On-going wars
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - March 24, 2017 - 12:00am

It is really so unfortunate that our country is virtually in a state of “war.” And I am not referring here to the current “war” against the use and trafficking of prohibited drugs, or the “war” against graft and corruption allegedly being waged by the present administration. It is rather a “war” involving the President of this country himself and his loyal followers against those who oppose some of his actions, point out his alleged mistakes, criticize the means employed in achieving his plans, or accuse him of violating our laws and the Constitution. This is so sad indeed because it has divided our country and caused bitter discord among Filipinos.

Apparently this “war” could have been avoided if the President and his allies just consider and keep in mind that in a democracy like ours, everyone is entitled to his/her own beliefs and opinions and has the freedom to express them openly no matter how “stupid” and absurd they may appear. Instead of hitting back at his supposed detractors and accusers, calling them names and insulting them, the President and his men should have welcomed these complaints and criticisms as an opportunity to show that they are utterly false and completely baseless, by sticking to the issues raised and showing why the charges and/or criticisms are “stupid.” Or they could have treated them as attempts to help him achieve his goals.

And better still, the President and his avid supporters should change their attitude of intolerance and arrogant self-righteousness. They should abandon the thought that they are the only ones who are correct and who are promoting the best interest of our country. And most of all, they should not resort to popularity contest by using the mainstream and on-line media to prove the righteousness of their purpose and the truthfulness of their stand. Who is right and who is wrong on any issue is not determined by the number of people supporting a particular side but by the facts and the law applicable to the controversy, presented and proven in the proper forum or court of competent jurisdiction.

The latest “battle” in this raging “war” is a case in point. This is triggered by the filing of the impeachment complaint against Duterte by Magdalo Congressman Gary Alejano apparently with the knowledge and support of his party mate in the Senate, Antonio Trillanes IV. Obviously, the grounds cited in the complaint are just a reiteration of their previous allegations aired in media which the Duterte camp has not squarely and satisfactorily disproven. This time they are just airing their allegations in the proper forum as provided by the Constitution which says that “The President, the Vice President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, Treason, Bribery, Graft and Corruption, other High Crimes, or Betrayal of Public Trust” (Section 2, Article XI).

With a super majority in Congress, where the impeachment complaint shall be initiated in the Lower House and tried in the Senate, the allies of Duterte should just have allowed it to go through the process also set forth in the Constitution (Article XI Section 3). Instead however, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Pantaleon Alvarez himself prematurely judged the charges and branded them as stupid.

Worse yet in this regard is that Alvarez rashly concluded and pointed to Vice President Leni Robredo as the person behind this move. Then in a knee-jerk reaction and obvious attempt to retaliate, he immediately threatened to also file an impeachment complaint against her on some grounds that are yet to be dug up. This kind of reaction somehow gives rise to a public perception that we have an ambitious Speaker who would like to replace the Vice President. This perception is based on the Constitution itself which says that “whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President during the term for which he (she) was elected, the President shall nominate from among the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation by all members of both houses of Congress voting separately” (Section 9, Article VII). Pursuant to this provision, Alvarez has the best chance to replace Robredo because of his closeness to Duterte.

This battle of impeachments of the President and the Vice President has once more proven that politics in this land does not end after election; that the struggle for power and supremacy cannot be stopped; and that our politician and political leaders will even use the very provisions of the fundamental law of the land as instruments to promote their own selfish interest. This is clearly shown in the filing of the impeachment complaint against Vice President Robredo immediately after the Alvarez threat. It was filed by a Marcos loyalist who has been perennially filing frivolous impeachment complaints before. Apparently this complaint against Robredo is also frivolous and politically motivated.

In the first place, the complaint was only triggered by the filing of the impeachment complaint against Duterte and thus an apparent attempt to retaliate. If not they should have filed the complaint right after Robredo delivered a video-taped UN speech denouncing the current extrajudicial killings perpetrated pursuant to the war on drugs. Secondly, this UN speech is but an exercise of Robredo’s freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution. It cannot be considered as “betrayal of public trust” which, according to a noted Constitutionalist, Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S.J., means “any form of violation of the oath of office even if such violation may not be a criminally punishable offense.” In fact even the law dean of San Beda College believes that Robredo did not commit betrayal of public trust.

But the most encouraging and best news in these current happenings is that Duterte himself has seen the lack of sufficient ground to impeach Robredo and asked his allies to stop this move against her. This reaction appears to be a sign that Duterte is already trying to unite our country.

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

 

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