Tuesday, December 1, 2009

EDITORIAL: It’s speakership or nothing


Running for Congress won’t automatically translate to Gloria Arroyo becoming the Speaker in the House of Representatives, analysts claimed, in reaction to her announced run in Pampanga’s second district.

The reason, they proferred, was that she may no longer have the control over the House, once a new president is installed in Malacañang.

Possible, but having a new president does not necessarily translate to his control of Congress immediately.

For one, Gloria isn’t the type of politician that is easily satisfied with being just an ordinary member of Congress. As a senator, she wasn’t satisfied being a senator allied with the Ramos-Malacañang. She set her sights on the vice presidency. She couldn’t even wait for the term of the democratically-elected president to end, for her to make a bid for the presidency.

When she assumed the vice presidency, she was already planning for a nine-year stay in Malacañang. Thus it was that she plotted a coup in January 2000, a full year before staging the coup ousting then sitting President Joseph Estrada, timed just right for her to be in Malacañang as president staying less than four years, which would make her eligible to run for the presidency in 2004.

Running for a seat in Congress and merely “serving” her Pampanga constituents as an ordinary congressman just doesn’t compute. She is definitely out to bag the speakership — by the crooked hook.

But analysts — or those who try to be — claim that with her allies in Lakas-Kampi now forsaking her, having bolted the party to join other parties, as well as the reality of her no longer being president, she can’t possibly have the same clout and control over the majority of the congressmen.

That’s truly underestimating her and her billions, plus the nature of our congressmen, who are easily bribed and go where the money is.

While it is true that the usual style is for congressmen to quickly swear loyalty to whoever sits in Malacañang, and that generally done is the practice of a president’s anointed congressman becoming the speaker, this can only happen if the new president succeeds in quickly consolidating power, which he may not be able to do, given the current division even among the opposition presidential candidates — especially if one is more of a divider than a unifier, and without any experience whatsoever. Besides, even if he wins the plum prize, that new president can’t expect to have a majority in Congress that fast.

Gloria, however, can easily consolidate power in Congress and even get a majority of congressmen voting for her and with her.

For one, she can dangle Charter change and the lifting of term limits, which is really a big thing with congressmen but which a new president may not offer at all, especially since a new president would want to have his six-year term, and would not want it shortened through Cha-cha. Say a Con-ass won’t work, so what’s to stop her from controlling a constitutional convention?

For another, she can gather all the congressmen she knows she can easily get to her side, through the usual bribery in the millions immediately after the poll results — as she is still the president until June 30, 2009 — in exchange for the speakership. By the time the new president is ready to give his first state of the nation, Speaker Gloria will be there at the rostrum, along with the Senate president.

In truth, just by going through the Constitution, the real power lies not in the executive department, but the Congress. It has the power over the purse. It can override presidential vetoes. It can craft laws clipping the powers of the executive. Congress can, at anytime, call on any official from the executive branch under investigation. It has the power of impeaching constitutional officers — whether the grounds are legitimate or not.

If Congress has become so powerless, it is mainly because it voluntarily abdicated its powers, allowing the president to do as the executive pleases and becoming utterly subservient to the executive power.

The presidency can be weakened by a strong Congress and not even the Supreme Court can be match for Congress, if Congress wants to fight the high court. If a law is deemed unconstitutional, Congress can come up with yet another law to counteract that SC ruling. It’s as easy as that.

Gloria is anything but politically naïve. She knows how to use and abuse power and when she does become Speaker, whoever sits in Malacañang will have to contend with her and her Congress.

Only a strong and experienced president — and not a weak and inexperienced one — can be her match.

Source: http://www.tribune.net.ph/commentary/20091202com1.html

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