LAWMAKERS, particularly senators and congressmen, have been called names like senatongs, tongresssmen, or representathieves.
In the past, the House of Representatives used to be called the Lower House for having its offices on the lower floor of the building it jointly occupied with the Senate, which was the Upper House or Chamber.
Lately, however, critics have referred to it as the Lowest House because of the way some of its members are conducting the public hearings on the proliferation of illegal drugs at the national penitentiary, particularly on the alleged involvement of Senator Leila de Lima through her former driver-bodyguard and lover Ronnie Dayan.
Many years ago when I was covering the House, an old politician from the North described the chamber as an outhouse. I cannot recall exactly what prompted him to call it that. What I remember is that it came at a time when some House members were implicated in criminal activities such as gun-smuggling.
For sure there are many hardworking legislators at the Senate and the House, but the theatrics of some of their colleagues, especially during public hearings that are broadcast live on national television, stand out and become news. It would seem that these nincompoops outnumber the serious lawmakers.
They taint the already bad reputation of the House, disregarding and outshining whatever reforms the others are trying to instill.
It becomes more disgusting when the leader of the few misbehaving lawmakers is the majority leader and chairman of the committee on rules. Yes, he who should ensure that rules are followed is the first to break the norms in interrogating a witness who had been summoned to answer questions “in aid of legislation”.
Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte has surely gone back to the outhouse, after he had redeemed himself with his shining performance as the head of the prosecution team in the impeachment proceedings against then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in 2011 and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona the year after.
The 63-year-old Fariñas is a bright guy. After spending seven years at the Ateneo de Manila Law School, he placed 8th in the 1978 bar exams. Two years later he became the youngest elected mayor in the history of Laoag City. He was elected governor of the province in 1986, a post he held for 10 years and won a seat at the House of Representatives in 1998.
Despite his long service in the political arena, his name is better remembered for his sex video on Betamax with a sexy actress in their younger days, and for the suicide in 2001 of his wife, beauty queen and actress Maria Theresa Carlson.
The suicide of Carlson, the mother of six of Fariñas’ eight children, led to the legislation in 2004 of Republic Act 9262, or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act.
While Fariñas may have been an abusive husband to Carlson, he appears to be an overprotective father to his children. His colleagues at the House would attest to his caring and love for his children.
But in the way he led the grilling of Dayan during last Thursday’s House hearing on the intimate details of Dayan’s illicit relationship with De Lima was totally foul. The questions were completely irrelevant to the legislative measures contemplated in stopping and preventing the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP).
During the hearing, Fariñas asked Dayan: “Noong mga panahon na ‘yan, malakas pa ‘yung pag-iibigan n’yo ni Secretary or humina na …Ano ibig sabihin ng signal number 1? Para lang makita ko ‘yung scale, ano ba pinakamataas na signal na inabot n’yo? Ano ang pinakasukdulan at pinakamataas na signal na inabot n’yo?” (During those times, was your love with the Secretary still strong or had it already weakened?…What does signal number 1 mean? Just so I cam see the scale, what was the highest signal that you two reached? What was the peak and the highest signal that you two reached?)
House Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, a longtime congressman of Capiz, followed the pack of hungry wolves who pounced on Dayan for the juicy details of his romantic relationship with De Lima.
Using flowery language, Castro asked Dayan: ”Ito ay ginawa sapagka’t tapat ang iyong damdamin kay Secretary de Lima. Ang ibig mo bang sabihin sa pagdinig na ito na ang iyong relasyon kay Secretary de Lima ay hindi lamang upang saluhan siya na magtampisaw sa pagmamahalan kung hindi siya ay saluhan din sa pagpawi ng init ng katawan?” (You did this because what you felt for Secretary de Lima was true. Are you saying in this hearing that your relationship with Secretary de Lima was meant to not just frolic with her in love but also in lust?)
Not to be outdone, neophyte Rep. Harry Roque of Kabalikat ng Mamamayan (Kabayan) party-list asked Dayan: “Pinagsamantalahan mo ba itong si Leila de Lima nung nagkaroon kayo ng relasyon? Siya ba ay naging mukhang maselan noong kayo ay nagkaroon ng relasyon? Sa tingin mo ba pinagsamantalahan mo ang kahinaan ni Leila de Lima bilang isang babae noong kayo ay nagkaroon ng relasyon? Nung sinabi mong hindi mo pinagsamantalahan ang kanyang kahinaan bilang babae, ano ang ibig mong sabihin?” (Did you take advantage of Leila de Lima when you had a relationship? Did she seem tender to you when you started your relationship? Do you think that you took advantage of Leila de Lima’s weakness as a woman when you had a relationship? When you said that you did not take advantage of her weakness as a woman, what did you mean?)
Roque, a publicity-hogging lawyer, even crossed the long-held tradition of inter-parliamentary courtesy when he urged to the Senate to remove De Lima from its roster of members if she refuses to resign after supposedly preventing Dayan from testifying at the House probe.
I am not saying that De Lima is completely innocent of the accusations thrown at her by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte and his minions in Congress and the Cabinet. I am not saying that she should not be investigated. But the line of questioning in the investigations was simply foul and out of place.
As I have always believed, there is an urgent need to reorient legislators on their duties and responsibilities. Equally important is modifying a constitutional provision that enumerates the qualifications required to run for congressman or senator. As it is, it is far more difficult to apply for a secretarial or janitorial position than to run for a legislative position.
We would not have nincompoops and clowns in the legislature if we have an educated electorate that recognizes the power of the ballot and responsibly exercises its right of suffrage.