Saturday, August 06, 2005

COMMENT: The Imperative of Impeachment

By Patricio P. Diaz
MindaNews /04 August 2005

A Publication of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center
Vol. IV, No. 072/5 August 2005


GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- The impeachment of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has become most imperative. The senators and House of Representatives should cast off partisan loyalties, biases and interests and proceed with the impeachment strictly according to merits. So judging the President is the immediate solution to the political crisis, not the change of the form of government.

The presidential unitary form of government has nothing to do with the very grave doubt in the legitimacy of the President's election in the May 2004 election and the suspicion about her part in the jueteng scandal. The legitimacy and jueteng issues are now being interwoven.

Our political crisis is not about the form of government but about the integrity of the President. The crisis is about moral leadership too bankrupt to sustain political leadership. Integrity must be beyond doubt in order to strengthen leadership and consequently untangle the crisis.

The Substitute

The President thinks a truth commission can sort out the mess. That will be poor substitute to impeachment in determining truth about the charges against her. Impeachment derives its authority from the Constitution.

It's even doubted if the truth commission can come out with the truth. And if it does, what will it do with the President should the truth call for her to vacate the presidency? If the commission finds her just maligned, it will be doubted by the opposition because it derived its authority from the President.

On the contrary, the Constitution has instituted impeachment with the mandate to Congress to investigate, try and convict or acquit an erring President -- defining the impeachable offenses and prescribing removal as the penalty in case of conviction. If the senators, as judges, and the congressmen as prosecutors act as statesmen, their verdict will not be doubted.

By impeachment, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be removed from office if found guilty. That will remove the root of the present political crisis which, like a storm, will abate.

If the President is found innocent of the charges against her after the evidence and witnesses have been subjected to intense and thorough judicial scrutiny, her innocence will restore integrity and confidence in her leadership. That, too, will remove the root of the crisis.

Garci to Zuce

The "Hello, Garci!" or "Gloria tape" played to the MalacaƱan greporters last June 6 triggered the political crisis embroiling the legitimacy of the President's election. The demand for her to resign built up and snowballed.

The President's admission last June 27 that the woman's voice in the tape was hers intensified the demand instead of defusing it, as calculated. She did not admit wrongdoing. But her owning the voice was enough to confirm the charges of the political, militant and radical oppositions.

"Hello, Garci!" did not die. Last August 1, Michaelangelo S. Zuce surfaced to reveal the well-funded and well-organized special operation in Mindanao intended to make President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo win in that region in the 2004 election by buying the election through the election officials.

Heading the special operation established in 2002 was Virgilio Garcillano, whom Zuce identified as his uncle. Zuce, a MalacaƱang employee in the office of Secretary Jose Ma. Rufino, the President's political adviser, coordinated the special operation under the direction of Garcillano.

Damaging

According to Zuce, it was he who introduced Garcillano to Rufino to organize and manage the special operation. This implied that among Rufino's functions is the election of the President paid with tax money.

Zuce also revealed that Garcillano, a retired Comelec regional director, worked for the election of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for vice president. His appointment as Comelec Commissioner was demanded by the special operation.

Evidently, however, the special operation was not only in Mindanao but nationwide. Zuce talked of meetings of regional directors and provincial supervisors at hotels in Manila and one at the La Vista residence of the President where the President appealed to them for help and they received money from Lilia Pineda, wife of jueteng lord Rodolfo Pineda.

This tied up the jueteng and election anomaly issues involving the President. Zuce also said in one meeting at La Vista, he saw Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy Jr., who was reported to have said that before the election the regional directors received P2 million each from Pineda.

Zuce's affidavit if sustained and his documentary evidence if proven authentic are very damaging. By identifying the "Louie" in the Garci tape as himself, he authenticated the tape to strengthen the charge of vote-fixing against the President.

Responses

As usual, the Palace denied Zuce's revelations and discredited him. It is expected that in the next news report, Zuce will be buried in the avalanche of libel and damage suits like the jueteng witnesses who implicated the President's husband, son, and brother-in-law. But this will not defuse the crisis.

The Palace said the President will not be distracted from her work, a reiteration of past statements. The President herself said it, "My attention is focused in bringing about change in the lives of Filipinos who are in need." She has stated this many times since her first day as President on January 20, 2001. It only damages her credibility.

In her so-called "media blitz", the President and the Palace want to change the Filipinos' negative impression of her through the media. She's now pictured in the front pages as smiling, holding babies, or tripping along with children.

This will not help defuse the crisis. The President smiling among the unsmiling poor will not drive away poverty, one of the social components of the crisis. Neither will the oft-repeated promises do.

The Only Way

Only the fanatical anti-Gloria believe Zuce and other witnesses likeSandra Cam are telling the truth. Only the Palace and the loyal pro-Gloria believe the exposes are lies. The only fact is: The testimonies and documentary evidence are either true until proven as lies or lies until proven as true. As such, they erode more and more the President's leadership and credibility.

The President must be investigated. Evasion will only worsen the crisis and the bitter division. But only Congress can investigate her through impeachment. To the President's credit, she has dared her political foes and critics to take their cases to Congress.

The pro-administration majority in the House should endorse, not abort, the impeachment. That's the least expected of them. Let the minority prosecute the President at the impeachment court.

Both the pro- and anti-Gloria senators, as impeachment judges, should shed their party loyalty, biases and interests. They should judge the President strictly according to evidence.

The pro-Gloria and the anti-Gloria should not only be ready to accept a fair decision but to unite around such a decision. This, the senators must take to heart.

An innocent verdict can keep President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in office until June 30, 2010 unless her term is shortened by a constitutional amendment. But if such verdict is unfair, it will keep the country bitterly divided.

"Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate."

You may e-mail your comments to patpdiaz@mindanews.com.)

(c) Copyright 2004 MindaNews

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