The first resort to impeachment under the 1987 Constitution was the effort against President Joseph E. Estrada in 2000-2001. It was a learning experience for all. Actors were tentative and mindful of the weight of history being made. At the House of Representatives, every step was a battle. In that historic November session where the House was to act on the justice committee report, Speaker Manuel Villar hijacked the moment and transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate in his opening prayer.
The Senate couldnt even act on the transmittal at first because they had no Senate Rules to govern impeachment trials. As we know, even that Senate trial was not to come to fruition. One cannot help but think of those moments as seminal considering the mischief they spawned, most notably the Estrada vs Desierto decision and its disingenuous constructive resignation rationale. In the legal profession, thats not a case. Its a punch line.
Ground zero. The impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Hilario Davide could also have been educational. Again, each step of that venture was a struggle from the justice committee meeting to the gathering of 87 signatures to impeach. After that, it was like a visit to the dentist even the Speaker and the House Majority Leader were jittery on how to deal with what they unleashed.
Ultimately, the Davide impeachment proved to be a miseducation. Before the same could even be transmitted to the Senate, the Supreme Court intervened and promptly turned vigilante. We were left with the self serving, acrobatic Francisco vs House decision. This was the infamous to initiate is to file first ponencia of Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales. Observers mark this time and day as the birth of the phenomenon of recidivist impeachers and condom complaints. Queues would regularly form outside the office of the House Secretary General where worthless, prophylactic complaints would be filed at the start of each session to trigger the one year bar.
But now its dalawa singko as Congressman Miro Quimbo quips indignantly. Under the Duterte Administration, weve had the Alejano complaint against the President which was promptly dismissed in committee by a partisan majority. There was the termite of government complaint against Vice President Leonor Robredo that could not manage an endorser from among her former colleagues. There is the complaint against the Chief Justice with Associate Justices also not spared their own warnings from Congress.
In the next lower tier of impeachable high officials, Chairman Andres Bautistas case is representative of the dare against the Constitutional commissions. Only the Ombudsman has been spared but, as we can see, she is not immune from Presidential inquest.
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Legislative Despotism. Lost in the frivolous rush to impeach is the gravity of the justifications invoked for the same. The enumeration in the Constitution of what an impeachable offense is has been rendered effectively inutile. Here, we follow the Gerald Ford model: what is impeachable is whatever the House considers it to be at any given moment. Check and balance? In reality, its simply making impeachable officials terms subject to Legislative pleasure.
Hands down, the most nebulous of them all is the one filed against the Chief Justice and now endorsed by 25 Congressmen. She is the third in her post to be threatened with impeachment, after Davide and the late Chief Justice Corona. Whether rite of passage or occupational hazard, the calls really started when she stood up to the President when the latter called out judges on his narco list. This was followed by her ardent defense of the rule of law after Congress threatened to cite the Ilocos 6 Justices of the Court of Appeals in contempt.
Congressional hardball. The unwritten code is that our Representatives reflect the better angels of our nature. Much as we have seen them do this time and again, they are also prone to disappoint us momentously. Recall the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona where, in smoky hotel backrooms, 188 signatures were collected for the impeachment complaint. We know how that ended. What we didnt know then was how it all started.
I knew the P6.5 billion figure of the Bureau of Customs drug smuggling caper sounded familiar. P6.5 billion is the same amount that was released to legislators by way of Development Acceleration Program (DAP) contemporaneous with the Corona impeachment.
It has been said that while the bar for conviction in a Senate Impeachment Trial has been set very high (at 2/3), the bar for impeachment in the House has been set very low. In the impeachment proceedings being readied, it remains to be seen whether numbers will prevail over demonstrated guilt or innocence. Lets wait and see whether our beloved representatives rise above the bar or if they meet it at its own level.
Passages. Hardly noticed by the millennial generation was the passing of a giant. My generation mourns the brilliant comedic virtuoso and master of physical comedy, Jerry Lewis.
In his public persona, Mr. Lewis was a personal hero to many. His humanitarian telethons for muscular dystrophy helped countless victims and raised public awareness of the condition. He was also an authentic film expert. His innovations in cinematic photography are still practical to this day. Among his students at the film school of the University of Southern California were gentlemen named Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
His was not the tragicomedy you see in Senate Blue Ribbon hearings; not the intellectual chuckle or guffaw that is reaped by the witty remark. His brand of slapstick produced the side splitting laughter that came from the gut. The kind that had us rolling on the floor and wiping back shared tears.
Laughter leaves us light hearted. Yes, it affects our physical wellness. Research has shown us its physiological benefits: reduced stress levels, increase in antibodies, improved heart rates. For all the laughs through the years and the laughs I will continue to share with family, thank you Mr. Lewis.