It is a foregone conclusion that the impeachment trial of Merceditas Gutierrez, Ombudsman, will reach the Senate. The vote in the House of Representatives Committee on Justice was 39-9-1 on one complaint and 39-6-1 on the second complaint. It is indicative already on how the House plenary will vote–the one-third vote of 94 can easily be reached by administration congressmen and their allies.
The Supreme Court decision denying–with finality–her certiorari motion to stop the HOR proceedings also contributed to the expected outcome. Of course, this does not make for an independent Supreme Court. The majority of the justices, including Chief Justice Renato Corona, Jr. are also staring at their own possible impeachment and their recent decision on the Gutierrez case smacks of their own political maneuvers in negotiating with the other two branches or of preparing their own defenses.
The Senate vote , however, is a different story. Each senator or senate block will have to consider the implications on their own political fortunes and this can make for strange alignments. There is also a higher bar–at least 16 votes are needed to decide on the guilt of Merceditas Gutierrez. It is no wonder that she–and her patrons–consider now the Senate their crucial arena.
They have gone all out in the last few days in discrediting the congressmen and the president, and in pushing upward their political stocks. Ms. Gutierrez suddenly became very visible on the TV shows, conducted a press conference with the CBCP bishops, and disclosed the corruption cases of more than half of the congressmen, including senior members of the Committee on Justice. All these in preparation for the bruising battle in the Senate.
They are however faced with the formidable political machine of the ruling coalition and the insurmountable obstacle of lack of credibility and, in fact, hostility of the general public towards corruptors and their perceived coddlers in the government. Her impeachment is also being publicly supported by a still very popular president. Unfortunately for Ms. Gutierrez, the cards are already stacked against her.
It would be a mercy if she survives the cruelty and hardships of an impeachment trial and win her case. As pointed out by many people, it is a political trial. This is not because of partisanship or grandstanding by those involved but because, ultimately, the judge in the trial are the Filipino people themselves. The votes of the good senators will be–in a decisive sense–dictated by how clear the voice of the people manifests during the course of the trial.
It can be a merciful voice or it can be a merciless one.