By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The very first impeachment complaint has been filed against Pres. Rodrigo Duterte today Thursday March 16, 2016, a little more than seven months after the new administration took over the reins of government. Of course the Duterte administration’s officials and allies were dismissive about it calling it “stupid.” Solicitor Jose Calida confidently declared that the impeachment complaint would not prosper.
Well, the Duterte administration has every reason to be confident. How many impeachment complaints against a ranking government official prospered in the nation’s history? The last three were former President Joseph Estrada, former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
At the time former President Joseph Estrada was impeached, the Estrada Resign movement had already been snowballing. Rallies against Estrada were getting bigger and bigger. This caused then House Speaker Manny Villar to suddenly switch sides and fast track the impeachment process. But the impeachment trial never reached its conclusion. After majority of the Senators, who were acting as judges, voted against the opening of an envelope supposedly containing key evidence, the prosecution walked out. This sparked a people power uprising, which eventually forced Estrada to vacate the presidency.
The person who succeeded Estrada former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the subject of numerous impeachment complaints especially after being linked to numerous corruption scandals and accused of election fraud during the 2004 presidential election. However, former President Arroyo mastered the art of killing impeachment complaints against her through cultivating the loyalty of members of Congress as well as local officials, allegedly through bribery; preempting the filing of substantial impeachment complaints by having one of her allies beat the gun by filing a weak complaint first and having it easily dismissed (Since only one impeachment complaint against the president could be deliberated on by Congress per year, having a weak complaint dismissed shielded her from the filing of a serious complaint.); violently dispersing rallies organized by progressive groups, thereby scaring off the public from joining these; and adamantly refusing to vacate the presidency.
The impeachment of former Ombudsman Gutierrez, on the other hand, was pushed and orchestrated by then President Benigno Aquino III, which forced her to resign. Aquino also pushed for and orchestrated the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was eventually found guilty by the Senate in an impeachment trial and ordered removed from office. These then President Aquino did purportedly to clear the way for holding his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to account for the cases of corruption, bribery and election fraud she was involved in. The cases never prospered up to the end of Aquino’s term, with Arroyo held not in a detention cell but in the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and later at the expensive St. Lukes Medical Center. Arroyo was later acquitted of the charges against her. But it appears that the impeachment of Gutierrez and Corona achieved only one thing: shield Aquino from cases that would be filed against him.
So what could be concluded from previous impeachment processes?
Impeachment alone is inutile in seeking justice and removing an erring official. The (dis)honorable members of the House of Representatives and Senate are far from being objective and just. They vote according to political expediencies. Impeachment is essentially a political process and thus, subject to political pressure, either from an incumbent president or a political movement.
So unless the opposition is able to muster enough political pressure, through a strong protest movement against Duterte, its impeachment complaint would amount to nothing. It is not enough to have international and local personalities and groups criticizing Duterte. Without big rallies, our (dis)honorable lawmakers would not be swayed.
In the final analysis, impeachment proceedings only serve to inform the public, if ever it reaches the impeachment trial stage. It is the political protest movement that spells the difference. Without it, impeachment is inutile.