To Take A Stand
By Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.
It has been said by constitutional lawyers, members of Congress, and political pundits that an impeachment proceeding is both a judicial process and a political exercise. Given the present composition of the Senate, the hearing of the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez would be a political act more than a judicial function.
Except for Antonio Trillanes, the 22 other senators are inveterate politicians. They had run for public office more than once, most of them several times. They are seasoned veterans of getting, by hook or by crook, the vote of the electorate and are well-versed in political machinations. Considering further that majority of the senators are not lawyers, it would be folly to expect the Senate to function as a judicial body.
I would find ludicrous Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla, neither of whom even finished high school, the clueless Tito Sotto, and the shallow Miguel Zubiri performing a judicial function. Lapid hardly attends Senate sessions for obvious reasons. Colloquial English is beyond his comprehension. Revilla understands English, he having spent a couple of years in Fairfax High School, Los Angeles, but the legal issues involved in the Gutierrez trial are well outside his area of interest, if not beyond his intellectual capacity. He is a member of the Blue Ribbon Committee, but I had not seen him in any of the committee’s many televised hearings on corruption in the military establishment.
Sotto was a senator-judge in the trial of Erap. But he totally surrendered his duty as judge. In justifying his dimwitted vote in that Joe Velarde envelope episode of the Erap trial, he said he consulted legal eagles including former justices of the Supreme Court, and all of them advised him to oppose the opening of the envelope. To have to consult legal luminaries on whether to open the envelope thought to contain incriminating evidence against Erap meant he was incapable, by his own admission, of making even a simple decision of whether to open an envelope of possible evidence or not.
There is nothing Sotto has done since the Erap trial 10 years ago to indicate he is now qualified to sit as judge in a judicial process. Yesterday, the Inquirer quoted him as saying: “People should not be judgmental and avoid speculating on the individual stand for each senator. They’re not helping the Senate any by doing that.” Why, does he find himself confused by the preponderance of opinions? I thought he also said there are 23 republics in the Senate. Does he even know what he is saying?
Zubiri should not even be in the Senate. He was placed there by the Comelec, not by the electorate. On the return of Panfilo Lacson, he said, “We welcome his participation in the impeachment trial knowing he has investigative skills. He will be a major factor in the hearings.” That statement is suggestive of his wrong appreciation of the role of the senators in the impeachment proceeding. He thinks investigation is part of their work.
Sergio Osmeña III, Loren Legarda, Gregorio Honasan, Manuel Villar, Antonio Trillanes, Jinggoy Estrada, Ralph Recto, Lacson, and Bongbong Marcos are not lawyers. They have had no training in the evaluation of documentary and testimonial evidence. The impeachment proceeding would, therefore, be more of a political exercise than a judicial function with the majority of the senator-judges not members of the Bar.
It has also been said that former President Gloria Arroyo would really be the one on trial as the articles of impeachment against Gutierrez accused her of sting on major cases of anomalies implicating the former president and her husband. The removal of Gutierrez from the Office of the Ombudsman would pave the way for the filing of numerous cases of graft and corruption against GMA. In that case, the vote of each senator-judge would depend on what his or her relation with the former president is.
Both Lapid and Revilla are in the Senate by virtue of GMA including them in her senatorial slate first in 2004 and then last year. They will vote no to the removal of the ombudsman. Sotto would have been the vice-presidential running mate of GMA in 1998 had she found a party to endorse her candidacy for presidency. Sotto ran under the Lakas Kampi banner in 2007 but lost. He won as a PMP candidate last year. He will cast a vote of no to protect her long-time friend.
Miriam Santiago had hinted how she would vote when she pre-judged the House of Representatives Justice Committee’s case against Gutierrez as weak. After all, GMA had endorsed Santiago’s application to the World Court in The Hague.
Joker Arroyo’s vote can also be deduced from how during the Senate hearing on the NBN-ZTE deal he browbeat adverse witness Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada and how he painted Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite as a saint for “giving” cash-strapped Lozada P500,000 out of his (Gaite’s) own money. The former Scourge of the Bad (remember his campaign slogan “Kung bad ka, lagot ka”) has changed drastically since he walked the corridors of power with the bad.
When asked during the presidential campaign last year if he would go after GMA if elected president, Manny Villar sidestepped the question by saying he would not lift a finger to prevent anybody from filing charges of graft and corruption against GMA. It is likely he will vote “no” to the removal of Gutierrez. One more “no” vote is needed to acquit Gutierrez and thus save GMA’s neck — anyway until November 2012 when Gutierrez’s term shall have expired. The eighth “no” vote will not come from the Liberal Party members Frank Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Recto, and Teofisto Guingona III and allies Osmena and Escudero.
Trillanes, who was placed under detention for seven years by GMA, will definitely vote for the removal of Gutierrez, the stumbling block to the filing of criminal charges against GMA.
No question as to how Lacson will vote. He has been after the neck of both GMA and her husband Big Mike all these years.
Alan Peter Cayetano must still be seething over the way GMA minions Benjamin “Borjer” Abalos and Nicodemo Ferrer schemed to nullify the votes for him in the elections of 2007. Now is his chance to get back at GMA. Sister Pia is expected to go along with Alan.
GMA plotted with the generals to oust Erap while GMA was still a member of Erap’s Cabinet. Well, Jinggoy has been going after GMA’s generals these past months.
It is obvious from his participation in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigations that his ultimate target is GMA. He will vote for the removal of the stumbling block to his wreaking vengeance on GMA.
Juan Ponce Enrile as Senate president will not vote. That means the crucial “no” vote necessary for Gutierrez to go scot-free could be cast by any of the following: Edgardo Angara, Loren Legarda, Gregorio Honasan, and Bongbong Marcos.
But Legarda and Honasan will be running for reelection in 2013. Legarda knows very well that those who voted “no” to the opening of the Velarde envelope in 2001 were repudiated at the polls the next time they ran.
In the pool game of 8 Ball, he who pockets the 8 Ball wins the game. In the Gutierrez impeachment case, who could be the 8 Ball she can pocket?