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philippines
Sunday, August 01, 2021

Malilong: Con Ass

AMENDING the constitution was one of the campaign promises of Rodrigo Duterte. He was explicit about how he intended to carry it out: through a constitutional convention.

Charter change is still high in the President’s agenda. He has not wavered on his promise. Only the how was changed. Congress, acting as a constituent assembly, will handle the job instead.

Some people are complaining, as a result. Ingrates.

We should be grateful that our already hardworking legislators have agreed to take on another burden so that the country can save precious resources. How’s that for personal sacrifice and financial discipline?

A Con Con is expensive. The election of delegates, the salaries of researchers and other staff members and the convention venue, among others, should cost hundreds of millions of pesos. All for an untested body whose output you cannot trust as much as you would that of Congress. I mean come on, who can beat our legislators in terms of brilliance, self-sacrifice and love of country?

And don’t you dare bring up the issue of the legislature’s refusal to give flesh to the constitutional provision banning political dynasties or their failure to pass the Freedom of Information Act to cast doubt on their willingness to put country before selves. Even senators and congressmen are entitled to the right of self-preservation.

In fact, the political dynasty fiasco could even be blamed on the Constitutional Commission for setting Congress up for failure. A former member of the House once told me that the ConCom decided to pass the responsibility to Congress because they themselves could not agree on how to define a political dynasty. And he said it in earnest.

The congressmen and senators have already lost their pork barrel (or have they really?). They’re overworked, what with all the speeches waiting to be delivered, beauty queens to crown and birthdays and weddings to attend.

And still, in an admirable display of unselfishness and heroism, they have volunteered to take care of the daunting task of re-writing the constitution on top of their usual legislative work. The personal cost to them would be enormous: canceled vacations abroad, less quality time with constituents and many more. All these they’re willing to bear for love of God and country.

So, to quote Donald Trump, what have we got to lose with a Constituent Assembly? Con na, Ass pa.

***

The presidential communications office should have a clarification and interpretation division manned entirely by people with experience in covering President Duterte when he was still the mayor of Davao City.

That way we can guide dumb (to quote a former Cebu news reporter) media men to discern whether the President was serious or joking when making a statement. That has been the complaint of Duterte even during the presidential campaign: the media report as straight news something that he said half-seriously if not jokingly.

Take the flap over his threat to pull out of the United Nations, for example. The President said he meant that as a joke but the reporters, including those of the BBC and CNN, did not get his drift.

The thing, however, is that not everyone has the gift of clairvoyance or the wealth of experience covering the Davao City mayor’s office beat. A clarification and interpretation division should help address this inadequacy. Just don’t put Salvador Panelo in charge or we will be wallowing in a preponderance of passion and obfuscation.

(frankotherside@gmail.com)
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