MY late father Timoteo worked as a “helper” in the soft drinks firm Pepsi-Cola before he was promoted as a salesman. That was where he got his muscular build when he was younger: lifting wooden boxes containing 24 bottles of the drink. But he was an intellectual; he was valedictorian in elementary but never went to college because his family was hard up. He chose to work instead.
My father’s intellectual bent often showed up when he got inebriated. You would know he was already drunk when his voice would rise and he begins speaking in English. From him, I got interested in politics and current affairs. He would listen to the news and commentary programs on radio. And he would bring home from his work newspapers and the occasional magazine, the Philippines Free Press.
My young mind wasn’t particularly drawn to the magazine’s articles but to the cartoons, which at that time was drawn by Esmeraldo Z. Izon, known simply as EZ Izon. I remember that his favorite subject was Congress, and he depicted them either as pigs (because of their infamous pork barrel) or crocodiles. Of course, the crocodile reference was not limited to congressmen but to other politicians.
I used to wonder why the cartoonist was so harsh on politicians. In my old age, I now know. Having followed the country’s politics for so long, I have gotten to the point of being frustrated, too, with many politicians, those in Congress specially. The biggest frustration I reserve for those whom I idolize and respect early on but who end up being exposed for their opportunism and lack of scruples.
Many of our politicians have been exposed under the present dispensation. Just look at the senators and members of the House of Representatives who voted in favor of extending the imposition of military rule in Mindanao for another year. They re the very same people who bolted from their party to that of the administration in a jiffy. And it is frustrating.
An example. In an election a few years ago, my wife asked me to help her with the list of the senatorial bets he would write in her ballot. Before that, she already had preferences, and prominent among them was Richard Gordon. Days ago, while we were watching a Senate committee hearing, I asked my wife what she thought of Gordon. Her response: “naunsa na man na siya, uy.”
Personally, I had high hopes for Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, son of the illustrious Aquilino Pimentel Jr. I thought he was an improvement from his father being a bar topnotcher. But when I listen to him defend President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies, I am convinced he is indeed a bit of an improvement—not of his father but of the so-called DDS (Diehard Duterte Supporters).
Forget the House. I follow them and I am reminded of Izon’s cartoons.
Why am I talking about this? Because I think that much of the damage wrought currently on our democratic institutions and our way of life is being inflicted by a Congress that have lost its independence because many of its members have become experts in, sorry to use the term, ass-licking. This wasn’t how the framers of the 1987 Constitution and of the constitutions past envisioned the role Congress would play. And it’s frustrating.