Impeachment is such an interesting, polarizing topic and there is much to be said about it that I’ve no interest in a lengthy introduction so let’s jump into the boiler room shall we.
Let’s start by making a few assumptions a) That the current trial is being undertaken with the purest of intentions or that at the very least political interests are kept at a minimum b) that the charges being presented are ,as was decided upon at the last GA, valid and that there is sufficient evidence to go to trial and c) This trial is urgent and necessary as it endangers the credibility and integrity of the council. That being said let’s move on to the meat of the discussion.
[Another overarching assumption needed to make sense of this analysis is that the voting public has the sufficient political maturity to exercise their political will not only in voting but in being vigilant and holding their elected officials accountable for their actions.]
What is very interesting about impeachment proceedings is that they aren’t your run of the mill court proceedings of guilty or not guilty but there is that additional dimension of it being very political. Political, not in the Party A ousting Party B member sense but political in that you are essentially messing with the political will of the student body. This fact was even called to attention during the impeachment trial of ex-CJ Corona by Senator JP Enrile. An impeachment proceeding is basically telling the majority of the voting public that their choice has committed so and so offenses, betrayed the public trust given to him/her, and is unfit to continue as representative and advocate of their needs and wants. Besides proving that he/she is guilty, the accusers must also win over the hearts and minds of all those who voted for said officer or else face very harsh political consequences either during the remainder of his/her current term or during the next elections if said candidate chooses to run again.
In order to win hearts and minds, in my opinion. Accusers should make it a point to ensure that at every nick and turn they are able to follow due process. That is very important as making a grave mistake as not following a certain section of the article of the constitution which handles impeachment, however insufficient it may be to actually conduct a trial, may be very well the end to the complaint.
At times when existing protocols and procedures are unclear one can take inspiration from examples outside of the campus such as, well, the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines or the Penal Code at times.
Another thing that the body conducting the trial should ensure is that, especially if it is publicized, that they appear to be competent and capable and with the bare minimum amount of common sense to know that a dictionary is not used to define terms which require legal and constitutional context.
Let us take as an example the Article IX Section 1a. which states that ‘Gross Neglect of Duty’ is an impeachable offense. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary has the following definitions: Gross [very obvious or noticeable], Neglect [to fail to take care of or to give attention to], Duty [something that is done as part of a job]. So our final definition is that it is “a very obvious failure to take care of something that is part of a job”. That definition is not half bad except for the fact that it does not provide any context as to how to apply that definition. It’s very open to interpretation and that is something which should be avoided by a decent impeachment court.
Instead what could’ve have been done was to define it contextually. We look first towards Article II and Article VII of the USC Constitution for our definition of duty. After that it’ll be easier for the body to agree upon what constitutes gross neglect. A sample definition would be “repeated and consistent failure to perform duties outlined in Article II and VII.”.It’s still a bit raw and might be further refined but there is a clear difference between the two. From these contextualized definitions it will be a lot easier to validate the charges raised and once validated it’ll be a lot easier to decide on guilt.
We have yet to see what kind of physical and material evidence there is for the court but again the council should not forget that they are basically trying to overturn the people’s political will.
It’ll be interesting to follow this episode in the ever unfolding drama that is student politics however pursuing such a cause comes at the constituents cost.