The Long View
The phoney war
To creatively reuse that well-known and well-worn Zen riddle, what is the sound of one chamber clapping? Constitutionally speaking, it’s silence. It’s meaningless.
For all the political flatulence that took place in the House of Representatives Tuesday night, it would do us well to think of our undistinguished reprehensibles as reenacting Lord Raglan’s Light Brigade as it made its famous charge in the Crimea in 1854. Watching the British charge to their death, the French Marshal Pierre Francoise Joseph Bosquet remarked, “It is magnificent, but it isn’t war.”
To be sure, it is easy to be upset over the way the Frankenstein majority in the “Bastusan Pambansa” stomped on the pipsqueak minority to pass House Resolution 1109. However, what transpired in the House was nothing more than a manifestation of the crude sentiments of the Frankenstein majority: they are entitled to their opinion. But the public is, too.
While the media were caught napping by the goings-on in the House, enough citizens made the effort to follow what was going on, to get angry and indignant over the late-night majority fart fest.
So yes, even if the sound of one chamber clapping is silence, it still stank to high heavens because of the “fartyness” of the ruling party. The question, though, is whether irritation over the alimentary crudity of the House majority’s actions should trigger a pell-mell response from the public.
A kind of charge of the Light Brigade – indignant citizens, filled with bravado but doomed to fail, galloping hell-for-leather straight into the chambers of the Supreme Court – is precisely what the Frankenstein majority wants.
Sober legal observers, like professor Teddy Te counsel that running to the Supreme Court would play right into the Frankenstein majority’s paws, because from Day One the majority has growled that all it wants is to present a cause for a “justiciable controversy” in the courts.
Whether or not the Supremes would actually tailor-fit a decision to suit the Frankenstein majority is beside the point; since politics is perception, the perception that would be fueled by the Supremes actually tackling a complaint concerning the House’s constitutional flatulence would provide the Frankenstein majority with a legal deodorant. You see, it will declare, we didn’t fart. We smell like roses.
This is the dilemma confronting the Senate, for one. No one wants to be the Oliver Lozano of this issue, although the lesson of the past few years is that even if Oliver Lozano isn’t around, someone would invent one. Ask Roel Polido.
The House could have called the Senate’s bluff and passed a proper bill, proposing a constitutional convention every bit as open-ended as HR 1109 is. Instead it is proposing nothing but an excuse to get the Supreme Court to say the House, if it has the numbers, can ignore the Senate in proposing amendments.
That’s what’s wrong with what the Frankenstein majority did on Tuesday. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with proposing amendments, except that the House hasn’t proposed any amendments. What it has proposed is that it can go it alone, never mind if public opinion and our experience with bicameralism for generations says this is impossible.
And yet, the Frankenstein majority pleads for the issue to be joined, saying it is undemocratic and even cowardly to back off from fighting it out. But it is a phoney war the Frankenstein majority wants to fight.
I’m not saying indignation is misplaced, or that we should just shrug off what took place in the House. But as Napoleon Bonaparte advised, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
So what should we do? Between now and July, the Frankenstein majority should be subjected to a rigorous quarantine. It should be ignored, legally; isolated, socially; left to its own devices, politically.
It wants a justiciable controversy? Let no one do them the favor, though there’s always the risk some paid hack of a lawyer will do so; but at least no one with even the tiniest bit of credibility did the majority any favor.
They think we won’t make noise? Let’s make noise – a lot of it! – but not in the manner and along the lines expected by the House.
They want to prove they’re the biggest party? They want to be proven powerful? Their Frankenstein majority is not the people by any stretch of the imagination.
Then let’s simply refuse to break bread with any majority congressman, and decline to attend events at which they appear. They’re powerless to get us to even shake their hands. Let us ostracize them, for once. For much smaller sins the British are booing their members of parliament in public and throwing stones through their windows.
An appropriate message is one Douglas MacArthur famously quipped: “We are not retreating, we are advancing in another direction.” Instead of the streets, why not directly to congressmen’s doorsteps or faces?
We can make that direction a positive one: that the rule of the real majority must prevail. Support efforts to get the young to register so they can vote. Keep public pressure on the Comelec to do its job. Insist that issues of real public concern get discussed by those who want to be national and local candidates come 2010. And yes, by all means, demand that candidates and parties clearly express their stand on the issue of constitutional amendments.
Most of all, head in the direction of informing more of our friends and acquaintances of the issues involved in Charter change, so that whatever the President and her Frankenstein majority plan and hope to accomplish between now, July, and beyond, they will be confronted by an inflexible public opinion that sends a single message, loud and clear.