A tragicomedy of Aristotelian proportions is unfolding in Asia’s first Republic—the Philippines.
It is inexorably rising from the wreckage and stress of the multi-billion pork barrel scandal and Janet Napoles scam that has transfixed this nation of 100 million for nearly a year. It will play out, over the next few months until it reaches resolution.
With my colleague Rigoberto Tiglao’s explosive report and column yesterday (“Smoking gun of Aquino’s complicity in Pork Barrel Scam,” Times, June 9), President BS. Aquino now faces a time of questioning, perhaps even a crisis of survival. The righteous leader who aspired to be the scourge of corrupt public officials has himself landed at the center of a graft controversy, accused like Richard Nixon of covering up high crimes against the nation.
Day of accountability
On Thursday, the 116th anniversary of Philippine Independence, The Abolish Pork Movement and a host of other civil society organizations are leading a citizens movement to transform the independence commemoration into a Day of Accountability.
The rally organizers are calling on Filipinos to gather at Liwasang Bonifacio and then march to Mendiola to demand accountability for the pork barrel scam. The rally will demand the resignations of presidential alter-egos Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who are both directly implicated in PDAF and DAP misuse, and it will hold President BS Aquino accountable for the continuing cover-up of the scam
In a stirring editorial, the normally non-committal and pro-government Manila Bulletin threw its weight behind the accountability rally. It said:
“The #AbolishPork Movement speaks to us and for us when it says: ‘As taxpayers who have been robbed many times over, we hold Aquino accountable for his failure to seriously prosecute and bring to justice those involved in the pork barrel scam.
“Join the June 12 Rally for Accountability. In so doing, we honor our martyrs and heroes who fought to free our country from colonial rule and contribute our meager share to free the same country from pork barrel corruption and from empty slogans like ‘Daang Matuwid’.”
This is act one of the drama —the increasing radicalization of the nation as a result of the official theft and abuse of the pork barrel.
Impeach Aquino picks up steam
Act two will unfold with the mounting of a serious initiative to impeach President Aquino, through the gathering of support from members of the House of Representatives, and the gathering of citizens’ signatures endorsing Aquino’s impeachment.
There will be a major test of wills between Aquino’s control of the House (as personified by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr and the Liberal Party) and the growing ranks of opposition and independent-minded legislators who are dismayed by the shaming of the House in the pork barrel scam and who want the House to assert its powers and prerogatives in the face of continuing domination by the Executive branch.
Legal experts believe that a credible impeachment complaint (with a real chance of gaining House support) can definitely be filed now and prosecuted successfully against President Aquino on the strength of the disclosures and admissions already made by all 20 senators concerning the P50-million payoff allegedly offered for Corona’s conviction, the testimony of DBM officials that Aquino signed and approved all disbursements from the DAP fund. Once the money trail is traced, it will all lead to Malacanang. Congress did not appropriate any funds for presidential bribery. Abad will stand trial for plunder of the treasury.
Although BS Aquino has nominal control of the lower house, which has the exclusive power to initiate impeachment, he cannot count on the House refusing to impeach. The threshold of one-third of House members will be reached, once a public campaign for impeachment is mounted, and once the new revelations about Aquino’s complicity in the scam is factored in. Once church groups, soldiers, government workers, farmers and other groups join the clamor for impeachment, there will be no turning back the tide. Even Speaker Belmonte will bow to the clamor. Politicians, anxious for survival, will line up to sign the articles of impeachment.
Supreme Court strikes down DAP
Act three will comprise the decision of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), and its repercussions on the impeachment initiative.
I believe the High Court will rule, as many have prayed, that the DAP is unconstitutional, thereby pulling the rug from under Aquino’s feet. There are wild rumors on the eve of the vote that a last-minute full-court press by Aquino’s operatives has succeeded in reversing one vote to achieve a 7-7 no-decision verdict. But the growing public outrage and mobilization of sectors for accountability are too much for the High Court to dare enraging the people and risk bringing down retribution on itself.
The vote of the lower House will decisively tilt toward impeachment once the Supreme Court rules that the DAP is unconstitutional.
The central role of the administration in the pork barrel scandal will be officially acknowledged. Legislators who had no dealings with Napoles will vote to impeach. They will remind the public that they belong to the 16th Congress, newly elected last year, and not to the 15th Congress, which was hopelessly corrupted by Napoles. Legislators who were complicit in the Napoles scam will vote to impeach in order to save themselves.
In the impeachment articles, the House will say that it is impeaching President BS Aquino III for culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust.
The House will vote to impeach because this is its ticket to relevance in the emerging political landscape in the country. Because of poor leadership, it is not listened to anymore on any issue of importance.
Aquino stands trial in the Senate
As with former chief Justice Corona, whose impeachment President Aquino singlemindedly orchestrated, he will immediately face trial in the Senate, once the House votes to impeach.
Act IV will unfold with President Aquino’s impeachment trial in the Senate. Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, an Aquino appointee, will preside over the trial. It is probable that Franklin Drilon will no longer be Senate President by then. No senator will decline to sit as a juror in Aquino’s trial; refusal will be interpreted by the public as motivated by a lack of monetary incentives, unlike the Corona trial when incentives were plenty.
The House prosecutors who will present the case against the president will strive to show the glaring contradictions in Aquino’s Tuwid na Daan program, the contrast between his professed anti-corruption campaign and the realities of corruption under his watch, the proof of closeness between the president and Napoles,
The biggest threat to Aquino is the possibility that Napoles may be offered incentives to testify against him. That would be totally outside his control.
The tragic side of this tragicomedy inheres in the fact that the personage on the dock is the most righteous president the country has ever known, the advocate of the straight path, and he will be standing trial for high crimes against the nation.
The comic side of the drama is that the principal crime which Aquino will be accused of is his having bribed the senator-judges in the impeachment of justice Corona. Absurdly, the senators who accepted bribes and payoffs from him, will be sitting in judgment of Aquino for a crime in which they were complicit.
An indignant public will demand that senators who were bribed in the Corona trial should not sit as judges in the Aquino impeachment. Alan Peter Cayetano will argue for his right to sit as a juror in the new trial. He will be shouted down and ridiculed.
Just as there was much comedy in the Corona trial, there will also be many comic touches in Aquino’s trial, such as the lawyers who will volunteer to prosecute Aquino, the witnesses who will volunteer testimony on the character and sanity of Aquino. If Janet Lim-Napoles testifies, Aquino and most senator-jurors will be petrified with fear about the dirty laundry she might disclose.
Before the trial is over, the administration will be deluged with resignations, led by the Hyatt 10 who hounded President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and were reincarnated by BS Aquino. When the going gets tough, they usually get going. They are also the first to apply for posts in the next administration.
Catharsis and crisis of survival
The tragicomedy will be a form of catharsis for the Filipino nation and Philippine democracy. It will simultaneously be a great trial of our political system, and a purgation for our democracy, a cleansing of the system of demons and worms that have caused it to falter and fail.
This great drama will lead to the sweeping reform of institutions, the revision of the 1987 constitution, and a change of political culture in the country – which are all essential for the nation to move forward
With this catharsis, citizens will become more aware of their sovereign power over the government. Politicians will waken to the real responsibilities of public office. Our elections, which have been irresponsibly administered by the Commission on Elections, will finally be better organized and managed.
How will president aquino’s crisis of survival end?
There are three possible scenarios.
The Senate votes to convict.
Aquino is stripped of all the powers
And trappings of office.
He rides off into the sunset.
The Senate acquits him.
Aquino remains as chief of state
And head of government of
Aquino resigns and spares himself
The ordeal of an impeachment trial.
If either scenario 1 or 3 happens,
There will be a new president of the republic.