Congress leadership fights as political porn CMFR.org

Congress leadership fights as political porn Featured

ON the heels of the recently concluded midterm elections another political circus has come to town. We are never given a respite. But looking from another’s point of view, it never ceases to entertain us. It is often said that in the Philippines, political circuses have been elevated to the equivalent of pornography. We watch disgusted, not as actors or participants, but in some way fascinated by the spectacle laid before us. And the mere act of watching fuels the supply. And we barely have a choice as the tri-media are drawn to it like moths to a lamp. And social media has of late been initiating the dissemination of these phenomena encompassing everyone with a device attached to the internet, including the masses, through the veritable but almost passé word of mouth.

This current political porn is played out by certain types of politicians not for sexual arousal but purely for personal excitement in pursuit of power. I refer to the porn stars now parading themselves to public scrutiny but directed mostly toward an audience of one — the President himself.

These are the winning politicians now gunning for the two most powerful positions after the presidency: Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) and President of the Senate. These two positions are the most prestigious and power-laden in the government hierarchy. Ranking only third in succession after the vice president who holds no power except only when the president is incapacitated or dead.

Congress has the power of the purse and technically controls the flow of monies — that in effect fuels the lifeblood of governance. The top honchos of each chamber therefore could have the handle on the levers of power — if we define political power as the ability to influence the course of events, their logical and desired outcomes and the behavior of the citizenry through the crafting of laws towards the overall health of the nation.

In our republican democratic system imposed on us through a century of American tutelage, Congress is one of the three branches of government, which, along with the judiciary and the presidency, provide the mechanism for checks and balances to maintain proper governance and the oneness of the nation.

Offhand, with the expressed and constitutionally protected powers of Congress, it could be perceived to be potentially more powerful than the presidency itself. The power to pass any law and appropriate any amount and the power to create any position in government; these are not within the powers of the presidency. Congress even has the power to remove a sitting president. But as advanced by Ross Cohen, an American history and political scientist, “… [the power of] Congress is fragmented. The President is not as powerful as the Congress in many respects, but his/her power is concentrated. It creates a unique balance of power that ensures no one person or institution ever becomes too powerful for too long, while still enabling a strong central government to react to the needs of the day without getting too far from the will of the people. This is the genius of the US Constitution”.

The Philippine experience is somewhat different from that of America’s almost 400 years of practice. The Philippine president has over the decades taken more powers from Congress and the unitary-presidential system has reinforced and centralized power in the presidency, all conveniently protected by the 1987 Constitution. In some ways congressional powers have been castrated although the positions of House speaker and Senate president are still residually very powerful. A caveat, however, is that they must be allied to the president and must have his support. The president’s web of alliances is extensive in both houses and the presidency’s tentacles reach out to the dynasties in the local government units (LGU). And it is the dynasty that gets a congressman enthroned.

More especially in the lower house, with its large numbers, the anointment of the president is a sine qua non for the speakership. Thus, the obsequious demeanor of the leading contenders towards the president and his very traditionally politicized family. We have the sorry display therefore of former speaker Bebot Alvarez who. despite a fresh electoral mandate after vanquishing his political foes allied to the president’s daughter, had to display mendicancy toward Sara, who in the first place was instrumental in his dethronement. Seeking a reconciliation, he was rebuffed. Now playing lamely to the first family, he declared that he was “giving up his ambition” if the president’s newly elected congressman son Polong desires the speakership.

We have Lord Velasco, a young but hard-nosed politician who went through two political parties, Lakas-Kampi-CMD and NUP but jumped to the winning PDP Laban and now parlaying a close relationship to the president’s family as his launching pad.

Reportedly leading the wannabees with 153 endorsement from his peers is the darling of the oligarchy and an old hand in Congress and scion of a political family, congressman-elect Martin Romualdez, of the Romualdez-Marcos clan. These last two contenders could sustain the contest with sufficient funds as the fight could become expensive, shamelessly buying congressional votes — as intimated by Alvarez. But in the end, it will be the Deegong’s imprimatur that counts.

It’s a little bit different at the Senate as there are only a few members, and therefore they must work out as a collegial body relying on negotiation and compromise. But the President’s nod is still a valuable asset what with the current set of new faces from the President’s coterie. The importance of the Senate is that it could be a stepping-stone to the presidency. So far in the storied history of both houses, only Ferdinand Marcos, Senate president in 1963-1965, made it to the presidency. None from the speakership (Ramon Mitra, Joe de Venecia and Manny Villar) who vied for the presidency.

So, the skeptics among us can deduce that aside from prestige and residual powers, in a corruptible unitary-presidential system, the speakership and senate presidency must be immensely lucrative. Thus, the frenetic kowtowing to the one true power that can grant them their wishes.

But the last three years of Deegong’s term call for him to be above himself, to be a statesman and be presidential. He must therefore choose the Congress leaders who could partner with him truly to advance his agenda — real systemic reforms and changes through the revision of the 1987 Constitution. He must confront the reality of his situation and must rise above the chaos produced by those jockeying for power. For indeed, these skirmishes today are simply a prelude to the next political power construct. And if he is to leave his legacy, then he has to reorient his agenda and implement the details of his strategy for change — his iconic pagbabago!

Or he will forever remain in the minds of his constituency and the coming generations as that colorful outsider, a promdi, dirty-mouthed, God-cursing politician whose vaunted political will in the end amounts to nothing more that hubris.

As a Davaoeño, I pray he is not that.

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Read 224 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 June 2019 15:35
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