"This does not bode well for the future of our democracy."
If there’s any doubt that our legislature, particularly the House of Representatives, has thrown out of the window its mandate to maintain its independence and perform its role in upholding the system of checks and balances crucial to democratic governance, its acquiescence to Malacañang’s choice of who should be the next Speaker offers more than ample proof of its near-total abdication of its constitutional duty.
Here’s what Sec. 16 (1), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution says on the question of who should lead the legislature: “The Senate shall elect its President and the House of Representatives its Speaker, by a majority vote of all its respective Members.”
That’s very clear. The House in plenary should elect among themselves who should lead them. It does not provide for any form of intervention—or perhaps more precisely, interference and dictation—by the Chief Executive. It does not say that a cabal of a few House Members should meet in dark corners and elect among themselves the Speaker.
So what should we make of President Duterte’s anointment of Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano as the next Speaker and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to take over for the rest of the three-year term under a term-sharing basis?
This: The most qualified among the aspirants, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, who has been the president of the Philippine Constitution Association, or Philconsa, which spearheads efforts to uphold and defend the fundamental law, will have to play second fiddle to two of the least qualified for the highest position in Congress.
And this: Congress will be completely under the thumb of the Executive branch. With their numbers, the majority led by the Speaker will be able to railroad key legislation pushed by the Executive, reducing the political opposition to a voice in the wilderness.
If the House of Representatives acquiesces at every opportunity to what the Malacañang occupant says and wants, then we are likely to see important pieces of legislation requiring consultation with the affected sectors rammed through our throats with increasing regularity.
And what are these key pieces of legislation? Among these is Charter change, which involves the proposal to shift to a federal system of government to replace the current unitary one; lifting of the restrictive economic provisions to allow foreigners to own 100 percent of business enterprises; restoration of the death penalty; reform of the party-list system and the prohibition of political dynasties.
These issues require committee hearings where both advocates and those opposed should be given the chance to amply articulate their positions as part and parcel of open dialogue, consensus-building and participatory democracy.
A House Speaker chosen by Malacañang and not by the majority of its members is a dangerous drift toward dictatorship that does not bode well for the future of our democracy.
Hostage to terror
While at this, what should concern us now is the danger posed by the new phenomenon of suicide bombing by Filipinos in southern Philippines.
Before the suicide bombing in Indanan, Sulu last June that left five killed, three of them soldiers, and 11 other government troopers wounded in an attack on a military camp, verified incidents of such incidents pointed to foreigners as the perpetrators.
This week, the military and the police confirmed that a Filipino was one of the two suicide bombers who, according to the Western Mindanao Command, targeted the tactical command post of the First Army Brigade Combat Team in Sitio Tanjung, Barangay Kajatian at around noon.
According to news reports, one of the bombers detonated his explosive as he was being accosted by military. The other suspect blew himself up near the parking area of the 1BCT commander.
The Sulu police said the command post was also hit by a mortar attack and sniper fire, triggering a firefight that lasted for an hour.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but this could not be independently verified as the terrorist group is known to do this with every terrorist attack anywhere in the Middle East, Europe and Asia.
The area is known to have a strong presence of Abu Sayyaf bandits. Thousands of soldiers have been deployed to Sulu to help crush the Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups in Mindanao.