Who threw the first punch?
That the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is an adage that apparently does not apply to the Aquilino Pimentel pere et fils.
In the past few days Pimentel the son has contributed much comment and soundbite to the raging question of whether Vice President Robredo deserves the impeachment threats that the likes of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, serial impeachment filer Oliver Lozano and others have leveled at her for the video message on extrajudicial killings she sent to a United Nations side conference.
That Pimentel the son’s remarks have been less than edifying, useful, or even commonsensical is helping raise the level of public frustration.
Impeachment — a constitutionally enshrined process of removing from office the highest public officials of the land — is one of the gravest, most delicate issues in a functioning republic.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano’s earlier formal complaint against President Duterte deserves to be looked at for its merits, or lack thereof. Indeed, the President has said he was ready to face it.
But instead of addressing the complaint with the seriousness and sobriety it demands, Mr. Duterte’s allies, operating pretty much the way they did in the death penalty vote, have pounced on the issue as yet another test of blind loyalty—and, as such, the seemingly perfect modus of retaliation against Robredo.
How did Pimentel the son characterize Alvarez’s impeachment threat against the VP? As mere tit for tat, in the manner of schoolyard brats: “Sino ba ang naunang nanuntok? So parang napa-react tuloy si Speaker — and he has the numbers, that’s the problem… Reaction na lang yun dahil may nag-file kasi against our party chairman (the President).” (Who threw the first punch? You provoked the Speaker who has the numbers… That’s the reaction you get for filing against our party chair.)
Was there at least basis for Robredo to be threatened with removal from the office to which she was duly elected? Was there evidence at all that she had ticked off any one of the constitutional hurdles for impeachment? Also, shouldn’t there have been some note of caution or restraint given the toxic back and forth in the discourse?
But Koko Pimentel—the Senate president (like his father once was), third in rank from the President and VP, and incidentally a possible beneficiary of any move to oust Robredo—could only manage a startlingly juvenile framing of the issue.
It took Pimentel the father to inject some sense of sanity into the noise and fog blanketing the controversy. Impeaching Robredo for her video message is not only a baseless move but also a preposterous notion, said Nene Pimentel, one of the last remaining lions of the martial law era.
The founder of the ruling PDP-Laban that now seems bent on running roughshod over any viable dissenter or critic of the Duterte administration basically doused his party’s huff-and-puff rhetoric: “I’m sorry, natawa ako (it’s laughable). Since when has appealing or reporting to the UN become an impeachable offense?”
That must have stung, because on the same day Pimentel the son was quoted singing a different tune: Going ahead with Robredo’s impeachment would be “divisive and time-consuming,” he said. “It distracts from other important work. It should be resorted to as the last card against an erring high official for serious and grave reasons. It should not be treated lightly.”
Right. Of course, Koko Pimentel’s sudden, whiplash-inducing volte face could also be because the President had publicly told his operatives in Congress to back off on any impeachment move against Robredo and to “let her be.”
And yet that was not to be the end of it. As though to indicate how uneasy lay the head that wears the crown, more about-face moments would come in succeeding days, involving the President and his loyal and faithful lieutenant, on supposed destabilization and ouster moves.
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