John Boehner is the speaker of the US House of Representatives.
Feliciano Belmonte is the speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives.
At issue here are the wildly contrasting ways whereby the two congressional speakers are dealing with the unconstitutional acts and abuses of their respective presidents.
The American speaker seeks to stop in court Obama’s repeated abuse of power by executive orders.
The Filipino speaker, with a Supreme Court decision in hand, is petrified with fear of the constitutional remedy of impeachmnent of the President, and the consequent responsibility that falls on the House to hear and file the articles of impeachment.
One speaker accepts his duty to protect the constitution and serve the interest of the nation. The other dodges his responsibility, opting to serve the interest of the president, instead of the interest of the people.
One rallies his partymates to join together in checking the illegal acts of president Obama. The other mobilizes his party mates and his coalition to stop any impeachment complaint from coming out of the House.
Boehner says his action will stop short of impeaching President Obama. Belmonte is determined that no impeachment complaint comes out alive from the House.
Boehner vs Obama’s executive abuse
US House Speaker John Boehner confirmed this week that he will sue President Obama in the long-running dispute between the administration and congressional Republicans over the scope of the administration’s executive authority to enforce laws.
Boehner told the media: “The Constitution makes it clear that a president’s job is to faithfully execute the laws. In my view, the president has not faithfully executed the laws.”
“Congress has its job to do and so does the president. And when there’s conflict like this between the legislative branch and the administrative branch, it’s our responsibility to stand up for this institution in which we serve.”
The lawsuit has the potential to test the constitutional balance between the legislative and executive branches. Republicans have long maintained that the White House has overstepped its legal authority by subverting laws approved by Congress on a number of matters.
Boehner clarified that the lawsuit was not a prelude to a Republican attempt at removing the president from office. “This is not about impeachment,” he said. “This is about his faithfully executing the laws of our country”
But others were not as guarded. Notable Republican leaders, like former vice-presidential candidate and former governor Sarah Palin, riled by America’s border crisis, are now calling openly for the impeachment of Obama.
Some liberals who obsessed over President George W. Bush’s abuses of executive power cautiously believe that Boehner has standing for his lawsuit.
Commentator Kirsten Powers says she can’t support the way Obama has put his policy initiatives in place: “We elected Obama president, not emperor,”
Belmonte and Aquino’s accountability
In the Philippines, the impeachment of President Aquino has become a loud popular outcry, cutting across ideological and sectoral lines and throughout the archipelago.
The overwhelming popular feeling is that some officials, especially President Aquino and his Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, must account for the plunder and waste of P149 billion pesos ($3.23 billion) of taxpayers’ money, and the unconstitutional and illegal acts that made it happen.
Filipinos abroad have joined the cry for accountability. Their opinions are all over the web. Filipino-Americans have formally registered their concern about the DAP scandal.
Sadly, before he could even read the SC decision, Speaker Belmonte immediately doused talk of impeaching Aquino, vowing it would be killed early on at the committee level. He said that Aquino and those involved in DAP’s use are not liable.
Last Tuesday, after the clamor for impeachment became louder and criticism was thrown his way, Belmonte modified his stand a bit. He declared that the House of Representatives would give due course to a “valid” impeachment complaint to be filed against President Aquino III as part of its constitutional mandate
“We will treat it like any other complaint,” Belmonte told the Manila Standard in a text message.
He maintained that the President will not be impeached on the basis of the Disbursement Acceleration Program which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, because “the President acted in good faith.”
That argument is as puerile as the new contention of presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda that the issue is only “a difference of opinion between the President and the Supreme Court.”
They are destroyed completely by the argument of one opinion posted online. It reads:
Mas baboy ang DAP kaysa PDAF
(DAP more porcine than PDAF)
“PDAF has a legal basis provided by the General Appropriations Act (GAA). There was a presumption of constitutionality until the Supreme Court declared it UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Those who availed of PDAF committed no violation until COA said they “pocketed” their pork.
“On the other hand, DAP has no legal basis. The act itself is illegal from the time it was created and implemented. The executive has no power of the purse like that of Congress. No audit has been made yet for DAP releases that amount to 149 Billion pesos. With that amount of money, how can we make sure that every centavo was used in “good faith” or for public benefits? With the kind of politicians we have, it is IMPOSSIBLE!!
“Ibig sabihin, mas BABOY ang DAP kaysa PDAF (In other words, DAP is more porcine than PDAF).”
The task of preparing sufficient and convincing articles of impeachment has been made easy by the Supreme Court’s 95-page decision on the unconstitutionality of the DAP, because it painstakingly details the specific unconstitutional acts and violations of President Aquino. The verdict leaves little wiggle room for the president.
That draft will be supported and strengthened by the expected audit of the DAP by the Commission on Audit (COA). Here, the real staggering numbers of the DAP will be unmasked. And the extent of presidential abuse will be known.
Belmonte’s stand not insuperable
Overcoming the wall against impeachment erected by Speaker Belmonte is not insuperable.
According to the Constitution, Article XI, Section 3.2, “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.”
A vote of at least one-third of all members of the House (83 signatories) will affirm a favorable resolution with the articles of impeachment of the committee.
The resolution shall constitute the articles of impeachment, and trial by the Senate shall forthwith proceed.
When the president of the Philippines is on trial, the chief justice of the Supreme court shall preside in his trial.
With delicious irony, Justice Lourdes Sereno, who was snatched from nowhere by President Aquino to head the High Court, will preside at the judicial reckoning of her master.
So far, two impeachment complaints have been announced – by Lawyer Oliver Lozano and former Tesda Director-General Augusto Syjuco, but neither filed it with the House. Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon and his group have declared their intent to file their own impeachment complaint on July 14.
Others will surely file their own complaints.
Dynamics of House politics
The challenge then becomes one of campaigning for 83 House signatures to support a complaint.
At this point, many are bewildered by the stand of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). It justifies its cowardice as delicadeza, because vice-president Jejomar Binay stands to benefit from Aquino’s impeachment. This is more hilarious than the good faith argument of the administration, because UNA stalwarts are now languishing in detention.
In the calculus of responsibility, the House is the crucial hinge for national deliverance. If it balks at bringing the abuse of executive power to account, it will be setting a precedent of fecklessness that could end up destroying our political system.
The House, I submit, will honor its duty if Speaker Belmonte does not insist on standing in the way.
It will do the right thing if individual House members will only reflect on, first, what is at stake for them individually if in this time of testing, they run away from the challenge, and on, secondly, what is a far greater stake for the nation, if a lawless and compromised president remains in charge of the reins of government and the treasury.
The Liberal Party is proving that it is truly a party without principle. Its coalition ally, the Nacionalista Party, seems determined to prove that it has even less, with Alan Peter Cayetano serving as its foolish and ambitious mouthpiece. No wonder, the party list groups look more credible these days.
People should remember: The House Speaker does not have a fixed term. He can be removed at any time, by the vote of a House majority.
The dynamics of House politics will spectacularly change as momentum begins to gather behind the campaign to impeach Aquino.