Last Monday, Dec. 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Philippines, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte called a multi-party caucus at 3 pm. Various members thought it was going to be a fresh push for the RH bill as hinted by the Palace earlier, but it turned out to be the Corona Impeachment Express chug-chugging out of the station. The Speaker went direct to the point and said that “We are going to talk about impeachment this afternoon,” and his lieutenants, notably Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez Jr. and Iloilo Rep. Neil Tupas, chair of the House Justice committee, went to work.
|Rep. Toby Tiangco|
Several hands went up to ask questions, among them LP Representatives Rodolfo Biazon and Hermilando Mandanas who said they wanted to look at the complaint first. Like these two LP stalwarts, Deputy Speaker Jesus Crispin Remulla of Cavite, a member of the Nationalist People's Coalition, also withheld signature as he wanted to read it first, “as any lawyer would.” But alas, the Impeachment Express was rushing---no time for queries. All in all it took only a little over an hour for 188 solons to sign the complaint and at this time of writing, the signatories have already exceeded 190.
|Rep. Edcel Lagman|
In the Senate that afternoon, the reaction among the senators, who will sit as judges of the Senate impeachment court, was one of disbelief and incredulity that something as grave and serious as impeaching the fifth highest official of the land and head of the co-equal judiciary could be accomplished in just a little over an hour. Some senators thought at first that it was a practical joke. Indeed the nation is stunned at the “blitzkrieg fashion” with which the Corona impeachment was handled.
To the House members, the issue was laid out plain and simple: If the legislator signs, that means he or she IS WITH P-Noy; if not, then he or she is not with P-Noy. As they put it in that chamber, "somos o no somos." The bullet-train speed with which 188 legislators signed the complaint that’s packed with such grave import to the nation’s life recalls what the late Speaker Ramon Mitra once said half in jest---that House solons would sign anything, even a piece of toilet paper, thrust under their noses.
|former Speaker Ramon Mitra|
The undeniable fact is that it was a stunning manifestation of near-total obeisance to Malacanang's occupant, who was orchestrating the impeachment move since last weekend. Yesterday noon a joyous P-Noy celebrated victory with his House allies at a lunch at the Edsa Shangri-la and that should have stopped there. But no, the President, in the presence of House leaders and his key Cabinet people like Mar Roxas and Butch Abad, continued to harangue Corona and the SC in his off-the-cuff talk there, when the statesmanlike gesture would have been to just shut up and let the House process roll.
|former Gov. Neil Tupas Sr.|
Talk is that two more justices will be impeached. But if the House is planning to impeach the seven other magistrates who voted with CJ Corona to grant a TRO for GMA to leave last Nov. 15 (it was an 8 vs.5 vote for TRO), I suggest they should not exclude one other justice. This was the magistrate who, during the second voting by the SC last Nov. 18 to emphasize the TRO’s CONTINUING EFFECTIVITY, forsook the minority of five and allied with the Corona-led majority, so that the second TRO vote became even bigger, 9 vs. 4. This magistrate might not want to be left out of the historic impeachment action!
|Rep. Hermilando Mandanas|
What will happen to Rep. Biazon? Will he be stripped of his defense committee or his son, Ruffy Biazon, be yanked out from his post as BIR Chief? ? Will Deputy Speaker Boying Remulla be removed from his post?
The above solons who resisted pressure from the Palace are already the NEW HEROES of this impeachment struggle, along with the newly-installed President of the Manila RTC Judges Association, Judge Antonio Eugenio. This judge was quoted in the media as saying, “What can you say about the body that issued Articles of Impeachment after only one hour?” He recalled that four years ago Chief Justice Reynato Puno called the Manila RTC judges the “daring judges of Manila.” Today, Eugenio said, the times call for “daring actions: the dare to get involved and get committed, the dare to defend the very institution we represent, from those who seek its destruction.”
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines issued a statement yesterday signed by its president, Roan Libarios, himself a former representative from Eastern Mindanao, and key IBP officials from the different regions, and published in a major newspaper. The IBP statement stressed that while it's supportive of President Aquino’s reformist agenda, it condemns the legislature’s failure to observe due process that undermines the INDEPENDENCE of the Supreme Court and imperils the rule of law. The IBP called on all law practitioners to defend the judiciary and the Constitution from current attacks on their integrity. Right you are, Roan. More power to the IBP.
|Fr. Joaquin Bernas|
Fr. Bernas is absolutely correct. Let’s pray for all our justices and judges at this time of grave peril to the Constitution and the Rule of Law.