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San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

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Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Resignation or Impeachment

People are asking Ms. Arroyo to resign claiming that it is a constitutional option. In so far as resignation is found in the constitution, it is correct. But I believe resignation is more a personal option rather than constitutional. It is akin to leaving office due to sickness or death. Moreover, these personal options are not exclusively found in the Constitution. They are practically found in all government codes involving qualification and removal of public officials.

I believe the only real institutional option found in the Constitution without involving an abrupt change of government (this excludes people power) is the impeachment process. While impeachment is a contentious process, it is nonetheless an option that we must undergo in order to strengthen our democratic institutions.

In the Erap impeachment trial, we were exposed for the first time to a unique procedure by which there was an opportunity to unseat a President peacefully without resorting to the streets. And yet, we were never able to learn from the process because the people took it upon themselves to judge the culpability of President Estrada. From this experience, the only lesson we re-learned was that we can remove a president forcibly without even adjudging his guilt or innocence. By far, that is the only lesson learned in EDSA II. And not a very few foreign correspondents criticized our manner of removing our presidents.

But if we pursue impeachment to its natural end, we may perhaps discover that impeachment, instead of weakening our economic strength, actually serves to strenthen our democratic institutions. That from impeachment, we can learn the lesson that our democratic institutions are mature enough to withstand a president being removed peacefully and without resort to people power. By doing so, our country could have impressed the local and international business community that life can go on in spite of the impeachment process.

Mrs. Arroyo must be allowed to undergo the impeachment process in order for our country to learn from a contentious and bitter dilemma. Mrs. Aquino asked Mrs. Arroyo not to undergo impeachment because it will cause long suffering to our people. Perhaps, resignation can save us from further suffering. But in the long run, our country can never attain democratic maturity when at every instance of dissatisfaction, we remove the president by sheer number or by demanding resignation. Our country, and not merely the President, must take the bitter pill or else, we shall be Sisyphus perpetually rolling up the boulder. Indeed, it is happening now.

Moreover, Mrs. Arroyo must be allowed to undergo the impeachment process because the constitution accords each and every individual the presumption of innocence. Already, we have pre-judged her culpability, though not without seeming reason as evidenced by the Garci tapes. But seeming reason is not equivalent to guilt. She must, as every individual is, be guaranteed her day in court. By resigning, and contrary to Mrs. Aquino's perorations of serving the highest good, Mrs. Arroyo will be notoriously remembered for resigning out of guilt. An individual must be allowed to leave a legacy as she so fashions and not as a decision forced upon her. If she is found guilty, then let us exact our pound of flesh upon her. But until then, Mrs. Arroyo has every right to clear her name.

Impeachment may be long and arduous but to paraphrase Thomas Paine: "That which we obtain easily, we esteem lightly". It is in undergoing a purgative experience like impeachment that the country will realize the strength of its democratic institutions.

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