MANILA, OCTOBER 24, 2003  (STAR) Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. is right: a public official cannot face an impeachment complaint more than once within a year. Congressmen must know the rules by now. After all, it has been only three years since Congress impeached a president less than halfway through his term. Yet more than 80 congressmen spearheaded by the Nationalist People’s Coalition signed yesterday a second impeachment complaint against Davide over the alleged misuse of funds for the judiciary.

Of course corruption should be investigated, especially at the highest levels of government. Those congressmen believe they have valid reasons for impeaching the Chief Justice. But there is also basis for Davide to suspect that politics was behind the move.

That the country’s dirty politics is tarring even the Supreme Court, however, is no longer surprising. The military is not the only politicized institution in this chaotic country. Because of the way people are appointed to the judiciary, debts of gratitude are incurred. Often it’s who you know rather than what you know that matters. Appointment to the judiciary often depends more on political connections rather than merit. That’s a recipe for a judiciary that lacks independence and professionalism.

Apart from a politicized environment, the judiciary has long been plagued by corruption and incompetence. The allegations of misuse of judiciary funds are unusual only because they implicate the Chief Justice himself. The past years, however, have seen members of the judiciary being investigated, penalized and even purged for wrongdoing. Because of perceptions of rampant corruption in the judiciary, Filipinos have even coined the terms "hoodlums in robes" and "fix-cals" to describe erring justices, judges and prosecutors.

Yesterday, as the House of Representatives moved to impeach Davide, President Arroyo signed a law doubling salaries in the judiciary. The pay increase is overdue but is unlikely to create a significant dent in the enormous problems besetting the judiciary. This ailing institution needs major surgery. Davide’s impeachment is just a symptom of the disease.

Would GMA ‘cheat’ to win re-election? BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven

MADRID, Spain – I can already imagine the angry howls of protest and indignant expressions of denial from the Palace at the very insinuation made in the title of this column. Yet – let’s face it: It’s on everybody’s mind, friend and foe alike. After all, the President has the equity of the incumbent, which places her in favor of both God and the Comelec.

Will FPJ finally, finally announce? When this journeyman journalist left Manila half a week ago, the rumor mills were on overdrive.

One thing is certain, you’ll agree: Having had to leave Malacañang once before, as a young dethroned princess, when dad, Cong Dadong, was overthrown (toppled in clever fashion) by the swashbuckling Ferdinand Marcos, people are sure GMA is determined not to suffer the same fate.

And what about Noli de Castro – who may be fielded by Gabby Lopez and ABS-CBN?

So, abangan.

As here in Europe, not all marriages are made in heaven. Political intrigues, scheming and double-cross are the order of the day – as they were in the past. Last night, our friend and "fellow Gallego" Jose "Pepe" Rodriguez brought us for tapas (snacks) up and down central Madrid. We had excellent gambas and bacalao, and jamon serrano naturally, washed down with a golden Mao beer, at the Taberna La Tosta, also called La Cueva on Victoria, then passed by the Alhambra where the tiles from the Talavera de la Reina shine colorfully on the façade, and ended up in La Taurina, where, by the way, most of our own politicos, from former President FVR and Speaker Joe de V., love to go. Why? Because it is a charming, fierce, bar-restaurant dedicated to bullfighters and the corrida.

On the walls are photos of Che Guevara of Argentina and Cuba, who stuck people not bulls, plus the portrait of the latest craze, the current pop figure of the bull ring, a torero smiling like the teenage idol he is, in his traje de luces. He is known as "El Julie", derived from his name Julio. Don’t be misled by the feminine-sounding nickname. He is reputed to be all steel and macho, as he dispatches each bull with grace and ruthless efficiency. Not yet an "El Cordobes" or Manolete, but is on his way there. His life resembles that of Tyrone Power, it’s said, in the immortal movie classic Blood and Sand.

Do our politicians who pay tribute to that watering hole imagine themselves toreros, or toros? What is striking is that on the wall are the horned heads of seven ferocious bulls – they are said to have been the bravest bulls, toros bravos, indeed, in the arena. Perhaps some of them fatally gored a torero or two, or a picador and his horse to boot. I don’t understand why Americans and other Western Europeans consider the bullfight barbaric and cruel. Sometimes the bull wins, unlike the rabbit, elk, deer, or snipe, which hunters in the West pursue and gun down with impunity.

Anyway, those toros bravos heads on the wall there symbolize Spain. The "fighter" is honored, whether dead or victorious. I wish we could recapture this sense of honor coupled with courage, perseverance and resignation to fate. This was our legacy from three and a half centuries under Spanish tutelage despite, sometimes, friar misrule.

In the end, led by our middle class and some aristocrats, schooled in Spanish universities in Madrid, or Heidelberg (Germany) like Dr. Jose Rizal, or else in the Jesuit Ateneo de Manila, fought first a Propaganda Movement then a Revolution. Andres Bonifacio, a well-educated plebeian, of course, launched the fight, but was elbowed out by Emilio Aguinaldo, who was both politically astute and ruthless in the implementation of his ambitions. What’s interesting is that all our revolutionaries imbibed the liberal and democratic ideas that were putting Spain herself into ferment in the 19th century and, in a sense, were inspired by them to rebel against the colonial master. Our Spanish heritage remains firmly embedded in our souls. I wish, though, we could recapture the steel of character and the Hispanic virtues (there, too, were grievous faults) which underpinned the actions and reactions of our revolutionary forebears and our founding fathers – honrata, palabra de honor, delicadeza and religious conviction.

* * *

Here in Madrid, as I write, the sun is shining. It is a glorious day, described as maravillosa. We have gotten another reprieve from the gusts of late autumn and the onslaught of chill that comes with approaching winter. They call this sunny interlude of Indian Summer, I’Invierno de San Miguel. Why does San Miguel get credited or blamed for everything, even our finest beer? We flew back from Bilbao in the Basque country in just 40 minutes on a swift Airbus A-320 of Iberia, the national airline. One thing I must report: The airport in Bilbao was far superior to our own NAIA-1, resembles the still mothballed Terminal-3, and is better than even our more modern PAL "Centennial" Terminal 3.

Eskadi, a.k.a. Biskaia, the Basque province, it must be said, on the other hand, was once Number One, the richest "province" of Spain. Now, for all its outward trappings of progress, it is now only Number Seven. This is because of ETA terrorism. Let us not permit this kind of terrorism to destroy our own country’s economy, too, as it is already doing. We have to fight them without remorse. We cannot give quarter to those who show neither compassion nor understanding in their turn.

* * *

The move in the House of Representatives to impeach no less than the Chief Justice, the Hon. Hilario Davide Jr., looks serious. It now goes up to the Senate. This hubbub reveals the ferment afflicting our society and provoking a deleterious climate of cynicism. I hear that the President is trying to contact Fernando (Ronnie) Poe Jr. to head off the possible "coming" announcement of his candidacy on November 1. As for Gabby Lopez, our friend, he’s still resentful of past harassment, and has been resisting invitations dispatched through mutual friends for a meeting with GMA.

Election fever is already in the air – alas – and it’s only October, 2003. In Spain, the elections will be in March, 2004 – but they’re already positioning themselves, too.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved