ANALYSIS of Congress’ (House and Senate) role in the country’s development must start with the premise that it is not representative of the cross-section of the Filipino people. With few member-exceptions, it represents the economic elite that has exclusive control of the country’s political power. No identifiable group in Congress (by social philosophy and program) speaks for landless tenant-farmers and underpaid, underemployed, and jobless industry workers.
Granting that, the super-majority in Congress can be reasonably presumed to support President Duterte for their own political reasons the bottom line of which is the protection of the vested interests they represent. The minority for their part is against Duterte also for essentially their own political reason which is arguably that of discrediting him the easier for them to recapture the seat of power.
The President, for instance, wanted a nationalist and environmentally-friendly development of the mining industry with Ms. Gina Lopez as Department of the Environment and Natural Resources Secretary. But Congress saw in her a serious threat to their mining interests and so rejected her. Now all is quiet in the mining front and we are back to economically exploitative and environmentally destructive square one in mining.
President Duterte also wanted a genuine implementation of land reform with the appointment of Rafael Mariano as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform. This, expectedly, did not bode well for the big landowners Congress represents. Hence, Mariano had to go. Unfortunate, because for the first time we have a president who has a historical and global perspective on the land issue and sees the necessity of overhauling the feudal structure of our land ownership system. No country has ever progressed without first dismantling feudalism.
The same is true for secretaries Paulyn Ubial and Judy Taguiwalo. Congress rejected them because they are strong pro-people advocates senators and congressmen cannot hope to wrap around their manicured fingers and perform at their bidding.
Finally, Congress is for Duterte’s federalism. But note that they want to do it as a Constituent Assembly. They do not want a Constitutional Convention because they want to ensure no radical changes are introduced in the current voting and representation systems that are a mockery of democracy. How can we expect the traditional political elite to include changes in the new constitution that would loosen their tight hold on power?
In sum, allowing for rare exceptions, neither the pros nor the antis of Congress are working for the people’s sake. Both houses and both sides of the political divide are working for their sake only.