We hold an unbroken record of losing our battles to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but there is still no sign we have learned our lessons well. We call her names, crack all sorts of nasty jokes against her, denounce her as evil, but she has outplayed all her adversaries and she could very well do it again.
The latest row is about House Resolution 1109 “calling on members of Congress to convene for the purpose of proposing amendments to or revisions of the Constitution.” This has produced a rally in Makati, screaming news headlines and fiery broadcasts, editorials and commentaries, but very little understanding of the real situation on the ground.
The resolution has all the virtues of a beginner’s piece in English composition, but it is not criminal at all. It is suspiciously devious, but it contains no constitutional proposal at all. It does not say the House of Representatives alone will propose constitutional changes without the Senate, even though that could be the congressmen’s intention. The protest anticipates the offense.
HR 1109 recalls that under the 1935 Constitution, “the Congress in joint session assembled, by a vote of three-fourths of all Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives voting separately may propose amendments.” Under the 1987 Constitution, however, “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members.”
This means that while the Congress previously could not propose any constitutional amendment unless the two Houses first assembled in joint session, it can do so now, without the two Houses sitting together. There is no need for HR 1109 at all. The only thing needed is for every proposal to be supported by at least three-fourths of all the members of Congress, which is bicameral.
This means 18 of the 24 senators and 201 of the 268 congressmen, or a total of 219 lawmakers out of the 292 total membership of the two chambers. Now some congressmen theorize that if the House could muster all of the 219 votes from among themselves alone, then there would be no need to involve the Senate at all.
That view appeals to some, but overlooks one thing. Even if all 268 congressmen should support an amendment, that would represent the vote of one House only, i.e., one-half of the Congress, and not the entire. If the two Houses sit together and vote as one, that’s another story altogether. But since the Constitution does not require them to sit in joint session, they have to vote as they sit where they sit, which means separately. Should they decide to sit together for reasons of convenience, they would still have to vote separately as though they were not sitting together.
As of now, the House has done nothing to create a justiciable issue which the Supreme Court (SC) may be asked to rule upon. My fear, however, is that should the House proceed in that direction, there could be any number of decent people who would not mind the SC upholding its position just because they believe the Senate, which cannot seem to enforce its own rules on almost anything now, and has the most number of prematurely campaigning “presidentiables,” has become a major part of the problem and may have lost its reason for being.
The senators who are promoting themselves to become the “opposition’s” bet in 2010 are the very same ones who destroyed the opposition in 2007. That is their undisputed achievement. They were part of the farce where three political parties ran senatorial candidates in the two opposing camps. The NPC had Tito Sotto and Tessie Oreta in the administration and Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Sonny Osmena and Nikki Coseteng in the opposition. Manny Villar’s NP had Ralph Recto in the administration, and Villar and Alan Peter Cayetano in the opposition. Mar Roxas’s LP had Mike Defensor in the administration and Noynoy Aquino and Kiko Pangilinan in the opposition. (Kiko later declared himself independent.)
We had not seen anything as gross and as unprincipled before, but not a single one of them said it was wrong. That was the first death of the opposition.
After the election, Villar confected an alliance with the administration senators in order to become Senate president, thereby reducing the numerically superior opposition into a minority. That was the second death of the opposition. Now Villar, Escudero, Legarda and Roxas want to be seen as the luminous knights of the “opposition”? It ought to be a capital offense for any politician to presume they can fool all the people all the time.
The conflict today is no longer between the administration and the bogus “opposition.” They are all in it together, divided only by their common ambition to continue Mrs. Arroyo’s program. Not one of them wants to dismantle the status quo, not one wants the system changed. The real conflict now is between the sitting national politicians and the Filipino people. The people are the real opposition now ---opposition to the administration and the bogus “opposition.” Many of our people would still take to the streets if needed, but not likely for the preservation of the Senate and its sex video-viewing members or for the glory of any of the “presidentiables.”