Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tupas talks about impeaching other SC justices, as reprisals are already felt by those who didn’t sign Corona impeachment complaint, such as Batangas LP Rep. Hermilando Mandanas. Bernas cites “chilling effect” on justices and judges.

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
The House members were told that no deliberations and questions would be entertained, and as Rep. Toby Tiangco said in a radio interview this morning, it was made clear that “the issue (of SC Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment) is non-debatable.” After a brief power-point presentation on the broad issues in the Articles on Impeachment vs. Corona, they were all dutifully told like little kindergarten kids, “Pila na kayo para pumirma.” 

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
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, ever creative in opposing tyrannical moves of the majority, noted that if every solon were to read the impeachment complaint with understanding, it would take him or her 31 hours to finish. Lagman said this was the only way to intelligently arrive at a decision to sign or not to sign---but those were not moments for intelligence.

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.


former Speaker Ramon Mitra
from http://www.sabong.net/
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.

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.
from mikepama.blogspot.com
Neither do his House allies know when to stop and just relish their victory. House Justice Committee Chair Neil Tupas (whose father, the former Iloilo Gov. Neil Tupas, Sr., had been suspended by former Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez for graft, which explains the Junior’s vociferousness towards her earlier this year), was quoted on TV as saying they are seriously studying filing impeachment complaints too against some other SC justices. 

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
Failing to sign the Corona impeachment complaint, however, comes at great cost and sacrifice for some solons this early. Last night Batangas three-termer  Rep. Mandanas, who has been fighting for the IRA that rightfully belongs to LGUs under the Constitution and the Local Government Code, was told by Speaker Belmonte that he'd be stripped tonight of his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, acknowledged as the second most powerful after Appropriations, for not voting yes to impeachment. Last night too neophyte Rep. Toby Tiangco, former mayor of Navotas and also an LP, took the floor to protest the ramming through by the leadership of the complaint, without giving each House member an opportunity to study it. Toby then announced that he was giving up his chairmanship of the Metro Manila Development Committee (inunahan na niya bago pa alisin sa kanya---he was replaced by San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito, a complaint signatory). Toby also declared himself politically independent. 
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. Joaquin Bernas was queried last night by Jessica Soho on GMA-7 about what possible effects the impeachment complaint against CJ Corona and Justice Mariano del Castillo earlier (on the plagiarism count) would have on the SC and the judiciary as a whole. Bernas first stressed that it’s not just Corona that the House is targeting, but the SC as a whole because the impeachment complaint raised issues against its very decisions. Bernas stressed that therefore, it’s the SC that’s really on trial and this would have a CHILLING EFFECT not just on its members but on the ENTIRE JUDICIARY. He hoped that  the impeachment of their SC colleagues wouldn’t prevent the justices and judges from making decisions BASED ON THE LAW AND NOT OUT OF FEAR OF REPRISALS.

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.


1 comment:

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