“TYRANNY of numbers” was a lament frequently heard from the opposition in the regular Batasan (1984 – 86) dominated by the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL). Among the various opposition groups then, the PDP-Laban headed by MP Nene Pimentel was among the most vigilant in fighting excesses by the KBL and the martial-law regime.
Now, martial law is no more. The KBL is but a shell of itself with only Rep. Imelda R. Marcos as its member in the House. However, don’t be surprised if cries of “tyranny of numbers” will again surface in the House, what with the PDP-Laban looming as the new KBL.
The KBL always outvoted the less than 60 Batasan oppositionists, even if reason and justice were on the side of the latter. If Malacañang wanted a measure passed or junked, the debates became of no consequence, thus the cries of “tyranny of numbers.” Yet, for all their numerical superiority, the KBL members almost always respected the oppositionists as fellow representatives of the people.
There were only three occasions where I think the KBL roughhoused the opposition: when Speaker Nicanor Yñiguez directed the sergeant-at-arms to bring down the Mace to the seat of maverick MP Bono Adaza (now a Times columnist) and when MP Leonardo Perez successfully moved for the deletion of the entire privilege speeches of opposition MPs Rogaciano Mercado and Douglas Cagas haranguing martial law and President Marcos. (Years later, I saw Perez at a restaurant on Times St., Quezon City.
I asked him if there was anything he regretted during his stint in Batasan. “The expunging off the record of the speeches of Mercado and Cagas,” Perez said softly.)
In the current 17th Congress, the majority has about 251 members. It can outvote the puny minority anytime. Yet, the majority headed by PDP-Laban’s Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez isn’t content in merely getting enough votes. It’s treating with contempt Liberals who want to join the majority and is even dictating on which group should head the minority. In these instances, the PDP-Laban, the supposed party with ideology, is baring more fangs and is spewing more venom than the unlamented KBL. And to think that martial law is a bygone era!
By bending the rules and thru tyranny of numbers, the House majority succeeded in installing Rep. Danilo Suarez, of Quezon, as minority leader.
The PDP-Laban was like a tiger as opposition at the Batasan. Now, as leader of the majority, it wants a submissive minority, a virtual “company union.” Until now, I can’t fathom why former Speaker Sonny Belmonte, of the Liberal Party, agreed to coalesce with PDP-Laban. Alvarez had already dictated the number of Liberals who could join and that under no circumstance will any, even third-termers, get committee chairmanships.
So, how come the Liberals allowed themselves to be so humiliated? Thank, heavens, there are still proud, principled Liberals like Reps. Edcel Lagman, Raul Daza and Teddy Baguilat.
A perceptive reader, Dominador Baul, wondered how come the Liberals are now in both the majority and the minority. Indeed, this is a first time.
At the House, previously, all members of a political party were only on one side of the political fence. Before, the House minority was invariably with the opposition and, the majority, pro-administration. Now, even most members of the House minority are allies of the administration and its party, PDP-Laban.
Incidentally, the father of Press Secretary Martin Andanar, Wency Andanar, is a PDP-Laban original. We often saw each other in the 80s whenever I covered a party activity. I won’t say, however, that Wency’s being with PDP-Laban was the main reason why his son Martin, a broadcast journalist, became a member of the Cabinet of President Duterte.
Reporter choked, threatened
Speaking of the press secretary, I hope he’ll find time to look into the complaint of a provincial correspondent against a high official of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), an office under him.
Ben Serrano, a long-time correspondent of Philippine STAR in Butuan City, complained that on July 24, Director Abner Caga of PIA-Caraga held him by the neck and punched him twice but missed during a supposed media briefing at the Philippine Army camp in Bangkasi, Butuan. He said that several military officers saw the incident but have refused to testify.
He told me that several media colleagues in Butuan had told him to be careful because Caga wanted to harm him. I’m sure the Philippine STAR will act to protect its correspondent, but I’m airing his plea because Ben Serrano is also a friend. I also hope that Paul Gutierrez, president of the National Press Club, along with Sec. Andanar, will give appropriate attention to this incident.