It’s not mere hearsay anymore. A member of the House of Representatives, Congressman Tobias Tiangco confirmed what most people have long been suspecting – that there is a culture of bullying, intimidation, and bribery in Congress. The bullying it seems even comes from the House Majority Leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II himself. But the Senator Judges were unimpressed by Tiangco’s revelations. Instead of outrage, the reaction was that of boredom. I find this lack of empathy for Tiangco’s indignation disturbing. It would seem that our Senators have become desensitised to dysfunctional behavior and are not moved to do anything to change it anymore. The Filipino people should be outraged.
Tiangco testified under oath during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona that this sort of environment, the one in which tolerance for even unreasonable behavior by other members of the House who are allied with incumbent president’s political party, is very much accepted as the norm.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada even referred to Tiangco’s testimony as “nakakaantok” or making him feel sleepy. He was bored because he already knows the kind of environment Tiangco was talking about. He even insinuated that judging by the railroading of his own father’s impeachment in 2002, it is not too far-fetched to assume that the same speedy process probably happened during the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. The problem is, even though Senator Estrada knows that there is truth in Tiangco’s claims, he and some other Senators are resigned to that fact.
Tiangco’s testimony might have been pointless to some Senators considering they already ruled against the defense’s motion questioning the validity of the impeachment complaint, but there is no denying the fact that it did not go through the correct process. As the defense lead counsel Serafin Cuevas explained, the Chief Justice was impeached without any determination of probable cause; no evidence, no allegation to prove existence of probable cause. This means that there was indeed a violation of the Constitution. And defense witness, Tiangco, echoed the same sentiments.
Aside from Senator Estrada, Senator Francis Pangilinan was one of those who kept questioning the point of Tiangco’s testimony in the impeachment court. He was visibly annoyed that Tiangco went on and on about President Noynoy Aquino’s role in the railroading of the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. He tried to stop his testimony perhaps because he did not want to damage PNoy’s integrity any further. Who can blame Pangilinan for coming to the aid of the President? He is after all a staunch Aquino ally and Tiangco was outright confirming the allegations that the impeachment of Corona was backed by the president’s orders and that the Congressmen were not even allowed to ask questions during the Power Point presentation outlining the hastily and badly-written articles of impeachment. It was damning, indeed. His testimony is consistent with what he said in his privilege speech right after he left the majority bloc in the House of Representatives.
“I do not want trouble with the most powerful man in the country. If the President wants GMA (former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) jailed for her alleged sins, I am one with him. But in pursuing justice, it must be done in a manner that does not destroy our institutions and more importantly the co-equal status guaranteed bythe Constitution,” Tiangco said.
He claimed that during Monday’s 2:30 p.m. majority caucus at the House, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. only gave lawmakers two choices: sign or not sign the resolution impeaching Corona.
He said Belmonte allegedly did not give the congressmen the chance to question the resolution and read and assess the pieces of evidence against Corona.”And the worst part of it all is that no questions would be entertained,” he said.
It is such a disgrace that even with a testimony confirming what the defense has been saying all along – that Chief Justice Corona was denied due process – the Senate seems hell bent on turning a blind eye to the mockery of the Constitution and an individual’s rights. No wonder some members of the prosecution seem very relaxed. They know that most of the Senators are either allied with PNoy or see no point in following the law. No wonder Congressman Fariñas seem to have a permanent smirk on his face. Although he did not sign the impeachment complaint because as he said, it was “badly written”, he is part of the prosecution team because he is looking out for his “mates” as a show of support. The padrino system is working for them without a doubt. There is nothing special about PNoy’s “Daang Matuwid” at all.
It was evident that the defense was finding it frustrating to raise a valid point with Senators who kept missing the point. Senator Peter Cayetano argued that it seems the defense wants to make the process of impeaching a member of the Supreme Court very difficult, which is not even the case. It shouldn’t be difficult to impeach an impeachable public servant if there is a strong case against him and if the process is followed in accordance with the rules. The concept of verification is lost on Senator Cayetano because for him, the 188 signatures are already enough to satisfy the criteria of the complaint having to undergo the verification process. Never mind that those who signed did not even understand what they signed. The majority don’t seem to want to be bothered about the details anymore.
The authors of the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Corona obviously wanted to avoid giving the signatories of the complaint a chance to think about what they were signing, which is why they wanted to gather the numbers on the day of the caucus itself. What happened in their caucus is quite contrary to what should have been if they followed what was written in the constitution. Article XI Section 3(2) states that:
“A verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter.”
Senator Joker Arroyo asked the defense why they are only bringing it up now. Isn’t it too late to question the validy of the impeachment complaint 27 days after the trial started? The defense team did try to bring it up when they asked for a pre-trial. The request was quickly dismissed and was even labelled a “small victory” by the prosecution. It was apparent that everyone was too excited to face the camera wearing their gowns.
Yes, the defense should have really insisted on questioning the validity of the impeachment procedure against Corona even before the trial started. But how could they have done it? They are involved in the mother of all conflicts of interest. The subject of the impeachment complaint is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, seeking assistance from the Supreme Court immediately after the complaint was filed against Corona would have been seen as quite suspect. The timing of the filing of the complaint was also bad because it was a week before the Senate session was adjourned for the Christmas break. We all know of course that Filipinos prioritize their Christmas festivities before anything else. In other words, there was really no opportunity for the defense to file the motion questioning the validity of the impeachment complaint prior to the start of the trial.
You can’t blame the defense for bringing it up now though. A wrong needs to be highlighted even if its submission to record is for the benefit of the future historians who might look back to it. As what was evident during the recent session of the trial of Chief Justice Corona, the allegations of abuse by branches of government during former President, Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s time are still fresh in the minds of those who were gravely affected by it. It is still causing division among Senators themselves as evident in the verbal tussle that ensued between Senator Manny Villar and Senator Jinggoy Estrada. A wrong needs to be righted the right way. Otherwise, the victim will be haunted by it for the rest of his life.
The offense committed by Erap’s prosecutors then simply cannot go away without the proper closure. And closure can only be achieved when the wrongly offended is vindicated, which is something, it seems, that Jinggoy is trying to get.
Congressman Tobias Tiangco may have put some people in the trial to sleep mode but he has definitely cast doubts upon the credibility of the complaints and complainants. The Senator Judges’ mission, should they choose not to ignore it, is to accept Tiangco’s testimony as evidence.[Photo courtesy PCIJ.org.]
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