Safety in numbers....
I know this issue is kinda getting worn out and thin, and I'm actually trying to give up blogging about the Gloriagate controversy. Its not that easy though, as almost everyday it seems as if something new crops up worth writing about. Its hard turning your back on an issue of national significance such as this one, especially if you're a highly opinionated person like myself. And so here I am again. I fully intend to go back to more mundane topics soon, I just need to get this off my chest...
Okay, first of all, I will assume that you're familiar with the process of impeaching an impeachable officer. If not, I will refer you to Punzi's comprehensive blog lecture on impeachment here. On a side note, Punzi's Corner Blog is one of the most comprehensive sources of timely and relevant legal information in the blogosphere today, so I whole-heartedly recommend his blog when it comes to the legal issues behind today's headlines. His Blog Lecture series is presented in such an easy to read manner that even laymen will have no trouble understanding complicated legal concepts. With that plug out of the way, let us go back to the topic at hand. :-)
If you're already reading this paragraph, I assume that you're already familiar with the process of impeachment. So what's my point anyway? The thing that's getting my goat is the fact that the impeachment model espoused in our Constitution and practiced at least twice in the past five years is actually a highly political exercise that has, in practice, become devoid of any legal merit whatsoever. Pretty strong words I guess, especially coming from me, a non-lawyer, or as Senator Joker Arroyo would say, an "uninitiated."
But hear me out. Since the various stages in an impeachment process are split between the two houses of Congress, and since both chambers are obviously collegial bodies, we have reached a point in which important matters are no longer decided by its merit, but simply by the number of votes cast for it, or against it. Consider this for a moment:
- An impeachment complaint has to be endorsed by another member of the House of Representatives. If no one endorses it, it will not be acted on;
- Assuming it is endorsed, the Committee which receives it will deliberate on it. If it gets a majority vote from the Committee members, it will submit its resolution to the House;
- A one-thirds vote of the House is necessary to affirm the resolution, which subsequently becomes the Articles of Impeachment.
- The same shall be transmitted to the Senate, who will decide the impeachment case. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside over the proceedings, but not vote. A vote of two-thirds is necessary for a conviction.
While all these steps (summarized for your convenience) are intended to provide a measure of checks and balance, it can also be abused by the members of the House and of the Senate who invariably vote according to their party affiliation. Even without the process starting, one can already make an educated guess on what the results of the votation will be. When lawmakers already argue for or against impeachment along the lines of "not having or having the numbers" instead of the merits, or lack thereof, the process of impeachment is reduced to being a mere numbers game, not much more sophisticated than how we used to elect class officers in elementary school.
Add to that the fact that once an impeachment complaint has been filed, there is a bar of one year before another impeachment complaint can be filed against the same official. This rule is really a loophole of sorts that is subject to abuse. If I were an impeachable officer, I would just have to call on an ally in the House to file an unmeritorious impeachment complaint, and another to endorse it, and voila! I'm safe for another year.
I just find it disheartening that the fact of the matter is, most lawmakers would vote depending on their party loyalties and not according to the conscience, not according to what is wrong or right, and not according to what is legal or not. Just imagine what would happen if a court of law is run the same way. Chaos would ensue.
This makes the impeachment process in my opinion a charade, a little more credible than professional wrestling, but not by much. Its also in essence a license for an impeachable officer to do anything he or she wants, as long as he or she has the numbers. And of course, saying "I'm sorry" once in a while doesn't hurt as well. ;-) Like they say, "There's always safety in numbers."
I could be wrong though. And for the nation's sake, in this particular instance, I hope I am. Otherwise this issue will never be resolved, one way or another, relying on the legal recourse provided in the Constitution.