House impeach moves a mockery of democratic process, says law expert

MANILA — The impeachment proceedings and threats of ouster against the country’s top officials of constitutional bodies are all but “writings on the wall” and “coincidences” that cannot be ignored, a law expert said Thursday.

In a public forum organized by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Philippine Association of Law School president and Lyceum of the Philippines College of Law Dean Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis said that the looming impeachment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the impeachment of poll chief Andres Bautista, and looming ouster of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales are “writings on the wall,” an idiom used to describe something that would clearly fail.

“I’d like to think that these things you mentioned as writings on the wall. That’s all I can say. Whether it’s just a coincidence, it’s a coincidence that cannot be ignored,” Mawis said.

In her speech, Mawis emphasized that impeachment is not a “light weapon to be used on the whim of those entrusted with the process,” or else it will “make a mockery of the entire democratic process” and the other instruments that ensure checks and balances in the government.

Impeachment, the expert said, should only be used as the “last resort when other options for correction have been applied without effect.”

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to overturn the decision of the committee on justice to junk the impeachment complaint against Bautista, making him the first Commission on Elections chief to be impeached in Philippine history.

Last week, the same House committee declared that it found “sufficient grounds” to impeach Sereno, even without discussing point-by-point the issues raised against her by lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon.

Morales, on the other hand, may also suffer the same fate with no less than President Rodrigo Duterte warning her that she may be impeached for “conspiracy” to oust him and for her “selective justice.”

Mawis reminded public officials that there are only six grounds for impeachment: culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.

“The impeachment process must be, at all times, an accountability mechanism. It should not be used as a means for one person or any group to perpetuate their political beliefs, interests, and political agenda. The process may invoke only for a greater purpose, and never for the self-serving interest of a few,” she noted.

“The Philippines is a democratic and Republican state. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them,” she added.