13 June 2006

4-point agenda in the 'tricameral' budget hearings

after following peripherally in the news the recently conluded anc teledrama, otherwise known as the 'tricameral' budget hearings, it was a delight to read pdi most aptly capping (for now) the whole thing with its independence day editorial offering. the write-up succinctly spoiled what could have been another well-polished act for bunye, faithful as ever to malacañang's lay-all-the-blame-on-the-senate-to-pave-the-way-for-its-abolition pr-strategy. the senate, too, didn't come out unscathed there. i had a talk recently with a friend from the reg'l dbm office here in legazpi, & she was exasperated at the way the senate did to their proposed 2006 budget. all that hard work for a reenacted budget.

the sorry state of our gov't has come to these: malacañang dictates to congress its wishes. congress - den of trapos that it is (heri, hodie, semper?) - pithy opposition notwithstanding, delivers the malacañang-'inspired' budget proposal to the senate - 'the graveyard of congress-approved bills' (acc. to my district's congressman, lagman). the senate, in turn, sees a dilemma staring at them: not to approve the bill & compromise funding for certain valid & urgent public concerns or approve it ('all or nothing' -again, malacañang) & risk giving gloria enough leverage to bribe congresspersons come impeachment time or assure admin candidates of yet another round of 'pera-ic' victories come election time. the compromise: the lame fall back of a reenacted budget - symbol, symptom, synonym of this country's current political empassé.

happy independence day, anyone?

The secretary lies

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the June 12, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IT IS A SORRY SIGN OF THE TIMES, AND A SAD reflection on the state of the nation, 108 years after independence was first proclaimed, that the headline above can be understood to refer to more than one government official serving in the present Cabinet.

It could refer to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, whose job description seems to include drawing public anger and opposition criticism away from the President, through the strategic use of intemperate, injudicious, inaccurate statements.

It could refer to National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, who has demonstrated a capacity to manufacture entire conspiracies or imagine mass graves out of very thin cloth.

Unhappily, to those who find Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye a generally amiable fellow, the headline refers to him. In particular, it refers to the statement he released after a bicameral conference committee failed to conclude negotiations on the proposed 2006 national budget. The key passage reads: “We lament the nonpassage of vital reform bills to include the national budget due to the noncooperation and dilly-dallying displayed by the Senate. This situation is the clearest and best argument for a shift to a unicameral system that fuses the executive and legislative powers in one chamber for which we now have a growing momentum of public support.”

In these two sentences, Bunye asserts four principal facts. On closer examination, we find that all of them are lies.

First. Malacañang does not lament the nonpassage of the 2006 budget; in fact, the Palace positively guaranteed the outcome. We are certain that the Executive would have welcomed the passage of the full trillion-peso budget for 2006; but we are even more certain that a reenacted 2005 budget also suits the President’s political purposes. Hence, the late transmission of the House bill to the Senate. Hence, the all-or-nothing ultimatum from Malacañang, which was designed to stop negotiations, not encourage it.

Second. The Senate bears its share of the blame, but so does the Palace. “Both waged systematic efforts to impair each other’s competitive positions via a scorched earth or creeping decapitation strategy ahead of the 2007 elections,” a frustrated Rep. Joey Salceda, head of the House panel to the budget bicam, told the Inquirer. In fact, in his frustration, Salceda finally admitted the obvious. “It’s really a tricam since the Executive casts a shadow over the entire exercise.” The administration-controlled House merely channels the ghosts of Malacañang. “Invariably, the House panel is a conduit of Executive intervention since we religiously adopt their budget proposal which inevitably becomes our position during the bicam.” That position was “take it or leave it.” In other words, the noncooperation and dilly-dallying Bunye laments can also and rightly be laid at Malacañang’s door.

Third. The budget fiasco is not the clearest and best argument for a unicameral system; rather, it is the clearest and best argument against it. The ostensible assumption behind Bunye’s “false-facts statement” is that efficiency is the best justification for a legislature; this is a point of view we can have a reasonable and profitable debate about. Bunye’s real assumption, however, is that the bicameral conference was a failure because it failed to advance the President’s objectives. Considering that the President’s 2006 budget objectives included billions of pesos in the presidential equivalent of a pork barrel, the Senate’s proposed reduction of that part of the budget was very much in the public interest—and, therefore, it was an endorsement of the check-and-balance function of a bicameral legislature.

Fourth. There is no growing momentum of public support for a unicameral system. The latest surveys from both Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia show that most Filipinos of voting age are against a change in the system of government. The online statistics Charter change advocates point to are non-scientific, at best; manufactured, at worst. Like Bunye’s brazen assertions, they are nothing more than a tissue of lies.

the editorial may be viewed at http://news.inq7.net/opinion/index.php?index=1&story_id=78827

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