Impeachment: participatory or misplaced citizenship
Inclusive institutions value active citizen participation, but misplaced citizenship could erode the very inclusiveness for which we strive. The misplaced citizenship behind the present impeachment complaints do nothing to foster stability, improve policy, or enhance our sense of fair play. Instead, this misplaced citizenship fosters disunity and interrupts a political transition that is and will be crucial to our political and economic development. Ultimately, Philippine political development will only occur if we strengthen our institutions and not abuse them.
Political participation is embodied in our 1987 Constitution. It is realized through the institutionalization of the system of recall, the people’s initiative, the conduct of a plebiscite or referendum, and the process of impeachment. In particular, the practice of impeachment is stipulated under Article XI, Section 2, which states: “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. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.”
Participatory governance is a character of an inclusive political institution. This form of governance does not only encourage the participation of the people at large; it also promotes the institutionalization of a system of checks and balances on all executive, legislative and judicial authorities. This system aims to inject accountability in our public officials.
Impeachment is a fail-safe procedure against our officials’ abuses. However, if it is used as a tool for political squabbling or factional disputes over legitimacy, what we will have is misplaced or misguided citizenship at best.
Specifically, an impeachment proceeding against the popularly elected President or Vice President, who have been in office less than a year, is extraordinarily suspect. Legitimately elected political leaders should be given sufficient time and consideration in order to prove themselves. A premature impeachment effort cheapens the democratic process and undermines the integrity of our institutions. Worse, such an action sends a very negative signal to the international community and to our regional partners.
The noise about impeaching President Duterte or Vice President Leni Robredo highlights our country’s political and institutional immaturity. The noise characterizes a perverted democracy where representation is used, not to achieve the people’s empowerment, but to attain selfish parochial goals. Moreover, projecting the image that the Philippine government is experiencing a legitimacy crisis can only be disastrous to our economy.
An ill-conceived and ill-driven impeachment effort will misuse public resources that can be used for better purposes. By fostering an environment of political and institutional instability, the impeachment process will redirect Congress’ focus from the critical reforms that can address our people’s most important concerns, such as intergenerational poverty and joblessness.
Political continuity means governance beyond timelines. Political bickering not only undermines democratic governance but also distorts the political continuity that our society has been trying to achieve. That continuity is best realized when our democratic processes are not abused to engineer political instability and sow social confusion.
At present, our country’s ability to manifest its socioeconomic agenda and rehabilitate our international standing is more important than the aggrandizement of narrow vested political interests. These interests merely discourage rather than attract investors and regional partners.
Dindo Manhit is president of Stratbase ADR Institute.
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