Saturday, April 14, 2012

IMPEACHMENT AS DEMONIZING

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I do not recall it happening to President Estrada when he was undergoing impeachment; nor for that matter was it the case with Mercy Gutierrez. But the demonizing that the Chief Justice has been undergoing is something I would not wish on myself or anybody else for that matter.
Let me say, however, that I believe this would not have happened if he had not been offered and had not accepted the office of Chief Justice. That, it would seem to me, may have been the original sin that triggered it all. But, of course, it was his right to make that choice and there is no turning back now. It was only after he assumed office that the decision was made that he must go. Thus the demonizing started.
The implied go-signal was first given by the President himself when he refused to take his oath before the Chief Justice. It did not take long before 188 Congressmen and Congresswomen quickly came running to answer the call. And even as the impeachment trial was already ongoing, the President continued to convey his clear desire to the body trying the impeachment that Corona must go.
As the impeachment trial proceeded, little by little everything, including the kitchen sink, began to be thrown at him. Media also did its part gobbling every bit of dirt that came from Congress. Surveys showed that the demonization was having an effect on the thinking of the public. The Chief Justice was already being seen as a convict and a lame duck.
Could this outcome have been avoided? Not completely, I believe. But I believe that the deluge could have been mitigated if the process followed had been worked out differently. For instance, a pre-trial could have weeded out allegations which seem to be turning out to be without foundation. The prosecution itself trimmed down the allegation of forty-five pieces of offending properties to twenty-one, but only after the damage to the person had been done. Likewise, the eight articles of impeachment were trimmed down by the prosecution to three with concentration on only one.
The unpreparedness of the prosecution, who often found themselves fumbling and groping and almost crying to be rescued by senators, also had the effect of delaying the chance of the defense to present their answer. This, together with the often and prolonged intervention of the senator judges, and the long Lenten recess, have allowed what are turning out to be false impressions to simmer long in the minds of observers.
How will this end? The spokespersons of the prosecution are saying that the it is all over but the shouting. Others, however, are saying that it is too early to tell.
There are a number of factors that can affect the final outcome. The first of these, of course, is what the defense can do. They have an herculean task to perform and they have only started to do their work. Like the spokespersons of the prosecution, they too seem confident of being able to show that the Chief Justice is not all that bad. Meanwhile, the Palace has decided to let the process run its course without presidential coaching, at least not publicly!
It is good to remember the number of votes needed to determine the final outcome. Only eight favorable votes are needed for the Chief Justice to escape conviction. Sixteen votes are needed to convict. It is not difficult to tell how some of the senators will vote. For the rest, it is a guessing game. What you seem to see may not necessarily be what you will get.
There are a number extraneous factors that can be working in the minds of the senator judges. The obvious one of these is the coming 2013 elections. Some of the senators are re-electionists. You can be sure that they have their ears to the ground.
Another extraneous factor is more delicate. The Senate recess has lasted very long and it also coincided with the season of Lent and Easter. What effect the Holy Season has had, if any, on the impeachment actors, can also affect the impeachment proceeding up to its conclusion. Only the Almighty can measure this one.
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Ordinations. Over the weekend I took part in two ceremonies which had some similarities. The first was the ordination of seven young Jesuits to the priesthood. The ceremony, as always, was more solemn than the rites you may have witnessed in the Lord of the Rings. There was a presentation of the candidates for ordination to the ordaining Bishop, there was a laying of hands on the ordinands signifying the conferral of the Holy Spirit, there was annointing of the hands, and there was a solemn pronouncement of the mandate -- to serve the people as Christ the model priest served the people. For us older priests attending the ceremony, it was an occasion for assessing our own adherence to old commitments and renewing them.
Being partial to the legal profession myself, I like to think that the other ceremony I attended – Baccalaureate Mass and graduation from the Ateneo Law School -- was also a kind of ordination. Ordination to what? No, not to a life of celibacy, of course. We would not know how to prepare energetic young stallions for that. Rather, ordination to a life of service as servants of the law, of God, and of the people.
16 April 2012

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