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When pigs fly

"Politics has become a business concern, and to hell with public service."

 

The President’s speech before the UN General Assembly was a masterpiece “worthy of an Emmy award,” said Sen. Ralph Recto. Indeed, it was the President’s best.

First off, it was short by the President’s standard hour-long extemporaneous speeches, just a tad longer than his inaugural speech. Both were written and delivered without the usual off-the-cuff perorations.

Universally hailed but for the leftists was his statement about the arbitral ruling on the WPS which made it, as he said, “part of international law; beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon.” Very declarative, indeed.

He spoke against those who “weaponize human rights” as they referred to the Philippines, and to me, his sincere offer to shelter the Rohingya refugees in our country was the most eloquent way to refute what his detractors in the international community have accused him of. He was more humanitarian than many of those who wave the flag of human rights, his “concern for human life” explicitly proven by his compassion towards the Rohingya refugees. None of the heads of state who spoke before the UNGA addressed the plight of the Rohingya like Duterte, and his offer was consistent with previous statements on this humanitarian issue.

* * *

A friend from our chat group sent me a message last Monday about the skirmishes at the House of Representatives which he described as “so sad for the country.” Another chimed in correctly saying that “nothing is worse than bickering for power amidst a crisis.” And all these while our President was about to deliver his speech before the general assembly, outclassing by miles the earlier pronouncements of Donald Trump.

But it is all political, and at this time, nothing else matters to our elected representatives but the tons of pork they can stash away “for their constituents” and likely, the slices of fat they could trim for their pockets, too.

The 2021 budget, to be spent a year before the 2022 elections, is the single most important legislation within a three-year term. It is the period when pigs fly all over the chamber its members love to call “august.”

* * *

The fault really lies in that stupid provision in the 1987 Constitution for all elective officials other than the president, vice-president and senators to have a term of only three years.

Three years is way too short for any constructive governance to materialize, whether among local government units or for that matter among congressmen to craft real legislation.

We have a multiplicity of parties, whether national, regional or even provincial which are mere flags of convenience used by personalities or families with political ambitions. And far too many elections. Thus, politics has become a business concern, and to hell with public service.

Candidates for a three-year term, once victorious, spend the first year rewarding their financial supporters with projects and other favors. The “utang na loob” also gives back to the elected official by way of cuts (a.k.a. kickbacks) so they can recoup their campaign expenses. Come the second and third years, the official plans for his re-election, and how to get enough in kickbacks through their projects to finance their re-election expenses.

The thing that most legislators preoccupy themselves with is what projects, and with how much value, they can get out of the annual appropriations act. Most of these projects are inserted within layers of the national budget figuratively like layers of fat in slabs of pork liempo. Hence the term “pork barrel,” as in the barrels of salted pork cuts that were distributed by white plantation owners to their imported African slaves in pre-Civil War days.

So now, looking forward to the 2022 elections, the 2021 “election year budget” is the most covetously eyed. In contrast, the 2022 budget, which is deliberated upon next year, is the “lame-duck” budget. Lame duck because public works spending are proscribed during the campaign period, and since elections are held in early May, it is very difficult to squeeze blood from the lame-duck budget for campaign expenses.

Thus, this is the season when pigs fly all over the HoR.

* * *

Now let’s juxtapose the 15-21 “deal” between Speaker Alan and speaker-to-be Lord Allan with the juicy 2021 national budget which they are trying to pass in Congress.

Strictly speaking, if we count 15 months from end-July 2019 when the deal was struck, Speaker Alan should become functus oficio by end-October this year. If the budget passes the HoR by next month, then speaker-to-be Lord Allan will preside only over next year’s “lame-duck” budget deliberations. Foie gras, though Frenchy-frenchy sounding, isn’t as juicy as good old liempo.

Maybe that’s why the deal wasn’t 18-18, as in “hating kapatid” over the three-year period. Para “may pakialam” pa si Lord Allan in the 2021 budget, even, at least, in the critical end game of the bicameral conference where last minute wheeling-dealing is done.

But now most congressmen want the deal set aside to protect the election year budget they have previously worked out with conniving departments. That is why they argue about the importance of “continuity.” That is likely the reason even President Duterte quipped “kawawa naman si Lord” in last week’s meeting with the top dogs of Congress.

The honorable members of the HoR will next have to parry the cuts the Senate will want to impose. It is a hurdle in the most important “third” chamber of Congress—the bicameral conference committee. That won’t happen until just before the Christmas break, and by the way things have shaped up last week, it will still be in the reign of Speaker Alan, with Lord Allan and the Magellan formula reduced to “hating kapatid,” if at all.

Topics: Ralph Recto , UN General Assembly , Rodrigo Duterte , Donald Trump , Alan Cayetano , Lord Allan Velasco , Congress
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