REP. Reynaldo Umali must spend some minutes in the early morning in front of a mirror looking at himself and saying, “What a big man I am.” No, not in the physical sense. Although the TV footage makes it clear that, indeed, Mr. Umali has a frame larger than most undernourished Filipinos. I mean “big” in the sense of stature. He is the congressman who is leading the House of Representatives (HoR) campaign to impeach the sitting chief justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Should he succeed, he would be in the history books.–the congressman who led the effort to impeach a sitting chief justice.
Or, if events turned out differently from his envisioned outcome, he would be in the footnotes of history, with this description the congressman who led the witch-hunt against a sitting chief justice.
What is your scenario? I am looking at the “HoR on a witch-hunt” angle. Many reasons for these and the first is this: The credibility of the charges is, at best, suspect.
Did the CJ commit acts that fall under the category of “high crimes” or “treason” or both? Or, massive corruption for that matter?
On the massive corruption angle, we can reframe the question into this one. Can the House really impeach a sitting CJ who lives in a 200-square meter lot, in the northern part of Quezon City outside of the La Vista-LGV-Ayala Heights-Ayala Hillside axis?
Or, who lives in a development that real estate agents are hard put to sell beyond the P15,000 square meter range ? Only the “ poorest of the poor” congressmen live in the area where the CJ lives. An area which is not too far from Payatas. A place not too far from what was once called Sapang Palay. I know that some rich people live near the area. But they have compounds ranging from five to 10 hectares each, not 200 sq m lots.
On the corruption angle, once the impeach vote is sent to the Senate, an alert senator-jury may throw this first question to test the credibility of the corruption charges. How far is your development from Sapang Palay? Or Payatas? The answer from the camp of the CJ will automatically tug the consciences of the senators who have not been–in their entire lives–in the vicinity of the CJ’s place of domicile. Because they live in Forbes Park or similar locales.
You know what? The “ corruption angle” of Mr. Gadon’s story will unravel once the 200 sq m living area of the CJ is told in the Senate cum impeachment court. In that unravelling, another angle will be exposed–the credulity of the HoR.
Of course, there is the probability that the CJ may have accumulated wealth, and that her simple life is but a front. She must be faking this “simple life” thing. But then, where are the bank accounts? Where is the massive investment portfolio under somebody else’s name? She is not on the Panama Papers. Or the Paradise Island files. In this day and age, banks accounts, even those hidden 12 layers deep, are quite easy to discover.
So far, nothing on the CJ. Not even a “mini-Hacienda Sereno.”
That the newspaper headlines have now framed the impeachment case against CJ Sereno as something procedural, not substantial, is the result of the HoR’s rude awakening over the substance of the case. Mr. Gadon has a slew of complaints with big words and oversized claims but with no back-up optic that will look credible to the most discerning of judges – the man on the street. The optic of a CJ living on a 200 sq m lot on the cheap side of northern Quezon City near Payatas and not very far from Sapang Palay damns the accusers, not the accused.
So, the headlines have degenerated into Mr. Umali claiming that the HoR can force the CJ to perjure herself at the HoR. If she does not, she will be arrested. And an SC associate justice, Justice de Castro, who can’t even categorically state under oath that the CJ committed acts that violated the Constitution.
Senators Drilon and Escudero have reminded Representative Umali, gently, that the CJ cannot be forced to go and testify against herself. A legislative inquiry in aid of legislation is different from a legislative action in aid of Gadon. Ok, I will reframe. A legislative inquiry in aid of legislation is different from a legislative action that involves the impeachment of an impeachable officer, in this case the CJ, Senators Drilon and Escudero both said.
Put simply, forcing the CJ to grovel before the House would trigger a constitutional crisis because the House has no power to compel the CJ to go there.
Now, it is about missing SALNs of the CJ while teaching law at UP.
That the discussions on the impeachment case have slipped to the surly bounds of earth from the galactic high of massive corruption, high crimes and treason suggest that there is very little to the big words of Mr. Gadon. The public’s take is that the HoR can only do so much for Mr. Gadon and his complaints. But, trapped in hubris as usual, it cannot let go. Without the substantive issues to hang the CJ, it can only latch on to tortured words such as “subpoena“ and “arrest.”
Big words that mean nothing.