POSTSCRIPT / June 17, 2001 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Finally, the people have authentic representatives

WE’RE excited about the opening of the next Congress with three party-list representatives of Bayan Muna taking their place among 200-plus congressmen.

As far as we are concerned, activists Satur Ocampo, Crispin Beltran and Lisa Masa — the congressmen-nominees of Bayan Muna — will be the people’s watchdogs.

Many times, we have elected people who we thought (or hoped) would represent our interests in Congress, only to discover later that they had betrayed us and pursued their own agenda or sold out to the lobby or their paying clients.

* * *

OUR faith is steadfast that Satur & Company will not sell out like most of them in the past. They cannot sell out, not after the people pushed them to the top of the party-list winning column with an unprecedented 15 percent of the votes.

With all of us keeping vigil with them, the Bayan Muna team will be the people’s authentic representatives.

They will be the “sumbungan ng bayan.” From now on, when we smell something rotten in Congress, or elsewhere in government, we go running to them to make “sumbong.”

Finally, we see a glimmer of hope in that dingy building near the garbage dump.

* * *

PEOPLE must be that desperate to suggest that since the government is on a privatization binge, selling juicy profit centers to salivating cronies, we might as well privatize Congress too.

Of course we cannot privatize Congress as it performs vital governmental functions.

But if our lawmakers are listening, the suggestion, a recurring one, speaks of the growing mistrust that people have of those they have elected to represent them in the legislature.

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IT seems at this point that Pangasinan congressman-elect Jose de Venecia, the ultimate traditional politician, is on his way back to being the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Except when the House is in the hands of the opposition, which it is not this time, the assumption is that a leading congressman becomes Speaker only with the anointment of Malacañang.

In short, people will assume that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and De Venecia have sealed a deal roughly saying that Arroyo has chosen De Venecia and the latter has pledged House support for Malacañang’s legislative agenda.

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ANOTHER reason why a President should make sure the House (also the Senate) is in safe hands is that the House is not only the source of appropriation measures but also of impeachment charges.

As the whole world knows, impeachment has nothing to do with verified facts but with sheer numbers. If at least a third of all members of the House vote for impeachment, impeachment it will be.

It follows that the Senate, which hears impeachment charges, must also be controlled by a majority sympathetic to the President.

With deposed President Erap Estrada still smarting from his aborted impeachment and his loyalists spoiling for a grudge fight, GMA must make sure she has the numbers in both chambers.

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THE disturbing question among GMA originals is: Will an association with a certified trapo in the House be bad for GMA?

If GMA’s only concern is to have her pet measures passed, then De Venecia – the consummate wheeler-dealer — is the right choice.

But the President cannot win them all. To have a compliant House, will GMA be willing to lose points by being seen as a partner of a De Venecia?

The President can always say that the House in an independent body, that she does not meddle in its internal affairs, and that De Venecia is on his own. But nobody believes that spiel anymore.

* * *

WHILE many congressmen welcome De Venecia the way kids would do Santa Claus, many plain folk we’ve talked with actually fear the return of De Venecia to the top post and the pantry of the House.

We get the impression from them that they find him too smart for comfort.

It may not be fair for people to think of him in that light, but that’s the way it is in this world of mirrors. We see and know people only from their reflections. Hardly anybody knows anybody from the core anymore.

Unfortunately for JoeDeV, reality may not always correspond to the image, but that’s the way this grotesque world turns.

* * *

BUT if it is not or should not be De Venecia as Speaker, who should it be?

We’re not suggesting any name.

That’s the leadership problem facing the House which is spilling over to Malacañang. That cavernous chamber seems to have gone barren.

* * *

IN contrast, the smaller chamber (not “upper chamber,” please) of Congress seems to have a bumper crop of potential Senate presidents.

Over there, they have Nene Pimentel the effective incumbent, Edgardo Angara who once held the post with distinction, Franklin Drilon who was also at the helm one time, Joker Arroyo a newcomer but an old favorite of the gallery, and Juan Flavier the small giant who could “doh” anytime.

The senators could avoid a divisive vote by just raffling off the top post among these five gentlemen — and they would be in good hands whoever wins it.

* * *

LIKE Asiong Salonga, Ate Glo has been beaten black and blue by the Abu Sayyaf toughies in the Basilan neighborhood. And like Asiong toward the end of the story, she should come out da winnah.

The lopsided story has run too long and has so built up, if GMA handlers have not noticed it yet, that the irate viewers are already screaming for blood.

The stage is now set for GMA to do almost anything, fair or foul, to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf from the face of the earth forever — and be assured of the cheers, not jeers, of the impatient crowd.

At this point, Madam President, the end would justify the means.

And beyond that point, Ma’am, there is no excuse for failure.

* * *

AS soon as Congress gets organized, it should coordinate with Malacañang about a possible Constitutional Convention to rewrite the charter.

If that’s not done right way, we would have to wait till after the 2010 presidential elections, assuming this nation is still around by that time.

Even without poring over the substantive provisions, a reading of the Constitution will convince anybody who has respect for the language that the document needs rewriting, or editing as we would say in our business.

The charter is wordy, the type that a seasoned editor would throw back to whoever wrote it. It could be boiled down to at least two thirds of its present length, and given a dash of style, without losing any of its substance.

* * *

BUT a rewriting of the Constitution must not result in the deletion of provisions banning political dynasties and private armies.

The bans are explicit orders of the Constitution, but the Congress controlled by the dynasties and the warlords have blocked for the past 13 years (!) all moves to pass enabling laws to carry out the prohibitions.

If we don’t watch close enough while they tinker with the charter, they might delete those provisions altogether.

Also, to ease suspicion that somebody is trying to pull a fast one, all provisions on terms and the scheduling of elections must not be touched.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 17, 2001)

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