Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos has proposed a most interesting twist in the continuing debate on the Bangsamoro project of President Aquino and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
In reply to Aquino’s statement that he wants to meet with senators to discuss the BBL, Bongbong has suggested that the meeting should be televised in full view of the public like the hearings on the Mamasapano massacre and the serial crucifixion of vice president Jejomar Binay.
Bongbong wants a televised meeting in the interest of transparency – to avoid the mishap that befell Congressmen Rufus Rodriguez and his House ad hoc committee, which met twice with Aquino and caved to his demands. The Senate meeting will also be different from the secret meeting of Aquino with Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada in Malacañang at the height of the Corona impeachment trial, which resulted in PNoy getting his desired balato (tip from winnings).
IN whatever way the media portrays it — as journalism, as political theater, as entertainment, or as reality TV – a televised Aquino meeting with senators will
crystalize the huge stakes in the BBL debate – for our people, for our country, and for Mindanao.
As chairman of the senate committee on local government that is deliberating on the final form of the BBL, Senator Marcos has shown that he has some of the gravitas of his father in him. Now with this proposal, he shows that he may also have the flair of his inimitable mother.
Will Aquino agree?
If president Aquino agrees to a televised meeting and the event comes to pass, it could surpass the normal viewership of public affairs programming in the country. It could expose the silliness of GMA-TV and ABS-CBN both claiming to have ratings supremacy in their battle over ratings (by conducting their own self-serving market surveys), since they will be broadcasting the same banana.
This thing may or may not happen. Aquino could get scared of wading into a live broadcast, wherein he has to think on his feet and answer questions from the senators.
Advisers may choose to dissuade him because he is so vulnerable on so many aspects of the BBL.
Reality-based television differs from documentary television in that the focus brings out conflict and differences, rather than simply informing viewers.
The fact is, the nation has never seen this president in a serious public discussion of issues. It would be a first if he agrees.
Aquino’s power to persuade
More than anyone, it is President Aquino who should eagerly welcome this proposal.
The BBL is now on life-support. Only one in four Filipinos support it. Support in the Senate is flagging. In the House, the leadership cannot marshal a quorum for the plenary debates.
Aquino should consider the televised meeting as a good opportunity for him to make the case for the passage by Congress of the BBL – a necessary argument which he has never made in any forum. This will also be a chance for his much-maligned speechwriters to show that they can write a speech, and operate a teleprompter properly.
Richard Neustadt, author and Harvard professor, theorized that “presidential power is the power to persuade.”
It is Aquino’s power of persuasion that will be under test here. What is needed is the power of reasoning and sound thinking. The power of bribery, pork barrel and intimidation does not count here. This is what senators Serge Osmeña and Bongbong Marcos want to exclude from the Senate deliberation on the BBL. Senators must be able to exercise their independent judgment on the issue.
In the give-and-take with the senators, Aquino is sure to have senator allies who will have his back. Senate President Frank Drilon will strive to do for PNoy what he did for Butch Abad in the Senate’s whitewash of his DAP sins.
The danger is balkanization
The senate should lap up the opportunity to openly discuss with the President on live TV.
Institutionally, it’s good for this tarnished institution to meet the personage behind its shame (In 2012, Aquino bribed senators to impeach a sitting chief justice). It does not hurt if the chamber now demonstrates some spine and patriotism.
Senator Marcos seeks a televised senate meeting with President Aquino so there are no suspicions of bribery, in whatever form.
Individually, for senators who genuinely oppose the creation of a Moro substate, it’s an opportunity for them to ask Aquino upfront why he and his negotiators talked peace only with the MILF and excluded other stakeholders in Mindanao.
The overarching reason for a televised meeting between Aquino and the senators is that it concerns perhaps the most important issue of our public life today. The creation of a state within the Philippine Republic, and the balkanization (fragmentation) of national territory.
You get an idea of how serious this business is if you google the term “balkanization.” Wars have been fought over it.
More than an idiot box
The television networks should similarly welcome the chance to broadcast the meeting live in a non-partisan manner.
Through this, the networks can atone for all those moronic hearings of the blue ribbon subcommittee starring Senators Trillanes, Cayetano and Pimentel, by turning their attention to an issue of great importance and meaning.
Even as just a departure from recent practice, the broadcast of the Aquino-senators meeting is already a public service, and an act of mercy to viewers, who feel idiotized by shallow programming.
Of course, in-depth tough-minded TV is difficult and risky. But if organized properly, the president’s meeting with the senators can prove to be riveting television. And it could point the way for stopping the balkanization of the Philippines.
Aquino could forget himself
Many are skeptical whether Aquino will consent to such a public meeting with our senators. He is only comfortable in scripted situations, where he can talk in polysyllabic Filipino without being understood.
Some people sympathetic to the President believe there is a danger in this format that President Aquino will forget himself during the meeting.
As he did in front of Pope Francis in Malacañang when he lambasted the Catholic Church hierarchy in the country.
As when he launched into an uncontrolled tirade against the Supreme Court when it declared the DAP as illegal and unconstitutional.
As when he launches into tirades against his critics at the oddest occasions.
This time around, under questioning by senators of the Republic, Aquino could inadvertently offer bribes to our senators in public or threaten them.
Or he might he ask them to vote for the BBL as balato to him.
We never really know, with this guy sitting on our public throne.