The chairman. Rep. Ace Barbers, one of the five congressmen who added their names to the list of endorsers of the amended impeachment complaint yesterday, tonight praised Rep. Simeon Datumanong’s handling of the impeachment proceeding. I have a contrary view: Datumanong seems to have a hearing problem, and frequently recognizes only the loudest motions (literally). Yesterday, for instance, Akbayan party-list Rep. Etta Rosales seemed to have the hardest time getting his attention, because she did not sit right in front of him and did not shout into the microphone. This state of affairs may have an adverse impact on public perception, feeding skepticism about the process itself. Is it too difficult to seat a vice chairman or a staffmember right beside Datumanong to help him navigate the shoals of parliamentary motions?
A coincidence? Tonight, on Korina Sanchez’s show, ex-Times columnist and IPER trustee Earl Parreno pointed to a disconcerting sequence of events: right when text messages claiming the end of the impeachment process in Congress were circulating, Barbers and four other congressmen broke from the administration coalition and signed the amended (stronger) impeachment complaint. Parreno did not mean to say the congressmen were part of a Malacanang conspiracy, of that I’m certain, but he was clear about the impact of the five congressmen’s decision: The public may now be thinking that the impeachment process is far from dead. That is exactly what Malacanang wants the public to think, he said. Keep the public away from the streets, but at the same time keep the impeachment proceeding confined to Congress. In other words: The five congressmen may have played right into Malacanang’s hand.
The delay. Yesterday, after the Committee on Justice voted 54-24-3 to discuss the prejudicial questions first, opposition spokesman Rep. Allan Peter Cayetano fielded questions from ANC’s Ricky Carandang. He expressed his dismay over the vote. What this means, he said, is that we have opened the door to other prejudicial questions, to prejudicial questions about prejudicial questions. He gave an example: Now that the committee has agreed to discuss which of the three impeachment complaints should be given due course to, what’s to prevent the committee from discussing, say, standards of evidence for choosing among the complaints? Cayetano painted a bleak portrait of more delay. Today, his worst fears came true: Someone did ask what standards of evidence the committee would use in its deliberations. Someone did raise the specter, merely through asking prejudicial questions about prejudicial questions, about greater delay. The only thing was, that someone was … Cayetano himself. I guess those 79 votes are still unbearably out of reach.