Joker Arroyo had a mouthful to say last week. Malacañang, he said, was wrecking the objectivity and neutrality of Renato Corona’s impeachment trial.
“What I lament is that while the Senate enjoins political neutrality, Malacañang does not. In fact, it caused the filing of the impeachment complaint. Now they’re already looking for the replacement of the Chief Justice.”
It’s particularly lamentable, he said, because he felt that today’s senators were determined to be objective. “I think most senators would adhere to (neutrality) precisely because… the Estrada trial… was prematurely terminated. We cannot afford that again. That is why I think that the senator-judges, conscious of what happened, will be politically neutral.”
He worried as well for the fate of objectivity in light of the media coverage of the trial. “What we should guard against is not the trial per se but the commentaries (because)… the media would be the annotators of what is happening. You can imagine that.”
Well, first off, the charge that government is trashing objectivity by looking for a replacement for Corona. Joker is merely echoing Midas Marquez’s expostulations in that respect. “Presumptuous and arrogant” was how Marquez called Malacañang’s announcement that it was scouting around for a new chief justice.
But of course you need to look into who should replace Corona this early in the day. You want to wait around until he is convicted before you start doing so? It’s called being prepared, a virtue every Boy Scout swears by. The other thing is called putting off for tomorrow what you can do the day after, a vice only jokers swear by.
Indeed, it’s more than that. Truly, you get used to seeing the world upside down and you’re going to find it upside down when it is finally turned back on its feet. You get used to doing things in the shadows and you are going to see doing things in the light of day reprehensible. Or you get used to hiding things and you are going to see exposing things condemnable. Government’s announcement that it is looking for Corona’s replacement makes the process transparent. You can always commend the virtues of certain candidates. You can always howl at the lunacy of putting others at the head of the line. Marquez calls P-Noy’s announcement that he is looking for Corona’s replacement presumptuous and arrogant. What would he call Gloria Arroyo’s sneaking in of Corona as chief justice in the dead of night while she herself peered into the darkness trying to glimpse her fate and trying to make sure it would not be so dire by that very ploy? Serendipitous and exemplary?
But it’s Joker’s comments about what happened during Erap’s impeachment that take the cake. The two Arroyos, Joker and Gloria, have one thing in common, and that is ingratitude to the thing that swept them to power. “We cannot afford that again” was the same thing Gloria Arroyo said about Edsa after she was found out to have stolen the elections and was deathly scared of going the same path as Erap. And she spent the last years of her rule denigrating the very thing that brought her to power. As does now the other Arroyo.
Why can’t we afford another demonstration of People Power, full or partial, if it came to that? Why can’t we afford the people showing disgust, muted or loud, over the way the senators are handling the trial if it came to that? The upheaval that ensued in the wake of Erap’s impeachment trial showed precisely what happens when you resort to legalisms, technicalities, legal chicanery, which Erap’s lawyers tried to do with the aid of supporters among the senators, capped by the refusal to open the second envelope. Or when you use the letter of the law to thwart the spirit of the law, or when you use narrow interpretation to thwart reason, which Corona’s lawyers are hoping to do.
The Erap trial showed precisely that the true arbiter of impeachment trials is not the senators turned judges, or the person, normally the Chief Justice, though he cannot obviously be so in this case, sitting on the high chair and presiding over the trial. It is the people. And the people are not so easily duped by razzle-dazzle displays of legal pyrotechnics, or else Estelito Mendoza and Andres Narvasa might have made mincemeat of Joker and his fellow congressmen turned amateur prosecutors. Nor are the media observers, or at least those of them who are not paid hacks, so easily impressed or cowed by senators trying to look important, or else Juan Ponce Enrile and Miriam Santiago would have made Joker and his fellow congressmen look like second-rate, trying-hard, copycat trial lawyers.
What does Joker think brought Erap down, the brilliance of his insights and the persuasiveness of his arguments? If not for the commentators, if not for the people themselves who saw through the skein of lies and deceit, wrapped in the regal garb of law like rotting flesh in grand mausoleums, the other Arroyo might never have become president. Well, that might have been good for Joker, who might not have ended up losing his way, and his soul.
Only the trial made public, only the trial opened up before the nation, can assure it will be objective. Only the people can assure it will be objective. Not the senators like Joker who see everything wrong in the one president who has moved heaven and earth to right wrongs and see justice done, and everything right in the one non-president who moved heaven to grab power and scoured hell to keep it.
The winds are blowing, the death knell is tolling, judgment is coming. Erap, his lawyers, and his allies in the Senate heard that once not long ago. Gloria, her lawyers, and her defenders in the Senate will hear that too not long from now.
That is the onrushing sound of objectivity.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.