Reflecting on the circus that is unfolding in the impeachment trial, I wondered what it says about Mindanao. Perhaps, one must have the imagination as fertile as that of J.K. Rowling to see a connection. But it is no “Harry Potter” to see that this battle of titans highlights not only imperial Manila’s hold over the entire country but of the weakness of our central institutions. Unfortunately for us in the “provinces”, our unitary system of government puts our political and economic life at the mercy of these central institutions.
The impeachment proceedings are said to be a means to exact accountability from impeachable officials and strengthen our democratic institutions. I support the impeachment proceedings against CJ Corona and firmly believe that he should be found unfit to continue to be the highest magistrate of the land. But the proceedings and the bizarre behavior of some of the main actors including the Chief Justice himself should lead us to reflect beyond Corona. The proceedings highlight the weaknesses in our political system that reposes immense power to central institutions and national figures. Yes, there is the principle of separation of powers where every branch of government can check and balance others to prevent the exercise of absolute power by any one. But little in law and practice is there a check when central institutions in their power game lose sight of the cry of poor Filipinos for security, jobs and justice.
When national figures use our centralized political system to save their own skin, it demeans public office as a public trust. CJ Corona has framed the impeachment complaint against him as an attack against the judicial system. His wanton disregard of the law and decorum when he testified (more accurately performed) in the Senate shows that the greatest threat to the independence and stability of our judicial system is not coming from outside the Supreme Court. Worse, the whole machinery of our judicial system including the Integrated Bar of the Philippines has been used to put one person’s interest to maintain power over the institution of justice in this country. This is our feudal political system at its best. And we are entrusting to these feudal lords and institutions in Manila the future of Mindanao.