The 16th Congress was barely four-months old when I dubbed it the worst since 1987. I would have gladly eaten crow but so far, I haven’t been proven wrong.
The House of the 16th Congress was no different from its predecessors in being a firm supporter of whoever is in Malacañang. Its low rating in opinion surveys was to be expected. What made a big difference was the Senate which registered a very low acceptance rating right in the very first regular session. I had never seen a Senate suffer a steep decline in opinion surveys so early. This reflected the public’s dissatisfaction with the “pork barrel” issue.
Senate President Franklin M. Drilon (FMD) admitted that this issue was doing the Senate in and had vowed to restore public confidence in the institution. Well, based on the latest opinion surveys, the Senate, as well as the House, hasn’t done much to win back the people’s trust.
Sure, President BS Aquino, Budget Secretary Butch Abad and FMD are claiming that pork barrel both for Malacañang and lawmakers are no longer in the national budget. Very few, it seems, are buying that line, as shown by the growing movement to completely ban pork whether for Malacañang or for Congress thru people’s initiative. Many also want to abolish Congress altogether.
I had a short talk with former Sen. Bert Romulo and he expressed dismay over the many scandals besetting the institution that he had proudly served for 12 years.
“When the ones supposed to be making laws are the ones violating them, where is the rule of law?” he asked mournfully.
Romulo was also lamenting the issues hounding the Aquino administration and how many legislators reportedly made millions from the misuse of their pork barrel. He has every reason to be disconcerted. He was Senate majority leader, an executive secretary, a finance secretary, a budget secretary and a foreign affairs secretary and not once was his name tainted by any scandals involving money. Those who know him are aware that he never enriched himself while in government service.
He recalled that when Joker Arroyo was prosecuting the impeachment trial of then President Erap Estrada, Joker famously said: “I don’t want my president to be a crook!”
“I wonder if Joker will say the same thing now,” Romulo added.
Speaking of Joker, he once headed the blue-ribbon committee that is now drawing scorn for becoming a yellow ribbon committee. The awarding of the committee to a known acolyte of President BS Aquino The Last, I mean The Third, has not helped the Senate any in regaining the prestige it once enjoyed.
The alacrity with which legislators embraced the call of President BS Aquino to redefine “savings” reflected the degradation of the 16th Congress to a mere lapdog of Malacañang.
Many sages well-versed in the intricacies of the budget have been pouring scorn on the President’s desire for Congress to define “savings.” I agree with them although they didn’t notice that the President wanted the new definition to be contained in a joint resolution. To me, this showed his low regard for the independence of legislators. That many legislators readily followed his biddings showed he was right in making a monkey out of them.
A resolution contains the sense of either the House or the Senate on any given issue. When a resolution is passed by both the House and the Senate, the joint resolution has the force and effect of a law. There’s no “sense of Congress” in the proposed joint resolution because it’s Malacañang that’s dictating what its sense should be. “This is what your sentiment should be on this issue,” the President ordered – and many legislators meekly barked in obedience.
A legislature that zealously guards its inherent Power of the Purse would have objected to any new definition and to the President’s utter disregard of the national budget. But not the legislature under the watch of President BS Aquino, not while the President put to diabolical use his knowledge of the lawmakers’ huge appetite for “pork.” With senators and congressmen gorging with unprecedented amounts of pork barrel funds under Aquino, they became like putty in the hands of the President.
Oh yes, I remember that in the 15th Congress, the Senate asked top officials of government-owned and controlled corporations and government financial institutions to return their “excessive, unwarranted, and obscene” allowances, bonuses, incentives and other perks. To put the Senate back on a moral plane, the legislators should return their pork barrel that qualifies as “excessive, unwarranted and obscene.” Ah, but they couldn’t see the mote in their eyes.