By ARTHUR ALLAD-IW
The House of Representatives, dominated by GMA’s allies, finally thrashed the people-initiated impeachment against GMA. The final count showed 172 Congressmen voting against the impeachment while 32 voted in favor.
The pro-GMA House majority evaded issues of substance on whether GMA had committed impeachable acts. Instead, the impeachment process became a loyalty issue: whether this or that lawmaker is pro-GMA or not.
Thus, impeachment was decided by the House composition – applying the tyranny of numbers so to speak – as each representative voted according to his or her party affiliation rather than on the substance of the issues raised.
This is the system of patronage that underlies our politics. Congressmen agree to kill the impeachment, even disregard their constituency’s position, because in doing so they will benefit from the discretionary funds of the sitting president.
Earlier, the Lower House’s Justice Committee thrashed the impeachment complaint as insufficient in substance. The only way to save the impeachment complaint was to present the Justice Committee report to the House plenary. If the complaint gets the nod of 1/3 of the House membership, it would advance to the opposition-dominated Senate for trial. But the tyranny of numbers won in the end, with the pro-GMA bloc gloating that the impeachment was “dead on arrival.”
I have a different view of the supposed victory of the pro-GMA House majority. In killing the impeachment, they also killed the constitutional right of the people to information on issues of public interest. All the charges against GMA – culpable violation of the constitution, graft and corruption, abuse of authority – are all issues tainted with public interest.
Thus, throwing out the impeachment without weighing its substance denies the public its right to know the issues surrounding the impeachable acts. Thus, the majority pro-GMA House bloc violated the people’s right to know. The people should remember who among the congressmen killed this right, comes the 2007 election.
The pro-GMA House bloc acted like members of Marcos’s rubber stamp Batasang Pambansa. But I cannot generalize the “rubber stamp” accusation against the whole House.
That would be an insult against the 32 members of the minority bloc who voted otherwise. They did their duty well as legislators and fiscalizers, and should be commended if that were their only consolation. I watched how Rep. Chis Escudero ably championed the impeachment complaint. And I agree with him that history will be the final judge on the matter.
Going back to the impeachment’s substance, I reiterate one culpable violation of the constitution by GMA. Political killings under GMA have increased from year to year. The 40-plus journalists killed under her watch since 2001 is a higher number than the equivalent casualty under Marcos’ long rule. As AI and IFJ have noted, many of these killings are traceable to the military or police as culprits.
The constitution mandates that no person shall be deprived of life and liberty without due process of law. And the president is mandated to protect these basic rights to life and due process, even if she did not author these killings.
As Commander-in-chief of the AFP and as the ultimate superior of the PNP, GMA is mandated to protect the basic right to life, liberty and due process. But, at the very least, she failed to address these killings and stop the death squads. As a result, more people’s lives are now being snuffed out like chicken, in some respects worse than what we suffered during martial law.
The 32 congressmen who voted for the impeachment complaint may have lost the battle, but they did not lose the war. By pointing to the urgent need for our people to work for a substantive legislative body, they are helping the people to win. Justice remains an elusive dream for now, but it will come. #