JDV was a La Sallite before he became an ewok!!

December 13, 2006

Shame on you, Joe

By Antonio C. Abaya

Written Dec. 10, 2006

For the Standard Today,

December 12 issue

For sheer gall and shameless chutzpah, nothing can beat the Lower House’s maneuver last Tuesday, Dec. 5, when it changed one of its own rules, House Rule no. 15, and replaced it with another that would make it easier to railroad a constituent assembly through the House, without the participation of the Senate.

By a vote of 161 to 25, the Lower House struck down House Rule no. 15, which states: “The adoption of resolutions proposing amendments to or revisions of the Constitution shall follow the procedure for the enactment of bills.” Meaning, constitutional amendments or revisions must, like proposed bills, be approved by both Houses of Congress before they are submitted to the President for signature and promulgated into law.

In its place, the Lower House rushed the following in the wee hours of the morning: “Proposals to amend or revise the Constitution shall be by a resolution which may be filed at any time by any member.”

Such as, for example, voting for a resolution that binds the whole Congress, but without the participation of the Senate. Such as, for example, convening itself into a constituent assembly or Con-Ass, better and more appropriately known as Congressmen’s Asses, which we the citizens of this unfortunate country are expected to kiss without question or complaint..

For all practical purposes, the Senate has ceased to exist, as far as the administration congressmen and women are concerned. The Senate has been made redundant and irrelevant even before it has been officially abolished.

“Tonight’s vote is a historic and overwhelming vote for reform,” crowed House Speaker Jose de Venecia, one of the chief architects of a shift to the parliamentary, federal and unicameral form of government, and the Machiavellian genius behind this congressional coup.

It was none of the above. It was, rather, a historic and overwhelming vote for naked and brazen self-interest. Shame on you, Joe!

There was the self-interest of the rank-and-file trapos, inside and outside Congress, who, without having to spend a peso for re-election, would get an extra five months in power, if the May 2007 elections were postponed to November 2007, or three years, if those elections were done away with completely, in favor of parliamentary elections in May 2010.

And, in addition, there would be no term limits to cramp their style. Having failed in their bid to amend the Constitution through a People’s Initiative (which was mercifully shot down by the Supreme Court), the trapos were banking on a constituent assembly or Con-Ass, without the killjoy Senate, to install themselves and their families in power virtually forever.

Then there was the self-interest of Jose de Venecia, the quintessential trapo, who wants so terribly, terribly much to become head-of-government, but who knows he has no chance of winning in a presidential election. (In 1998, he got only 17% of the votes, compared to Erap’s winning 39%.)

And, finally, there was the self-interest of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who wants to remain in power, as prime minister, beyond 2010, when her presidential term expires.(See my articles Prime Minister Gloria? of May 17, 2005, and GMA Forever? of March 28, 2006, both archived in http://www.tapatt.org).

This convergence of self-interests is what the ChaChaCha is all about, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Party politics is a convergence of self-interests as individuals band together to pursue a common political agenda.

But when naked self-interest is made to run roughshod over all other considerations, to the point of even re-writing rules just to accommodate that self-interest, then there is something rotten in the state of the Batasan, and it stinks to high heavens. This is the real putrefying ULAP: Umaasang Laging naka-Angkla sa Poder.

But, the Con-Asses insist, this was democracy in action. It was approved by a vote of 161 to 25. It was democracy in action in the same sense that elections in communist countries were democracy in action, in which the Communist Party candidates always got 99.5% of the votes, there being little or no opposition brave enough to oppose it.

(The latest chapter in this sordid affair is that President Arroyo and Jose de Venecia have retreated on the Con-Ass bid, in the face of outraged opposition to it from a widening swathe of public opinion. Instead JdV has given the Senate a 72-hour ultimatum to come up with a resolution proposing to amend the Constitution via its preferred mode, a Constitutional Convention or Con-Con.

(But why a 72-hour ultimatum? Why the fevered rush to ChaCha, even after the failed people’s initiative, after the failed Con-Ass?

(Obviously because the clock is ticking away on JdV’s consuming ambition to become prime minister in 2007, and on the equally consuming ambition of GMA to remain in power beyond 2010. Was it Shakespeare or Attila the Hun who said, “Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.”?) .

Mike Velarde, the head of the El Shaddai religious sect, a man whom I am not in the habit of showering praises on, is to be congratulated for taking the initiative in publicly denouncing the Senate-less Con-Ass maneuver of JdV and his trapos.

Said Mike last Dec. 5: “The people won’t allow it, and I, for one will be openly against it,” as he warned that a Con-Ass without the participation of the Senate would create a constitutional crisis. Velarde wisely warned that JdV and his trapos should leave the task of amending the Constitution to the next Congress to be elected next year. He favors a properly elected constitutional convention or Con-Con as the proper mechanism for constitutional changes..

Velarde’s initiative in denouncing the Con-Asses and their dirty game has started what looks like an avalanche of protest from other groups. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, led by its president, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo; the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, a Protestant umbrella organization; the Bangon Pilipinas and the Jesus is Lord movement of Evangelist Eddie Vilanueva; and other organizations are sharpening their fangs and have signified their intention to join a massive anti-Con-Ass rally in the Luneta on Dec. 17. Even the conservative Makati Business Club has added its voice to the chorus of protests.

This looks like People Power Revisited, and President Arroyo and JdV and their band of salivating trapos can ignore it only at their own peril. This promises to be bigger and more sustained than the anti-GMA demos of July 2005 and February 2006, which failed to excite the middle class because they were clearly orchestrated by the trapos of Joseph Estrada and the Communist movement, whom the middle class have neither sympathy with nor affinity for..

If Mike Velarde’s El Shaddai, Archbishop Lagdameo’s CBCP, Villanueva’s JIL, the Protestants’ NCCP, and the other participating organizations can keep their protest action essentially non-trapo and non-Communist, the prospects of attracting the middle class to join it would be better than good, and with it the possibility of rejuvenating this demoralized country with a much needed moral and social revolution. *****

A PERSONAL NOTE. Joe de Venecia and I were batch mates in the Ateneo de Manila College of Arts and Sciences, Class of ’55. At that time, the Ateneo had two parallel liberal arts program.

Those of us who came from the Ateneo High School and thus had had four years of Latin were funneled into the AB program (Bachelor of Arts, also known as Ahente ng Baboy or Ahente ng Babae), where two more years of Latin were required. Our Honors section, of which I was not bright enough to be a member, was also required to do one year of Classical Greek.

Those who came from other high schools and thus had no background in Latin – JdV came from La Salle – were enrolled in the BS program (Bachelor of Science, also known, not surprisingly, as Bullshit), which did not require any Latin at all. But we attended common classes in junior and senior years in our chosen fields of specialization, which was Journalism for JdV and I.

Half a century ago, JdV was already the glad-handing, back-slapping, smooth-talking, ever effusive politiko that everyone recognizes him to be . His remarkable career has proven at least one thing: you don’t need Latin to become Speaker of the House. Or Prime Minister.

But the brazenness of his Con-Ass maneuver took me completely by surprise. As it did everyone else. Perhaps he learned it in La Salle. *****

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