A miracle happened last night at the House of Representatives: 175 congressmen showed up, mustering a quorum that had not been seen in a long, long time.
The lawmakers arrived to continue deliberations on the proposed—and much-delayed, by Malacañang’s timetable— Bangsamoro Basic Law. Yes, after staying away from the Batasan for the longest time, congressmen trooped in droves to the House, even if there remain, by today, only seven session days to pass President Noynoy Aquino’s favorite piece of legislation by far.
The new deadline, according to House leaders, is to pass BBL “on second reading, at least,” before Congress ends its sessions and its members concentrate full time on reelecting themselves —or replacing themselves with their relatives—in the May 9 elections. (This will not amount to anything, of course, unless the Senate passes its own BBL measure and reconciles it with the approved House version—something that not even the most optimistic of Palace officials would dare predict.)
Of course, the members of Congress have already been staying away from the House because they have to campaign in their districts. The only way they could be dragged away from the job of getting elected, at this point, is because they have come to terms with BBL’s chief proponent, Aquino.
What has been promised is not really difficult to imagine. What seems to have been settled is how much and how long it will take to be delivered.
I’m pretty sure the congressmen didn’t suddenly realize that the passage of the BBL means peace for Mindanao, as both Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have long been saying. It’s all about the money, really, money that will come in handy during the campaign.
That’s always been the reason why no quorum has been seen in the House, after all. And if you think otherwise, you’re really hopeless.
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You know Malacañang is getting antsy about Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s move to reopen the investigation of the Mamasapano Massacre when it sends its chief Senate enforcer, Senate President Franklin Drilon, to try to suppress the probe. Drilon on Monday attempted to block Enrile’s move to restart the proceedings by warning of a possible conflict in the completed report of the committee headed by Senator Grace Poe, thankfully to no avail.
But Enrile, the 92-year-old veteran politician, will not be denied, of course. Drilon faded into the background once it was pointed out to him that the results of the Enrile investigation would be appended as a supplement to the Poe committee report, instead of being inserted into it like an amendment.
This is not to say that Drilon and his fellow Palace-oriented senators have stopped trying to suppress Enrile’s attempt to reopen the investigation. Far from it.
Yesterday, Senator Serge Osmeña joined the fray, claiming that Enrile only wants to exact revenge from President Noynoy Aquino for allowing him to be detained for more than a year on corruption charges. Enrile’s reply to Osmeña applied to Drilon, as well.
Osmeña, Enrile said, has no business prejudging evidence that he has not even heard yet. Touche.
I expect other senators allied with Aquino to come out of the woodwork to run interference for the President, as Jan. 27, the date set for the reopening of the investigation, approaches. Outside of the Senate, in the press and in social media, the propagandists of the Palace can also be expected to go after Enrile with everything they’ve got, in order to discredit both him and the evidence and witnesses that he will present.
But perhaps they should hold their fire until they see what’s coming down the road, by way of new witnesses and evidence. Right now, all efforts to stop Enrile from reopening the investigation only serve to portray an administration that cannot hide its fear.
If it is true that Aquino and his men have nothing to hide, they don’t have to be afraid of anything that Enrile has prepared. And if Aquino didn’t really allow the wholesale killing of 44 police commandos in Maguindanao a year ago, then they can just sit back and rest easy.
I know that the Mamasapano massacre led to the most precipitous plummeting of Aquino’s vaunted popularity, which probably explains the current anxiety in the Palace and the panic among its allies. But because the Aquino administration never fully satisfied the need of the public to explain the role of the President and his key men during the planning, execution and the eventual cover-up of Oplan Exodus.
If the government and its allies had not blocked efforts to get to the bottom of the massacre right after it happened, no one would pay attention to Enrile anymore. But because Aquino and his men simply decided that it was time to “move on” when they said so, they are now haunted by the reopening of the investigation.
It’s that simple, really.