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Inquirer Opinion / Columns
Analysis : Blood thirsty
By Amando Doronila
Editorial Consultant
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: March 24, 2011
THE BLOOD thirsty juggernaut of the Aquino administration that bulldozed the impeachment of Ombudsman
Merceditas Gutierrez to the Senate does not know where to stop. Apparently intoxicated by the crushing 212-46 vote
in the House of Representatives to impeach Gutierrez, the administration stepped up its offensive to stampede the
Senate into convicting her on charges of betrayal of pubic trust in the run-up to the trial of the case.
Leading the charge to whip up public opinion behind the Houses decision, President Aquino did not let the grass dry
on his feet, when in a speech in Cagayan de Oro he called on the people to support his call for the impeachment and
removal of Gutierrez.
The speech appeared to be a blatant attempt by the President to put pressure on the Senate, an independent
legislative body, as it prepares to try the case. He said his administration was serious in eliminating corruption in
government institutions, a step that included appointing the right people who will prosecute those who do such things.
This is why we called for the impeachment of the ombudsman, Mr. Aquino said. We cannot have deals such as ZTE,
Mega Pacific, Naia 3 hold back the country any longer. The impeachment of the ombudsman is the strongest signal we
can send to you right now that we are trying to put in place the kind of playing field for your businesses to survive and
prosper in the long term. As the Senate prepares to try the ombudsman, I urge you to support this and other efforts to
fight corruption.
In justifying his intervention in the affairs of the Senate, the President told reporters, I may be President but I am also
a citizen of this republic. As a citizen of this republic, (I am) not happy with the performance of the ombudsman and her
While he conceded that the Senate was an independent and co-equal body, he said he was a citizen expressing my
own opinion and I think I am entitled to my opinion.
Statements such as these reveal dangerous views of the president on the keystone principle of separation of powers
among the three departments of government and on the importance of the rule of law in the pursuit of fair
administration of justice, even in impeachment trials. True, as a citizen he has a right to express his opinion, but he is
not sitting on an even playing field with the common citizen. As President, he is the most powerful official of the land,
he has resources of state which he can deploy to make his opinion prevail, what he says carries enormous weight to
influence decisions in other departments, and he is bound by his oath to enforce the law of the land, which by
implication, requires him to respect due processa crucial issue in the impeachment trial.
Having reduced the House into a rubber stamp in fast-tracking the articles of impeachment after just eight hours of
debate in the plenary, the administration has now turned its big guns on the upper chamber. The administration
machine has bullied the ombudsman and it is now trying to bully the Senate. If the administration is provoking a bloody
battle over the impeachment, it is just possible that the President will get it.
The day after the House voted to impeach Gutierrez, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chair of the committee of justice and
sponsor of the impeachment resolution, was so carried away by the size of the vote that he said the overwhelming
212 votes to impeach sent a strong message to the Senate about the peoples desire to remove her from office. This
will have a positive effect when we go to trial in the Senate, he predicted. Lets wait and see.
Tupas said the vote was a victory for people who supported the Presidents campaign against corruption, and who saw
Gutierrez as a stumbling block. Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino, a party list ally of the presidents Liberal Party, said,
They (the senators) cannot belittle this. Its okay if its 100 plus, but its 212 votes and it dispels all doubts about the
strength and the support it has from the people.
Even Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima, who is supposed to be a more circumspect Cabinet member not given to
exuberant partisan views, was carried away by the rampant administration strategy of impeaching the ombudsman
i.e., that public opinion is the key to influencing the Senate in the trial. She said public opinion against the
ombudsman was the secret behind the success of the impeachment in the House. Public opinion was definitely in
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favor of this move.
The Senate is an entirely different arena from the House. What the House is mandated to do is determine whether
there is a probable cause to impeach the ombudsman for betrayal of public trust, based on the six counts of the
consolidated two complaints cited in the articles of impeachment.
This having been done, the House prosecution panel is burdened with making a case with the Senate to convict the
ombudsman. An impeachment trial is a forum where senators sitting as judges are required to submit evidence to
more rigorous scrutiny as demonstrated in the impeachment of President Joseph Estrada.
Historically, the Philippine Senate has been a more difficult institution to dominate than the House, which has been
vulnerable to executive manipulation and subordination. The distribution of votes in the Senate makes it difficult to
predict alignments and outcomes. Whats more likely are shifting alignments during the trial.
The Senate is on the spot to maintain its independence against the assault of the Aquino juggernaut. Will there be
blood in the sand?
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