Monday July 23, 2018

Seares: Explaining CHR vote: ‘so very hard to do’

IF you were among seven members of the House from Cebu who voted “yes,” abstained from voting, or was absent from the session hall when the budget of the Commission on Human Rights was reduced last Wednesday (Sept. 13) to P1,000 for the year 2018, you may not have a credible answer.

For you need to explain why you favored the economic assault on CHR, a constitutionally created agency, a move that was almost totally indefensible. Abstention or absence -- other than being kidnapped and detained or gagged and bound in hand and foot -- would be seen as voting “yes.”

Not these

First, on the answers you may not give if you wouldn’t wish to insult the public’s intelligence:

● Don’t say you couldn’t make it to the House session because of another urgent business, say a committee meeting or an important election leader’s wedding anniversary. Or you had to go to the bathroom and when you came back the voting was over. (The bathroom excuse won’t work anywhere, in Congress or at the Cebu City Council.)

● Don’t say your “no” vote wouldn’t matter as you knew the “yes” vote, by sheer size of the ruling party’s super majority, would win anyway. That would be deemed a cop-out, however you argue it.

Two forces

Most likely you were torn between forces of compulsion:

-- one, the desire to do what is right, since CHR is a creation of the Constitution to check and balance power; believing that cutting the CHR budget to a paltry thousand from millions of pesos is ridiculous if not silly; plus the thought that the House and its lawmakers would appear as lackeys of an administration spiteful and intolerant of criticism;

-- two, your self-interest, personal and partisan; you would not want to be thrown off the bandwagon, the victors’ gravy train.

Whose order?

But you could be honest and say you had to do it. Like that party-list representative who moved for approval of the CHR slash, though his party ideals and personal belief must have willed otherwise but his religion (not the Catholic Church) reportedly ordered him to support the ruling party. No, he hasn’t come out to tell why but one can imagine the tug of conflicting elements before he stood to make the motion.

Or say that you’d like to be reelected and wouldn’t want to be denied the projects that the administration could give you before the mid-term election. Like that congressman from south Cebu who reportedly said, off the record, “I want to survive.”

Keeping quiet

There it is. Voting or not voting at all on such a controversial piece of legislation could be easier than explaining why afterwards. Like “breaking up” in the Bacharach song, the explaining is “so very hard to do.”

Not a surprise that many House members who couldn’t tell it as it is, with a straight face, have chosen to keep quiet.