Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Philippine beauty and the beast

Since the Spirit of ’86 that had driven Marcos into exile, People Power has ensconced itself as the Great King in the wilderness of Philippine politics. As such, even if often perceived in lurking mode, it has been watchful and ever on guard, its prying and piercing eyes overhanging as Damocles’ sword upon anyone intent with fiendish or improvident essay at tyranny in the very home of the power’s modern exteriorization.

Aspiring Marcos wannabes, blindsided by avarice and ambition, and seemingly less forthright today with their contrivances and designs, will ignore the lessons of history yet aglow, and make the mistake of underrating the potency of People Power. Mark it: they’d be pushed at their wit’s end, trounced and humbled.

The cold winds of an impending tyranny are proving to be the natural inflatus, the breath of life, of the quiescent Creature, and already the mere stirring of its becoming is unleashing a virtual tsunami that need not materialize to actually inundate the House of sin. But men (and women) love power. Recalcitrant and the promise of domination irresistible, they’ll continue to taunt the Sovereign’s fury.

This is apparently what has happened when the House majority of the Philippine Congress attempted to fiddle with the Constitution in the face of considerable negative public sentiments and in open derogation of settled constitutional practices. The immediate reaction has been public outrage forcing the Malacañang-backed plot, through an alliance of pro-administration congressmen, to abort - for now. But, the passion for control over others is dizzying and dazzling. The House Speaker and his cohorts as well as the Queen bee by the Pasig River, although stunned, are simply showing signs of hemming and hawing but not backing off.

The burning issue: whether the two Houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, should vote jointly or separately when as elected legislators they decide to wear different hats as members of a constituent assembly to propose amendments to, or revision of, the Constitution which requires “a vote of three-fourths of all its members” to do so. The answer, as spelled out in the House’s own Rules interpreting the constitutional provisions in question, is too plain to be mistaken.

Section 105 of the House (of Representatives) Rules has provided the following:
Section 105. Form of Proposals and Procedure for Adoption. - Proposals to amend or revise the Constitution shall be by resolution which may be filed at any time by any Member. The adoption of resolutions proposing amendments to or revision of the Constitution shall follow the procedure for the enactment of bills. (Italics mine)
Bills are enacted by Congress with the Senate and the House of Representatives “voting separately.” Hence, pursuant to Section 105 of the House Rules, any proposal to amend or revise the Constitution shall follow the same procedure for the enactment of bills, that is, the Upper House (the Senate) and the Lower House (the House of Representatives) “voting separately.” Not anymore.

On December 5, 2006, the majority bloc in the Lower House, by the tyranny of numerical superiority, conveniently removed the aforesaid second clause in Section 105 of its Rules and passed House Resolution (H.R.) 1450 to convene a House-only constituent assembly for the purpose of proposing Charter changes sans the concurrence of the Senate “voting separately” as is required in enacting an ordinary bill. As intended, H.R. 1450 violates settled constitutional practices of a bicameral (or two-House) congress. Hence, the public outrage, rousing the theretofore abeyant Power.

While Speaker de Venecia, his gang and their chameleonic Palace patroness are on a tactical flank maneuver - this time toward a constitutional convention scheme (instead of the now discredited constituent assembly) to attain their dubious ends - the jungle King, agitated, intently pries into their movements. (So do the hyenas in some corporate or other cloak lying in wait and salivating for the nation’s patrimony that Charter change proponents seem eager to lay bare for exploitation by speculators, alien or otherwise, among other objectives that remain problematic.)

The Multitude is therefore in admonitory groan, yet menacing enough to send chills up the spines of the schemers, momentarily halting the onslaught of the Charter change loco motive. The Great Power is likely to rise to the occasion, as in the past, if sufficiently provoked to protect the constitutional realm. But there are certain unpredictabilities.

In 2000, at the first bellows of the same public indignation that ultimately ushered in the forces of People Power II, I observed the following:
The events leading to the impeachment charges against President Estrada and the renewed mass movement in the streets of Manila offer another chance for Filipinos to come out reborn from yet another catharsis. These prove however that the purge following the first EDSA uprising had been quite selective and inconsequential, and the promise of People Power a teasing illusion.

Our short memory (or ever-forgiving heart) has seemed to gloss over the lessons from our long experience that gave us, among others, the post-EDSA reversal of roles and in fortunes such as those of the critics then and the cronies now.
How did it happen that erstwhile Marcos yes men, House Speaker Jose de Venecia and Congressman Luis Villafuerte, are so close today to setting up a tyrannical republic despite two People Power uprisings and, ostensibly unsinkable, might well be at the center of another brewing? What have we undertaken as a polity to sort out what allowed them, and others similarly situated, to reconstitute themselves and surmount the vicissitude of the wilderness since the uprising of 1986?

One only hopes this whole affair would turn on the country once more not in terms of aspiring for some ad hoc, procedural or otherwise self-regarding Charter adjustments but of serving as a prelude to serious collective soul-searching of what has really gone so wrong about our country. We have yet another unique opportunity to rediscover the true Philippine Beauty leading to a national catharsis without the Beast rising to its feet.

1 Comments:

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December 18, 2006 2:08 AM  

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