Whipping Boy

by Juan L. Mercado

“God is the most popular scapegoat for our sins,”  Mark Twain once cracked. But  in this country, as House Resolution  1109  shows, our “leaders” made  the Constitution a “whipping boy” for even neuroses.

1109 authorizes congressmen to anoint themselves as a constituent assembly (con-ass). Rewriting  the constitution, they claim, would heal our ills: from ZTE broadband and fertilizer style scams to salvaging. A new charter will usher in a “land of milk and honey”.

Like Mao’s “thousand flowers”, paid-ads by obscure groups bloomed.  They claim 1109 offers “our  country one powerful option in minimizing, if not eliminating the evil of corruption.”

Like congressmen’s speeches, the ads sweep under the rug greed, lack of integrity orunbridled ambitions. They ignore surveys that report: 63 out of every 100 Filipinos buck charter change (cha-cha) now.

But a good whipping boy “is almost as good as a solution.” So, keep your eye on politicians’  hands, not their lips.

The President’s congressman-uncle Ignacio, for example, rode shotgun over 1109 from start to finish. So did Ms. Arroyo’s sons: Representatives Dato and Juan Miguel. Did  Mommy wink?

Their clout, in the House, greased  1109 approval. It altered  Malacanang’ soundbytes.  Congress  didn’t have enough time for charter change,  Palace spokesmen chorused earlier. After 1109, Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III insists:  “The executive  can’t do anything if the constituent assembly led to charter change.”  Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

By foreign trips and selective photo ops, the President projects an above-the- fray posture.  Were you born yesterday? “The voice is the voice of Jacob.  But the hands are those of Esau.”

What’s next?  The House will send invitations to the Senate  for a joint session”, Nueva   Ecija’s  Rep. Rodolfo Antonino  says. Traditionally, the Senate is invited  as an institution.  Not  this time, Jose.  Invitations will be shoved into individual pigeonholes of 23 senators.

Why so? We’re leery  of being  rapped for “ failing to inform” the Upper House when Congressmen overhaul the charter by their lonesome,  adds Speaker Prospero Pichay.  How nice. In fact, they’ll ram through a parliamentary system, predicts former senate president .  Franklin Drilon “ This’d ensure President Arroyo’s grip as prime minister. Congressmen will mutate into members of parliament.

“Will you walk into my parlor?/  Said the spider to the fly.”, the nursery invitation read. Agreeing to vote with  congressmen  would  swamp the  Upper House ten-to-one. Thus, a unanimous  Senate  resolution  RSVPed regrets — even  before invitations  came..

A resolution can’t dismantle a constitutionally created bicameral legislature, much less replace it with a unicameral body.  “It always takes two to dance the cha-cha,”  admits the usually-rational Rep. John  Pablo  Garcia  Jr. Yet, he  sponsored  HR1109.

A bill changing the name of a barangay requires both  Senate and House to vote separately. But  for constitutional change, 1190 punches an  exception.  This is constitutional gang-rape.

“Attempted  gang rape perhaps,”   Ateneo’s constitutional scholar Joaquin  Bernas wrote. “At best, 1109 was  a solemn proclamation that the House  of  Representatives was ready to defy the Constitution.  (It’d )  push  for  revision  of  the Constitution  without cooperation of the Senate.”

Did  1109 cross  a line in the sand?  The “Hyatt Ten”  mutiny and  Cory  Aquino’s demand that President Arroyo  quit   rocked  Malacanang.   The  Catholic  Bishops  Conference  refused  to   back calls for  people to hit  the streets.

Not this time.  Those “who wish to publicly protest against 1109 should go on with their plan of mobilization,”  CBCP  president  Angel  Lagdameo  said  in a pastoral statement.  “(This would ) protect the common good and national interest. Express it in a  peaceful  nonviolent way..  ( Otherwise ). we fall into the trap that will necessitate martial law again.

“We appeal to the House of Representatives not to pursue 1109, “ the statement added   “Let the 2010 election push through…  If  there  should be Charter change,  let  it  be  after  2010 ,.via a constitutional convention  whose delegates are democratically elected by the people.”

The stakes, however, are high If 1109  succeeds, cha-cha will give  congressmen a  crack at extending their terms. It’d prolong  President  Arroyo’s lease on Malacanang, as well  her armor  of   immunity . The  First  Gentleman’s conjugal impunity will, ipso facto,  be stretched. . “Happy days  are  here again”.

Cha-cha, thru 1109, offers a good “whipping boy”.  But it guarantees  more of  the  same  oppression  by  the  same oppressors. It won’t  usher in  radical social change, so glibly promised. Hidden hunger, skewed income, joblessness, population pressure, migration military unrest, insurgency to, shoddy public services  will fester.

Will 1109 reach the Supreme Court,sooner rather than later?  It’d be a court where ajority of justices are Arroyo appointees. Will utang loob  carry the day?

Or will the justices share the vision of a Justice Hugo Black who wrote: “The constitution was not written in the sands to be washed away by each wave of (congressmen)  blown in by each successive political wind”

(E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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