potential evidence (see my column for today on how it used to be different). They definitely had the opposition by the short and curlies on that point.
But on the whole, the debates were divided according to two, irreconcilable points of view: proponents of impeachment relied on appealing to the spirit of the law; defenders of the President concentrated on the letter of the law and when that failed, on the inexorable realities of party loyalties which couldn’t budged by appeals to anyone’s conscience, whether the President’s or her allies.(Sassy Lawyer opines there was sufficiency of substance for at least some of the charges, though I disagree with her views on the President’s culpability with regards to political killings: as chizjarkace suggests, if there’s smoke, there’s fire; and as citing the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, the impeachment team did point out widespread human rights violations can be a basis for impeachment.)
What no one expected, I think, is that the President’s chief cheerleaders would set themselves up for two political blunders.
There’s a saying in our culture, and it applies quite often in politics, that the first one to show signs of being onion-skinned loses. That is why anything satirical, or humorous, leaves many in the administration angry and frankly, puzzled as to what to do.
Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, one of the principal marmosets of Kampi (the President’s vest pocket political party) suddenly expressed outrage over a slogan taped by the opposition to their podium. The slogan was something along the lines of what my aunt had said to one of the Palace’s cheerleaders: “What are you afraid of?”
Antonino raised a point of order, saying that the opposition was behaving indecorously, by posting “propaganda” on the podium. Session was suspended. By this point, after having been chided twice for clapping in support of opposition speeches, many in the audience had taken to fanning themselves, or waving around, white envelopes and sheets of paper. Even watching it on TV, it was unclear how Antonino’s objection to the slogan morphed into an objection to the white envelopes, but it seems to have begun with the pro-Palace audience in the gallery standing up to jeer at the people waving white envelopes.
Then the Chairman of the Committee decided to pursue his threat to move the proceedings to a conference room instead of the Session Hall. Big mistake. The administration congressmen proceeded to stand up and walk out, to the jeering, this time, of the opposition audience. It was a sign of weakness. The audience, composed, after all, of endorsers of the complaint, who had a right to be there, and other citizens who had every right to be there, too, obviously showed no intention of being willing to be herded out. The Chairman obviously felt he had neither the authority nor capacity to clear the galleries. So they retreated to a conference room.
That sent a signal that was understood, anyway, but made explicit by the majority: they would kill the impeachment, by hook or by crook, and with no consideration for the public’s right to witness what was going on. Adequate precedents, after all, had been established in 2000 and 2005 for public participation in the proceedings.
So radio breathlessly reported, and TV clearly showed, the majority fleeing their own session hall for the safety and closed-off security of a conference room. The minority remained in the sessional hall. The Speaker, looking very irritated, materialized in the session hall, and was seen brushing aside his party mates. I think he fully understood what bad political theater Chairman Datumanong’s move made.
Eventually, the majority had to trickle back to the session hall to resume the hearing. They simply couldn’t afford the political black eye of being seen to be afraid of the public, and the fallout from engineering a vote without the presence of the minority, and under circumstances closed off from public scrutiny.
(Which makes me wonder just how prepared people like Rep. Antonino are for the parliamentary system. Ever watched the British House of Commons in action? Or participated in a Westminster-style debate? It’s tough, because you score points for jeering and interrupting your opponent with noise. But that’s how the British parliamentary system works but our home-grown pols wouldn’t be able to stand it.)
After oozing back to the session hall, the inevitable rejection of the surviving impeachment complaint took place. After Re. Cagas made a fire-breathing but rather incoherent defense of why he’d voted against impeachment, Rep. Escudero pulled off an outstanding parliamentary move. Escudero said that the minority would not bother to explain their vote for impeachment, since they had already explained their case. So he would leave it to the majority to continue what Cagas had begun, which was, to justify to the people why they had decided to kill the impeachment. Escudero asked for the minority to be excused from the proceedings.
At that point, stunned yet again, the Chairman rather excitedly -and abruptly- terminated the proceedings, which was greeted with cheering and jeering from the audience. Again, the administration congressmen beat a hasty retreat. It was a moment similar to the taking over of the Georgian parliament some years back. It’s a healthy thing, I think, for the administration congressmen to realize they’re not going to get any credit, or salvage any honor, from their defense of the President. Read the post-hearing roundup in the Black & White Movement blog.
This information recently received: Ms. Pauline Lawsin-Nayra, the Executive Director of the Runggiyan Social Development Foundation, Inc. (Runggiyan) in Tacloban, Leyte and a member of the National Board of the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), was informed two weeks ago by someone from the Regional Development Council of Region 8 (RDC-8) that she was being asked by the Palace to resign as RDC-8 Co-Chairperson, representing the private sector representatives. Reason? She signed the impeachment complaint filed on July 27.
First Gentleman resents being called “the Godfather of smuggling,” files a libel case and demands the arrest of Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who made the mistake, it seems, of making that comment not in a privilege speech, but during a hearing. Cops were sent to apprehend Estrada, and were told they can’t do that by the Senate President, who underwent his baptism of fire as head of the chamber. An OFWLiving in Hong Kong finds this and other developments, scary.
Second wind, or death rattle? The Chairman of the Comelec says the so-called “people’s initiative” won’t be entertained by the poll body; and the Speaker is quoted as saying he’s a mere 5 congressmen away from attempting a constituent assembly in Congress; so when a survey’s excreted and presented for whatever it’;s worth, is it a counter-push by the Legion, a tactical maneuver by Fidel Ramos who has embarked on a political vendetta against the Speaker, or both?
Protestant Church in Australia adds its voice to condemnations of the Philippine government’s human rights record. 14 of its members have been killed in the Philippines.
Newsbreak has an interesting article: are there legal precedents being established that would basically permit people to divorce, provided the religion they belong to sanctions the practice? Catholic bishops are disturbed by this kind of religious liberty. Should upholders of secular society be concerned, as well?
Supreme Court orders Meralco refund for consumers.
In the punditocracy, my column for today is Motive. The fascinating account by President Quirino of the impeachment charges against him can be read in “The memoirs of Elpidio Quirino” (Elpidio Quirino) published by the National Historical Institute and available from them. When I suggested the pro-impeachment congressmen read the account so they could bring up how much fairer it seemed in 1949, one of them snapped, “different rules now.” And this was a strong point raised by the administration: the minority had endorsed for acceptance, the present, obviously unfair, rules. So the first order of business would be, for the 14th Congress (if we have one) is to drop the present rules and revert to rules similar to the first ones adopted in 1949.
Billy Esposo says the ruling and business classes are blithely walking to their doom. I agree.
Tony Abaya has long advocated a kind of Star Search for future leaders who don’t come from the usual cliques or places. He puts forward Antonio Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga, as a potential candidate for president.
Conrado de Quiros movingly writes of the ABC 5 reporters who died in the line of duty.
John Mangun: be competition-conscious.
Juan Mercado on all things rice-related.
Connie Veneracion on a decade of motherhood.
In the alternative universe (similar problems to us, but more encouraging solutions) known as Thailand, another piece that strikes a familiar chord: Reconciliation about more than silencing critics.
In the blogosphere, Random Thoughts debunks Jarius Bondoc.