The Long View: Assassination with a smile

Assassination with a smile
First posted 01:15am (Mla time) April 03, 2006
By Manuel L. Quezon III

THEY SAY IF YOU PUT A FROG IN A PAN OF COLD water and put the pan on a lit stove, the frog won’t notice what’s going on until it has been boiled to death. With all the croaking of delight going on in the House of Representatives, the biggest bullfrog of them all, Speaker Jose de Venecia, doesn’t know what’s happening to him, that his political prospects are being boiled slowly, and he’s dying with a smile. He’s also being killed with a smile: and no one has a bigger smile, I’m sure, than the “Hulk Hogan” of the President, Rep. Prospero Pichay.

Let’s go down the list of what the members of the House can look forward to-then ask: At the end of the day, who will be able to claim credit for making so many congressional dreams come true? The Speaker, or the President?

Today, it’s a three-year term for three terms, after which a House member has to give way to wife, husband, brother, son, nephew, niece, or brother-in-law and so on. Under the proposed constitution, it will be a five-year term, with no limits on the number of terms. No sharing required. Fewer elections needed. Who will be able to claim credit for the delightful reduction in campaign expenses, and as iron-clad a guarantee of job security as can be in politics? The Speaker, who hasn’t even been able to muster the 195 signatures for Charter change he had bragged about, or the President, who has been issuing marching orders to governors who are also salivating at the prospect of “no term limits” and of one “extra term,” election-free?

And who has made possible the dawn of the Age of Amendments? The Speaker, or the President? Like Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story,” the congressional slogan is: “To infinity-and beyond!” But who laid down the tracks, secured the locomotives? Who is now manning the control room in the Charter change express? The Speaker, or the President in cooperation with her interior secretary?

Donald Dee and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries might complain? Jose Abueva displeased that federalism is not moving or mutating? Who co-opted them and made them pliable? Was it the Speaker, or the President?

The media might catch the House members increasing their pork barrel or further bloating their allowances? The public might care? An audit might ensue? Who implied an audit of the expenditures of the current House leadership might be in order? The Speaker? No, he would be the primary target of a politically inconvenient audit of funds. Wasn’t it Pichay who hinted at such a possibility? Who can say? But those politically-in-the-know claim this was the not-so-subtle message given when Pichay made a gambit for the speakership. Of course, the gambit bombed-but then, that wasn’t the real purpose of the gambit, was it? And to whom is Pichay loyal? The Speaker, or the President?

Who is laying out the exciting possibility that never again will an elected representative have to be responsible to anything larger than the immediate domains of his district? Whatever emerges from Charter change-strong or decorative president, strong or weak prime minister, but always and forever a unicameral parliament-never again will the national have a say in the local. So what if there is a CBCP? It’s national. Individual bishops are easier to co-opt. What politician will ever have to fear the clout of the Iglesia ni Cristo? In every district, Ka Erdie Manalo will merely be as important as any other minority group head-which is to say, unimportant at all. Who cares if there’s an Integrated Bar of the Philippines? For every IBP member there are scores of other lawyers to keep on the other side. And the media? Let them report and say what they want; there can’t be national consequences anyway, since there will be no nationally elected positions.

In the district, the national doesn’t matter; and even if it does, who will dare bring up what a national organization says before the local kingpin? What the kingpin wants, the kingpin gets, and with only a few hundred thousand at most to deal with per district, each kingpin won’t have to care what the surveys say. Who is poised to make such a political paradise possible? The Speaker? But where was Charter change before the President came along? Neither the Speaker nor former President Ramos managed to put it on a running train; and now Ramos has been shown to be out-of-touch and no longer in command. Who, by the way, managed to cut FVR down to size? The Speaker, or the President?

Which also means: having reduced FVR to simply the eldest member of the administration’s Hallelujah Chorus, isn’t the Speaker pretty much the same thing, now? And who has done that? Certainly not the Speaker. He wanted it done by means of his beloved fellow congressmen leading a charge uphill against the Senate. They haven’t managed to do that. Who is outflanking and outmaneuvering the Senate? Not the Speaker. If not the Speaker, then who? The President. With a little help from her friends.

Who will you talk to, if you want the President’s ear? The Speaker? Take note: for whom do the congressmen make a beeline on the session floor: the President’s son. Watch who keeps a watchful eye in committee hearings: Pichay.

The twinkle in their eyes, the jauntiness of their steps, the happy anticipation in their bellies, if not in their loins: the thrill of the congressmen awaiting their magical transformation into assemblymen; the happy thrill of mayors and governors who can stay in office forever, with a direct line to the Palace; who is responsible for so much political happiness? The Speaker? No. Ask any of the about-to-be blessed, and they will say they’re happy because “GMA Cares.” And when she stops caring for the Speaker, what then? What is the sound of an ex-Speaker screaming? Political silence.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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