“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”