12/14/2011
Drones

"Masaya, pero nakakapagod."

That's Alvin Elchico on DZMM last night, talking about how reporters like him see political coverage. A texter suggested that the latest circus unfolding on our television screens will have reporters happy. Sure, Elchico said. They will be happy, but they will get really, really tired.

I see what he means. Sure, the closest I have to political coverage is a blog that goes to life during school elections, but there is a thrill in following the campaigns, talking to people, trying to figure out what they really mean when they speak, and being on the pulse about something. When things get more heated than they should (and they have), it gets much more exciting. Seeing two sides outwit each other, and trying to figure out who has the advantage or not? That really puts you on the pulse.

But eventually it proves to be too much. I remember covering the DLSU general elections in 2009 - the one I did from my office - and getting quite cynical about it. When I was still writing about them on the ground, I really felt that they were fighting for a good cause. Now that I was watching from the outside, a recent graduate who's blogging whenever he's got free time in the workplace, it all felt like they were doing what they were doing to prop themselves up. Embellish their CVs, get a good job in a multinational company, that sort. After all, these candidates have been fighting for the same thing for four years, definitely longer. And it's not like they haven't done anything, but they haven't exactly moved on from those causes. If time eventually catches up with them and renders them ineffective, why bother with running?

Someone posted a comment, chiding me for thinking that way. I guess I felt more cynical now that I'm past that stage, supposedly.

Then again, politics is all about power. It's all about getting it, keeping it, and making sure you still have a piece of it when you step away. I know, that sounds cynical. Everybody enters politics with good intentions, you might say. Sure, I agree with you. And you cannot get what you want - whether it's for your gain or everybody's - without having power. You can't get what you want if you can't hold on to power for that long. And you can't get what you want if you leave the fray and see that someone else has virtually undone all that you've done.

Some who have entered politics may have stuck with their guns, but some inevitably succumbed to the game. Politics is addicting, the way The Sims is. You start playing and you get more invested in it. You start watching the news and you get quite affected by it. You start dealing with power and you can't pull yourself away from it. "Masaya, pero nakakapagod."

This week Renato Corona, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, has been impeached. Among other grounds, he was accused of siding with former president Gloria Arroyo in some of their decisions. As the thinking goes, since he was appointed by Arroyo - a particularly controversial one, since he was named as chief justice in May last year, squarely within the ban on executive appointments two months before the end of a president's term - his loyalties lie with her.

Current president Noynoy Aquino has, to put it bluntly, never been that fond of Corona. As president-elect he was against his appointment from the get-go, going as far as having someone else swear him in as president. During the most recent budget deliberations, the judiciary's coffers were slashed by around P2 million, I think - you can say it's the administration's back-to-zero policy, but you can also say it's him pressuring a potentially unfriendly court to cozy up. But tensions have flared in recent weeks, from the Supreme Court's decision to issue a temporary restraining order against the Department of Justice's immigration watch list order against Arroyo and her husband Mike, to Aquino's uncharacteristically hostile speech against Corona in a summit organized to, of all things, foster cooperation between members of the judicial sector.

And then, suddenly, Corona was impeached.

I have nothing against Corona being impeached. By all means, if he has done something wrong, then do so. What I have a problem with, however, is the speed of his impeachment, and the circumstances surrounding it.

When members of Congress attempted to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez - also an Arroyo appointee, and also accused of being biased towards the former administration - it was a long, tedious battle. It's partly because there were two impeachment cases filed against her, and the Supreme Court even had to issue a TRO just to sift through which has more merit, but mostly because they had to figure out if it was sufficient in substance and form. That process happened in the many impeachment attempts against Arroyo.

Corona's impeachment, on the other hand, was definitely fast-tracked. Nothing new there - the impeachment of former president Joseph Estrada was elevated to the Senate in 2000 without a plenary debate, although then speaker Manny Villar insisted there was no need to do so, because the articles of impeachment were signed by 77 representatives, four above the 73 required. But the process of Corona's impeachment is questionable. It has now emerged that members of the majority coalition rushed lawmakers to sign the articles of impeachment, in some cases without letting them read through the documents, relying instead on a definitely condensed slideshow. Thus, the articles did not have to pass through a committee-level hearing; they got their 188 votes in just five hours.

It has also now emerged that the fast-tracked impeachment was because of Noynoy Aquino's wishes. Armed with reports that the Supreme Court will revoke the arrest order against Arroyo, he asked his top men to craft the case quickly. "The majority wanted the impeachment as a show of force to justify their actions," a source told the Inquirer.

The minority obviously has qualms about this: minority leader Edcel Lagman called it the "mother of all blackmails". But some members of the majority were also taken aback: Navotas representative Toby Tiangco quit after disagreeing with their ways, and there are reports that another member of the majority was booted off as chairman of a congressional committee because he did not sign the articles of impeachment.

And that is my problem with the whole thing. As I said earlier, if there are grounds to impeach Corona, fine, impeach him. (He's been impeached on eight counts, most of which are so vague that gathering convincing evidence much be difficult.) But no matter how Malaca├▒ang spins the whole thing, the impeachment case is definitely rushed. And not to get rid of a roadblock to reforms, as they'd assert, but to take control of a stop on the road. They can't get the Supreme Court to "cooperate" with them, so they decided to deal with it through other means.

If their main problem was that Corona is a midnight appointee, then why wait so long to boot him out? They waited, so said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, to see if something good will come out - and, predictably, they said that nothing has. More of, they co-existed until the Supreme Court decided to issue the TRO in favor of Arroyo, after which they realized they won't have much of a reason to hang around if their raison d'être could get away. Thus, the "show of force". Hold on to power.

If they believe that Corona favors Arroyo, that he protects the former president, then why just impeach him? Why not impeach all of the justices that she appointed in her nine years in power? Also, can they prove that the Arroyo bloc voted solidly in every case of note? Corona is right - the attack against him is actually an attack against the judiciary's independence. The message the case, and the administration's actions before that, is sending is simple: "either you're with me or against me." To hell with the judiciary's independence. To hell with the system of checks and balances.

And that puts us in dangerous ground. Noynoy Aquino was installed in office with the promise of long-overdue reforms: transparency and accountability, a new culture that will bring change to the country. I believed that his intentions are good. But his actions nowadays suggest that nothing's really happened. It's still about numbers. Still about having every base covered. Still about having more influence than anybody else. Sure, you can argue that it's not his fault - that this whole system is because of the precedents set by previous regimes - but you'd expect Noynoy to rise above it. It's what he's suggested all this time.

Instead, to be able to instigate his wishes - to get what he wants, if you want to flip it - he has resorted to the very things his predecessor, the very person he demonized from the campaign, has done. And maybe beyond it, because Arroyo certainly didn't bully the Supreme Court into submission when she assumed office. Noynoy's intentions are good? Perhaps, perhaps, but he came into office with absolutely no idea on what to do. And so he surrounded himself with people who have more experience, but are definitely part of the old school. And now he's learned those tricks, and he's making the most of those tricks, and he's become good at it, really good at it, much like the people he's antagonized at the beginning.

Not everybody is happy with it. I'm not. Many others aren't. But many others accept what the administration is doing now. It's necessary, they say, to get us the reforms we all need. What he's doing is much more tolerable than the atrocities Arroyo has done. I read these essays and columns, I listen to these arguments, and I can't help but think they're just kissing ass. Hoping that it will lead to the best, to the point of being delusional about it. Noynoy can do no wrong. He's the son of Cory Aquino. He is the child of People Power. He does not know how to lie. He does not know how to cheat. He does not know how to do anything. We have a potential despot - I may be exaggerating, but bullying the judiciary into submission is never a good sign - and people are going, he's all right.

We have drones, and that is perhaps the worst thing of all. They want a piece of the dream, whether it's a better country - I cannot begrudge you for that - or a slice of the pie, a bigger slice of the pie. So you overlook the flaws to get there. Or, you perpetrate the flaws.

Politics. It's all about power. It's about getting power. Maintaining power. Making sure you still have power when you step away. No matter how short or how long you stay in the fray, you become invested. It consumes you, whatever that means. Much like a video game, really. It's time for a meeting, and you're still playing it.

The past few weeks is a wake-up call for me. It's no longer time to believe that Noynoy Aquino's intentions are good. What we have is a vindictive president who's drunk with power. He's become the monster he said he'll never be. And still thinks he isn't, probably, because of the drones around him. And the next few months is going to be interesting, just to see who wins, who loses, and how everybody gets back. Again, politics. You become invested. You cannot look away.

Masaya, pero nakakapagod.

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