The House of Representatives Committee on Justice, by a vote of 42-8, junked the fourth impeachment complaint against president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, branding it as “lacking in substance.” Another try at the plenary for the 80 votes required for an impeachment case is deemed very difficult, even impossible, to attain.
It however succeeded in drawing attention to the testimony of former Speaker Jose de Venecia on GMA’s links to the ZTE-NBN scandal and on the P500,000 “brown bag” distribution in Malacañanang. In addition to the ongoing Bolante investigation, these effectively focused the spotlight on GMA’s many corruption-related cases and her quality of leadership.
This is significant in its coinciding with the more substantive battle over Malacañang’s last attempt at charter change. Succeeding with the latter is crucial to GMA’s political fortunes and her people’s desperate scheme to stay in power beyond 2010. Preventing this from happening would immediately render final the creeping lameduck presidency and put firmly in place the 2010 election scenario.
At the same time, a charter change defeat would mean GMA’s vulnerability to pressures for her to resign and negotiate a graceful exit. It would determine whether the ruling coalition will be able to field a winnable candidate or break up under the onslaught of the electoral reality of playing on the sidelines or only in a supporting role.
The defeat of the fourth impeachment petition is a non-event. It has already done its job and political forces are moving to the more decisive battleground of charter change.