Thursday, June 11, 2009

The 'raskols' of Philipine Congress


Letters from Port Moresby



SOMETIME last year, Papua New Guineans were outraged when the Members of Parliament unanimously voted to give themselves hefty allowances several times more than what they usually had in their wallets.

The Members’ blatant act came amidst a deeply-rooted poverty across the nation due to widespread joblessness and homelessness among close to 90 per cent of the country’s workforce.
For their unconscionable acts, the marginalized among close to 5 million branded their representatives “raskols” – they have just enriched themselves again while the people go hungry and homeless.
In PNG, “raskols” is pidgin for thieves, hoodlums, hold-up men, corruptors, looters, and many more non-endearing adjectives that go back to the word “criminal”.
Well, the “raskols” in the Parliament of Papua New Guinea would be pleased to know that they now have their worthy counterparts in Philippine Congress – 170 congresspersons who, like thieves, gathered together in the dead of the night to launch themselves towards the road to a systematic plunder of the nation’s coffers in the future.
The privilege is theirs; all they have to do is play their cards, or votes, well.
Disregarding the Senate, these congresspersons – all beholden to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – met on the night of June 2, 2009, and passed House Resolution 1109 that paves the way for vital changes in the constitution, now notoriously known among Filipinos as Cha-cha, or Charter Change.
When the Filipinos woke up the next morning, they had faced the specter of Gloria still at the graft-ridden Palace by the stinking Pasig River after May 2010.
Simply said, the adoption of HR 1109 has allowed the “raskol” House of Representatives to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution, without the necessary participation of Senate.
With the next presidential election barely a year away, the perception that these “rascals” would tinker with the Constitution by rewriting it to allow Arroyo to stay in power beyond May 10, 2010 becomes even more persistent and pervasive. 
Thus, fueling the notion about the so-called “Gloria forever” agenda.
To do this, the Arroyo allies will change the system of government from the present presidential to parliament, in which she will be chosen as the prime minister. Let’s not forget that most of the members of Congress are perceived to be in the pocket of the “Arroyo clique” and they are the “Raskol 170”.
Across the nation, it is widely known that congresspersons have been promised P20 million each for their votes supporting the change of government system, one that Arroyo has been scheming all along but playing “dead-ma” (innocent) to the bone about it.
This incentive money easily amounts to P3.4 billion, an amount which many observers consider peanuts as far as the Arroyo regime’s cash stash is concerned.
All through the years, since becoming the President eight years ago, she has been perceived as laying away money, through her bagmen, from generously boated billion dollar contracts that private investors-contractors, mostly foreigners, inked with her government.
Immediately, the blatant acts of the representatives came under fire from all sectors of the Philippine society – the Opposition, the business sector, the labor and religious groups, the professionals and former senior government officials, among many others -- accusing the so-called “people’s representatives” of railroading a questionable resolution that endangers the future of the country.
The Makati business Club (MBC) has been very vocal with its indignation directed at Malacanang.
In a statement released yesterday, the premier business group said: “The timing, less than a year before the presidential election, was also very much suspect, considering that there was no clamor to amend the Constitution and the resolution contained no issue of profound impact on the people’s welfare.
“By this action of pro-administration congresspersons, any remaining doubts about the determination of the Arroyo administration and its allies in the House to manipulate our democratic processes and institutions to prolong their hold on power have been erased,” the statement stressed.
Equally outraged, the civil group Pagbabago! (People’s Change Movement) declared: “Allowing Arroyo and her cohorts to get away with Cha-cha is consent for the perpetuation of a regime guilty of graft and corruption, political repression, and further impoverishment of millions of Filipinos through its anti-people policies.”
A letter circulated on the cyberspace by the V-team for Advocacy & Community Service/Volunteers in Service to Filipinos, minced no words. It said: “The absence of integrity in the House of Representatives came to light on the 11th hour of June 2, 2009.
“The sworn protectors of the Philippine Constitution – those who swore upon that document when they assumed office – are now those who seek to subvert it and silence all opposition.
“It was in railroading the passage of an ill-willed resolution, dismissing dissent, and playing numbers game that the possibility of “Gloria Forever” becomes a haunting specter.
“More than ‘Gloria Forever’, the railroading and ramming through of HR 1109 is a clear indication that the public interest is secondary to personal political interests, or at the very least, ell-defined ones.
“… what you did was a clear violation of the dignity of this nation … what you did was to kill democracy … you have no shame.”
A FILIPINO lady-friend of mine here in Port Moresby had asked me about the latest goings-on back home, especially those concerning Arroyo and the recent acts of her minions in Congress that have spawned ripples of indignation among the people across the nation. 
Having read about Cha-cha and the political scheming carried out, and intrigues being sown, by the President’s allies over the last many months, I simply told her that nothing much has changed because Arroyo is “committed” to see an election in May 2010, an exercise she can no longer join in, having finished a maximum of two terms allowed by the Constitution.
She couldn’t believe that. She said Filipinos across the country have just been angered, and now agitated, by the recent acts of Arroyo’s thieves in Congress, and that they are now raising their arms to oppose any plans to scrap next year’s presidential election.
I told her these “raskols” have been elected by their constituents to represent them in Congress. So, whatever they do on the floors of the lawmaking body are supposedly according to the people’s wishes.
“Yes, that’s true, but not to commit crime just like what our representative and his buddies did recently.”
Alas! More than perpetuating Gloria forever, what these “raskols” have done is an act to shame a revered democracy in our country, especially in the eyes of America, of President

Barack Obama, and of the entire civilized, democratic world.
Will the people have the time to stop and ponder seriously what is to happen to our Motherland after May 2010? Will the ignominy of the June 2, 2009, courtesy of the “Raskol 170”, start a new revolution, or trigger the expulsion of Arroyo’s regime from its seat of power in Malacanang?
As they say, “abangan ang susunod na kabanata …” (Let’s see what happens next). 

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