Tuesday August 14, 2018

Wenceslao: Politics of revenge

THE 25-member House Committee on Justice yesterday found grounds to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno based on the complaints filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon. But of course. Considering President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent tirades against Sereno, even to the point of asking her to resign with him, what would the pro-Duterte supermajority in the House of Representatives do?

Expect Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to be next. Early in his term, the president refused to tangle directly with Morales considering that she is a relative of the husband of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara. That changed when the anti-graft office started looking into the bank accounts of the Duterte family based on the complaint filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. The president has vowed to file an impeachment complaint against Morales.

Before or after Morales would be impeached, it would be the turn of Vice President Leni Robredo. Isn’t there a pending impeachment complaint filed with the House against the VP? That was what House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez talked about last year. He even vowed to be the one to have Robredo impeached.

What this means is that the Senate will soon have its schedule full functioning as an impeachment court, effectively stalling the legislative work of the current Congress. Considering our previous experiences with the impeachment trials of former president Joseph Estrada and former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona, the process would not only be bruising it would be protracted, consuming at length society at large.

A political analyst had warned that the abuse by Congress of its power to impeach certain high government officials could be dangerous to the democratic process considering that the 1987 Constitution mandates the use of impeachment merely as a last resort. But the President and his people seem to be not bothered about such possibility. The intention is to solidify their control of the government.

Our system of government is supposed to be democratic. Specifically, we are a representative democracy wherein the people exercise power through their elected representatives. Checks and balances are assured with the creation of separate branches of government—the executive, legislative and judiciary—that prevent each other from committing abuses or excesses. Or so that is what our constitution says.

What the framers of the 1987 Constitution failed to reckon is a situation that could give rise to an oligarchy. The weak multi-party system they created has given rise to politicians jumping from one political party to another or creating their own political party for electoral convenience. This weakness was not observable in the early stages but it is creating havoc now.

The setup has allowed a president to control Congress, giving him or her power over two branches of government, like what has happened now. It was okay before because past presidents didn’t abuse that control. Now we are seeing the president, through Congress, initiating a shakedown of the third branch, which is the judiciary. Meaning, that the president and his allies are installing what can be considered an oligarchic rule.