FERDINAND Marcos, the “real Macoy,” was a dictator and so ruled with an iron fist that all those in government, or all those in whatever branch of government—executive, judiciary, and later the token legislative—cowered while doing his every bidding. Thus this joke: Ordered by Marcos to jump from a building, his underlings would simply ask, “From what floor, sir?”
That joke eventually lost its sting when bourgeois democracy, or should we say the status quo ante, was restored after the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising. But it is gaining credence again now, in the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, when we have again a token legislative branch. It’s actually a variation of the old joke. Here it is:
President to Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno: “I’m putting you on notice that I’m your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court...I would ask (House) Speaker (Pantaleon) Alvarez now, kindly fast-track the impeachment. She is bad for the Philippines.”
Speaker Alvarez: “Yes it will be done once we resume sessions.”
As I said before, the country would be headed for dangerous times if Sereno’s trial by the Senate acting as an impeachment court following her eventual impeachment by the House of Representatives would be railroaded. The point is, not all impeachment trials could go the way that of the late former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona. It could also end up like the impeachment trial of former president Joseph Estrada.
Admittedly, Sereno is more like Corona in stature and popularity (or should we say notoriety?). But Corona was impeached in 2011, when the elections were still too far away. Sereno’s impeachment trial would play out a year or less before the midterm polls in 2019. Elections polarize society.
But before we go into that, consider that what unfurls in an impeachment trial is well-covered by the media. In a polarized setup, public opinion can sway one way or the other depending on how the trial is being handled. In Erap’s impeachment trial, attempts to railroad the process in his favor was obvious. The spark that lit the fire was the non-opening of the second envelope.
Thus did Edsa 2 erupt (no pun intended). At that time, only text messages helped the uprising to blossom. Now we have the all powerful social media.
A senator-judge at that time was the late Miriam Defensor-Santiago, one of those who got the ire of the people for voting against the opening of the second envelope. Miriam thus relayed the lessons of the Estrada impeachment trial when a similar process opened against Corona. He reminded the senators essentially about transparency and fairness in the trial.
Estrada’s ouster in 2001 was followed weeks later by the failed Edsa 3 against then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Note that 2001 was an election year. Edsa 3 broke out on April 30 following a campaign rally by the opposition for the May polls at the Edsa Shrine. Fired up by the speeches of the candidates, the crowd later turned into a mob that even thought of storming Malacañang.
Impeachment trial. Approaching elections. Possible railroading. An interesting mix.