Press on Impeachment: Helping the Public Understand
THE 1987 Philippine Constitution vests Congress with the power of impeachment to hold accountable certain officials of government. These include the president, vice president, the ombudsman, members of Constitutional Commissions and members of the Supreme Court.
Barely over a year in office, the Duterte administration has seen its fair share of the exercise. Last May, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against President Duterte and was promptly junked by the House for being sufficient in form but insufficient in substance. In September, the House found lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon’s impeachment raps against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno sufficient to set in motion an impeachment proceeding against the highest official of the judiciary. Gadon, a failed 2016 senatorial candidate who ran under the banner of Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, founded by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, accused Sereno of violating the Constitution, corruption and betrayal of public trust, among others.
The Chief Justice has since denied the allegations and filed on September 25 an 85-page response to refute Gadon’s claims. Media reported each stage of this impeachment motion as events, reporting what the actors said or what was written in documents. As with most legal matters, the accounts may not have captured much public attention. The latest development also competed for space with other news, including the story of a death by hazing and the police investigation of the case.
CMFR cheers media’s efforts to make the legal process easier to understand, simplifying the Chief Justice’s reply.
Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer did not merely repeat what Sereno’s lead legal counsel, Atty. Alexander Poblador, said in the press briefing but highlighted the salient points of the Chief Justice’s verified answer.
Rappler’s “How Sereno answered her impeachment complaint” listed 8 salient points from the Chief Justice’s reply. Each entry contained the specific complaint of Gadon and Sereno’s response, followed by a brief discussion of the issue.
The Inquirer’s “Sereno seeks dismissal of impeachment rap” — in a continuous article form — also made a similar approach and looked into the key points of the document.
Legal documents, which are usually long and filled with jargon, can be challenging to comprehend by the general public. Quick summaries like the ones published by Rappler and the Inquirer are helpful, walking citizens through significant complex matters involving both law and politics.