Monday, August 29, 2005

Witches' brew

By Sec. Rigoberto D. Tiglao

IF you think the heated discussions of the congressmen tackling the mechanics for the impeachment are all garbage, take a look at the garbage-in.

Other than election fraud, many of the over a dozen charges against the President are indeed mind-boggling. For starters:

The President’s approval of the E-VAT Law: “The oppressive E-VAT Law is another act of betrayal of public trust,” according to former Marcos lawyer Oliver Lozano’s Fifth Supplemental Affidavit. So, will all the legislators who voted for the passage of the E-VAT Law also face impeachment?

The President’s refusal “to meet one-on-one with Mrs. Imelda Marcos” and “re-negotiate the 75-25 compromise agreement on the Marcos wealth” (Fifth Supplemental Affidavit). I’m sure Imelda is dying to be a witness in this charge.

The following six charges are in the “Amended Complaint” filed July 22 by the opposition and other Gloria Ibagsak people:

“Human rights violations”: “Killings of political dissenters and infringement of their freedoms of expression and assembly…perpetrated by the members and agents of the AFP.” The Left must be jolted out of its time-warp, that we’re in 2005 now, not in 1985 when people under the Marcos dictatorship certainly believed that party line. Obviously, other than the President, the armed forces will be the accused here. The AFP has maintained in investigations by the Commission on Human Rights that the alleged killings were casualties in the anti-insurgency campaign. With this charge, the Gloria Ibagsak conspirators can kiss goodbye their wishful thinking that the military will one day join them.

Implementing the North Rail Project. Why not file this in the Ombudsman where it logically belongs, if the charge had any merit? Because the charge recruits into the impeachers’ camp every congressman who hates Speaker Jose de Venecia, who convinced the Chinese government to invest in the project. This charge intends to torpedo what could be an epochal project that would link Manila to the northern provinces in the same manner that railways became the arteries for the US economic expansion at the turn of the 20th century. Exasperated, the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China said: “Please keep endless politics out of NorthRail.”

Not implementing Piatco’s Terminal III contract: But it was the Supreme Court itself which ruled the contract anomalous. The respected Gloria Tan-Climaco, a former SGV chair, should file a libel case against those who signed the impeachment complaint. It makes the ridiculous charge that she asked for $20 million from Fraport for the government to open the terminal. Coincidentally or not, the Piatco lawyers are the same high-profile lawyers for the purported jueteng witnesses.

PhilHealth Cards: Only in the Philippines will a head of state be impeached for making available health insurance for 69 million of its citizens, 30 million of whom are the poorest in the land.

Road Users Tax Projects: Only in the Philippines will a head of state be impeached for implementing a law (RA 8794 of June 2000) to maintain roads.

Deactivation of the Southern Philippines Development Authority and the downsizing of the National Electrification Administration. Huh?

Another impeachment charge, over which Dinky most probably will be teary-eyed over:

That the President “permitted the First Gentleman” to stay away from the country (Third Supplemental Affidavit).

The impeachment charges look more like an obnoxious witches’ brew wherein everyone in the coven wants to add his or her own special poison ingredient.

The ingredient for the Erap-FPJ-Lacson forces that were defeated in 2004: the election-fraud charges. Big, big problem here. This relies 100 percent on what the opposition admits are illegally acquired wiretaps. These are inadmissible in any proceeding according to the Anti-Wire Tapping Law. In the first place, are they really accurate recordings of conversations? Last Friday, local and foreign experts concluded that the tapes were either spliced or had serious anomalies.

The ingredients for the Left: “human rights violations” and the E-VAT.

Throw in the ingredient that the President should be impeached for not negotiating a settlement with the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This would bring in the remnants of the Marcos forces.

It is not surprising therefore, that many in Congress would not want to gulp this witches’ brew—intended not for anything else but to drug people’s minds to join another lynch-mob.

Analyze the sequence of events of the past two months, and the word conspiracy jumps out. The jueteng hearings started in early June and then the alleged tapes surfaced a week later. The impeachment complaints were made between June 27 and July 22. The Gloria Resign campaign reached its peak July 8, when on that day the following events occurred: the Hyatt 10’s melodrama, the resign calls by Cory, by a faction of the Makati Business Club, and then by the Drilon wing of the Liberal Party. Jojo Binay’s Makati rally that evening was supposed to be the culmination of that coup-through-press-conferences.

That offensive fell on its face, and people have started to ignore the Ibagsak hubbub. On to Plan B: Camouflage the agitation to oust a President elected by 12.9 million Filipinos through an impeachment process, wherein everything but the kitchen sink will be thrown against her.

The plot’s next scenario: Trigger a People Power when Congress throws out the impeachment complaint.

The Constitution’s framers had the wisdom to realize that the impeachment process could degenerate into a harassment weapon for an immoral opposition hurling a plethora of baseless charges against a President, and tying down Congress away from its primordial law-making duty. So they put up a check on the process: Congress can consider only one impeachment complaint per year. A technicality that may seem, but only rules can put scheming scoundrels at bay.

“Fair is foul, foul is fair,” the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth intoned. Things are seldom what they seem.

For Congress to tackle all of the complaints seems fair. Yet it runs foul not only of the Constitution, but of sheer common sense. Not meeting with Imelda Marcos as grounds for impeachment? The Piatco and NorthRail issues?

For Congress to limit the inquiry only to the first Lozano complaint may seem foul. It is really being fair to Congress’—and to all Filipinos’—time and energies.