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Because of the speakership crisis that roiled Congress the past weeks when Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, supported by his allies, refused to let go of the speaker’s role as stated in a 2019 term-sharing agreement, these members of the Philippine House of Representatives have forced on the public-at-large to entertain a perception such “Honorables” nurture political opportunity over and above public service.
While Marinduque representative Lord Allan Velasco finally took over the reins of Congress Tuesday afternoon last week after the majority of House members ratified his election on Monday, it still left a sour taste on public’s inclination that the Congress crisis was started by Cayetano who simply refused to let go of power.
Such public perception brings to mind a maxim of Abraham Lincoln, famous president of the United States when he said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
A local political observer in Cordillera region who declined to be named said, “Nu asinnuman diay nangirugi ti gulo idiay Congreso ipakpakita na laeng nu asinnu isu a sigud a talaga.” Stated explicitly, the observer meant, “It just shows you more of who you already were.”
Wanting to be more clarified as to such statement, Ah Kong pressed further by asking the observer, “You mean Cayetano?”
To which the observer quipped, “Ah Kong, you, an insufferable fool, your guess, or anyone’s guess, is as good as my guess.”
That’s actually a good summary of the public’s perception that closely followed the ruckus which embroiled Congress: that power is just like an amplifier. That whoever we were before, just gets louder.
Highlanders/ lowlanders with whom Ah Kong spoke with vented their feeling about the House speakership as an unwelcome distraction when national attention is on the pandemic, further deeming it a political squabble too shameful.
Instead of zeroing in on the government’s crisis response, Cayetano and his allies annoyed the public by exhibiting their being “Honorables” by seemingly subservient to their political expediency and further staining the House of Representatives as a juridical person.
Many further commented: “Being an honorable, what sense of dignity does that show to serve as an example to us to emulate, poor Filipinos?”
Clinging to power by refusing to relinquish the Speaker’s seat is, by opinion of many in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Region 1, a spirit as disgraceful, the temper of its timing at this pandemic time unlikely to inspire, and neither calculated to regain the respect lost for those who engineered the Congress ruckus.
In the leadership struggle, people cannot be fooled that it was just the right to be called Speaker. Nobody is buying that; nobody is being fooled; none at all. And everybody is smirking at the antics.
Because the speakership fight was all about who controls pork barrel. If you think that in the Lower House, there’s this what is termed, “Voice of the Majority,” then better re-think.
There’s this truism that where the other side of the mountain is flush with “moolah”, there congress members will make a beeline, to forage contentedly. Stated differently, these political pundits say, such “honorables” will move to the other hill brimming with pork barrel.
And what about public good? Well, we have often experienced how public good is often sidelined, if momentarily, but sidelined, indeed.
Like what Cordillerans and lowlanders say about such political gimmick of meandering in greener pastures, “Anya ngay ti magun-od ko nu mapanak idiay sabali nga kampo?” (What is in store for me if I move to the other side?).
To be blunt, there are those in Congress who see pork barrel with the most twinkle of an eye but their eyes somewhat dim when the two words, “public good,” are mentioned. Apprehension of losing huge budget allocations moves members of Congress to flock where the power is, instead of, say, motivated deliberately and highly, first and foremost, for the good of the public.
Like what Martin Dugpawas, a Cordilleran courageous to be identified in today’s column edition, said, “Idi pay laeng, adda nadengngeg ko nga istorya panggep Kongreso tayo. Saan ko ammo nu assinnu a Pilipino ti nangi-rugi ditoy. Ngem kunana diay istorya, Duwa kanu a klase ti buwaya ditoy Pilipinas. Diay buwaya nga agbalbalay idiay danum, ken diay buwaya nga agbalbalay idiay Kongreso.”
(“I heard this story before about our Congress. I don’t know the Filipino guy who started this story. But the story says there are two kinds of crocodiles in the Philippines. One lives in the swamp while the other lives in Congress.”).
Ah Kong incredulously asked Dugpawas: “You believe that fool of a story?”
Dugpawas, like a doting father teaching a child how to walk, patted Ah Kong patiently and said, “Have faith, my little boy Ah Kong, have faith. Read the newspapers and believe. Filipinos are not so naïve as to the antics of Cayetano and his allies. It’s all about barrels and barrels of dinero and sharing.”
“Like I have my own Congress tale too,” Dugpawas, said, and continued, “Nu adda ti bingay (share), kastoy ti bingay: kwam, kwak, kwam, kwak, kwak, kwak ken kwak pay.”
Oh well, talk about crowing crows in the halls of Congress. Dugpawas thinks a lot exist.
But then, here comes Prudencio Cardones, a lowlander, who angrily said, “It was because of the pork barrel, and like the saying that goes, there is no honor even when many Filipinos are dying and suffering from covid 19.”
Oh boy, talk about Filipinos being angry at this time while some in Congress turn the House of Representatives into a circus.
Nobody seems amused that the 2021 budget that will finance campaign against the pandemic, help struggling business to recover, help Filipinos who had been laid off from work and prop up education had been stalled, because of political bickering.
Neither was President Rodrigo Duterte amused by events occurring in Congress that he made his feelings known in public and warned he’d intervene into the matter if congress members didn’t shape up. Huh! Talk about a father trying to instill discipline to unruly kids.
For sure, there will always be political squabbling. But it shouldn’t be at this time when the nation is in the grip of an unwavering crisis and the becks of haughty belligerents should momentarily be placed in the backburner.
It may justly be questioned whether, in this point in time, the ugly politics that played in halls of Congress is another case of self-interest positioning at the prejudice of our self-suffering people, or was it really the case of honoring the term-sharing agreement? People wonder.
Many highlanders and lowlanders do wonder, really, after having seen the ploy of Cayetano having increased the number of deputy speakers to 24, which is directly related to 1.6 billion of taxpayers’ money which will cost us – for Cayetano to have his way of buying congress members loyalty.
Said two reason why 184 congress members who put public good over political opportunity downright refused to accept the resignation of Cayetano as Speaker when he offered it to Congress in September. For they saw through his machination.
If Cayetano got his way, it would have cost taxpayers an amount of no less than 2 billion in the budget for next year. A deputy speaker, for example, gets to receive, by estimate, an additional of 5 million pesos, whereby such deputy will claim for honoraria, representation and research expenses.
Aside from appointing 24 deputy speakers, Cayetano appointed another 50 more vice-chairpersons for each committee. Goes without saying these vice-chairpersons will receive monetary sums for chairing each existing committee.
To spread the bounty as much as he could, Cayetano created 8 more standing committees, with names like “committee for creative industry and performing arts,” “committee for strategic intelligence,” etc.
All these monies which could be better put to good use for the average Filipinos.
Cavite 8th District Rep. Abraham Tolentino previously questioned the matter of additional deputy speakers, vice chairs and the created committees.
Apparently, Cayetano’s plan was thwarted when Velasco was finally installed as speaker by 186 congress members.
Many political observers and even those in Congress think that Cayetano’s ploy of refusing to honor the term-sharing agreement has something to do with his political expediency of dreaming someday to become president of the Philippines.
So, anybody there harboring plans to run for politics, just get Ah Kong as chairperson for “ways and means committee,” where there, there’s barrels of pork.