THE infamous quote “What are we in power for?” attributed to the late Senate President Jose Avelino has become a cliché representation of the high-handedness of the high and the mighty in Philippine politics, even as a number of writers like Nick Joaquin and Francisco Tatad have debunked it as what is fashionably referred to today as “fake news.” The original spoken Spanish of Avelino during a Liberal Party caucus in Malacañang in 1949 was said to have been mistranslated or even contrived by a rogue newsman.
Whatever misdeed that quote was attached to, and perhaps many others that came after it, pales in comparison to what is happening today at the House of Representatives, a chamber even more devalued in integrity and stature under Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and his top whip, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
Fariñas, aided and abetted by Alvarez, has shockingly refused to free six employees of the Ilocos Norte capitol, purportedly for refusing to tell the “truth” over the alleged misuse of tobacco excise tax funds on various vehicles purchased by the provincial government five or six years ago.
Unfortunately for Fariñas, his newfound crusade has not gained traction with the public, which still remembers the supercilious manner with which he led the prosecution (persecution, really) of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, who died a broken man after his impeachment conviction at the behest of a vengeful and self-righteous Aquino administration.
It doesn’t help that Fariñas is on his last term as representative of the first district of Ilocos Norte, and could probably have a shot at wresting back his old gubernatorial post by undermining the incumbent, Gov. Imee Marcos.
Worse, Alvarez is helping prop up this charade by defying a lawful order from the Court of Appeals to free the “Ilocos 6,” who have been detained by the House since May 29. The House is also planning to arrest Marcos for refusing to appear before a congressional probe, and to sue her brother, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., for advising her to do just that.
Speaker Alvarez has gone so far as to threaten to shut down the appellate court, an absurdity unworthy of the fourth highest official of the land.
The silliness did not end there. Fariñas is now threatening to sue the Ilocos Norte provincial board supposedly for depriving him of his constitutional rights when it declared him persona non grata in his home province.
Well, that statement backfired as that piece of paper from the provincial board is nothing compared with the real constitutional rights deprived of the Ilocos 6 by the House.
To be sure, there must be something in Ilocos Norte’s vehicle-buying spree worth prosecuting. But that should be left to the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court, not to the Batman and Robin of the House, and not at the cost of an unnecessary showdown with the judiciary, a co-equal branch of government.
Fariñas has proven himself to be a political survivor ever since the untimely demise of his wife, the former television actress Maria Teresa Carlson, who jumped to her death from a Greenhills condominium tower nearly 16 years ago.
But his new image as a certified bully threatens to eclipse that still-Googleable episode. And it could finally cost him his political career. More regrettable, however, is that Fariñas’ petty crusade has only succeeded in further bringing down the already tarnished image of the House to perhaps one of its lowest post-EDSA.