Forget impeachment please

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

DURING PNoy's administration, we have seen some significant improvements. In 2010, the Philippines was 134th in the corruption league table. This meant that the country was perceived to be in the bottom quartile which we shared with war zones and the seriously disreputable.

When PNoy was elected, partly on the basis that he would reduce corruption, I wrote that his term could be perceived to be successful if the Philippines could improve from 134th to 100th by 2016.

There has been good progress. The corruption league table is produced in December each year by Berlin-based Transparency International. The data for the past four years has shown the Philippines to improve from 134th to 129th to 105th to 94th. We have improved by 40 countries, no mean feat. We are now in the third quartile where we are keeping slightly better company. There is no room for complacency and we have seen none.


On the economic front we have, at last, seemingly made some inroads into reducing poverty. The fact that our economic growth is at least partially inclusive is a cause for some self-congratulation.

PNoy's presidency, by all accounts, may be perceived to be at least somewhat successful. For a long time, his rating by the public has been extremely high. The most recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey shows a drop in PNoy's rating but he is still well ahead of his predecessors at the equivalent time of their presidential term.

Yet there are those who seek to impeach PNoy based on the criterion of betrayal of public trust. The public voted for PNoy in 2010 and it is not clear to me that he has let the voters down.

The Supreme Court's (SC) ruling that much of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional is a setback for those in the Executive Branch who wanted a freewheeling environment in which they could allocate funds as they saw fit. They have been reined in by the Supreme Court and they should accept this fact. It is not, however, a cause for impeachment. The public has not been betrayed.

Now, there are those who have filed another impeachment complaint based on the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). This is an international agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America (US) which allows greater US troop presence in the Philippines. It was signed on April 28, 2014 by Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip S. Goldberg.

Constitutionally, international agreements need to be approved by at least two thirds of the Senate. In the case of the recent agreement, Senate approval was not sought.

This, surely, does not constitute a valid cause for impeaching PNoy. If a problem is perceived, then representations should be made to the Supreme Court (SC). The SC can then decide whether or not the constitutional processes have been short-circuited. Even if they have, the remedy is to involve Senate in the decision-making process, analogous to the 1998/9 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The issue is not nearly serious enough to impeach PNoy.

We have got to be practical here. To impeach a President on the basis of betrayal of public trust means that there should be a substantial clamor from the public for the impeachment process to justifiably push through. There is no such public clamor. Calls for impeachment must fall on stony ground, otherwise our governance will become seriously dysfunctional.

The only US President of the 20th century who was impeached was Bill Clinton. He was accused of perverting the course of justice because he allegedly lied when confronted with evidence that he was fellated in the Oval Office. The impeachment court (the US Senate) in 1999 made the pragmatic decision not to find Clinton guilty due partly to the upheaval that would be caused if Clinton were removed from office.

[In 1974, US President Nixon resigned rather than be impeached].

There are those who are too quick to think about impeachment.

We should let cooler heads prevail.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 06, 2014.


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