Conclusion: The misuse of impeachment
The impeachment complaint against VP Robredo is also not right; it is in fact laughable, to say the very least. How can criticizing the government, although before a foreign body, be considered an impeachable offense? Whatever happened to freedom of speech even if one is a high-ranking official of the government and is expected to be supportive of the administration?
If VP Robredo’s statement before the UN body put the Philippines in a bad light, then the President himself, if not more so, is equally guilty. What with the expletives and threats he so liberally throws at local and international personalities and institutions that criticize his policies, particularly the war on drugs. By no stretch of the imagination can one say that his statements are putting the reputation of the country in good light.
Again, if Ombudsman Conchita Morales’ act of supposedly delaying cases before her office is an impeachable offense, which, by the way, is an administrative matter, how do we treat the statements by the President on how to prosecute his war on drugs? For instance, statements prodding government enforcers and civilians to arm themselves and massacre drug personalities? Or the unabated occurrences of extrajudicial killings of drug personalities? Or his supposed foreign policy stance to assuage the Chinese and remain indifferent even as Chinese ships continuously encroach onto our territorial claims over some islands in the West Philippine Sea which, by the way, have been sustained in a decision by the arbitration body?
To many observers, these are more serious grounds for impeachment than a purchase of a luxurious vehicle, or a statement criticizing the government, or delays in acting on cases before the Ombudsman’s office. But then again, one can say that even President Duterte’s statements are merely policy statements which many may not agree with despite their adverse consequences.
The point is – impeachment cannot be used as a tool to persecute or silence perceived political opponents or critics or to subject presidents or other officials to harassment for performing their duties. This can never be the intent of the framers of the Constitution.
While impeachment is a political process, it can never be used as a club to bludgeon persons with opposite opinions or views for the overriding concern that remains is not to advance the political agenda of any particular group but the interest of the public.
Betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution as the oft-cited grounds used by whosoever lodges an impeachment complaint must be read in conjunction with the element of deliberate malice and evil intent. They are not magic words that can be invoked at the drop of a hat to make a public official – irritating he or she might be to some – disappear.
In other words, there must be prima facie evidence showing that the act to be considered betrayal of trust or culpably violative of the Constitution is done with deliberate or malicious intent. A liberal construction of the grounds would expose most public officials – who, because of wrong judgment or adaption of wrongful policies that result in unintended negative consequences – to sanctions, if not by impeachment, then by administrative penalties or even worse.
The filing of an impeachment complaint may not be based on popular passion, whim and caprice. Nor can it be used as a tool by the government. Because of the seriousness of its purpose, the complainant must file his complaint after utmost consideration of its merits; after all, the public reputation as well as the proper performance of official functions are at stake.
This is the reason why the framers of the Constitution thought it wise to put in clear safeguards and guidelines to be followed by Congress to ensure that it does not act arbitrarily and oppressively. Among these are – specifying the grounds for impeachment, the periods within which an impeachment complaint should be acted on, the voting requirements, the one-year bar on initiating an impeachment process, and the promulgation of the impeachment rules. Implicitly, it is also required that the guaranteed individual rights of the individual must absolutely be respected.
While the impeachment complaints against Sereno are vastly different from her predecessor (the possible impeachment of Comelec Chair Bautista is more similar to the charges against Corona as it involved allegations of corruption), they are similar in that they involve the intervention of a president's intent to impose his will on the political process. Let there be no doubt that the only way the Sereno impeachment can move forward is if it is willed by President Duterte, in the same way that President Aquino used all means, including alleged funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), to secure conviction.
In the Corona impeachment, while initially I was sympathetic to the late Justice, I ended up supporting his conviction because of his own admissions regarding his SALN omissions and his unsatisfactory explanations for the huge sums of money in his bank accounts. Nevertheless, if I knew then that President Aquino had used DAP funds to convince reluctant senators to convict Corona, I might now have been swayed to go against the latter. The end can never justify corrupt means.
When the Corona impeachment began, my first article was entitled Pandora’ s Box. I recalled then how Zeus was furious when Prometheus, the titan, stole fire from the heavens and gave it to the mortals. The god’s fury for this sacrilege was implacable such that he gifted Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus, with the beautiful and gifted Pandora, known in Greek mythology as the first woman on earth.
But there is a catch: together with Pandora was an earthen jar (for some reason, most of us call it Pandora’s Box) which she was not to open under any circumstances. Piqued by curiosity, Pandora nevertheless opened the jar – and lo and behold – all evil it contained escaped and spread throughout the earth. Fortunately, Pandora, after realizing the gravity of what she had done, hastened to close the lid of the jar. But it was too late because the jar was emptied of its contents except one that remained at the bottom which is Hope.
That is where we are with this awesome power of impeachment. We have opened Pandora’s box. One can only hope that we will be able to correct ourselves and restore impeachment to its rightful use as a means of accountability and not use it as a political weapon that will only destroy this country. – Rappler.com