Sacrificial lampsBy Conrado Banal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Some major-major terms in the ongoing word war on the “impeachment” of Chief Justice Renato Corona are thrilling the guys down here in my barangay. One of the really big ones is “verification.”
It seems that the Corona camp wants the Senate to, well, “verify” the complaints (i.e., articles of impeachment) filed by the House of Representatives against the Chief Justice.
What should the senator-judges do—grill each of the 188 members of the House who voted for the impeachment to verify their votes?
From the other camp in this word war, particularly the Aquino (Part II) administration, we hear terms like “diversionary” and “delaying” tactics. For these things there is a simple term down here: iwas pusoy.
Now a group of lawyers last week put out newspaper ads, saying in effect that they wanted the impeachment process to continue. In other words, let the games begin, on with the show, este, the trial pala!
In the first place, the House declared officially that, as a body, the House initiated the process, resulting in 188 of its members voting to impeach the Chief Justice. After all, the House can do it. The House has the “exclusive” power to initiate the whole thing. It is not as if the process was up for review by any other group, such as the senators. It is clear that only the House has the power over the entire process. Should the Senate now investigate members of the House on how they do their business?
Earlier, the Corona camp reportedly complained that the House has railroaded the process. Certain congressmen came out saying that they did not read the entire articles of impeachment. They were just asked to sign the documents.
House insiders, nevertheless, are saying that, much earlier, the congressmen have already been talking about the impeachment. Everybody in the House knew what the fuss was all about: Corona was protecting former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was the very person who appointed him Chief Justice, from facing prosecution for plunder, electoral sabotage and human rights violations.
What does it really mean, this “railroading”? Perhaps the process was done in record time. Perhaps members of the House should have debated on the articles of impeachment to the death. Perhaps each one of them should have gone to the podium to explain their votes. In other words, railroading meant that the process did not take too much time.
From what I gathered, there was talk among congressmen that, if the House took its sweet time in initiating the process, it was possible that the Supreme Court would issue another TRO against the impeachment of Corona—using one reason or another, any reason for that matter.
The Supreme Court already ruled in favor of the justices on the controversial issue over their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth. The Supreme Court came out with a special ruling to exempt the Supreme Court from the constitutional ban on appointments during elections. It seemed that nothing could prevent the Supreme Court from ruling to block the process in the House to impeach Corona.
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For signing a piece of paper, a number of local officials in Cebu are facing arraignment before the Sandiganbayan.
They include former local officials of two cities in Cebu—Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu—who were already indicted for graft, accused of overpricing lamp posts that were installed in those cities. The installation was an apparent attempt by the cute administration of Gloriaetta at beautification of those two cities, in time for the Asean conference there in 2007.
It seems the local officials have become the sacrificial lambs.
Here is what I found out: The officials, and even those in the regional office of the DPWH in Cebu, had nothing to do with the bidding for the contract for the project. From what I gathered, everything was done at the main office of the DPWH, at that time still headed by former Public Works and Highway Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane.
Okay, members of the DPWH committee that handled the bidding were charged in separate cases, but for whatever reason that only the Ombudsman could say, no top official of the department was included in the case.
Incidentally, the Ombudsman office for the Visayas has insisted on the investigation of top DPWH officials. The Ombudsman has already elevated the case to the Sandiganbayan. Nothing came out of it.
And so the Sandiganbayan is arraigning only the former local officials of Cebu, including city engineers, DPWH regional personnel and the contractors.
Still, the local governments had nothing to do with the bidding whatsoever. The DPWH main office in Manila did everything. In the first place, the local governments did not even ask for the project. It was basically just rammed down their throats by the DPWH main office in Manila, because the cute administration wanted to beautify the venue for the Asean conference.
The indicted local officials did only one thing: They signed a piece of paper called POWE, or the “program of works and estimates,” which was also prepared by—who else—the DPWH main office.
After all, the money would come, not from the local governments, but from the national government.