Thursday, August 18, 2005

The duty to impeach

Alex Magno appeals to the notion of tenure to deride what he seems to imply as a partisan, nay, whimsical impeachment supposedly based on a “passing scandal” against President Arroyo. Bewailing that it is agitative, rather than educative, he demands to “End this carnival soon.”

He is the same Alex who has also written that the “epidemic” attendant to the congressional inquiry “in aid of legislation” on the Jose Pidal controversy is “(harming) all institutions.” As an activist who has slipped through the cracks to become, in many ways, as one of the community’s elites (at least in political punditry, anyway), it is easier to discern how the elite value system has been brought to bear upon his political perspectives.

If he has not forgotten (or suppressed) his “mass” perspective on politics, one would expect Alex to articulate that the antithesis to security of tenure is frequent elections, or for career civil servants, removal for cause.

In a presidential system, annual election (where all votes have to be counted as equal to be considered a fair one) is a bit too frequent (although non-national organizations elect presidents annually, generally speaking) but a president for more than five years might be rather too long.

During the impeachment of Estrada I have written the following:
The Impeachment provisions of the 1987 Constitution has assumed a graver dimension when the term of office of the president was fixed to a six-year term without re-election. With re-election after a term of four years under the 1935 Constitution or with the process of withdrawal of confidence in the Prime Minister (the equivalent of the President under the 1935 Constitution) by the National Assembly under the 1973 Constitution, the political accountability of the President through the electoral process or the peoples’ representative was then better assured.

There has been a reasonable apprehension that the presidential term of six years without re-election fixed by the 1987 Constitution could result in the country being stuck with a bad president or a president with bad programs or policies. But such is the risk (in electing a president) taken by the people who may not remove him during the term thus fixed except by impeachment. There is thus more cogent reason anchored on fundamental ground that when the conduct of the President constitutes “culpabale violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust,” impeachment as a constitutional remedy must be sought with greater zeal and exigency.

The Constitution does not leave to the whim of the Legislature this check and balance mechanism called impeachment. The duty to impeach is at the core of the governmental system established in the Constitution. It is not intended to be politicalized according to the will of the dominant legislative party. The impeachment process as an earnest obligation on the part of Congress is akin to the duty of the Supreme Court to say what the law is in appropriate cases brought before it. When the ground therefore for impeachment exists against a president, Congress is under solemn obligation to stand in for all the people and remove him whose continuation in office poses a serious injury to the Republic. In this context, when the people’s alter ego fails the people, the people have the right to use extra-constitutional means in self-defense. This is the basis of People Power.

Now, who benefits from the circus atmosphere? Is it agitative or educative? I have attempted to answer these questions during Erap’s impeachment, thus:
. . . the experience of the Filipinos during the impeachment proceedings is one that truth has not been compromised in the course of the national engagement in civic-spiritedness, a socially energizing force which contrasts to America’s problem of parochialism. Truth would have been so imperiled had the people, denied their constitutional right to information of great public concern, been restricted to look at it through the prism constructed by the powers that be.

The national experience during the impeachment trial confirms yet another salutary constitutional value so essential in participatory democracy and the unique ability of the Filipinos to expediently withhold at the apposite time in order to keep people power from turning into the “despotism of the crowd.” The Filipinos is just about to master this political culture (in their unconscious) and bequeath it to other peoples of the world who desire to respect the supremacy of the sovereign will.


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