VICE President Jejomar Binay claims that the threat of an impeachment looms over him. He, along with his family and close associates, has been fending off allegations of corruption, which he said was a political ploy to thwart his presidential bid in 2016. The Palace and its political allies have denied being the force behind the supposed plot, but the Vice President cited a document from the Office of the Ombudsman saying he was being investigated “for purposes of determining sufficiency of evidence that would warrant a filing of impeachment.”
Certainly, Vice President Binay should have his so-called day in court. He should be given a chance to face his accusers and answer all of the accusations that have been hurled against him. And given that the wheels of justice grind slowly in the Philippines, we hope that the Vice President also takes his case before the bar of public opinion. In dismissing the accusations as a mere political ploy, he leaves voters and the public at large hanging.
Having said all that, we object to the use of impeachment as a political weapon. Reducing the impeachment to a numbers game seems inconsistent with the gravity of the offenses that it is designed to suppress. Article XI, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, gives the grounds for impeachment: “The President, the Vice President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commission, and the Ombudsman, may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”
Laws are supposed to be for the society’s benefit. They are not meant to advance anyone’s political ambitions.
End does not justify the means
If recent history is a guide, then Vice President Binay may have reason to be concerned. Early in his term, President Benigno Aquino 3rd twice led an impeachment against his perceived nemesis.
Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was bullied into resigning by the threat of an impeachment. Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached, but his conviction was allegedly secured by paying off senators, who stood as judge and jury in the impeachment trial.
In a privileged speech before his detention, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada divulged that at least P50 million was paid to each senator in exchange for a guilty verdict against Chief Justice Corona. Some senators supposedly received more.
Naturally, the Palace denied the allegations. But officials did acknowledge doling out DAP-funded projects to lawmakers before and after the impeachment trial. As we know, the DAP or Disbursement Acceleration Program, was declared unconstitutional in a unanimous Supreme Court decision. And unlike other forms of pork barrel, the DAP was funded by “savings,” a misnomer that refers to diverting funds from approved budget items to projects handpicked by the Palace.
If the Vice President is to be impeached, will public funds be diverted to corrupt lawmakers just to secure the votes needed for his removal from office? We hope not. Even if one accepts that Mr. Binay is unfit to be president, does that justify the tyranny of an incumbent who happens to prefer a less popular candidate to be his successor? Does the end justify the means? We disagree. No matter how seemingly lofty the intentions, an evil end corrupts the action.