Aside from truth and the people’s trust in our public institutions, the impeachment wars have also claimed other casualties. (Come to think of it, everything seems to have been diminished by the political crisis that has weighed down on the country, like an ugly and festering family dispute, since June.)
The long list includes:
1. The Liberal Party. After the Nationalist People’s Coalition lost face in the failed Davide impeachment drive and then lost clout in the 2004 elections, the rejuvenated Liberal Party seemed ready to step into its shoes as coalition kingmaker — and a disciplined, principled one at that. Years of patient recruitment and party-building began to bear impressive fruit. As a journalist, I took particular note of the Liberal Party’s efforts to raise the standards of public discourse — through seminars and workshops funded in part by its generous German partners, through discussion pieces regularly circulated by email or published in its magazine, through informed participation in public issues. The events of July 8, however, revealed that the party had not yet completely outgrown its elitist past, or indeed the faction-driven politics of Philippine tradition. Now there are two wings, Senate President Frank Drilon’s, which of course called on the President to resign, and Manila Mayor Lito Atienza’s, which supports the President to the hilt. I had wanted the new Liberal Party to lead the way in establishing real party politics (first because it wanted to, second because it could). But power politics has gotten in the way.
2. The Nacionalista Party. There is no mistaking the new Nacionalista Party for the new Liberal Party; it is very much a party of the past, drawing its political oxygen from the fortunes of a well-funded national leader. But Sen. Manny Villar (once a dollar billionaire, before the Asian flu struck in 1997) did manage to turn the party into a viable and ongoing concern. But the big to-do over Rep. Cynthia Villar’s much-speculated-upon coattails showed that, at least for now, and without real party discipline, the emperor (that is to say, the Villar couple) really does not have much on. Representative Villar, when she finally decided to join the pro-impeachment bloc in the House, was expected to draw other Nacionalista members, plus perhaps a few others who wanted to be on the right side of her husband’s largesse, into the impeachment camp. She failed. Apparently, the Villars’ money and the senator’s high profile do not necessarily translate into political clout.
3. Sen. Nene Pimentel. The only man I would have voted over Raul Roco for President, the lifelong oppositionist has been reduced to predicting GMA’s downfall in an increasing shrill voice. When the cowardly Samuel Ong (contrast the behavior of Marine general Francisco Gudani) surfaced with the "mother of all tapes," Pimentel predicted that GMA’s collapse was imminent. He has stuck to the same sky-is-falling theme since then; indeed, he has stuck to the theme almost exclusively, and despite GMA’s continuing hold on power. Instead of lending his formidable intelligence and reputation to explaining the case against President Arroyo or defining what the real national interest is, he has been boxed into the prediction business, reduced, like someone painfully out of the loop, into heckling from the sidelines. He displayed an impressive statesmanship when he handled the Blue Ribbon probe into Chavit Singson’s expose, and then again when he co-presided over the Estrada impeachment trial. Now he has decided to be merely partisan.
4. Sen. Mar Roxas. Last year’s Senate topnotcher, and already the prohibitive favorite in the 2010 race, Roxas has not been heard from throughout the entire political crisis — except once, when he returned from a trip abroad to say he was not joining either faction of the Liberal Party but was keeping an open mind over the allegations against the President. Some, perhaps many, will mistake this stance as properly senatorial, the conduct of a putative senator-judge in a possible impeachment trial. But if I read my Senate politics correctly, Roxas’ stance has nothing to do with the issue at hand and everything to do with him. He does not take controversial positions; he joins the political fray only when it is politically safe (or he has no choice). In the debates on the expanded Value-Added Tax, for example, the former investment banker with a deep familiarity with economics was scarcely to be heard from. Why? I wager it was because it wasn’t politically safe. Why hasn’t he sought to elevate discussion of the issues against the President onto a higher plane? I bet it’s for the same reason.