The Long View: Crucible of solidarity


Crucible of solidarity

 / 05:22 AM September 20, 2017

When the Makabayan bloc bolted the ruling coalition in the House of Representatives, the drama of their decision was tempered by a continuing reality: their comrades in the National Anti-Poverty Commission, Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, as well as the under- and assistant secretaries and consultants in the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Labor and Employment, and Department of Agrarian Reform remain firmly ensconced in the same executive branch their House colleagues now take turns condemning. One of their own even joined the executive, the announcement of Luz Ilagan’s appointment by President Duterte being announced that same day.

But what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander as the old saying goes. The Liberal Party (LP), for its part, also remains half-in and half-out. In the beginning, it chose to be part of the ruling coalition both in the House and the Senate. Just as it took the President to wink and nudge some of his more prominent radical appointees out of their offices (thanks to the Commission on Appointments and the twin innovations of the three strikes and you’re out, and secret voting when it comes to presidential appointments), it took the administration’s eviction of LP senators from their committee chairmanships to make them stand up against the administration as a bloc. So far, the Liberals haven’t been forced to do likewise, and so they remain part of the ruling House coalition. In that sense, Makabayan congressmen demonstrated a swifter recovery of their convictions.

From the start, the ruling House coalition managed to create both an overwhelming majority but also, a pliable official minority in the manner that Marcos, once upon a time, had his “Marcos Liberals” even as he was already president of the Nacionalista Party (NP). Every administration, bar none, enjoys a majority in the House on the convenient but strange belief that the winning president possesses a near-total mandate from the people — and who are representatives to buck what the people have decided? What is rather unique, though, is the creation of a kind of company union which is what the official minority is.

Then again, as Thomas “The Boss” B. Reed — one-time Speaker of the US House in the early 1900s — once put it: “The best system is to have one party govern and the other party watch.” Whatever one thinks of the compromised nature of both the LP and the Reds, the fact that their choices have caused irritation with their supporters and allies suggests their continued relevance. No one, for example, is wasting time or breath figuring where groups like Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, NP, Lakas, Kampi, National Unity Party, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, Nationalist People’s Coalition etc., stand because their stand is at once immovable and eternal: they are the components of the Coalition of the Willing of whoever happens to be in the Palace.

What they have are convergent interests, as shown by proposals in both the Palace and the House, aimed at bringing this coalition closer to its collective dream of a unicameral parliament free of messy national elections because the public possessing a direct vote to choose a chief executive who then fills Cabinet posts congressmen would love to have for themselves. Why, they’ll even gladly extend the President’s term to 2025 (last week’s Palace-sponsored proposal by Lito Lorenzana) or dissolve themselves and hand him legislative powers for a time (as laid out in the draft constitution filed by Reps. Aurelio Dong Gonzales Jr. and Eugene Michael De Vera in early August), to make this possible.

The problem of blocs like Makabayan and the Liberals and other, smaller parties such as Akbayan — however pragmatic they wanted to be — is that on one hand, both the Palace and its majorities in the House and Senate have been too crude for comfort, and the party leaders belong to coalitions of their own in which public opinion matters. So they are increasingly under pressure to show some spine.

Tomorrow’s many activities, ranging from a Mass in the UP chapel, the unveiling of a monument to Jose W. Diokno at the Commission on Human Rights and a concert, to the main event which is the rally at the Luneta — under the auspices of different coalitions of varying political colors and those insistent they have no color — is demonstration of this bubbling up of public opinion. An increasingly prominent and crucial part of these efforts to come together are being led by millennials. I wouldn’t say they’re color-blind, but rather, they’re agnostic when it comes to political colors. It is causing discomfort to their elders. But it is also inspiring hope. It is forcing an accounting of past behavior and assumptions on all sides. What it is, is a challenge. Pick your event, whether it’s of Tindig Pilipinas or Movement Against Tyranny, or something else. But first things first: Take a stand.


Manuel L. Quezon III.

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