How to avoid a crisis

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When I get the chance to listen to the hearings of the House Committee on Justice chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, I can only conclude that Umali himself and some members of his panel do not know the direction that the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will take.

The main complainant, lawyer Larry Gadon, had admitted that he had no personal knowledge of the impeachable acts allegedly committed by Sereno. Still, Umali wants to seek the testimony of resource persons.

I think some members of the panel are more interested to have television cameras focused on them.

Umali said the non-appearance of Sereno at the House proceedings is contempt of the committee. She could be subpoenaed, he said, and then arrested.

If Sereno were to be arrested, that would amount to a constitutional crisis. There is such a thing as separation of powers. This is best shown by the fact that justices invited as resource persons have to get the permission of the Supreme Court en banc to submit to the invitation of the Umali panel.

Some questions now arise. Can the Umali panel coerce the Chief Justice, under pain of contempt, arrest and detention? And if the Chief Justice holds her ground, will she be dragged out of her chamber?

I subscribe to the comment of Senator Frank Drilon, who was once Senate president and secretary of justice, that contempt of a congressional committee can happen during investigations in aid of legislation and not during impeachment proceedings? Senator Chiz Escudero, also a lawyer, agrees with Drilon.

To me the only way a constitutional crisis can be averted is for the Umali panel to vote right away on Sereno’s impeachment and also have the House plenary session vote on the Articles of Impeachment for Senate trial.

A constitutional crisis leads to the destabilization of the government. Anyway, considering the existence of a House supermajority, people expect that the Chief Justice can only get a fair trial at the Senate.

But then, when the Senate acts as a trial court in an impeachment case, it’s also a political exercise. The question is, can Sereno get a fair trial at the Senate?

Still, the most important thing is to avert a crisis.

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Malacañang, through spokesman Harry Roque, has said that a revolutionary government has no basis in law and is outside the ambit of the Constitution.

Roque made this remark amid concerns that the President would declare a revolutionary government.

Is the President trying to scare people from resorting to destabilization methods and ousting him?

I think the less Mr. Duterte talks about RevGov, the less people would think he is up to something sinister.

* * *

In the wake of the scrapping of the P150-billion mega-prison facility in Laur, Nueva Ecija, Senator Richard Gordon has filed a bill seeking to transfer the National Bilibid Prison to Fort Magsaysay reservation in Palayan City.

Because of the decision of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to scrap the relocation of the NBP, the government must now pay prequalified bidders—San Miguel, Megawide and DMCI since they have already spent billions on feasibility studies.

The situation at the national penitentiary has been described to be in a state of emergency.

I have long been advocating the relocation of the NBP. But it seems that political will has been lacking across administrations.

* * *

Last year, the World Health Organization came out with a report that among all nations in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has the worst record when it comes to the use of toilet facilities.

Now Health Secretary Francisco Duque has said that Filipino households have more mobile phones than toilets.

* * *

I wonder if people have noticed that there are no more bazaars in hotels and other usual places for shopping.

The reason for this is that air-conditioned shopping malls in Metro Manila have all the products at affordable prices.

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