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Manila Standard Today - This silent House

News & Interviews
15 August 2017

By Jojo Robles | Manila Standard Today 

In one respect, at least, impeaching President Rodrigo Duterte is a lot easier than getting rid of other officials who can only be removed using the same process: There is not one of the nearly 300 members of the House of Representatives who will endorse an impeachment complaint against any other official except the president.

Of course, the impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano against Duterte did not really require a congressional endorser, since it was already lodged by a member of the House. But still, you have to wonder why, after four impeachable officials have been threatened with removal from office in the same manner, not one congressman has actually endorsed any such complaint.

Vice President Leni Robredo, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and now Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista have all been accused of committing offenses that would warrant their impeachment. But none of these four officials identified with the previous administration have seen the complaints filed against them actually endorsed by a congressman, which is the requirement for any of the charges lodged to proceed.

Last I checked, the entire House is not supposed to be populated by lawmakers who think exactly alike. And supposedly, as well, there is no shortage of congressmen who will want to grab some free publicity by endorsing a high-profile impeachment complaint, if only to pursue a purely selfish political agenda.

Take Alejano, for instance. Because the former putschist is widely believed to be angling to replace his bosom buddy in the Senate, Antonio Trillanes (whose term is expiring in 2019), Alejano not only endorsed the complaint against Duterte, he made sure that he filed it, too.

And while we’re on the subject of personal political agendas, I don’t expect any of the remaining Liberal Party members in the House to endorse any of the impeachment complaints that have already been—or will soon be—filed against the above-mentioned four impeachable officials. So the silence of the LPs in the House about the planned impeachment of Robredo, Morales, Sereno and Bautista is perfectly understandable.

But the House is not only made up of the self-styled “Magnificent Seven” LP members, either. There is also supposed to be a “legitimate minority” (or “company union,” if you believe the LPs) led by Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez. There is a “progressive” or Makabayan bloc of left-leaning party-list representatives and any number of political gadflies unassociated with—and acting independently of any of—the major groups, like Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque and Buhay’s Lito Atienza.

The House is not made up solely of members of the supermajority led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who still keeps recruiting members to his PDP-Laban party, perhaps because he cannot believe that the group he belonged to (and which had only himself as most prominent member prior to 2016) is now the biggest thing in the House since the LP. But that also begs the question: why can’t any of the pro-Duterte members of Congress in the Lower House endorse any impeachment complaint?

I know Congress has always had this reputation of servility. But this complete abdication of congressional duty and lack of independent political conviction must set a new record for the House.

* * *

And here I was, believing that Comelec Chairman Bautista was serious when the urged everyone to “stop the circus” surrounding his marital problems and his alleged amassing of billions of pesos while he was working in the government. Immediately afterwards, Bautista brings in his US-based doctor-brother, who continues the high-pressure “absolve Andy” public relations campaign by swearing by his sibling’s integrity and his non-ownership of the vast sums attributed to him as elections boss.

I loved how Dr. Martin Bautista, the two-time election loser (his brother was not yet in Comelec when the doctor ran for office), gave the same message in a television interview. Stop all the “chismis,” he said, because “we are ready to answer all of the allegations in the proper legal forum.”

And then Dr. Martin proceeds to use up an entire hour on television to debunk all the charges made by Patricia Bautista, his brother’s wife. If that is the proper forum, then I guess Dr. Bautista can be shown to be the owner of all the moolah in his brother’s name.

Because regardless of what the Bautista siblings say, there is not one of the 35 bank accounts in Luzon Development Bank revealed by Mrs. Bautista that is in the doctor’s name. The doctor is not even listed as a co-depositor in any of the contested bank accounts, which really sinks his claim that he and his family merely used the Comelec chief’s name to stash their “investments.”

Again, I ask: why would a government official working in such a sensitive position allow his kin to deposit huge sums in his name, if he is not totally stupid? And how can the media give so much airtime to Bautista and his kin, if the media are not part of a propaganda plan to lay the predicate for his legal defense?