The House horror show illustrates why Federalism is a bad idea
By Joe America
Did you catch that strange House hearing in aid of legislation last week? The objective of the hearings was to examine the drug problem in New Bilibid Prison. Unfortunately, legislation and Bilibid were set aside to pursue a public shaming of Senator De Lima.
The House reps stunned most of the Senate, a lot of House members, and a whole lot of citizens, too. It was a disrespectful, offensive, low-blow kangaroo court that began when the House Speaker declared Senator De Lima a “serial liar” during a television interview, and ended with the issuance of a “show cause order” holding her in contempt for “obstructing justice”.
Can you imagine a judge going on TV before trial to claim that the defendant in his court is a liar? He would not. Professional integrity does not permit it. People being judged are granted rights and assured of fair treatment. A deep Christian compassion underpins these ethical boundaries. So does the Philippine Constitution:
ARTICLE IV, SECTION 21. The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure. The rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.
The House hearing was not an earnest, honest investigation into the whys and ways of drug operations within a prison. It was hostile, low-class, politically inspired vendetta. One important piece of information divulged during the hearing was the deep involvement of PNP officials in dealing drugs. This was “on topic” and could have pointed to legislation. But that information was substantially ignored. The legislators wanted to talk sex.
“Such offensive, small men and women,” I muttered to myself as I watched the spectacle.
If this is the Philippine version of integrity, decency, and good government, no wonder the nation struggles so.
Well, it appears to this observer that the House is no longer an independent institution. It has fallen into line as an executor of President Duterte’s demands, and his demand is to punish Senator Del Lima for seeking information about the killings he has ordered. They will do this even if the facts against her have to be concocted by drug dealers who win immunity if they testify properly.
The Senate’s President, Senator Pimentel . . . decidedly not a “yellow” . . . responded to one rep’s suggestion that the Senate dismiss Senator De Lima:
“We have our own rules also in the Senate. Rule of law tayo, but you know for a member of the House to tell the Senate to do something, ibalik ko siguro sa kanila, ibalik ko sa House, ‘do your thing first, before you ask us to do something.’”
Senator Hontiveros held nothing back in her own pointed statement about the hearing. She’d been working diligently on legislation to protect women from violence, and here she was, witnessing it in the House:
The House of Representatives hit a lowest of the low as the House Committee on Justice reopened its probe into the narcotics trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) during Senator Leila De Lima’s stint as justice secretary. It was not an investigation in aid of legislation. It was a public lynching in aid of misogyny and sexism.
Well, it seems to me that what we see in the House is what we could expect of the governance of states under Federalism. Leadership that places favor and personal interests above law, decency, institutional integrity, and the nation.
Who are the representatives, after all? Many are members of dynastic families that have been prominent in their local districts for years, passing the power to other family members. Arroyo, Marcos, Romualdez, Cayetano, Espina, and many others that you might recognize. Pacquiao, new to the class. They command loyalty and backing by playing the power and favor game. They grow rich with all the money thrown at them during their term. They grow powerful.
That’s why Liberal Party members had no problem turning coat to align with President Duterte. They have little interest in serving the people or the ideals of democracy or even the Liberal Party. They serve themselves.
Well, a few senators and representatives do have some dedication to democratic principles and legislative integrity, numbering I’d imagine fewer than 20. They are largely impotent due to the large number of congressmen who care so little about ethics and decency as a commitment, and as a model of integrity for citizens to follow.
And what will federalism do? It will empower a select few of these families and it will divide and undermine the nation. It will place the caliber of leadership we witnessed at the hearing, and the same unprincipled, biased, hostile, authoritarian, self-serving leadership, at the top of each state. Do you think people of this character will work diligently in favor of national interests? They can’t even manage the House as an institution of integrity and service to the people. They play unseemly political games. Why would they work cooperatively with “Imperial Manila”?
Federalism is a sure path to a divided nation, a weak nation, a poor nation, an unethical nation favoring the few, and a nation of administrative incompetence led by people of low democratic character who simply don’t get it.
The “it” being integrity, civility, service, and good works.