It seems no good deed goes unpunished, even in these premises.
For proposing in my last piece that the Filipino people, rather than the discredited Congress, directly impeach and remove President B. S. Aquino 3rd, I was quickly swamped with calls from two sets of callers, both supportive of removal, but proceeding from two different angles.
How could they sign an “impeachment complaint”, said the first set, when they believed Aquino was never legally nor honestly elected, and should therefore simply relinquish his position, (not even resign), as the National Transformation Council says in its Lipa Declaration of August 27, 2014?
I do not wish to engage in these de factoand de jure distinctions right now. But if you believe Aquino has committed serious crimes against the Constitution and the Filipino people, and that he is merely de facto, then you should be free to consider “impeachment” by the people as a mere euphemism, just another word, for a non-violent call to oust the offender.
The second set was a bit more demanding. They wanted me to craft the impeachment document myself, or if I could not, at least to spell out the constitutional grounds for such an “impeachment.” They should be different from those that were rejected earlier by the House committee on justice, they said. And I should show them exactly how to make the whole thing work.
The grounds are all in the Constitution. And they have been quoted to excess. They include culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. And each of these is legally defined.
Take treason. Black’s Law Dictionary defines treason as “a breach of allegiance to one’s government, usually committed through levying war against such government or by giving aid or comfort to the enemy.” Among all the grounds, it stands as a class all its own.
And yet, although this may be the only impeachable crime Aquino has not yet committed, there are those who, with great passion, will say that what Aquino has done and is doing to the country is pure and simple treason.
A good lawyer should be asked to craft the public document. And t should be as simple and plain as possible. It could begin by recalling that on June 30, 2010, B. S. Aquino 3rd took his oath as President of the Philippines, stating: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President of the Philippines, preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation. So help me God.”
Then it should state clearly and coherently what Aquino has done to subvert the Constitution. The Disbursement Acceleration Program, which the Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional, (although the 13-0 ruling is still under appeal,) is certainly pivotal. But all must see that Aquino’s worst offense is not the DAP per se, whatever sums are involved. Rather it is the actual destruction of our democracy.
Indeed, what Aquino did through the DAP was an unspeakable crime. But he did that in order to commit an even more unspeakable crime, namely, the destabilization of the Supreme Court, the total corruption and conscription of Congress, and the destruction of our democratic system. This need not be such an abstraction.
Indeed, the average citizen grasps it more quickly when he reads of billions being siphoned off into the pockets of politicians, but never when he hears that the Constitution and the law have been fed to the dogs. This should never be the case. We should be angry that Aquino and his Budget Secretary Florencio Abad have treated the unconstitutional DAP as though it were their personal kitty.
But we should be outraged infinitely more that Aquino has used the DAP —
(1) to corrupt even more an already corrupt Congress by bribing members to impeach and remove a sitting Chief Justice (Renato Corona) who has now been shown to be less sinning than all his House accusers and senator-judges;
(2) to destabilize the entire judicial system, and
(3) to install himself on top of all the three coequal branches of government.
This was—this is—the much bigger crime. None of our heroes died for the billions that were illegally expended through the DAP, but all of them fought, and so many died, for our democratic rights and liberties. We must begin to take our democracy seriously.
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution says the Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.Aquino swore an oath to “preserve and defend” that Constitution. Consistent with that oath, his paramount duty is to preserve and maintain this tripartite system of government, adhering strictly to the principle of separation of powers and the doctrine of checks and balances.
Separation of powers simply means that none of the three co-equal and coordinate branches of government—Legislative, Executive and Judiciary—with their own distinct constitutional powers, rights and responsibilities shall encroach upon, or usurp any of the powers, rights or prerogatives of any of the others.
But in violation of this principle, Aquino willfully and systematically destabilized the Supreme Court, first by aggressively attacking Corona in his public statements and then by using the DAP to bribe members of Congress to impeach and remove him, making them his partners in crime. This wasn’t just culpable violation of the Constitution. This was high crime—and of the highest order. No president ever did this before. We pray no president will ever do it again.
In a functioning democracy, such conduct would have warranted impeachment and trial, removal from public office, and permanent disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit. But because our democracy has been strangled, we now have to develop a creative and non-violent alternative to impeachment by Congress. One such is “impeachment” by the people, not before Congress, but before the people themselves.
A public complaint focused on Aquino’s most grievous crimes should now be circulated for signature around the country until a critical number is reached. In a country of 100 million inhabitants, more than 40 million of them qualified voters, a million signatures or two would be a modest target. Once that number is reached, the people could then demand that Aquino step down, if he had not done so yet. Or they could organize some kind of people’s court to publicly try the respondent. That’s what the Allies did with the Nazis, at Nuremberg.