The draft of the impeachment case filed against Mr. Marcos on August 13, 1985 was written by two opposition MPs in a small restaurant in Quezon City barely a month before the August filing. MPs Homobono Adaza of Misamis Oriental and Antonio V. Cuenco of Cebu itemized with relative ease the “ Bill of Particulars” in the case against Mr. Marcos.
If you think that the collective angst of the nation was upon their shoulders on that day, given the enormity of what they were drafting, you are wrong. Bono Adaza, twice editor of the Philippine Collegian, and Tony Cuenco, who had a background in broadcast media, looked as though they were drafting routine Batasan resolutions.
I know. There was a third person at the table where they drafted, this typist, then the political reporter of a brave broadsheet that was not owned by Marcos cronies. Sitting there with the two authors had its reward. The impeachment story was already at our typesetting room in the early morning of August 13, a precious several-hour lead on a big political story. Being ahead of others in a major story was so precious to print journalism then. It was the scoops that went into the upper fold.
The year 1985 belongs to distant memory but I can still recall a few choice words from the lead of the story I filed: “Opposition MPs hope that the impeachment case filed would be the beginning of the end of the Marcos regime.”
At the Batasang Pambansa, which was controlled by the KBL, there was no such expectation that the impeachment case filed would snowball into a tsunami of rage that would topple down the Marcos regime. Arturo Pacificador, the MP from Antique and the fiercest of the Marcos loyalists in the Batasan, was so piqued that he wanted to pull a gun and blow the heads of Bono Adaza and Tony Cuenco.
The other KBL MPs, less predisposed to violence, ridiculed the impeachment case and gamely jeered and hooted at the primary sponsors of the impeachment resolution. As expected, the impeachment case was dumped into the Batasan wastebasket for lack of substance and deficiency in form.
In early 1986, less than a year after the filing of the impeachment case, the reckoning came, sudden but liberating. Marcos and his kin made the hasty flight to Hawaii via Clark. Mr. Pacificador was on the run for the murder of Evelio Javier.
If the current Congress has a solid grounding on history, there is a lesson to be learned from the Marcos impeachment case. Don’t unilaterally dump the case against President Aquino and jeer at the congressmen/endorsers. Don’t ever, ever say impeachment is a political process and we have the numbers to junk the DAP-related impeachment.
Look at its merits and substance and debate on them. Are the things said in the bill of particulars within the ambit of impeachable offenses? Cannot the president invoke good faith? Was the DAP a travesty, a grievous assault on the fundamental principle of co-equal branches of government with each branch tasked with a specific mandate?
Congress, as history tells us, should not rush into judgment, which means rushing to junk the impeachment case. A rubber stamp Congress covering up the tracks of an accused president will even further inflame the growing public dissatisfaction with the President. In short, it will not even serve the cause of the President that it wants to protect.
Ok, can the President ride out this one, this single biggest challenge to his presidency ? Despite the unconstitutionality of the DAP and his record-low approval ratings, he will. There are a few things going for him.
Impeaching a president in the Philippine context means impeaching a crook. Mr. Estrada was undone by his mistresses, mansions, massive bank accounts and greed of the insatiable kind. The impeachment filed against Mr. Marcos listed a collection of overseas holdings, which, after his fall from power, turned out to be just a mere fraction of his vast wealth. The charge sheet in the impeachment case was underwhelming.
In the case of Mr. Aquino, the charge sheet lacks the element that pushes the general public to revolt, which in turn provides the momentum, and the favorable environment, to impeach the President – acts of corruption. There is no single mansion or bank account in the charge sheet, a flow chart that shows DAP funds getting channeled into the personal account of the President. After a string of president-crooks, an impeachment case that is about usurping the power of Congress over the purse is, at best, a blur to the public. The DAP was an assault on the Constitution but ordinary lives busy putting food on the table are not really concerned about constitutionality of governance.
The public mood is this. Pass, we don’t know about that, and we can’t mass at EDSA because executive grabs of congressional power are not really life and death issues for us.
But even with this, the impeachment case filed was a great service to the nation.
It will be the final punch that will knock off Mr. Aquino from his high horse. It will moderate what his critics say are his arrogance and self-righteousness. He will, hopefully, start listening to other voices. Over the past four years, no other opinion, no other ideas and inputs have penetrated the closed-off minds in the chambers of power.
The impeachment case, Archbishop Oscar Cruz said, is a “symbol.” I think he meant “message.”
The message is this: Get off your moral perch, stop hectoring us on what is right or wrong. Start doing your job as the president of all people, not just the president of the Davos-crowd, the oligarchs and the plutocrats.
And this message too: Start following the law.