In a letter to the Catholic Bishop’s Conference president, the President of the Philippines let loose pious pleadings (and protestations of continued innocence) while finally saying she’s open to a fact-finding commission. The letter was read by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye live on state television.
Finally, a decision to undertake a fact-finding commission, although its composition and responsibilities have yet to be defined (or whether it will be by executive order or a law or resolution passed by Congress).
Just when the political situation seems to have calmed down, and be headed toward a familiar process, comes the the President’s proposal.
I think at present, this belated recognition, on the President’s part, of the fact-finding commission option, will lead to even more unflattering questions.
First, is the sudden announcement (without the usual trial balloons in media or calculated leaks to float the idea) a means to head off the impeachment process? Does the administration suddenly fear the avenue it proposed and even demanded? Does it suddenly think that it has neither the numbers to delay and debate articles of impeachment to death in the House, or prevent an unfavorable outcome in the senate?
Second, is the sudden announcement a way to suddenly pander to civil society and the Church, in order to delay the reckoning and throw efforts by the prosecution to build its case?
Third, is a fact-finding commission now, weeks after it was proposed, and after the President having vigorously rejected the idea, clever (opportunistic) timing, or a spectacularly bad political miscalculation?
I believe it will harden party lines that were already softening up to this point. There will be those antagonized by the proposal, seeing it as too little, too late. There will be others confused by it: why now, and why now, when impeachment was already expected to be the way to go? There will be others, still, who will puzzle over how to work with a possible two-track scenario in play. Atty. Katrina Legarda actually views a fact-finding commission as a necessary preliminary move to an impeachment; a thorough yet speedy fact-finding body could settle whether or not an iron-clad impeachment complaint could be filed, and speedily decided upon by a senate frightened of going against the findings of such a body. Will others, though, want to risk trying the fact-finding path, when people are already revved up for an impeachment?
This is, again, too little, too late; it makes the President’s need to show herself during the state of the nation address, as the person best qualified to lead the country out of the trouble it’s in, that much more difficult to achieve. I think this move might just antagonize even more people, although it might sow enough confusion to buy her some more time.
Update: more info at PCIJ, Jove, and Inq7.net. I also responded to an entry by Sassy Lawyer (criticizing the opposition’s objections to such a commission) as follows:
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s interesting. after originally refusing to consider a commission, the President proposed impeachment. people decided to support that path. It provides a predictable and understandable frame of reference for everyone.
Now, the bishops proposed a commission, but if you read their letter, its frame of reference varies from that proposed by the President; more so, it suddenly changes the flow of events (granted, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a smart move), from an impeachment effort, to integrating (or not integrating) commission with impeachment.
The President can create such a commission, its credibility depends on its composition and mandate. but what now, when it comes to its mandate, which might be radically different from what the bishops, and even the PresidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s supporters, desired?