SOME “urgent bills” are being rushed in Congress without the necessary public discussion and debate. Their proponents tend to give the impression that not even an invasion of the country by prepositioned foreign forces could prevent or delay their predetermined passage. For instance, we just learned that a divorce bill has already passed the House of Representatives, without involving the predominantly Catholic Christian population who believe in the indissolubility of marriage.
Constitution and faith
This is not just a matter of religious faith, but one of constitutional right. The last time I checked, the Church teaching on the sanctity of marriage has not changed, and the Constitution still regards marriage as “an inviolable social institution,” (the word is “inviolable”), “the foundation of the family,” and shall be “protected by the State”; the family is the “foundation of the nation.”
Apparently, the congressmen have not at all heard about this, but they believe they should be making our laws. They are now preparing to hit the order of creation and the institution of marriage much harder with their proposed law on “civil partnership,” a euphemism for “same-sex union” or “same-sex marriage,” that has become fashionable in so many so-called “advanced countries.” This seeks to abolish, in law, the two biological sexes of man and woman in favor of their “chosen gender,” according to the LGBT’s growing menu of 55 to 77 “genders”—and the natural institution of matrimony.
As in the divorce bill, there is no extensive public discussion about it; the House will likely pass it not because it makes any sense to the community, but simply because the synthetic “super majority,” led by the proudly amoral House Speaker and his cohorts, has decided to pass it, to vulgarize conservative morality and the Church.
Deconstructionists like Michel Foucauld, Jacques Derrida, Claude Levi-Strauss, and others use language to deconstruct reality; our legislators seem determined to deconstruct reality by means of the law. This is what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI meant when he said the law of the strong could overcome the strength of the law.
A proposal to “federalize” the country, through a revision of the Constitution, is also being pushed vigorously, without the necessary public discussions, whether within or outside Congress. Like the other “supermajority” proposals, its benefits to society, if any, have not been mentioned. We already have a functioning or malfunctioning unitary nation-state, if you like. Breaking up our unitary system cannot possibly be the starting or transition point to a federal union, which by definition is made up of multiple autonomous or semi-autonomous territorial units that decide to come together as a whole.
This was how the United States of America, the Federal Republic of Germany, Canada, the Swiss Confederation, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Federation of Malaysia, etc. came to be. They were not unitary states that broke up into several parts in order to coalesce together after that into a federation; the Philippines seems the only place for now, with a unique set of politicians who insist on cutting up the country into several parts in order to create a federal union.
Sabah and the Spratlys
The only way the proposed federalism could begin to look defensible is perhaps for DU30 to include Sabah in the proposed component unit for Mindanao, and the seven reefs in the Spratlys, which China has reclaimed and begun to militarize, as part of the component unit for Zambales or Palawan. If these two separate regions are “federated” into the Philippines, then DU30’s “federalism” could begin to look real. He would be trying to “federate” territory that is not yet part of the unitary whole.
The huge downside though is that such move could thrust DU30 into a war with Malaysia and China, which he is not in a position to win. It would in the end cut short his journey towards federalism. Becoming a province of China might present itself as a better option.
Real agenda for Mindanao
My usually reliable Davao sources tell me that beneath all the talk about “federalism,” DU30 is apparently convinced that only one or two of the proposed component regions or states could be economically viable. The money is simply not there for everyone. Therefore DU30 might be compelled to scale down his vision—to a semi-autonomous regional status for Mindanao, similar to that of Hong Kong and Macau in relation to Beijing.
Some DU30 watchers have suggested this could ultimately turn out to be the real agenda, all along. They see DU30 as unable to manage a country as big as the Philippines, but would not mind presiding over a part thereof like Mindanao. This is what bears watching. But I am digressing.
What is truly frightening is not that Congress, as these three cases clearly demonstrate, is susceptible to legislating error. For every error may be corrected once it is recognized, and there is no violent opposition to correcting it. But what truly terrifies is when the men and women in Congress do not seem to know the institution’s reason for being—why it is there, and what it should be doing.
What Congress should do
In Walter Bagehot’s writings, the main functions of Parliament are clear. Everyone who sits there is presumed to know their task is not only to make laws, but also to teach the nation what it does not know, to express the will of the people, to inform the people of the actions of the sovereign, etc. I know of no small book comparable to The English Constitution which teaches our congressmen what they are supposed to do. So almost every member assumes they have to make laws for the sake of making laws, even if they know absolutely nothing about lawmaking or law.
Thus we read of one congresswoman who wanted Congress to make martial law permanent in Mindanao, even after the reasons for its declaration had ceased to exist, and a youth party-list representative whose first legislative proposal was to legalize euthanasia for the old and the sick. And now Speaker Alvarez and company would like to wreak havoc on the institution of marriage and the family, just because they have broken marriages and LGBT affinities.
Wrong notions about law
Some members, no matter how long they have been in Congress, have the mistaken notion that their duty is to propose as many bills as possible, so they would be remembered as the authors of certain laws. This is a misconception, for every bill that becomes law is an act of Congress signed or allowed to become law by the President. A lawmaker’s worth is not measured by the number of bills he has authored, even if they ultimately become laws.
During the last term of the late Arturo Tolentino in the Senate, he never authored a single bill. But each time he made an intervention on the floor, no matter how short, he brought so much wisdom and light into the debate. Of course, Tolentino was one of the most brilliant minds that ever graced the Congress. By contrast, one senator had all the bills that had lapsed during the previous Congress copied and filed as his own bills. These added nothing to his worth.
Not for every toothache
Without question the mandate of Congress is to make laws. But they have to be good and just and necessary laws. Congress need not enact a law for every little toothache; society works best when its members are able to live and work together without need of too many laws. But every law it enacts must be, in St. Thomas’ words, an ordinance of reason promulgated by those in authority for the common good. Not the legislators’ own “good,” which may not be good for anybody else, but the good of the community they serve.
How is the common good to be served by the above-mentioned proposals? We hear nothing from the proponents, except that President Digong reportedly wants them, and that the supermajority in Congress reportedly supports them. But what kind of majority is it? It is a transactional and opportunistic majority that lost its moral authority to speak for the people when they abandoned their respective political parties after the election to join the President’s borrowed party, which has now entered into an ideological alliance, according to Senate President Koko Pimentel, with the Chinese Communist Party.
But in a democracy, the rule of the majority does not always mean the rule by any majority. A majority acting as a mob, or on the basis of erroneous or false premises, cannot possibly bind the minority or anybody. To go back to one of my favorite scholars, Cormac Burke, it is not the number of votes in support of a particular measure that makes it valid or void; it is justice. A just law, whether supported by many or a few, is always valid, be it in a democracy or in a non-democracy. An unjust law can never be valid in either, even if supported by a landslide majority.
This is precisely the situation of our present Congress. Regardless of the sound and fury coming from the so-called “supermajority,” the general feeling on the ground is that their legislative proposals violate the fundamental rights and human dignity of the real majority, and that it may not be enough to simply withdraw these unjust measures; it may have become necessary to send home these vile and foolish legislators and abolish this criminal Congress.