I am dusting off Ye Olde Philippine Commentary after a long period of dormancy because the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona bids me to re-enter the old fray.
Eleven years ago today, on 15 January 2001, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published my weekly Commentary in their Opinion/Editorial section. In it I was analyzing the likely course of then President Joseph Estrada's ongoing Impeachment Trial in the Philippine Senate. In that small essay I noted that since he was on trial for four separate charges brought against him the House of Representatives, there was some combination of Guilty/Not Guilty verdicts that could either convict or acquit him depending on how the 24 Senator-Judges actually voted. After going through the combinatorics, I wrote that if there were ELEVEN Senators behind him, he could be acquitted of all charges by them, yet each could find him guilty in at least two or three of those charges because in none of them would there be the required 2/3 majority vote to convict.
Little did I know that on the very next day, on 16 January 2001, there would indeed be a crucial vote in the Impeachment Trial, in which what would later be called the Craven Eleven Senators would propose a vote called the Second Envelope Vote, in which it became clear Joseph Estrada would surely be acquitted of all charges and be found Not Guilty by the Senate Impeachment Court. The vote was 11-10 to exclude what was thought to be a piece of evidence that would convict the President in the eyes of the Public (but which would later turn out to be the opposite, though too late!)
Senator Tessie Aquino Oreta would dance an infamous jig for joy whilst then freshman Senator Loren Legarda would weep in front of the cameras. House Prosecutors led by then Congressman, now Senator Joker Arroyo, would walk out of the trial. At the famous Edsa Shrine small groups of anti-Erap demonstrators began to gather and cell phones which had only then began to be used in the Philippines would call out more and more of them until their numbers swelled throughout the night. In the next three days anti-Erap demonstrations would continue 24 hours a day under continuous television and radio coverage, until on 19 January 2001 Armed Forces Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes would walk onto the podium and announce that the AFP had mutinied against the President and were joining calls for him to step down.
We all know what happened next (or perhaps we don't know!) but in any event, on the very next day, on Saturday 20 January 2001, the Presiding Officer of the impeachment trial, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Hilario Davide would swear in Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as President of the Republic of the Philippines! The full story is told in dozens of posts right here on Philippine Commentary to which I shall have occasion to refer in the coming days.
Suffice it to say, that from that historic event to this very day, everything that has happened has seemed to conspire to produce the event upon whose brink we stand, as the House has impeached Renato Corona, then Chief of Staff of Vice President Arroyo, and whose trial begins on 16 January 2012, the self-same anniversary of the historic Vote on the Second Envelope!
Much has transpired in the intervening eleven years, dominated by the ill-fated Presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who today is under arrest for electoral sabotage and is now under "hospital arrest" at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.
We shall have several opportunities to re-examine all those events of yesteryear, and since. Suffice now only that I welcome back old readers of Philippine Commentary, and greet many new ones who were perhaps too young to have participated in or remember those important events. But all are witness again to another cataclysm in Philippine politics which I am honored to reflect and write upon in the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.