Monday, January 30, 2012

Foregone conclusion

This is my column today.

Many among us try to project this impression that we continue to have an open mind as to whether or not the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is guilty of the crimes for which he has been impeached by the House of Representatives and being tried by the Senate.
There are those who go through the motions of following the proceedings of the impeachment trial purportedly for the purpose of discerning for themselves the real value of the tons of evidence presented thus far, or conversely, ascertaining the real merits of the spirited arguments of the defense panel.

There continue to be many who pretend that they have not made up their minds yet about the guilt or innocence of the Chief Justice—and I am not necessarily talking about Senators Frank Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, or Ralph Recto.

Let us get real, people. Most of us who give a flying fig about the issue have already made up our minds a long time ago. And many of us made the decision based on party affiliation, our degree of affection or dislike for the main protagonists, and other subjective considerations.

The only people who haven’t made up their minds yet are those who just don’t care one way or the other. These are the people who cannot and do not see how the impeachment of the chief magistrate will affect their lives or improve their lot, those who tend to see the whole thing as a very costly exercise with dubious practical value, or those who are disenchanted with the way the stink of politics tend to dirty everything else in this country.

Please spare me the lecture about how the impeachment process is the bedrock of democracy and how everyone should be presumed innocent unless proven guilty or at least allowed to defend himself against his accusers.

Please stop telling me that the whole process is designed to ensure fairness and to usher out justice. We all know that the impeachment trial is not about fairness or justice regardless of the number of times these words are invoked like an all-encompassing mantra by the senator-judges and the members of the prosecution and defense panels.

Impeachment is a political exercise. And sadly, the level of political maturity in this country is not something we can crow about. We’re still electing clowns and their wives to public office. We’re still relying on sheer charisma and political machinery to propel people into office. We’re still mistaking looks, eloquence and pedigree for competence. And worse, we still continue to strengthen political patronage and use political largesse to buy affections, affiliations, and yes, votes.

The prosecution panel wants to convey the impression that it wants to try the Chief Justice based on the rules of impeachment. What balderdash! Any person with eyes, ears, and half a functioning brain can see what the prosecution is up to. It just wants to overwhelm everyone with accusations. It is not interested in building a tight case—it wants to instigate a mob and force a decision based on outrage and emotions.

The defense wants to convey the impression that it is scoring points during the impeachment hearing because its lawyers are able to outwit, out-argue, out-maneuver the prosecution. They can score points inside the hall, but I doubt very much if they can claim that they are winning the public relations battle.

The bright boys at MalacaƱan Palace has been trying to pretend that they are leaving Chief Justice Renato Corona’s fate up to the senator justices. What hogwash! The government has marshaled the resources of the whole bureaucracy in support of the impeachment. Is there anyone in this country who believes the Bureau of Internal Revenue came up with the kind of information they were able to present to the impeachment court in a matter of days with just one person working on it?

And let’s all face it. No less that the President of the Republic of the Philippines has been strongly championing Corona’s impeachment. Benigno Simeon Aquino III has not made secret his overwhelming and consuming passion to oust Corona from the Supreme Court. In fact, if we are to interpret the President’s pronouncements on the issue sans the diplomacy that a head of state is supposed to observe, it would be this: I don’t care what it takes or how you do it, just get that son of a b*tch out of there as soon as possible, preferably right this very minute.

In fairness to some of the senator judges, in particular, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, there are efforts to imbue the proceedings with as much integrity and fairness as possible. But then again, we all know how politicians in this country conduct themselves when push comes to shove. Lest we forget, 2013 is an election year and half of the people sitting as senator judges are running for re-election. They cannot afford to waste political capital.

So must of us watch the impeachment trial for our own reasons. There are those who watch it for entertainment, like it’s the biggest and most spectacular soap opera ever produced. And if we come to think about it, the costs associated with this trial are staggering. For example, the legislation has virtually come to a halt with the trial. Lawyers and law students watch it mainly for its educational content, like it’s a law school on air where Justice Serafin Cuevas is professor and people like Niel Tupas are, well, the clueless students.

But seriously guys, who are we kidding? The end result of this impeachment trial is already a foregone conclusion. What we are seeing are valiant efforts to just prove a point or two.

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