Last night’s decision by five congressmen to add their signatures to the amended impeachment complaint was timed with the early evening newscasts in mind. The idea, or so it seems to me, was to jumpstart the impeachment bandwagon (by encouraging more congressmen from the so-called Conscience Bloc, which is really an ad hoc grouping that changes composition depending on the issue at hand, to climb down from the political fence).
It was a good tactical move, especially when you consider that, except perhaps for Rep. Ace Barbers, the other congressmen (Reps. Gilbert Remulla and Renato Magtubo especially) were expected in the end to endorse the amended complaint. We must never underestimate the element of surprise, or the precious propaganda value of a Rep. Prospero Pichay, a leader of the anti-impeachment camp, failing to sound unflustered on national TV.
But did the opposition in fact have anything to do with the decision of the five congressmen to add their signatures to the amended complaint? Had they been successfully targeted by the political opposition’s version of Sen. Joker Arroyo’s "man-to-man, house-to-house" operation? Somehow, I fail to get the sense that they were.
"After studying the issue on this impeachment, we reached the point that we have to make a stand on this," said Barbers, chairman of the House committee on accounts.
"But if you will notice, the process in the justice committee was not only slow but it’s not going in the direction of uncovering the truth," [Rep. Edmund Reyes] said.
In other words, it was the anti-impeachment forces’ non-rush to judgment (think self-destruct) that convinced the five congressmen that it was time to cut and cut cleanly.
There will be other congressmen, from the administration, who will sign the amended Lozano complaint. More will sign, if the aura of inevitability the pro-impeachment camp needs to project is convincing. We wrote last month:
I have no doubt that a considerable number of our congressmen will shift their allegiance once they sense a turn in the tide; I also do not doubt that some pro-GMA congressmen have already signalled their availability to their counterparts, in case, you know … This is simply how most things get done in a deliberative body like Congress; almost everyone breeds horses, and trades them for a living.
So a quick reality check: Those congressmen "in reserve"? They do not have any political value at the moment, except to make other congressmen think that the tide is turning.
Now it is the task of the pro-impeachment camp to convince other congressmen that the tide is in fact about to turn. They can do this not by greeting the next bit of good news with wild cheering and wanton hugging, as if they had not expected it at all. There may be about 15 or so more congressmen willing to sign, some of them perhaps even before the Committee on Justice resumes its hearings today; that would still leave the pro-impeachment camp just under 20 votes short. But if the "defections" are scheduled to create the impression of an idea whose time has come, the opposition may actually reach 70 or so votes. That, I should think, would change the game completely.
But scheduled defections require coordination, of the man-to-man, house-to-house variety.