The Long View: Bastusang Pambansa

Bastusang Pambansa
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Published on Page A11 of the August 10, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE ruffled “amor propio” [self-esteem] of Rep. Teddy Locsin is more understandable than the preening pride of Mikey Arroyo, but then again Locsin has always taken pains not to be lumped together with colleagues who are uncharitably viewed as halfwits by their more intellectually complete colleagues. Congressmen reportedly on the receiving end of fertilizer funds had been asked to inhibit themselves from participating in the justice committee’s impeachment hearings.

Locsin bristled at the idea of being pressured on the basis of a mere allegation — he had, after all, denounced the whole thing on the floor of the House of Representatives. Fair enough; it was an appeal, after all, made by impeachment proponents. Those who feel unfairly alluded to can always point to Mikey Arroyo, who insisted on participating in the committee hearings with all the immovable enthusiasm of a dung beetle guarding his little ball of turds. “Delicadeza” [Sense of propriety]? How quaint! How obscure! Ask Uncle Iggy.

Not that the stink will last long. In a folksy manner, the avuncular executive secretary and the absent-minded chair of the justice committee assure the country that the surviving impeachment complaint is headed for the scrap heap. Between them, they’ve come to the conclusion that the process will achieve a happy resolution within six session days. And on the seventh day, having done what bishop emeritus Nicolas Mondejar might characterize as God’s work, what happens to the congressmen? Perhaps, the pork barrel checks will be signed?

So for the well-meaning and the opposition-inclined, here’s proof positive there will be a third round of impeachment, and a fourth, and a fifth. Every year promises to provide more reasons to raise the issues yet again. To my mind, the latest cause for complaint has just been issued: Memorandum Circular No. 108, which is the same kind of the executive attack dog that Executive Order 464 was, except that it’s wearing a different collar. This “Cujo” of an executive issuance snarls, insisting that the Palace will be the judge of whether or not Congress knows what it is doing: If either chamber calls for an inquiry in aid of legislation, good little bureaucrats are supposed to report to their kind uncle, the
executive secretary, who will see if, to his mind, the hearing is called for.

Unless the hearing is called by Representatives Rodolfo Antonino, Luis Villafuerte or Prospero Pichay, there’s a fat chance permission will be granted by the Palace. Anyway, why would they want to ask questions? A cozy majority is always allergic to questions. And forget about asserting Congress’ oversight function over the executive. Doing that could trigger the executive’s maximum oversight over congressmen: the disbursal of

Woodrow Wilson, who knew a thing or two about what congresses do and how government functions, once wrote that, “The informing function of Congress should be preferred even to its legislative function.” But that was Wilson and it’s a lost cause if you start comparing a dead scholar-president to Antonino, Villafuerte, or Pichay. They’ll just point to Mikey Arroyo and smile.

Then again, the glass is better viewed half-full than half-empty. The good thing about seeing the House Committee on Justice at work is that it provides a pretty good approximation of how the parliamentary system, Philippine-style, will work — with the kind of unstoppable, unthinking solidarity of vast herds of buffaloes grazing on the plains, pausing only to poop and procreate.

Committee work will be brisk. Majorities will be solid and strong: it is all a numbers game — now, and in the parliamentary future. Today, the President signs the checks; tomorrow, it will be the same; blessed be the status quo. It wasn’t Antonino, Villafuerte, or Pichay plucked out of the House to preside over the Department of Budget and Management, after all. It was Rolando Andaya. Which says something about both the capabilities and trustworthiness of the Palace hatchet men in the House. They belong with Mikey Arroyo but nowhere actually near the cookie jar.

If Antonino, Villafuerte, or Pichay take pride in the immovability of Ms Arroyo, and if the Speaker remains equally immovable in the House, then the future of parliamentary government has been exposed, as obvious as buffalo droppings dotting the plain. The present ruling coalition, coalescing into a permanent ruling party, blessedly free of interference. For ever and ever, Amen. The buffaloes will graze, and the dung beetles
will be fruitful and multiply.

Whether the ruling party will continue to be Lakas-CMD, or end up like a cow in the intestinal track of Kampi, the objective’s obviously a one-party state, with an opposition as a kind of appendix. But then what’s wrong with seeing the future of one-party government? It’s what that ruling party is. Ask Representative Locsin, who always ends up muttering something about “thieves” when that party is mentioned.

Since that’s the way it’s going to be, I was particularly delighted by an account provided me by someone at the Bastusan complex on Tuesday. As the person and company were lining up to enter the Andaya Hall, they saw Evelyn Kilayko (one of the cheerleaders of the Palace) approach Nini Quezon Avanceña in greeting. Recounted the person who was there, after a very quick acknowledgment, Avanceña’s brow furrowed and she said, “What are you so afraid of?”

Kilayko blanched, actually took a step back and answered, “No, we’re not!”

Resolutely, Avanceña said, “But you are!”

Kilayko knew she was outdone, and so did her cohorts, because they hurriedly scooted away.

What’s to fear, indeed? They have Antonino, Villafuerte and Pichay today, and Miles Roces, the new Ernesto Maceda of Manila, for tomorrow. A glorious future!

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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