Someone asked me the other day if the various surveys saying most Filipinos expected the impeachment court to convict Renato Corona had restored my faith in it. My answer was (and is): Not really.
I do not particularly care at this point how the senator-judges will vote. I do care that we, the people, give them a piece of our mind. I do think we ought to mount some kind of People Power to show our displeasure over the way the impeachment has gone. If the Iglesia ni Cristo can summon its bovine flock to register its protest over the way P-Noy has treated its criminally inclined protégés, we most certainly can summon a far more enlightened flock to register our protest over the way the impeachment court has given in to a criminally inclined cabal.
I stopped watching the trial doggedly when the impeachment court bowed down to the Supreme Court’s TRO stopping the opening of Corona’s dollar accounts. That was worse than the non-opening of the second envelope during Erap’s trial. At least then it was just a decision unilaterally made by the senator-judges. Now it was a decision unilaterally made by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s justices, the same group that ought to be sharing Corona’s fate, not decreeing it. That one act dissolved the integrity of the impeachment court.
On the heels of it came another Supreme Court order that forbade its people from appearing in court. Which, in the name of avoiding a “collision course” with a co-equal branch of government, Miriam Santiago embraced only too eagerly. An inane, and insane, position given that it’s the Supreme Court that has set itself on a collision course with the impeachment court by all these moves. Hell, given that it’s Corona himself who has set the Supreme Court on a collision course with the Executive the day, or midnight, he accepted the post of Chief Justice from someone who had no right or power to give it.
The senator-judges are not in control of the impeachment court, the justices are. Juan Ponce Enrile is not in control of the impeachment court, the justices are. The justices give the nod. The justices run the show.
People Power is the answer to it. Its validity owes to something much more than that if the INC can mount a parody of it, then we can certainly mount a genuine version of it. It owes to the fact that the two persons who have been loudly arguing against it, who have been ardently saying that the outcome of the impeachment will be determined not by the people but by the senator-judges alone, were among the first to (implicitly) acknowledge People Power.
After taking to the stage at the Edsa Shrine inciting Erap’s descamisados to storm Malacañang, Santiago and Enrile promptly turned coat and joined Arroyo, becoming her stoutest defenders. If they did not believe in the truth of People Power, why did they fly to the side of the one person that most benefited from it? Why did they not revile her as the fruit of the poisoned tree, their favorite depiction of “Hello Garci?” If they did not believe in the validity of People Power, why did they embrace with a passion the leader it spawned? Why did they not protest till the end of their days that the impeachment court never got its job done, the people merely seized the power that belonged exclusively to them? If they did not believe in the power of People Power, why did they glory in Gloria? Why did they not go on a collision course with the Supreme Court, railing at the haste with which Hilario Davide crowned the upstart?
Far more than that, it owes to the fact that in the end, the true judge of an impeachment trial is not the people in it, it is the people out there. The one who’s being tried in an impeachment trial is not just the person being impeached, it is the impeachment court itself. So it was during Erap’s impeachment, when the people sat in judgment over the way defense and prosecution, the witnesses and the senator-judges comported themselves. So it is today during Corona’s impeachment, when the people sit in judgment over the way defense and prosecution, the witnesses and the senator-judges, the impeachment Court and the Supreme Court, comport themselves.
The senator-judges won’t decide this. The people will.
* * *
Gani Yambot was nothing if not civilized.
I used to see him in the CCP and elsewhere on the occasions that I got to catch a bit of opera and classical music there. It was unfailing. I wish I could say that he used to see me on the occasions that he did, but I know he did it far more resolutely than me. He loved classical music, and jazz on the side (I’d see him too in jazz fests), and went for it with a passion. It was all of a piece with his general fineness: an eye for the text, an ear for the music.
But that was not the true mark of his civilization. I used to see him too on occasion in forums that dealt with the protection of journalists. I never realized the depth of his passion for it until we held that vigil for the more than 30 journalists that perished in the Maguindanao massacre. It was toward Christmas, we huddled at the steps of the Inquirer office, flickering candles in hand. One by one we took turns making our anger and reprehension known to the world.
When Gani’s turn came, he barely went past a few sentences before he was overcome by emotion. He choked on his words as he tried to describe the horror of the deed. The height of his empathy made it impossible to go on, the depth of his commiseration made it impossible to go on. He stopped, and it was quiet for a while but for the sighing of the wind and the tinkling of distant caroling. Then he summoned his resources and soldiered on. It was a very brief talk he made. It was the best anyone said that night.
Gani Yambot was nothing if not civilized.
You will be missed my friend.