Hardly had the dust settled on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) when talk of President Noynoy Aquino’s impeachment became a hot topic, with the anti-corruption group Youth Act Now and the Kabataan Party List threatening to spearhead the filing of charges in Congress.
This is to be expected. After all, the SC decision categorically states that the President violated the Constitution and the law. The logical next step would be to hold him accountable. Since the President is immune from suit, the only way to exact accountability is to impeach him first, then file the appropriate criminal charges after.
The argument that the President, Sec. Butch Abad and other responsible officials violated the Constitution “in good faith” simply won’t wash. If they were merely following orders from their superiors, like lowly clerks on the bureacracy’s bottom rung, then maybe that could be a defense. But the President is the highest and most powerful official of the land. He is supposed to know his Constitution. Besides, when he was congressman and later senator, Aquino railed against the similar practice of his predecessor Mrs. Gloria Arroyo. He even filed a bill to prohibit the presidential power to impound congressional appropriations. Are they now telling us he believed it was wrong when he was a legislator but thought otherwise, “in good faith,” when he was President? Not.
But the President’s accountability lies not merely in malversing public funds through an unconstitutional budget mechanism. Remember that the DAP was used, depending on which side one was on, as a bribe, incentive or reward for the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. That certainly makes the DAP more insidious than a mere circumvention of budgeting rules. From a culpable violation of the Constituion, it becomes a betrayal of public trust.
The next question is, of course, will an impeachment succeed given the President’s overwhelming numbers in Congress and the Senate? Do the President’s critics have the needed votes to impeach the President?
Probably not. But as a participant in several impeachment complaints in the past, from Erap Estrada’s to Gloria Arroyo’s to Ombudsman Gutierrez’s and Chief Justice Corona’s, I can say that for many complainants, impeachment is never about the numbers. It was only during Estrada’s impeachment, stage-managed by politicians, that the numbers were ensured prior to the filing of the complaint. All other impeachment complaints were gambles, with the numbers coming in trickles until reaching a critical mass.
With the SC ruling on the DAP, the filing of charges against the President becomes a matter of principle for anti-corruption advocates. It brings the fight against the pork barrel to its logical conclusion. If there is no numbers, at least the impeachment will provide a venue to ventilate the issues and push the envelope for transparency and accountability. Let them defend the President and say that its okay to violate the Constitution if done in good faith.#