"Do you still believe corruption will end?"
Last May 14, the day after the 2019 midterm elections, my wife and I marked our 63rd wedding anniversary. Santa Banana, we belong to the disappearing breed of married couples who take our marriage vows seriously.
Our problem was whom to invite for the occasion. Our contemporaries are either bedridden, incapacitated or suffering from dementia.
My wife thought of her cousins who were still alive. But they are not well, too, being in cancer pain so much that they could not even talk.
My classmates? Yes there are still former Vice President Tito Guingona and our summa cum laude, Ting Roxas. But I don’t know their numbers. I am told that Jimmy Lantin is bedridden. My wife’s classmates are also ill.
I guess that is how it is when you reach our age. Thus we just had a simple celebration at our favorite Japanese restaurant—and saved a lot of money as a result.
I wonder: Whom will we invite next year to our 65th?
When somebody asks me how I lasted this long as a husband, I declare that I must always have the last say in the house: “Yes, darling.” That settles everything.
* * *
Speaking about the House, who will be the next Speaker of our Lower Chamber?
There are several factors that will decide this.
First, the endorsement of President Duterte. The President relies heavily on the Speaker for the enactment of priority legislation.
Another factor is personality. A Speaker of the House should be able to unite warring members of Congress so that they could act on what is needed. This means he or she must be a consensus builder—certainly not one who is arrogant and cantankerous.
What caused the downfall of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was his personality. He created too many enemies with the way he was doing his job. This started a move in the House to have him replaced. The obvious choice was former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Then there is the need for leaders of the House to support the next Speaker. I think Rep. Martin Romualdez enjoys that support.
Another factor is money. Building consensus is having the ability to spend anywhere between P350,000 and P500,00 for House members who demand money. Actually, this practice is an indictment of Congress. Money should never be an issue. But then, that is how it is here.
The last factor is the possession of some sort of secret weapon—in this case, Martin has his wife Yedda, a former beauty queen. She is charming and likeable. Now she is also a party-list representative for Tingog.
These are all the reasons why I believe Romualdez fits the Speakership to a T. All he needs now is the firm endorsement of the President.
* * *
Speaking of the independence of the Senate, something has come to focus with the victory of the President’s favorite candidates—Bong Go, Bato dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino. I still believe the Senate can be independent despite their presence. Why?
There is Cynthia Villar, who topped the race. She may be allied with President Duterte, but she also knows that she became number one without the President’s endorsement and support. She has all the money in the world so she can afford to be independent.
Then there is Grace Poe, known to be independent as well. She was never a “yes” person. Note how she did not do the famous Duterte fist-forward salute. Nancy Binay did the same.
Together with four opposition senators, Poe, Binay and Villar will be good for the country.
And then of course, there are two senators that cannot be dictated upon. They are Ralph Recto and Sonny Angara.
* * *
When he became President in 2016, Duterte anchored his administration on his vow to eliminate drugs and corruption. Well, there has been no change.
After three years, Duterte’s bloody war on drugs is ongoing and I believe the problem will remain even beyond his term.
The reason is that the demand for drugs does not end, so the supply will continue as well. The country has become a transshipment point for cartels and syndicates around the world.
Duterte’s vow to end corruption has also not made a dent. This is because he keeps reappointing and even promoting people who have been tainted with even the perception of corruption.
A perfect example is the case of Solicitor General Jose Calida, found to be owning majority shares in a security agency that has contracts with various government agencies. Talk about conflict of interest!
Now the Commission on Audit has found that Calida’s office has been having too many dinners and seminars at expensive hotels. That’s more than a whiff of corruption—and what has Mr. Duterte done about his solicitor general? Nothing!
Remember there too was reported corruption among government lawyers assigned to government corporations. In response, Duterte fired the government corporate counsel, but promoted the erring lawyers.
Do you still believe the President’s war to end corruption?