FIGHTING ON TWO FRONTS

I was told the Liberal Party commissioned a poll survey firm to get a snapshot of how the congressional battle between two Tupases — Boboy TupasFive and Atty. Gel Tupas — in the 5th district of Iloilo.
According to my unimpeachable source, the survey outcome showed the incumbent Iloilo vice governor leading his sister in law by a mile. If elections were held during the survey period two weeks ago, Boboy would have trounced Gel by 4:1.
With barely 100 days left before the elections when that survey was done, it shows a hopeless fight for Gel. Her husband, incumbent Congressman Niel “Junjun” Tupas Jr., could not lift her enough to put up a good fighting chance.
Gel’s woes are aggravated by the fact that Junjun is also running for vice governor of the province. Her husband would not be able to campaign as hard for her. He has his own battle to fight.
Junjun is running against Guimbal municipal mayor Christine “Tintin” Garin, daughter of 1st district kingpin Oscar Garin Sr.
The latest surveys showed Junjun enjoying a slight edge over Garin, owing much to the immense political goodwill of the Tupas family name.
But Junjun is navigating through hazardous waters.
That’s because he is violating a cardinal rule in warfare (and politics is basically warfare): never fight on two fronts.
Gel is just proxy for Junjun in the 5th district. The outgoing congressman wants to keep his hold on the congressional district and occupy a position that could propel him to be governor of the province. It’s a classic illustration of “having his cake and eat it, too.”
The Garin clan is not about ready to give Junjun an easy slide into the second highest elected position in the province.
This early, Garin is bombarding the airwaves with TV and radio advertisements. She is determined to put up a stiff fight.
Junjun faces big problems because while Mar Roxas affirmed he is the official Liberal Party candidate and there is no “zone libre” for the vice gubernatorial race, local LP candidates have manifested their open zone policy for Garin.
Even Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. has announced publicly he will not pressure his municipal mayors to obstruct the campaign of Garin. That in itself is “zona libre” in disguise.
In the 4th district, come backing Dr. Ferj Biron AccountTwo is certain to campaign against Junjun. Biron is the official candidate of the Liberal Party. His support for Garin will pull the rugs under his feet because the 4th district was always a Tupas bailiwick. For it to go to Garin will deprive Junjun of a traditional political base.
When the campaign period kicks off, Junjun will have to make a tough decision. Does he pursue his ambition to control the 5th district at the same time as his vice gubernatorial bid? Or will he pick one battle and try to win that, sacrificing the other?
He only needs to look back in history to know that fighting on two fronts simultaneously is dangerous. Even the most brilliant military strategists, notably Napoleon and Hitler, faltered and failed when they succumb to that temptation.
Another problem facing Junjun to his vice gubernatorial campaign is the possibility that his own siblings, and die-hard supporters of his late father, Niel Tupas Sr., might openly campaign for Garin.
It would be tragic to see Junjun lose on both fronts.
His overreaching ambition, and perhaps greed, will only lead him to damnation.

Will the Tupas committee rise to the challenge?

Among the hundreds of “tweets” that rolled across my Twitter feed yesterday, there was one that changed the complexion of the loud debate about the abuses of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and gave a clue as to where the impeachment cases filed against her before the House of Representatives (HOR) Justice Committee will be headed in the coming days.

UP law professor Ibarra Gutierrez III, through his @barrygutierrez Twitter account said: “Prepping new motion for SC to dismiss case filed by Merci Gutierrez so that impeachment can push thru. We’ve had enough of her, right?”
Gutierrez, obviously not related to the Ombudsman,  is the lead counsel for a group of complainants that includes former Akbayan party list Rep. Risa Hontiveros.
With this motion expected to be filed this week before the Supreme Court, supporters of the impeachment move felt renewed confidence the proceedings before the House justice committee under its chairman, Iloilo 5th District Rep. Niel “Junjun” Tupas Jr., can pick up where it left off on the cases four months ago. Tupas, according to sources, has been given the green light by Malacanang to go full throttle on the impeachment. President Noynoy Aquino is aware his campaign to prosecute corrupt officials of the Arroyo administration will get nowhere for as long as Gutierrez stays in office, the sources said. The necessary first step to achieve his goals is the impeachment of Gutierrez.
The Tupas committee has shown every courtesy to the Supreme Court by suspending its impeachment hearings after making a finding of suffiency in form and substance of the charges filed against Gutierrez. Tupas had wanted to ignore the status quo ante order handed down by the High Court. He relented as an accommodation to House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. who didn’t want to force the issue and avert a possible constitutional crisis. But the delay of four months is taxing the patience of President Aquino, sources say. Every single day that goes by translates to a creeping victory for Ombudsman Gutierrez, and the proceedings must have to go on.
The filing of this motion to dismiss the case before the Supreme Court could be a tactical move to show one last gesture of respect and courtesy to the judiciary. A few days ago, SC spokesman Midas Marquez said the high tribunal has set another round of deliberations in three weeks. Marquez reiterated that the status quo ante order issued by the SC remains in effect. That will set back the timetable further back, and only fuel the growing frustration of the people. If the Supreme Court continues to dilly-dally, the Tupas committee might just release the parking brake lever and get on with urgent business. It could tell the tribunal, “we’ve given you enough time on this and we can’t wait any further.”
Rep. Tupas knows how important this matter is, and he has given every indication he will not run away from a good fight. He is determined to fulfill a mission for his nation and pave the way for the “matuwid na landas” advocacy of President Aquino to become reality.

Can Facebook hasten impeachment of Merci?

Gone are the days when causes are fought with signature campaigns. The battleground has shifted from paper and pen to cyberspace, where a click is enough to manifest a citizens stand on an issue. In a recent article in the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine, the ouster of Philippine President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2001 was attributed largely to the massive text messaging campaign that brought people to EDSA. That was that start of a new era where social media is believed to possess vast powers in shaping the political landscape of every nation.

The impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has given birth to an experiment on whether Facebook can generate enough followers to manifest the people’s growing disgust over the corruption that her leadership at the anti-graft body has managed to engender rather than stop. Two impeachment complaints were filed before the House of Representatives last year against Gutierrez, but before the House of Representatives could even proceed with its hearings, Gutierrez already went to the Supreme Court and obtained a status quo ante order. The issue  is still pending before the Supreme Court. A few days ago, the SC spokesman said the tribunal will set another deliberation in three weeks, a move that many perceive as a delaying tactic.

The “Impeach Merci” Facebook page seeks to mobillize public opinion in support of a move by the House justice committee to pick up where it left off on the impeachment proceedings without waiting for a Supreme Court ruling. The Filipino sovereign is supreme over any governmental power in the land, and through this page, we can express our position. If you wish to make your voice heard, just click on the link below, and then click on the “Like” button at the bottom left of the page. We also encourage you to spread the word to your friends to make this movement “viral”.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Impeach-Merci/114445221960839?v=app_2373072738&ref=ts#!/pages/Impeach-Merci/114445221960839

President Noy calms LP Iloilo leaders’ fears

There is yet no formal request for the Garin family to be inducted into the Liberal Party, and if its local leaders shouldn’t worry when it does happen, for their voice will be heard and given great weight before any action is taken on the matter.

This was the assurance given by no less than President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III after getting hold of the manifesto adopted by Iloilo provincial leaders of the Liberal Party expressing their concern and opposition to the reported attempt of 1st District Rep. Janette L. Garin to sneak her way into the new party in power, and in the process assuring the extended stay of her father-in-law, Oscar Garin Sr., as administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

Here is the full text of the letter of the President dated September 21, 2010:

“The Liberal Party

“Provincial Directorate

“Province of Iloilo

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your manifesto regarding the alleged attempt of the Garin family particularly Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Oscar G. Garin Sr. and Cong. Janette L. Garin to be included as members of the Liberal Party. I wish to inform you that there are no formal requests for their inclusion in the Liberal Party.

“Rest assured that there will be proper consultation with you if ever we will receive such request in the future.

“Warm regards.

“Sincerely,

“BENIGNO S. AQUINO III”

The letter was warmly received by local LP leaders who had begun to worry about the “insidious” maneuvers of Cong. Janette Garin to obtain the acceptance of the national leadership of the party. After the elections, she and her father-in-law invited the victorious come-backing Senator, Franklin M. Drilon, to grace the oath-taking of the Garin family members who were voted into office. Drilon politely declined their invitation but attended the oath-taking of City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and Cong. Jerry Trenas on June 28.

When the closure of this avenue became obvious to them, Cong. Garin focused her efforts on befriending Cong. Niel Tupas Jr. through several intermediaries. Her machinations were also doused with cold water.

The elder Garin has managed to cling to his position and obtained an extension until Dec. 31 this year, which was the reason why Cong. Garin worked hard to gain support for their defection to the Liberal Party. She had wanted to get a new appointment for her father in law despite his notoriety at the PCA as an absentee administrator.

In their manifesto, the local LP informed the President about Garin’s background in politics.

Garin, the manifesto said, has always been quick to change parties depending on who was likely to win as President. This way, he always managed to stay in the good graces of whoever was the President of the Republic. In the last elections, Garin openly campaigned for Gibo Teodoro while maintaining a shadow organization to campaign for Manny Villar. Three days before the elections, Garin switched his support for the Liberal Party standard bearer when it became clear that he was going to win with a landslide margin.

Garin has also perfected the “art of money politics”, which is an avowed enemy of the Liberal Party. “It would be a betrayal of core party values if Garin is accepted into the party,” the local LP leaders said.

The local LP chapter also informed the President that during the 1986 snap Presidential elections, candidate Corazon C. Aquino got “zero” votes in the municipality of Guimbal where Garin’s wife, Ninfa, was the mayor. This is clear proof of Garin’s penchant for dirty politics and outright cheating just to serve his political masters, the local LP leaders said.

Under fire

 

This is a news story lifted from the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

Gutierrez lawyer grilled for 5 hours

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:22:00 10/06/2010

Filed Under: Impeachment, Congress, Judiciary (system of justice)

MANILA, Philippines—Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and a dozen congressmen led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Tuesday attended the oral arguments conducted by the Supreme Court on her petition to nullify the impeachment complaints against her and to stop the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives.

At press time, former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas, 82, had been defending his client, Gutierrez, for five hours. He was grilled by the justices on two issues—when the impeachment proceedings were deemed to have begun and whether Gutierrez had exhausted all remedies provided in the Rules of Court before she sought relief from the tribunal.

Cuevas stressed that aside from facing two impeachment complaints that violated the constitutional provision barring impeachment proceedings against the same public official within a year, Gutierrez’s right to due process was violated.

Before the oral arguments began, Gutierrez told reporters that she was “very confident” that the justices would favor her petition for certiorari.

She said she had sought relief from the Supreme Court because the process followed in Congress violated the Constitution, and added that she would abide by the high court’s ruling.

“In my view, there was a violation of my rights. In my view, there’s a constitutional issue that should be raised before the Supreme Court, and that’s what will be discussed now,” she said in Filipino.

The House committee on justice had begun impeachment proceedings against Gutierrez based on complaints filed by former Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros et al. and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes et al.

The Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order, or an order to return to the status quo before the proceedings.

Revenge

Cuevas argued that Gutierrez’s right to a constitutional process was violated because the impeachment proceedings against her were characterized with “haste, partiality, and [was] apparently an act of vindictiveness and revenge” against her.

He noted that there was a pending graft case against the father of the justice committee chair, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr.

In her petition for certiorari, Gutierrez complained of “grave abuse of discretion for lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of Congress,” and that she had “no other plain, speedy and other remedy” but to take her case to the high court.

Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales asked Cuevas if his client would have had “a plain and speedy remedy” had she filed an answer to the complaints filed by Hontiveros et al. and Reyes et al. after the justice committee found them sufficient in form and substance.

Replied Cuevas: “That may not be effective at this stage, because the proceedings continued and she is prejudiced. She cannot stand by and wait… We are raising a constitutional issue … in connection with the bar provision of the Constitution that no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within the same period in one year.”

But Morales said the justice committee was not a “one-man committee”—a reference to Cuevas’ contention that Tupas had an axe to grind against Gutierrez.

Not satisfied

Justice Diosdado Peralta asked Cuevas if it would have been better for the Ombudsman “to refute the allegations in Congress rather than come here under Rule 65 [of the Rules of Court on certiorari] because all you’re talking about is abuse of discretion.”
Said Cuevas: “We are not fully satisfied with the existence of other remedies. That remedy must be equally effective and beneficial to other parties.”

Justice Eduardo Nachura said the rules on impeachment provided that the justice committee should conduct a hearing wherein a public official would have the opportunity to present his/her side.

But Cuevas insisted that Gutierrez’s right to air her grievance against the violation against her right to due process, could not be “ventilated” in Congress.

“It is an exercise in futility which will yield no favor. We recognize the fact that impeachment is a political exercise … the moment the tyranny of numbers will dictate the decision. It has happened during the old days, many times,” he said.

‘She made me suffer’

On Morales’ questioning, Cuevas conceded that for his client, the impeachment proceedings began with the filing of the case and not its referral to the plenary.

But Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno’s questioning of her former teacher at the University of the Philippines College of Law made Cuevas seemingly reverse himself.

“Which is superior? The substantive right of the House to exercise its right to initiate the impeachment complaint, or … the mere clerical act on who bears the stamp?” Sereno said.

Cuevas replied: “It is the House, it is the responsibility of the House … That acceptance [of the complaints by the House secretariat] does not automatically initiate the impeachment proceedings.”

Sereno, the most junior among the high court justices, grilled Cuevas for more than half an hour, saying she wanted “a clinical, surgical approach” to the issue at hand.

Cuevas later quipped that he never made Sereno “suffer during her school days with me, but she made me suffer.”

Sereno replied: “Let me primarily beg for your forgiveness. You did not make me suffer. In fact, you made me really learn.”

Filing vs proceeding

In his questioning, Associate Justice Arturo Brion said the mere filing of an impeachment complaint was different from an “impeachment proceeding.”

Brion said the filing of an impeachment complaint was just part of a process of initiating the process against an impeachable public official.

He said what the Constitution prohibited was conducting more than one impeachment proceeding against a government official within a year, “and not the filing of numerous impeachment complaints.”

“So there can be several complaints filed one after the other for as long as no impeachment proceeding has been completed in the House,” he added.

But Cuevas countered that in the impeachment case against then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., the Supreme Court ruled that “the moment a complaint is filed and taken cognizance of by the House justice committee, the subsequent complaints may no longer be entertained.”

“That will be violative of that article on the prohibition of the Constitution,” Cuevas said, echoing the position of constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas on the Davide case.

Showing courtesy

Before the oral arguments, Tupas told reporters that the House delegation had come to the high court with “an abundance of caution.”

“We are here to argue that the interference is premature. It is with an abundance of caution that we are here. But to show courtesy to the Supreme Court, we are here now. I hope they also give us courtesy by deciding as soon as possible [on the matter] before we conduct the hearing in November,” Tupas said.

The justice committee maintains that Congress is a separate, independent branch of government, and wants the Supreme Court to lift the status quo ante order.

On the other hand, Bayan’s Reyes said the whole procedure redounded to “making former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accountable all the more difficult.”

“If you can’t impeach the Ombudsman, how can you go after the big fish like the [former] President?” Reyes said.

Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. did not take part in Tuesday’s discussion as his son, Lord Allan Jay Velasco, is an incumbent member of the House as the representative of the lone district of Marinduque. With a report from Marlon Ramos

Not a reckless adventure

In its editorial yesterday, Oct. 2, the Philippine Daily Inquirer painted the move of the House of Representatives Justice Committee to affirm its constitutional mandate on impeachment as a reckless adventure, akin to Don Quixote’s crazy lance assault against a windmill, and accused its members of flirting with a constitutional crisis. It wants the committee headed by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. to simmer down, and like a dog putting its tail between its legs, bow in subservience to the Supreme Court which had issued a status quo ante order on the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

I beg to differ from the stance of the revered PDI on this issue.

First, there is no defiance on the part of the House justice committee. Its vote to uphold Congress’s autonomy on the issue of impeachment doesn’t fling the House into a collision course with the High Court. In fact, it is giving the Supreme Court due respect by submitting its comment on the petition filed by Gutierrez (with reservation) and take part in the oral argument set for Tuesday, Oct. 5. But the House justice committee is making it clear its stand on the matter is firm. It is giving the High Court space to make a ruling on whether the status quo ante order will stay after a reasonable period of time. That’s the respect the High Court is getting.

I’m not a lawyer, but there’s one point that is so obvious to a layman it’s hard to understand why the Supreme Court could stray from the intent and purpose of the law. The filing of a complaint can’t possibly be deemed as the initiation of impeachment proceedings as contemplated in the 1987 Constitution. At that point, there is no knowing whether the impeachment complaint is sufficient in form and substance, much less founded on valid grounds. To stick to the interpretation under the Francisco doctrine would make a mockery of the entire impeachment process. What would now prevent an impeachable official from filing a defective complaint at the first opportunity to block such actions for one year?

If the previous Congresses balked at a showdown with the Supreme Court in the impeachment cases against then Chief Justice Hilario Davide, it doesn’t mean that the present House of Representatives will just stick to that erroneous position. Impeachment is not a judicial proceeding; it is a political act to provide the people at large with an opportunity to exact accountability from public officials who otherwise can’t be removed through the expedient of an election or termination. The congressmen and women who will vote on whether a complaint should be elevated to the impeachment court — the Senate — are acting on behalf of their constituents. It is a power drawn from popular representation.

It has also been pointed out that the Supreme Court has no business meddling with Congress’s power on impeachment. That’s because the Supreme Court justices themselves are subject to impeachment. Hence, as shown in the Francisco case, the Supreme Court might be tempted into putting up obstacles to protect its members. With this in mind, the House justice committee is right in insisting the power to impeach cannot be taken away from it by the simple expedient of getting a prohibitory injunction from the Supreme Court.

I rest my case.