The Great Misconception about Impeachment

Mr. Romano is a convenor of the Black and White movement, a coalition of middle forces that wants to uphold the truth. This article was published in the Opinion Section, Yellow Pad Column of BusinessWorld, September 5, 2005 edition, page 5.

I’ve heard it asked many times. “Why are you people pre-judging GMA? Why don’t you let the rule of law take its course and prove her guilt through a constitutionally prescribed due process?”

They are, of course, referring to impeachment. And they believe this is the forum where GMA should be properly accused, evidence presented, and GMA defended. At the end of the exercise, they expect a determination with finality (which means it cannot be appealed) of whether or not she is guilty.

And there lies the great misconception… because impeachment is not a judicial process where determination of guilt or innocence is based solely on evidence. Impeachment is a purely political process decided by politicians, for whatever reason.

Regardless of the evidence presented, Congress can simply decide to quash the proceedings.

Take the impeachment case of former COMELEC Commissioner Luzviminda Tancangco, for example. The evidence compiled by the impeachment complainants could have indicted Tancangco with over 100 counts of electoral fraud and corrupt acts in a court of law. But Congress thrashed the impeachment complaint just the same, because it was not in the best political interest of the justice committee members. Besides, there were no other interested parties aside from the complainants, and therefore no political pressure upon them to even pretend to look at the merits of the complaint.

Even worse is how Congress blatantly, and without any pretensions of decency, voted down in marathon sessions the impeachment complaint against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They did not even bother to let a single piece of evidence be presented. This, in spite of the attendant publicity and vigilance of some sectors.

What can we learn from these? Because impeachment is a political exercise, it is important that we, the people, participate.

How?

First, we have to make a judgment based on the information available to us—the transcript of the Garci tapes, the testimonies, the maneuverings of both the opposition and the administration, and the political developments as they unfold before us.

Next, we have to bear upon our legislators to make a decision based on our sense of right and wrong.

Speaker Jose de Venecia arrogantly declared on national TV that the impeachment was dead because he has secured firm commitments from 180+ Congressmen who would vote down the complaint. And this, even before they could decide which complaint to process, and even before a single piece of evidence was presented.

You know why the majority brazenly voted it down last Wednesday?

One administration Congressman puts it succinctly, “I have not received any fax or letter from my constituents telling me their sentiments either way.”

Without any pressure from the people, most of these Congressmen begin to think they can get away with murder.

Well… it’s never too late. Today, as you read this article, the Justice Committee will submit its report to plenary for voting. Last I heard, they only need 6 more votes to reach the magic number of 79 that will send the complaint to the Senate. A friendly call or text message to your Congressman might swing the vote. Or your presence at the gallery of the plenary hall might prick some conscience.

Even if the majority bloc votes down the impeachment complaint, it does not mean that GMA is not guilty. It only means that Congress is as guilty as GMA in destroying the institutions we still respect, even if only marginally. It will be another dark day in our history.

God save the Republic.

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