Revgov? Impeachment blues

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RENE SAGUISAG

CHIEF Justice Art Panganiban, in his typically edifying November 19, 2017 column, along with many other constitutional scholars, seems to assume casually that the removal of Marcos in 1986 was not in accord with the 1973 Constitution.

The 1973 Constitution I call siopao; the barangays were said to have been convened, and asked who wanted siopao—almost all attendees raised their hands. The Comelec tallied the raised hands as “Yes.” I wasn’t aware though of any such assembly being held in the places I was familiar with. In any event, our Constitutions of 1935 (Art. VII, Sec. 9), 1973 (Art. VII, Sec. 9) and 1987 (Art. VII, Sec. 8) all say that a President’s term may be ended by “removal from office.”

The people “removed” Marcos in 1986, to local and world acclaim. Erap was “removed” in 2001, at which the world, puzzled, looked askance, but which “removal” arguably, was not unconstitutional, on the basis of the constitutional language. However, the Supreme Court instead ruled that he had resigned, on the weird basis of somebody else’s diary. Baffling to the outside world and to some of us natives. But, “removal” could have led to a revolutionary government (revgov) and the wise justices could have found themselves jobless, as in 1986. Hence, resignation, as one theory goes.

Erap’s removal


Erap’s lawyers (I wasn’t one of them yet) had prudently advised that he write to the Senate Prez and the Speaker that he was stepping aside due to temporary disability, not stepping down. He did so and was the last one to know he had resigned kuno.

When I orally argued the case in the Supreme Court, there was no discussion I could recall on resignation. But, if a justice had raised the issue of whether he was “removed” by some people and the military, in the same way we removed Marcos, I might have had little wiggle room. But the justices may have realized that their own tenure might be in jeopardy.

We need a law on the procedure on resignations, to clarify such issues as to whom Comelec Chair Andy Bautista should have submitted his resignation. In the US, Nixon submitted his letter to the Secretary of State, as explicitly provided by 3 US Code Sec. 20.

My attempts to have such a local clarifying law did not get anywhere in the 1987-1992 Senate. It’s time someone in the legislature started the process of filling up the lacuna. But it seems the lawmakers would rather probe in aid of something and impeach, also in aid of something. I fret about the way Congress expects a guest to check the Bill of Rights at the door.

Cross-examination in impeachment

Impeachment may lead to the capital penalty of removal and the target should be given every leeway. Sporting and fair was what guided a US House panel in the impeachment of Federal Judge Alcee L. Hastings. It granted the defense “the extraordinary prerogative of his counsel [Terence J. Anderson] to question any of the witnesses, if he so chooses, for up to the point of 10 minutes”.

In my first year or so of practice, cross-examination was allowed in preliminary investigations. In one case, Manila Fiscal Serafin Cuevas allowed us, as counsel, to cross-examine. I learned a lot watching famed iconic soft-spoken Doy Quisumbing cross. Marcos removed that right, facilitating the prosecution of “subversives.”

Impeachment is sui generis, in a class by itself, and the House should consider allowing it, to mitigate its image as an extension of Malacañang.

Sereno’s offense

Chief Justice Sereno’s basic offense, from where I sit, is asserting judicial independence, which may get in the way of revgov. Like Sen. Leila de Lima, had she kept quiet or voted the way Digong was seen to favor, she would most likely not be undergoing her current ordeal. Another offense: she was seen to jump the queue—from a relatively junior Associate, to Chief—and generated sadness. (I supported another aspirant in 2012 but support her now as one legitimate CJ, which was more than I regret to have to say for post-midnight appointee Rene Corona.)

If her lawyers file a case in the SC, she would have to inhibit herself but it would also smoke out her fellow magistrates into recusing themselves if they would be witnesses against her, as ballyhooed.

Seniority may be sacred here but it is nothing in the US Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roberts was not even an Associate Justice when elevated. No resentment from those bypassed who may have had an understandable moist eye cast on the Chief Justiceship.

Congress is better off lawmaking and policymaking, not probing and impeaching and judging. Lavish lifestyle for getting an expensive car for court use? Eventually, all 15 should get one, state-of-the-art; on SALN, punished lightly in RA 6713, has she been given a chance to amplify or correct, if needed? CJ telling judges not to surrender without a warrant, which document the Constitution requires? Of course, it is said that impeachment is political but not to the point of making it a Kenkoy proceeding. We need to study harder the history of impeachment of magistrates in the US, England and even India. Only US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase was impeached; the impeachment failed. Chase was acquitted.

Be careful with revgov

On limiting our population, only two kids suggested but how about only one wife (and perhaps one kulasisi for each macho)? Who are our role models? Ideally, only one wife, but if kulasisis are factored in, nothing doing.

Digong has a fave partner on public occasions that he should marry so as not to confuse the youth, prosecutors and judges. He is reported to have kulasisis in Davao and Cagayan de Oro, per scuttlebutt. Speaker Bebot Alvarez converted to a tribe in Mindanao allowing more than one wife and famously asked who among us has no kulasisi? Are we really a nation of ladykillers?

I label ladykillers as emotional terrorists even as we label the NPAs as terrorists, but we may not properly take into account why the latter rebel. They may be citizens with a grievance, e.g., a farmer whose daughter gets raped by an hacendero, who is not prosecuted or, if prosecuted, is acquitted. The farmer may then go out of the system.

But, what is Prez Digong’s excuse for going revgov? May we have a Heal-Heal-Heal, not Kill-Kill-Kill, presidency instead?

Digong must keep my five Rs mantra in mind: the right thing must be done in the right way at the right time in the right place for the right reason. Be careful with revgov, and maybe, faithful Honeylet deserves matrimony.

Talking about Leila’s guilt is improper. I am again reminded of her because Charles Manson just died at 83. Nixon blasted him as guilty of the rape-murder of pregnant Sharon Tate, and the killing of others. The public howled. The White House was quick to apologize; no, it did not mean to prejudge.

Have Digong, Justice Secretary Vit Aguirre (another one now with a moist eye cast on the Senate) and SolGen Joe Calida talked too much about Leila’s supposed guilt? Had she kept quiet, she would now be in the Senate where, with any kind of luck—I never underrate anyone’s capacity for subjective growth—we may have Prez Manny Pacquiao (now bored in the Senate) shine and and go for the whole enchilada, with Veep Mocha Uson in 2022. Those concerned may all play coy but if ordered to run by Digong, who are they to say ‘no’?

Play coy, I urge, and don’t say China is “privileged” to be third telco player. Let it compete and bid. Else, if unbidden, it comes, we may feel like the Pop who, asked for his daughter’s hand, had to say, “sure, you might as well have her hand. You have had everything else.” Pakipot muna. Hele-hele, bago quiere.

And charge, not just shame Gen. Dionisio Santiago, so he can defend himself in some proper forum. Same fate as Secretary Mike Sueno’s. The Palace convicted and shamed them without due process.
Palace, I don’t like your style.

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