Congress is never independent

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EMETERIO SD. PEREZ

AS a business reporter and columnist, I am deviating from the usual stuff about the stock market. I find the shift necessary again, at this time, to remind our elected politicians not to act as though they rule this country like their own kingdom. Some deliberately choose the opposite view on almost all issues just so they would land on the news pages. They cheer when their statements are turned into well-crafted press releases by their PRs and make it to the following day’s headlines.

Don’t get fooled by these lawmakers whose press statements portray them as far smarter and kinder than they really are. You should know them better by also watching how they tackle the subject of discourse, as broadcast on TV live from Congress. Do they talk sense?

Is this the kind of democracy that some of our legislators demonstrate inside the “august Halls of Congress?” as this institution used to be described? Haven’t these politicians in our legislature been taught back in school about the three branches of government? As has been inculcated in the young minds of school children, the executive, the legislative and the judiciary are supposed to be independent of each other.

I wrote this piece after I read the column by my Times colleague Antonio P. Contreras, “What political party?” which is an analysis that should be read by all Filipinos who voted to the Senate the likes of Franklin Drilon, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Bam Aquino, Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros. They are all known supporters of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd.


Anti-Malacanang legislators
As they practice their own style of politics, elected members of the legislature reveal their political leanings — which are either pro- or anti-administration. Our legislators are identified as either for Malacanang or against it, while a few profess to be independent.

Do these legislators represent the voices of their constituents when they propose bills for enactment? Do they act for the sake of the voters who elected them to office or do they protect more the vested interests of the businesses that funded their election? The divisions that have become apparent in Congress may be reflective of the freedom afforded by a democracy like ours, but are not necessarily good for the formulation of our laws.

For instance, what good is it for some of our legislators to turn Congress into a 100-percent-owned subsidiary of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)? Yes, some legislators are doing that — turning Congress into an indirect unit of the Department of Justice (DoJ), of which the NBI is also a subsidiary.

What independence do certain legislators talk about when they are defined not by what their party stands for but by their own individual loyalties? A senator, for instance, is either for or against a sitting president.

What independence?
Having been a loyal Aquino friend and follower, Kiko Pangilinan was even appointed with a Cabinet rank as Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization during Aquino’s term. Incidentally, the name of the office does not register among Filipino farmers who do not at all rely on government for assistance.

Like an independent director (ID) appointed by the majority stockholders of listed companies, Pangilinan and other politicians like him appear to be independent only in their media releases but not in deed. Would he and others like him dare act against the wishes of the appointing powers who decide their future in politics?

How about Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th? As an Aquino loyalist, he is now a critic of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Could we consider this senator to be on the side of the people, when he had once turned his guns on the very people he had once sworn to protect and whose money, as taxpayers, paid for those guns he used as a soldier?

These senators who remain Aquino loyalists should not lecture us about the independence of Congress. They are independent only for their own convenience.

Due Diligencer’s take
It should not matter at all whether a legislator is identified with a political party, as long as his/her affiliation does not interfere with his/her performance of duty to his/her constituents. When one becomes subservient to the appointing powers, that’s when it becomes a problem for he/she loses his/her independence as a legislator.

To the unschooled in politics, like Due Diligencer, Congress now appears to have become one big family, with its members protecting the interests of one another, whether personal or political. No one should be above the law, as the saying goes, but look at how some of our elected politicians argue for their patrons. By doing that, they display the power that they wield against the people they only pretend to serve.

If pretension were a virtue, politicians who play dirty politics would probably go to heaven when they die. The problem, though, is there is nothing virtuous in being a “great pretender.” In Congress, one shows his ignorance when he argues senselessly.

It is not important to know who these politicians are. The voters should know how their senators and members of the House of Representatives have been dispensing with their roles as legislators. In fact, they could learn their mistakes in choosing politicians during elections by observing now who are turning out to be big disappointments. Were they responsible for Trillanes’ election as senator? Just asking.

esdperez@gmail.com

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