HOW many senators will it take to make the Supreme Court change its mind on its decision to oust Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice? All of them or none of them – it doesn’t matter.
See, this is why some people are clamoring for the abolition of the Senate. The chamber is sometimes so out of touch (and so obsessed with furthering the self-interest of its individual members) that it can’t even tell when what it’s doing is even good for it or not.
I think the senators who want to hold an impeachment trial for Sereno can be placed in three categories. These are the senators seeking reelection next year, who make up the biggest bunch; those seeking favors or other incentives from Malacañang, just like in the bad old days; and those who just want to continue their campaign to destroy Duterte through any means available, including by defending a demonstrably unqualified, mentally unstable and prevaricating chief justice.
Of course, it’s easy to see why the senators in the first category can’t seem to let go of Sereno’s case. Half of the body is up for reelection next year; having an impeachment trial to occupy it for many months, deliberating on whether or not it should oust Sereno, is priceless wall-to-wall publicity, of the sort you can’t get with paid advertisements or friendly softball interviews and coverage in the media.
I recall how, years back, the members of the Senate were deprived of conducting an impeachment trial after they had already psyched themselves up for the task. This was in 2011, right after the House of Representatives, acting on the behest of Malacañang, impeached Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
The senators had already had their judges’ gowns made and were only waiting for the opportunity—again, at Malacañang’s urging—to take out their knives and chop up Gutierrez. But it was not to be; Gutierrez, seeing that she would certainly be torn apart in the Senate, abruptly resigned after her impeachment.
The Senate got its chance to parade the jurists’ clothing it had ordered soon afterwards, when the House also impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona. And because Corona, in his political naivete, thought that being merely right was enough to avoid conviction, the Senate got its pound of flesh—after being sufficiently larded by the same president who wanted Gutierrez removed, Noynoy Aquino.
Imagine the airtime and newspaper space that a senator up for reelection could milk from a Sereno trial. Heck, even those who had already decided that Sereno must be fired need that sort of publicity, which would put them in the strange situation of opposing her removal by the Supreme Court in order to dismiss her as a judge in an impeachment court.
And whatever the outcome of a Senate trial, there’s always other bonanzas that could await a noisy senator-judge who can shrewdly make it appear that he or she is only after the truth, when he or she can, in fact, be properly convinced using methods that have nothing to do with any evidence that may be presented in the quasi-court.
Which leads us to the second category of senator wanting to try Sereno: those seeking incentives that they can extract from the current occupant of the palace, Rodrigo Duterte.
Surely, senators getting hundreds of millions worth of “soft,” easily stolen government funds, like they did from Aquino in order to remove Corona, is a stretch under the pathologically parsimonious Duterte administration. But I guess the current crop of senators will accept inducements in other forms, from anyone who will offer them.
Even if Duterte is not going to offer money, he can help them in other ways, like endorsing them in next year’s polls or giving their favored people cushy government sinecures. I’m not saying that Duterte will be making them offers; I’m just saying that these are the expectations of the would-be impeachment court judges in this category.
And then there are the senators who, because they seem hard-wired that way, want an impeachment trial because they will be able to pursue their agenda to attack Duterte by holding it. Into this last category, which is admittedly the smallest bunch of the three, fall senators like Risa Hontiveros, who is now collecting signatures for a Senate resolution asking the Supreme Court to “review” its decision ousting Sereno by granting the quo warranto petition of the solicitor general.
That the Supreme Court already has an automatic review process, which is set in motion by the filing of a motion for reconsideration by any party which disagrees with its decision, seems to escape the steel-trap mind of Hontiveros and her anti-Duterte peers. Of course, Hontiveros can argue that her resolution is merely an expression of the sense of the Senate regarding the Sereno decision —but it sure comes perilously close to interfering with the work of a separate, independent and co-equal branch of government, which Hontiveros and her Yellow peers used to abhor.
I say “used to” because while Hontiveros and the few remaining Senate Yellows used to make loud noises about “judicial independence,” they apparently have no problem with pressuring the high court with a resolution for it to review a decision that they don’t agree with. How’s that for selective justice?
But there are also senators who actually understand that they cannot do anything to make the Supreme Court change its mind. An example of this rare, common sense-imbued senator is Panfilo Lacson, who insists that the Senate cannot act on the matter if the House will not bring an impeachment case against Sereno before it.
Alas, these logical senators are obviously in the minority, which is why Hontiveros can claim that most senators want a trial. And this is why the people, who understand that they do not benefit at all from most Senate initiatives, can merely sigh and wait for someone with enough sense and power who will abolish that high-maintenance, self-styled august body.