A letter to JDV

Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms.  This article was published in Business Mirror December 6, 2006  edition, p. A6.

Dear Mr. Speaker,

You were nearly derailed by House Rule 105 [“The adoption of resolutions proposing amendments to or revision of the Constitution shall follow the procedure for the enactment of bills.”] because you were in too much of a hurry. Relax. Haste makes waste. You have the numbers and the time to rewrite the Constitution and cancel next May’s election.

By the way, canceling an election is a serious matter. You must give good reasons for doing it. We were insulted  by what your chairman on constitutional amendments  pulled out of his rear, “Since the Comelec [Commission on Elections] will use its ballot boxes in the plebiscite, it is not possible to push through with the May elections” and by what Mrs. Arroyo’s political affairs adviser blew out of his,  “The six-month interval would also allow for sufficient time for automation and to obviate any confusion regarding the senators who might not want to spend and might want to await the results of the plebiscite.”  We deserve a little respect.

To go back to House Rule 105. How, in God’s name, do you explain why you’ve been running around telling everybody that “The Constitution does not speak of three-fourths of the Senate. It does not speak of three-fourths of the House. The Constitution only speaks of three-fourths of all the members of Congress proposing amendments or revisions to the Constitution” when, in fact, your own long-standing Rule 105 clearly contradicts your interpretation of the constitution? You should have done something about that rule before you started running your mouth.

What part of “SHALL FOLLOW THE PROCEDURE FOR THE ENACTMENT OF BILLS” did you not understand? Or did you? Isn’t that why you offered regional seats in parliament to senators ?

We’re beginning to wonder if you’re really sincere about “destroying the old, oppressive structure and creating a new, and hopefully more liberating political system.” Regional representation is just a bigger-version district representation.

Congressmen are district-oriented, they don’t spend their pork barrel outside their constituency. To be fair, it’s not their fault that they’re parochial, it’s a system requirement. But pork barrel spending by congressmen is a waste of money when it does not fit a province’s overall development plan and a redundancy when it does. “Creating a new political system” means replacing the district representative system with a more efficient form of representation.

Instead of congressmen, why not send provincial executives to the Lower House? That way, appropriations will go directly to the province to be spent according to the priorities set by those who were elected to manage the province in the first place.

There’s nothing a congressman can do that a provincial executive can’t do and isn’t in a better position to do. Ask any governor if what I’m saying is true or not.

Let’s eliminate the redundancies in our system. We don’t need to add regional districts to a tiny country already burdened by more than two hundred congressional districts. There are too many fingers in the cookie jar. One province-one representative is good enough.

One quick observation on the unicameral versus bicameral debate before I go.

As I pointed out earlier, a single legislative body with members elected locally will be parochial, by necessity.  National interest will be an afterthought for its members, if at all. Consequently, we need a legislature with one chamber elected locally and the other nationally to check and balance parochial and national concerns.

I know you call that a recipe for gridlock but I call it insurance, against a coalition of thieves hell-bent on robbing the nation blind.

In closing, let me say I know you mean well and it’s a pity that a man of vision like you can only enter the national stage through the back door. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles. So thanks, but no thanks to your unicameral parliamentary system.

May the Force be with you,

M.B.

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