As you proably know, in the past week, the Philippines has had a second “People Power” revolt, and the President, Joseph Estrada, was removed from office. I have had a personal interest in the Philippines for many years, and my response to these events was one of relief and happiness.
But today, I was reading a leader in The Economist that caused me to think. They wrote: “Mr. Estrada is no loss … But there is much to regret in the manner of his passing, which serves as a reminder of how far the Philippines still has to go before it can be regarded as a nation of laws, not of man.” The article pointed out the following things:
- What happened was actually a bloodless coup;
- The prescribed constitutional means for removing Mr. Estrada, did not do so;
- The events legitimized the interference with the army in politics, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the former Vice-President who is now President knows that the army essentially put her in power; and
- Mr. Estrada has never formally resigned.
The reason impeachment failed was that Mr. Estrada’s allies in the Philippines Senate refused to allow into evidence documents proving his guilt.
What is a democrat to do? When democractic means fail to get the right result, are undemocratic means acceptable? Let’s transfer this to the U.S. and give a hyperbolic hypothetical. The President of the United States is caught on tape ordering the assasination of a political opponent. He is impeached, but the Senate, controlled by his party, refuses to convict him. Should the Joint Chiefs of Staff go to the President and say that, in good conscience, we can no longer obey your orders, and that you should resign?
I honestly don’t know the answer to this, and I don’t know what else the Philippines could have done. Any thoughts would be appreciated.