POSTSCRIPT / May 28, 2019 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Inform the people, they’ll understand

THE SIGHT of President Duterte struggling to stand and keep his step steady as Commander-in-Chief before graduating cadets of the Philippine Military Academy last Sunday should help convince Malacañang to level with the people on his state of health.

Everybody gets sick. There is no stigma to anyone – including a tough-talking leader — being treated for an ailment, being confined, or undergoing a procedure. Our guess is that Filipinos being a sympathetic and prayerful lot would wish him well if the President confided in them.

The anxiety and the rumors triggered by the sight of President Duterte not looking well after being out of the public eye for a week could have been managed better, we think, if the people knew more or less what was going on.

With secrecy shrouding his condition, there would again be speculation – much of it unkind – if he proceeds to Japan this week to join fellow leaders of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) for the Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia set May 30-31. When will the wild guessing end?

With his continued hold on the supermajority of the House of Representatives and his sweep of the 12 remaining Senate seats in the May 13 midterm elections, he and his handlers – if they believe the poll results — should not doubt his popular support regardless of his state of health.

In fact, depending on the presentation, his being bothered by some ailments requiring periodic checkup, something like a car’s regular preventive maintenance, could be used to consolidate sympathy for him.

As we said here on May 23, nature abhors a vacuum. When a low-pressure area develops out at sea, the surrounding air rushes in to fill the near-vacuum, often generating a destructive typhoon or hurricane. Hide the truth about the President, create a news vacuum – and you reap a whirlwind of ugly rumors.

Let us not play in the dark. If the President’s condition is really worrisome, the smart player should look for a way to open his cards in calculated sequence. Refusing to open them at all would be disastrous. Somebody or something might overturn the table.

The President’s lawyers should not shackle themselves to a “serious illness-only” situation when they invoke Section 12 of Article VII (“In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.”) to justify their classifying his medical condition as a state secret.

The framers of the 1987 Constitution inserted that section precisely because they did not want a repeat of the macabre scenario of Marcos attempting to govern from his sickbed through his unelected heirs or minions.

If President Duterte is truly loved by the people, he should not find it difficult to confide to them. Tell them, so they will understand. Do not let them get sucked into an information vacuum whose devastating rage will simmer down only when the balance, or justice, is restored.

 Party-list concept subverted

WHEN time permits, you may want to go through the list of 51 Party-list groups to whom the Commission on Elections awarded, after proclaiming them on May 22 as winners, the 61 PL seats in the House.

Your strong opinion will be needed when the Party-list concept is reviewed in view of its having opened a back door through which political dynasties, vested interests, moneyed lobbyists and obviously unqualified groups have sneaked dubious PL members into the House.

Section 5(2), Article VI (Legislative Department) says that PL representatives shall constitute 20 percent of the total number of congressmen, and that they shall be drawn “from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.”

Legislators and their accomplices promoting their own interests have taken advantage of that “as may be provided by law” phrase by passing legislation subverting the constitutional intent.

In fairness to legitimate PLs in the House, however, most of them with well-defined advocacies are doing a good job giving a face, voice and hope to their underrepresented or marginalized sectors.

The regular congressional districts are based on area and population, and do not cut through geographical lines, but a look at the present winners shows that a bulk of their votes were drawn from areas identified with their nominees or where their advocacies have taken root.

A partial listing made by Rappler showed that a big slice of the votes of topnotcher ACT-CIS, as well as such radical groups as Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers and Kabataan was won from non-contiguous areas.

Other sectors that benefited from spreading their vote sources include new and established groups such as 1Pacman, Anakalusugan, BH (Bagong Henerasyon), Buhay, Cibac, Duterte Youth, Kabayan, Kalinga, Magdalo, Magsasaka, Manila Teachers’, Patrol, RAM, Senior Citizens, and TGP.

The phenomenon of PL groups drawing votes from defined bailiwicks was also noted by Rappler in the case of Abono, 93.6 percent of whose votes came from the locos Region. Its first two nominees are from La Union and Pangasinan.

Other PL groups listed as having won heavy votes from regions or provinces, instead  of sectors, include: AAMBIS-OWA – Western Visayas (Iloilo); Abang Lingkod – Western Visayas (Negros Occidental); AGAP – Calabarzon (Batangas); Ako Bicol – Bicol Region; Ako Bisaya – Central Visayas (Cebu); Alona – Calabarzon (Quezon): AMIN – BARMM; An Waray – Eastern Visayas; CWS – Caraga; Dumper PTDA – Davao Region (Davao Occidental); GP – Central Luzon (Nueva Ecija); Kusug Tausug – BARMM (Sulu); LPGMA – Cagayan Valley (Isabela); OFW Family – Soccsksargen (Sarangani and South Cotabato); PBA – Davao Region (Davao del Sur); and Tingog Sinirangan – Eastern Visayas (Leyte).

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 28, 2019)

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