The banalization of impeachment

“BANALIZATION” IS robbing words, concepts, things, and even principles of their original, richer meanings, and making these something trite, common or used for more mundane purposes other than its original intent.  It is, in a sense, “degradation.”

We Filipinos seem to have a penchant for it.  The latest to be banalized are spas, so that every massage parlor or whore house is a “spa.” The Left has banalized the principle of people’s direct action by undertaking demonstrations so routinely and for the most trivial of issues. The idea of representation of marginal sectors has been banalized, with even businessmen financing “parties” and giving them names that start with “A” or “1” to put them on top of ballot lists.

The latest to be banalized in our country is the process of impeachment.


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Frenzy against Merci: eyes on the Senate

IN MARCH 2006, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, then the leftist Akbayan party’s representative, was taken by three policewomen out of a rally as a courtesy to a parliamentarian before police dispersal operations were undertaken. Baraquel must have been horrified by hoi-polloi policewomen touching her. She filed criminal and administrative cases at the Office of the Ombudsman against the three.

For the police rank-and-file, Baraquel’s complaint was particularly cruel, as she owes much to the Philippine National Police, and knows how a case in the Ombudsman can ruin an officer’s career: her late husband was a PNP comptroller, while one brother and two brothers-in-law were also ranking police officers.

The Manila city prosecutor dismissed the case against the policewomen, and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez concurred. Baraquel didn’t appeal the decision.

Now, Baraquel is one of the leaders of the impeachment pack against Gutierrez, claiming that the ombudsman’ dismissal of her case against the three policewomen was a betrayal of the public trust. A former ABS-CBN broadcaster, Baraquel during the House hearing of the case, glanced at the TV camera and dramatically said in Filipino, “Nothing personal here, Mrs. Ombudsman.”


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Staring at the sun

IN A restaurant recently, an elderly lady in a big family dinner beside us asked a little girl, probably her grandchild: “Do you know what Purgatory is?” Even as the girl was still shaking her head, the lady explained solemnly: “It is a place where your soul goes to when you die, where you are burned of your sins until your soul becomes white, and ready to go to Heaven.”

That is a ridiculous idea that is not even a Catholic Church tenet, but developed vividly by a very good medieval fiction writer, Dante Alighieri, in his “Divine Comedy.” While the idea will probably give the child nightmares for the rest of her life, the lady made the poor girl, probably for the first time, contemplate death.


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Middle East Unpreparedness Team

IN DECEMBER 2002, or a decade go, when the US invasion of Iraq was imminent, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo organized the Philippine Middle East Preparedness Committee under Executive Order No. 159. Its functions though went beyond the Iraq crisis, and was based on the appreciation of the fact that more than a million of our citizens were working in Middle East countries, which for various reasons (as in the case of the Iraq war) could suddenly become a hostile place for them.

She gave the committee enormous powers, and its main function is exactly, eerily, what is needed now: “[It] shall, in relation with the critical developments in the Middle East, prepare the appropriate responses, formulate policies, develop modes for coordination, put into effect all plans approved by the President and monitor their implementation accordingly, in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs.”


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Converted into bargaining chips

THE NATION certainly rejoices that the execution of three Filipinos—two of them females—in China which had been scheduled this week, has been postponed.

Unfortunately, President Benigno Aquino III’s statements in December put us in a situation now in which China—true to its self-interest as a nation—could very well utilize Filipinos in death row as bargaining chips.

It was solely Mr. Aquino who linked the fate of the death-row convicts to Philippine policy decisions, announcing that he ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to boycott the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony which honored a Chinese dissident in order to convince it not to execute the three Filipinos. Mr. Aquino in effect converted the fate of all Filipinos in China’s death row into bargaining chips in the relations between our two countries. With the intense media coverage of this episode, China obviously very well realizes the political clout it can wield in our country.

But what should our government have done?


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Estrada, Arroyo to the hearings?

SOME PERSPECTIVE is needed over the congressional hearings on military corruption.

A news item by reporter Marichu Villanueva in a daily published on Oct. 29, 2004, or more than six years ago, said:

“The new military chief got his marching orders yesterday from his commander in chief: Stamp out corruption that is destroying the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). President Arroyo, swearing in Lt. Gen. Efren Abu as her seventh military chief, also ordered him to speed up the court martial of Army Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, who was sacked as AFP comptroller last April for alleged unexplained wealth.


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‘Our dreams will never die’

THAT HAS been the slogan of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) when it started out in the early 1980s as a rebel organization in the military aiming to topple the Marcos regime.

The rebels calculated that to announce that their goal, their dream, was the noble one of reforming the Armed Forces of the Philippines would be the best way to recruit officers and men to the mutiny. After all, its aim was to undertake a coup d’ état, the first time ever in the country’s history.


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Aquino claims Arroyo term’s gains

IN A POMPOUS ceremony last Friday in Malacañang, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima was smiling ear-to-ear as he handed over to President Benigno AquinoIII checks of P29 billion representing dividends of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) turned over to the National Treasury.

In his speech, the President claimed that these were the result of his administration’s hard work. “As you can see, we are working overtime to bolster our abilities to give back to the Filipino people what they have given us,” he said.

He even insinuated that the huge remittances could not have been made under the previous administration since the GOCCs at that time were “the milking cows of politicians and their wards.”


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No body in charge

EVEN AS the Left and the opposition were very noisily claiming that it was a prelude to the imposition of    martial law, the Human Security Act (actually the anti-terrorism law) was passed in 2007. Its provisions enabled the Arroyo administration to contain terrorism.

One of the law’s key features, intended to create a strong institution that is alert and capable of fighting terrorism, is the seven-member Anti-Terrorism Council. Under the law, the executive secretary serves as its chair, with the justice secretary as vice chair. The other members of the council are the secretaries of national defense, foreign affairs, interior and local government, and finance as well as the national security adviser. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and even his successor who served at that post for only four months, Leandro Mendoza, convened the council every month.

Since President Aquino assumed power nearly seven months ago, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa has not called a single meeting of the council. Not even the warning in November by governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of an impending terrorist act in the country in November convinced Ochoa to convene the council.


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NAIA 3: a cautionary tale

THE QUAGMIRE of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3—which would have been our main gateway to the world—is a cautionary tale of an epic scale for our country. It dramatizes questions of paramount importance for our country and, perhaps, for many developing countries as well:

Which should take precedence in terms of state policy and action: the anti-corruption value or realpolitik? Should, or can a compromise be reached between these two different guides to action?

It’s amazing how many have so easily forgotten why the NAIA 3 contract of the Philippine International Airport Terminals Corp. (PIATCo), a consortium dominated by an obscure Chinese-Filipino firm and the German Fraport AG, was aborted.


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