The subject was not roses


WHEN you don’t want people to talk about something that you would rather keep under wraps and to yourself alone for apparently political motives, you just have to stop people from even coming within an inch of the dreaded subject.

Tapping into the colorful jargon of our friends in the LGBT community, skirt the issue with a dash of “dedma,” which is bastardized Filipino for “dead malice.”

Meaning, you just shrug it off, stare it down, ignore it.

If anyone, however, succeeds in bringing the topic to the table, our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pals would probably advise you to react to the insistent interloper with the putdown “Ma at pa,” which is short for “Malay ko at pakialam ko,” which, in turn is, again, bastardized Filipino for “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

A minority lawmaker must have summoned those words held dear by a fellow minority in Philippine society when he voiced his opposition to a plan of President Rodrigo Duterte to postpone scheduled barangay (village) elections from October this year to 2020 and then unilaterally appoint officials of the country’s lowest political subdivision en masse.

The plan will also affect the Sangguniang Kabataan or Youth Council) polls that are held simultaneously with the village elections.

When Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman recently said Duterte could not appoint barangay officials without violating the Constitution, he was, not surprisingly, silent (read: “dedma’) about the reason behind the Duterte plan.

The President’s subject was not roses but, what else, drugs.

He said he would handpick more than 40,000 village chairmen and replace them with people who are untainted by drugs, claiming that 40 percent of these barangay officials are engaged in the drug trade as pushers and users.

To allow them to run their narcotics business for another three years from 2017 to 2020, according to Duterte, would be like letting them feed the country’s rural and urban barangay folk to modern-day dogs called drug lords.

As of this writing, no one from among the most rabid Duterte critics—detained Senator Leila de Lima, Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th and Rep. Gary Alejano, to name a few—has disputed the President’s allegation on the number of crooked village officials, helping to establish it as fact by default.

They do not want to challenge the President’s statistics probably because he might just be proven right and, if he was, Lagman and company would be hard-pressed to pick up the pieces after taking Duterte to the cleaners on the alleged illegality of his plan to cleanse the ranks of the village officials.

The President must be also probably right in asserting that he would not be violating the Charter if he removed pushers and users among the barangay chairmen, at least according to Rep. Robert Ace Barbers of the second district of Surigao del Norte.

“The President is empowered by the Constitution in his plan to remove all barangay officials and appoint their successors pending new elections in May 2020.”

But Barbers, like Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas, concedes that for the President to have his way, the Local Government Code has to be amended first.

“Any law passed to this effect [that the President can unseat the incumbent village chiefs]and appoint their successors automatically amends the Local Government Code],” the congressman said.

With the House of Representatives overwhelmingly pro-Duterte, it would be a shock if House Bill 5359 that Barbers has filed to defer the village and youth polls until May 2020 does not pass the chamber, especially if it is certified urgent by the President.

Talk of the death penalty bill, which Lagman and other opposition senators also earlier opposed but which also passed the chamber by a mere voice vote.

Its subject was also not roses, but drugs, among other destroyers of the country’s moral and economic fabric.


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