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The disappointed

Publication Date : 24-07-2014

 

The two impeachment complaints filed against Philippine President Aquino this week make for disappointing reading: Their premises are premature, their logic strained. They take the self-serving statements of accused plunderers at face value; they trivialise the country’s harrowing experience with tyranny.

But, in a deeper sense, the complaints reflect the spasm of disappointment that convulsed the country in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program. If the last years of the Aquino administration will be spent obsessing over just how much money went to which project, and how much of the DAP went into private pockets—what a fall in expectations! The administration’s clear mandate to fight corruption becomes a sorry struggle to prove that it was not itself corrupt.

Both complaints assume something that has not yet become final: that each element of the Supreme Court decision will stand. But in fact, the ruling does not become final and executory until after a decision is reached on the administration’s motion for reconsideration. (And sometimes, as we know, the Court reverses itself even after a final and executory judgment.)

While it doesn’t seem likely that the 13-0 vote will be reversed, it is still possible that some elements of the ruling—for instance, the Court’s restrictive definition of savings, which in its view can only be computed toward the end of a given year—might still change.

The first complaint, filed by militant group members as well as civil society personalities, simply assumes that the DAP is Mr. Aquino’s “own Presidential pork barrel,” attaches to it the Court’s own most recent ruling declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund as unconstitutional, and then leaves it at that.

The second complaint, filed by youth groups, cites as the third ground for impeachment the assertion that Aquino committed graft and corruption, but the sole basis for making that claim is only another assertion: Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s, who suggested in a privilege speech that the President bribed senators with DAP funds to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The complainants do not offer any additional evidence, or indeed even attempt to root Estrada’s coy claim in reality. They simply take the self-serving word of a principal accused in a plunder case, and take it as proven fact.

Not least, both complaints trivialize the meaning of “tyranny” and “dictatorship,” blithely alleging that President Aquino’s actions on the DAP and later his aggressive posture against the Supreme Court amounted to “a tyrannical abuse of power”—now he was “acting like a full-fledged tyrant,” “guilty of tyrannical abuse of power and gross exercise of discretionary powers,” and therefore: “We all have to nip a dictator in the bud” (sic).

But the last time the country had a “full-fledged tyrant,” the chief justice himself was reduced to sheltering the dictator’s wife from rain and sun with an umbrella. That the Court is no longer subservient is the clearest proof that the complainants’ talk of tyranny and dictatorship is merely rhetorical.

But a look at the list of complainants shows that, aside from the usual suspects (the ones who can be trusted to file or support an attempt to impeach any president, whether it is Joseph Estrada or Gloria Arroyo or Benigno Aquino III), there are other names on it, low-key personalities who were active in the so-called Million People March last year or long-time advocates against the pork barrel. Their presence should give all of us pause.

Why are they taking part in what for some has become a cynical political exercise? Don’t they know they are merely new pawns in a long and elaborate chess game? Or, believers in good governance through and through, do they feel betrayed by the Aquino administration—whether by the existence of the DAP itself, or by Malacañang’s lame attempt to explain it, or by the President’s stubbornness and belligerence?

Administration officials may belittle the complaints, satisfied in the knowledge that they have the numbers in both the House and the Senate, but they would do well to consider those unexpected names on the list. Having promised a straight path, they must deal with those who are gravely disappointed at finding themselves in a crook of the road.

 

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