IF there is something I would credit President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and his think-tanks at this stage, it would be the swiftness with which they consolidated their hold on Congress. I think it took the camp of Benigno Aquino III a longer time to recruit balimbings to the Liberal Party (LP) and forge alliances with other political blocs before it could control the Senate and the House of Representatives. With the Duterte camp, the control is in place even before the next Congress could hold its first session.
A big part of the Duterte camp’s success can be attributed to the nature of the country’s politics. Or should I say it is because of the proliferation of “trapos” (traditional politicians), whose lack of scruples has made malleable every political setup put in place in the country. That is aided by a political party system that has political parties looking like empty rice sacks.
In the House, the dominant party will already be the PDP-Laban, thanks to the exodus of trapos to the Duterte camp either as party members or as part of a “super” alliance. As the youngsters would describe it, “sipsipay ang drama.” After it became clear that Duterte won the presidency, politicians made a beeline to Davao City where the president-elect held fort pledging their allegiance, or should I say acting subservient, to him.
Meanwhile, if Sen. Vicente Sotto III is to be believed, the Senate would already be “under the bunal” of the incoming Duterte administration. He even talked about punishments for those who would stray from the dictates of the new pro-Duterte majority. The incoming Senate President, Aquilino Pimentel III, the lone PDP-Laban senator, said he would already be consulting with the president-elect on his legislative agenda.
With a Congress under the control of the incoming administration and with politicians on a “sipsip” mode, it looks like everything would be smooth sailing for Duterte in Congress. I think the balimbings won’t have any problem pushing through what is in Duterte’s wish list, like the lobby for the restoration of the death penalty, the jumpstarting of the process for a shift to a federal form of government and many others. There is even this call to give Duterte emergency powers to address the traffic problem in Metro Manila.
Because of this, civil society’s role under a Duterte administration would be very important. With Congress possibly failing in its task of scrutinizing the correctness of the executive’s every act and plan, civil society should take up the slack. Of course some members of Congress may act independently, like Senator-elect Sherwin Gatchalian asking the executive to present first a plan of action to justify the granting of emergency powers to the incoming president to address the traffic problem in Metro Manila. But they would be in the minority.
On this, the Roman Catholic Church, through the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), is leading the way when it came up with a stand on extra-judicial killings, the shooting to death of suspected drug lords and the imposition of the death penalty. I still have to hear of other groups voicing their contrary views to some of Duterte’s announced policies, but I am confident that they would surface soon like they did surface in previous administrations.
Democracy is best served when the presentation of views contrary to those of the government is not stymied.
(email@example.com/ twitter: @khanwens)