Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror, August 23, 2006 edition, p. A6.

The House Justice Committee hearings on impeachment went according to plan— “Verdict first, evidence later.”  Many said it reminded them of the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”, only better.

Representative Edcel Lagman’s summation was a classic. His transition from abortionist in last year’s impeachment—”prejudicial questions first”—to medico-legal this year—“It was already dead on arrival ”—was seamless.

Equally impressive was the argument of one committee member who said, granting Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo cheated in May 2004, she cannot be impeached because that offense was committed prior to her assuming office. What breathtaking logic. And compassionate too, if you follow his reasoning.

That same compassion and lawyerly logic was applied to the Fertilizer scam, the North Rail project and some other crimes that were alleged to have been committed by Mrs. Arroyo during previous term. So, what scared the pro-Arroyo forces? Why were they so adamant about refusing to allow the evidence to be presented?

Maybe it was the alleged crimes that Mrs. Arroyo could be held liable for because they didn’t fall victim to the “after assumption of office rule” invented and advanced by their crafty colleague. Maybe they didn’t want Mrs. Arroyo to account for the alleged break-in at the Batasan to tamper with election returns or the supposed undeclared properties and secret bank accounts in Germany and elsewhere.

The majority also dismissed the charges of human rights violations and crimes against humanity because Mrs. Arroyo was smart enough not to issue any direct written orders. For the majority, the promotion and medal awarded to a reputed butcher did not even hint that she condoned or encouraged his conduct.

The entire proceedings would have gone without a hitch were it not for two contretemps towards the end. First, Rep. Luis Villafuerte mocked the House gallery by waving his white handkerchief at them. That was a no-no. Justice Isagani Cruz will be on him like lipstick on Inday Garutay, the transvestite comedian, because Alpha males are not supposed to go around waving hankies. Only a “syoki”, to use the Justice’s expression, would do that.

Second, the walkout by the majority was totally out of synch. They could have at least waited for the seven boxes of evidence to be removed from the Batasan plenary hall before they scurried to a backroom. That way, they wouldn’t have given the impression that they couldn’t wait to count their blessings. They only lent substance to the gallery’s taunts of “kuwarta o kahon (money or box)”.

In politics, impressions are everything. Well, after blessings of course.

Speaking of blessings, I watched the impeachment in the company of three blessed prelates. You should have seen them bolt out of their seats to rush to the Batasan when they saw those white envelopes being waved by the gallery. It seems envelopes act like magnets to certain bishops. I’m only kidding.  I apologize for digressing.

The important thing about the impeachment proceedings is the public had a chance to preview a unicameral parliament at work. They witnessed firsthand what tyranny of the majority means in a system without checks and balances.

I’m sure the demonstration made some people more receptive to Charter change. At the same time, it also made others more determined to oppose it.

Irreconcilable differences over Mrs. Arroyo. That’s the cancer eating away the liver of our body politic.

Some people believe Mrs. Arroyo can overcome the national malaise by withholding pork from the opposition. Others, by pretending and claiming that everything is alright. But they’re wrong on both counts. Malignant tumors on the body politic are the same as those on the human body—you can’t starve them out or ignore them. You have to cut them out.

So what’s Mrs. Arroyo to do?

She can suppress dissent and gloat: “The Filipino people mark a glorious day in history, when instead of forcing a President out of office through people power, they chose to keep a President through voting in the halls of Constitutional Democracy.”

Or she can go back to the only lucid political thought she ever had: “I’m among the principal figures in the divisive national events …my political efforts can only result in never-ending divisiveness.”

The choice is hers to make. For now.