THE 212-46 vote of the House of Representatives on Monday to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez demonstrated beyond doubt that the people’s deputies in the lower chamber in the Aquino administration are no less disposed to use their overwhelming numbers to drive the impeachment complaint against Gutierrez to the Senate than the House during the Arroyo administration when it threw out in 2005, 2006 and 2007 impeachment cases against the intensely reviled Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The House vote on Monday did not disappoint public expectations that the majority coalition would use its superior numbers to flatten, like a German Tiger tank in World War II (thanks to the design of the Ferdinand Porsche industrial complex at the behest of Adolf Hitler, also designer of the Porsche vintage car now owned by President Aquino), the opposition.
The leaders of the House majority could only be rapturous over the result showing the actual votes for impeachment exceeding the required 95 votes, representing one-third of the House members.
It is not hard to imagine a deafening volume of chest-thumping in the administration camp over the overwhelming passage of House Resolution 1089, seeking the impeachment of Gutierrez, after the chamber determined, using its own version of “due process,” to impeach Gutierrez for “betrayal of public trust,” according to Article XI, Section 2 of the Constitution. The articles of impeachment contain six articles alleging that Gutierrez violated her constitutional duties as protector of the people by, among other acts, using the powers of her office “to wrongfully exclude” former President Arroyo from investigation and absolve her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, “from criminal prosecution stemming from the scandalous NBN-ZTE deal.”
In eyes of Aquino allies in the House, the vote meant that they had saved President Aquino from losing face over a failure to line up his congressional cohorts to do what he wants, which is to impeach Gutierrez, whose continued presence in the Office of the Ombudsman rankles Mr. Aquino, who considers her as an obstacle in his campaign to purge government of corruption.
Gloating over the passage of HR 1089, Deputy Speaker Raul Daza, co-sponsor of the resolution, claimed that the people rallied behind President Aquino’s campaign slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” He gave the impeachment a moralizing pitch, saying that “such a strong expression of people’s will for a free and honest government was reflected in the articles of impeachment which should be approved by reform-minded people who want to follow the straight path.”
This attempt to seize the moral high ground flew in the face of the fact that the majority vote was obtained by means as onerous as those employed by Arroyo when her congressional numbers crushed the impeachment complaints filed against her and the numbers used by the Marcos dictatorship in ramming his decrees through the subservient Batasan Pambansa with his party, Kilusan Bagong Lipunan.
Administration allies in the House have never made a secret of their intention to mobilize “people power” in the House, through the people’s deputies in the chamber, to unseat Gutierrez, by hook or by crook or by legal or extra-legal means. In this respect, the administration forces are no better in their method than Marcos or Arroyo, both of whom did not pull their punches in getting their objectives done.
Some critics of of Mr. Aquino say he has a slow “learning curve,” but his interventions to push the House to impeach Gutierrez demonstrate that they have grossly underestimated his ability to emulate underhanded methods he deplored when used by Arroyo when she used her party’s superior numbers in the House to choke the complaints against her.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Aquino met Liberal Party members of the House to step up efforts to impeach Gutierrez, telling them that they have a duty to support the administration’s campaign to eradicate corruption in government. His pressure bore fruit not only with the LP, which has only 80 members in the House, but also with representatives of other parties, when the committee on justice hammered out a draft of the articles within a few days of the meeting, and voted to report it out to the plenary which subsequently voted overwhelmingly to impeach and to transmit the articles to the Senate for trial.
It would be utterly naïve to presume that House members are unaware of the immense patronage resources, including pork barrel fund releases, available to the President to grease the engines of the legislative mill and produce results on crucial measures central to the success of his projects, such as purging the government of corruption.
In these machinations to steamroller this top priority project in the House, the President has proved no less unscrupulous than Arroyo in deploying all available means to achieve his objectives. The only difference is that Mr. Aquino is hypocritical, giving method an aura of a holy war against corruption.
Mr. Aquino is not coming with clean hands in his intervention to bulldoze opposition to the impeachment cases against Gutierrez. The impeachment of Gutierrez is so far the most outstanding success and accomplishment of his administration during its first year, which has been bereft of concrete programs.
The impeachment process has become very messy. He better watch out for opinion polls. The latest survey by Pulse Asia shows his ratings have begun to slide. It cannot be stopped by pious slogans.
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