“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you but none too much:”
– From IF by Rudyard Kipling
I WENT to the Batasan Building, now the House of Representatives, yesterday to savor the feel of the old building which was the scene of my triumphs and tragedies during martial rule in the Philippines as Opposition member of the regular Parliament. The sights and sounds are still there but the historic ambience is all gone. The intellectual giants are sorely missed; the theatrical flourish of the grand debaters is gone – down the river of no return, as they say.
But when I met Congressman Douglas Hagedorn of Palawan on the floor of the House yesterday, I was reminded of the great old days when fighters for the people always had their day – come Hell or high water. The moment of fond reminiscence was triggered by a privilege speech of the congressman fighting for the people of his district and Palawan to preserve the pristine beauty of the province, not for himself but particularly for his people and the rest of the country.
The great warrior for the environment fought all the odds against the House leadership on both sides of the political fence just so the lords of business headed by Governor Pepito Alvarez, popularly known as JCA for Jose Chaves Alvarez would not have their way in devastating the province, making huge profits on business ventures that would devastate Palawan and leave to Palawenos the scenes of environmental destruction.
I cannot improve on Congressman Hagedorn’s privilege speech, with all the passion for his people that he could muster. And here goes the privilege speech, with the passion and the sights and sounds that make for greatness.
The Hagedorn privilege speech
“Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of personal and collective privilege to condemn the unethical behavior of a few members of this House. As events unravelled, I perceive such behavior as acts of connivance with the richest politician in our country today, no other than Jose “Pepito” Alvarez, Governor of Palawan, who is sadly now leading incursions against our province’s protected areas.
“What we see here is another clash between business – that of loggers, miners and coal proponents – and the public interest. Big business against environment!
“Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, HB 6328 (the renumbered proposed Expanded NIPAS Bill) was reported for second reading and consideration by the plenary. Many of us are anticipating the approval of Committee Report 946 containing the said bill.
“For the information of this body, the said ENIPAS Bill, Mr. Speaker, was earlier mired in controversy.
“After the Committee submitted to the Committees on Appropriation and Ways and Means, its first Committee Report No. 880, Governor Alvarez and Cong. Chicoy Alvarez wrote the Chairman to have five of the protected areas of Palawan deleted from the measure.
“Upon the mere prodding of the two Alvarezes, the Committee Secretariat sheepishly obeyed and surreptitiously removed the five protected areas, then submitted to the Rules Committee the said Report, in clear violation of House Rules.
“Many of us were shocked. Prominent environmentalists and other concerned sectors joined me in opposing the deletions.
“After receiving my protest, the Committee on Rules recommitted the Report to the Committee on Natural Resources. In its executive meeting last Nov. 11, the Committee resolved to restore the five protected areas of Palawan. The Committee also noted the various resolutions and statements of support from the affected and concerned sectors.
“Actually, Mr. Speaker, even the people herded by the Governor in his own “consultation” – after hearing the position of the environmentalists – themselves agreed to retain the five protected areas. During the executive meeting, Cong. Alvarez was silent when our esteemed soft-spoken colleague and principal sponsor of the ENIPAS HB 6328, Congresswoman Josephine Sato, remarked that she could not understand the opposition of Gov. Alvarez to the inclusion of Palawan.
“And so, the anomalous Committee Report No. 880 containing HB 4336 was substituted with Committee Report No. 946 with HB 6328. And so we thought that everything would proceed smoothly.
‘Sadly, Mr. Speaker, another brazen violation of the rules and of our democratic process happened last Wednesday. This second attempt to delete, nay, murder, Palawan’s protected areas was hatched by Las Piñas Congressman Mark Villar and ABAKADA Party-list Representative Jonathan de la Cruz. The Villar-de la Cruz tandem would have murdered four of our protected areas right under my very nose.
“Mr. Speaker, this representation strongly condemns the un-parliamentary and dishonorable conduct of these two gentlemen. They owe the Committee and the people of Palawan a formal apology. They should answer the following questions:
1) “To Cong. De la Cruz: As sponsor and presentor of the bill, did the gentleman not lie when he declared that there were no committee amendments, despite his full knowledge of the fact that an executive meeting was called to correct the anomaly that attended the deletion of the five protected areas? Therefore, Mr. Speaker, isn’t a new amendment again calling for their deletion an amendment to the Committee’s decision and report?
2) “To Cong. Mark Villar: What is your real motive in proposing the removal of four of Palawan’s protected Areas? Would their removal be to our benefit? Where did the gentleman get the idea that the Representative of Las Pinas knows what’s best for the people of Palawan?
“Mr. Speaker, this is another sad day for our environment, for our democracy, and for our institution.
“Have some of us become so callous and insensitive? Has power gone into their heads? Power can transform – for better or for worse. To those who abuse the power entrusted to them, they ask: “What are we in power for?”
“Lest we forget, we are elected representatives of the people. To be true to them, we must articulate their dreams and aspirations. Sila ang totoong boss. At tayo ay mga kinatawan lamang nila.
“After having put on record our people’s sentiments, I now thank you, Mr. Speaker!” (End of Hagedorn speech)
I say amen to Congressman Hagedorn’s privilege speech. This is one Congressman who has brains in his balls and balls in his brains. May utak sa bayag at may bayag sa utak, as the late Speaker Pepito Laurel, our Minority Floor Leader in the regular Batasang Pambansa, articulated it to me so well when I sponsored the impeachment of that brilliant president, Ferdinand Marcos.
Hagedorn deserves congratulations
Congressman Douglas Hagedorn deserves congratulation not only from the people of Palawan and his district; he deserves the congratulations of the people in this country. It is not easy to defy the gods of the system. I should know I have been there; I am still there. Douglas, welcome to the ranks of the immortals! The people of your district should overwhelmingly send you back to the House, if there be elections, so that someday in a not too distant future you can become one of the top leaders in this country and the Alvarezes in this world could be put in their rightful place – the dustbin of history!