Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
On any issue, the most difficult position is the “nuanced position” because it is not a straightforward yes or no to something. Many see things as either black or white. In real life, it is not that simple. There are many colors and shades of colors as there are many things to consider in making one’s stand on a given issue.
On the Chief Justice Renato Corona impeachment case, for instance, the easiest thing is to agree with what the House of Representatives did. Doing so is equated with being pro-Noynoy, which is the popular positioning. After all, even Speaker Sonny Belmonte admitted (despite initial Malacañang denials), that the House merely followed what President Aquino asked them to do.
Consequently, those of us who ask questions are labelled as anti-Noynoy, anti-impeachment, pro-former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, or pro-CJ Corona. I beg to disagree. Many are not any of these, myself included.
Through decades of activism, I have learned to use certain principles in weighing my take on issues. I am not fond of criticizing people, I make my positions based on careful and thorough analysis of issues, not partisanship or affiliation. Thus, I am neither for nor against any specific politician but I can be for or against specific actions of specific politicians.
Questioning what transpired at the House is not necessarily an anti-impeachment position. Impeachment is a crucial Constitutional process to make accountable and remove from office abusive government officials. Ultimately, its purpose is to make sure that the country is governed only by those worthy of the positions they hold and able to fulfil their mandates. How can anyone be against a process that protects the people from abuse?
I have been critical of various actions and decisions of former President Arroyo even during those times when my former political group chose to side with her. I have been most critical of Arroyo’s anti-reproductive health position as well as her meddling with the House on this.
Of the high government officials, Chief Justice Corona is the most unknown to me. My political work revolves around Congress and some executive departments. My only dealing with the Judiciary is at the trial court level during times when we assist specific cases. Thus, I do not have any strong opinions on Corona.
I guess this is the same with most Filipinos because the justices are not ordinarily seen or heard of. Of the three government branches, members of the Judiciary are mostly quiet. We only hear about their decisions but rarely get to know them. At least not in the same way as we know the President, Speaker of the House, the Senators, even Department Secretaries.
Sure, I know about allegations that Corona is a midnight appointee of Mrs. Arroyo. But in the same way that I will not question technicalities about the House meeting constitutional conditions for an impeachment vote, lawyers have also said that the so-called midnight appointments are technically valid.
I am familiar with Supreme Court decisions on various cases including those in relation with Mrs. Arroyo and President Aquino. But as media reports always say, these are Supreme Court decisions, not Corona’s alone. I have always regarded the Supreme Court as a collegial body.
My concerns about the House impeachment proceedings are not about technicalities. I understand that the House has met all conditions set forth by the Constitution on this.
However, the manner by which the House met these Constitutional requirements is, for me, hard to accept as moral.
I am concerned with the power play being displayed by this issue. Blatantly, Malacañang is showcasing how it uses its immense powers to the extent of disrespecting co-equal branches of government.
I am concerned that the principal impeachment lobbyist is the most powerful official of the land—the President, who is known to dislike Corona from day one. Given the balance of power in our politics, the impeachment was a given. The overriding perception that this is a Pnoy-versus-SC issue instead of HOR-versus-Corona is disturbing.
I am concerned that the House members were not given time to study the impeachment complaint. Representatives signed on the basis of power point presentations, not the actual document they were affixing their signatures to. On this particular occasion, the House became a rubber-stamp institution. This sets a very dangerous precedent.
Even if some political parties held caucuses on the case, none of them discussed the very crucial actual document they were deciding on. It was like approving a bill in essence without knowing the actual bill’s contents.
My familiarity with how the House works leads me to believe that even IF there were no threats of withholding the representatives’ pork barrel, they themselves felt the threat—as how Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco put it. In short, many need not be threatened, they already were and are.
I am concerned with how the House leadership put it when the representatives were asked to sign, “Just sign and if you want to ask questions, do so during the plenary,” and “sign if you are an ally of the President.” I talked with several House members and they were actually not happy with how things were done.
I am concerned, no, disappointed with how many of the 188 lawmakers made their decision. I can respect those who studied their options and there were those. However, many just gave in to the House leadership. No matter what the leadership said or did, if more insisted on studying the document first, the leadership would not have easily prevailed.
I am concerned with the attempt to shield the President’s role in this. On the evening of the impeachment, Malacañang and allies went on national television and said that what the House did was purely its business, that PNoy had no hand in it, and that nothing was hidden as it was an open process. If these were not lies, I don’t know what are.
I am concerned with the divisions this issue is creating in our country. The Judiciary is fighting back. Legal minds are divided. Even some who used to be allies of Malacañang are joining the fray and criticizing the President. These divisions could have been prevented if House was not in a big hurry to impeach.
I am very concerned with the implications of the impeachment case on the country, on our people. Can a chief justice who is hand-picked by PNoy become truly independent?
Now that the House has proven itself to be an extension of Malacañang, will the Senate be able to resist the Presidential lobby? I am fervently hoping that the senators, for once, will decide based solely on evidence. The country needs nothing less from them.
firstname.lastname@example.org and @bethangsioco on Twitter