COMMENT: Some thoughts to ponder. By Patricio P. Diaz

“Those people who seek to divide the country to destabilize the nation are not sleeping.  They are meeting.  They are talking, they are planning a new year full of fireworks beyond January 1,” said Secretary Ronaldo Puno of Local Government and Interior. But he said they will not prevail.

To Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, the possibility that “political groups” could agitate soldiers to turn against the government is “remote”.  This, he said, was the assessment of the intelligence community.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., confirming Teodoro’s statement said, “Some people, especially those with delusions of grandeur, will always plan things.  They will never give up.”  He made assurances the military is on alert and any attempt will be met with force.

Philippine National Police Chief Avelino Razon likened destabilizers to criminals.  He made the assurance that the PNP will “be more on guard, more alert” and attend to all threats.

These statements were not solicited by reporters but were from their New Year speeches – Puno and Razon at Camp Crame and Teodoro and Esperon at Camp Aguinaldo. It appeared that they had been haunted by the ghosts of the past.

Puno describes “destabilizers” as “those that advocate division, those that look to hurt others, those that look to break the peace and stability of our country.” This is a view of just one side of the coin – a fallacious view that only the President wants the country to prosper.

The idea that the President is always right and her critics are always wrong is self-defeating. By that the President will never see her faults and she will blame her failures on her critics and political opposition.  That is exactly what has happened and will continue to happen.

The President’s critics and the opposition are not out to destroy her or the country. They are only pointing out the omissions and faults in governance; they are suggesting what more to do. The mistake may be in the offensive mode of the criticisms. But it is also quite clear that President Arroyo has not been transparent and detests accountability.

She has used the powers of the presidency to evade and frustrate calls for transparency and accountability including those of her official family and other high officials close to her. Against the militants of the Right, Left and the military she has the military and police forces in reserve, as attested by Puno and company.

If we take a deep and long look, it is not difficult to see that Arroyo and her top officials, by their hostile attitude towards their critics and the political opposition, are the leading destabilizers of their government. That is the other side of the coin. I think if they consider positively what their critics say and improve the life of the people, they will silence their critics and challenge the opposition to do better.

Puno, Teodoro, Esperon and Razon have just hurled a hostile challenge to Arroyo’s critics, the political opposition and the militants.  They have just sown new seeds of destabilization and that does not augur well for 2008.   

We are not advocating a velvet-glove policy in the treatment of the rebellious and the seditious in our country.  We are proposing reasonableness and prudence as the alternative to hostility.  As we all see the hostility of Arroyo and of her government to their critics, the political opposition and the militants and her invocation and use of her powers have only stoked destabilization.

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Is Congress independent or a dependent of Malacañang?  Despite the doctrine of separation of powers, the pro-administration majority members of the House – and even the pro-administration members of the Senate – are so beholden to President Arroyo that Congress has become a domain of Malacañang. Expect a tighter hold of Arroyo, not a change, in 2008.

“De Venecia asked to make ‘supreme sacrifice’,” runs the headline of an item posted in INQUIRER.net last January 4. And, the lead paragraph tells all in short:

“Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. should make the ‘supreme sacrifice’ so that his allies at the House of Representative would not be affected by his strained relationship with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a pro-administration lawmaker said Friday.” This was the gist of statements by Rep. Danilo Suarez (Quezon), a member of the President’s party, Kampi.
And the Speaker appears to have no choice.  If he does not vacate the speakership, he will be deposed and replaced with someone of Arroyo’s choice. Where is the independence of the House? This is an old reality.  Will it ever die?

Speaker de Venecia is at the mercy of President Arroyo in his own House. The House majority is made up of Lakas-MCD and Kampi. While De Venecia is Lakas-MCD president, Arroyo is its chair.  Many of the pro-Arroyo Lakas and all Kampi members are pro-De Venecia only so far as De Venecia and Arroyo “have a good working relationship”.  De Venecia can be ousted anytime at a signal from Arroyo.

Arroyo does not only have the number but she has a vise-like grip on pro-administration House members. She dispenses the pork barrel and other financial assistance that the congressmen need to keep the loyalty of their constituents and maintain their political bastions. Since the Speaker is the bridge between the President and House members, the latter have to make sure their b ridge is always strongly connected with the President.

Bvn The NBN (National Broadband Network) scandal that De Venecia’s son had exposed severely strained the Arroyo-De Venecia relationship. While the Palace reined the pro-Arroyo House members from ousting De Venecia, the strain is still there making the latter hostage to Arroyo.

Suarez voices out the worry of the majority: “There are members of the House who merely depend on the Speaker to be able to send their messages to the President.  But what happens if the Speaker and the President don’t have a good working relationship? This is going to be the result of this strained relation between the President and the Speaker so they should either have a genuine reconciliation or change the leadership of the House.”

The Kampi ultimatum to the Speaker – for him to resign or reconcile with the President at her pleasure – puts the House under the thumb of the President.  It no longer primarily represents the people but caters to the interests of the Palace and of its pro-administration members.  Their modus vivendi: For House members to be in good graces, what Arroyo likes the House must do.

In our system of government, the check-and-balance powers among the three branches – the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary — are intended to stabilize government. When the Executive refuses to be checked and balanced by the Legislative but instead uses its powers to bring down Congress to its knees, instability ever looms.

By the President’s tendency to impose her will and power over Congress, she has become the foremost destabilizer of her own government. (“Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You may e-mail your comments to [email protected]).

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