February 25, 2018, 9:51 am
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Who is in a (Christmas) rush?

NOW that Asean season has come and gone with nary a major security incident involving visiting heads of state, it seems like a good time to tune out of national news for a while. With November coming to an end soon, it’s easy to get engrossed in the rush that the Christmas season brings. Even on the political front, there is a traditional ceasefire not just between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF but also a moratorium of sorts from the fighting and mudslinging. It’s just that time of the year when we shun negativity and just focus on being with friends and family, ergo the unconscious decision to unplug from political events.

Despite this, there are several things that are heating up despite the cooler weather of the last month of the year. Since being accused of committing supposedly impeachable offenses, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno gave a 45-minute interview to ABS-CBN’s Karen Davila to detail the former’s responses to the impeachment complaint filed by one Larry Gadon. Before this, the Chief Justice mainly let her spokespersons and lawyers do the talking for her.

It was good to see Sereno addressing allegations thrown at her, from the purchase of the Land Cruiser to claims that she falsified resolutions and other Court papers. She gave clear answers, cited the rules and regulations when it was necessary, and refused to speculate on the juicier sidelights, including her supposed tiff with Associate Justice Teresita de Castro. I was surprised when she declined to answer a particular question by saying that she would let her lawyers determine the course of action needed, signaling her openness in heeding her team’s advice. Interesting that she is willing to listen and let her legal team steer her defense despite being the country’s top magistrate. Someone from former Chief Justice Corona’s defense team wryly said to me once (years after the trial) that the biggest challenge in defending any chief justice as a client is getting him or her to listen to a contrary theory, or letting the client give up the wheel, as they say.

Given what is at stake, someone must have advised CJ Sereno to let her voice be heard, in the face of the development that the House Justice Committee turned down her request to let her lawyers speak at the impeachment hearings on her behalf. The committee insists that it is the CJ herself that should present her defense.

Regardless of the resolution of this matter, it seems we’ll be seeing an impeachment trial at the Senate come January, assuming that the budget for 2018 and the administration’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill are already passed by year’s end. At this point, it seems that Sereno is ready for a fight, despite a blunt statement from Malacañang about resignation being the better option in this conversation. All things being equal, 2018 will be ushered in by back-to-back live coverage of the impeachment trial, as was the case in 2012.

The other thing that refuses to go the way of the season is the midterm elections. With the announcement of the ruling party’s partial senate slate for the 2019 elections, those watching the news quickly dissected and dismembered the senatorial aspirations of some of the names mentioned. Did Speaker Alvarez indeed jump the gun on Senate President Koko Pimentel (who quickly said that the names mentioned by the former were not final) or was it a simple trial balloon to see how the public would react to the personalities mentioned?

The dynamics within PDP-Laban make finding a certain answer a little difficult. If you believe twittering birds that Pimentel is pretty much isolated from the decisions that need to be made, despite being Senate President and original party member, then this blunder lends credence to that particular story. It could also be a poor case of coordination between the party’s leaders, or overexcitement on Alvarez’ part. It’s also possible that it is a carefully orchestrated script to distract people from current issues, for the time being.

In any case, events will continue to unfold to provide more definite answers and motivations to these questions and actions. Unlike past years, our respite from the political circus may be shorter than expected, and constant vigilance is necessary to make sure that nobody turns this country on its head while we make merry during the season.
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