Hoping that the rude title has caught the reader’s attention, I can now moderate my statement. The LP or Liberal Party faces a serious problem. Among its noticeable members are politicians who break discipline and who go against PNoy’s reform program.
In an article titled “Team PNoy expected to toe the line” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 3 February 2013), Norman Bordadora made this report: “Sen. Frank Drilon, campaign manager of the Liberal Party-led slate, said there was no party discipline among President Aquino’s allies in the Senate, making it difficult to pass the administration’s priority measures such as the recently enacted Sin Tax Reform Law and the Reproductive Health law.”
Sen. Drilon, the most senior LP politician and the champion of the sin tax reform that barely passed the Senate, did not mince words about the LP’s predicament:
“There is no party discipline. Even administration measures are opposed by a certain number of the majority; that’s why it’s difficult.”
In relation to the sin tax reform, those who opposed the bicameral conference bill were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Tito Sotto, Bongbong Marcos, Gringo Honasan, Bong Revilla, Joker Arroyo, Chiz Escudero and Ralph Recto.
Surprisingly,those who did not show up for the vote to ratify the bicameral conference bill on the sin tax reform were Loren Legarda, Manny Villar, Alan Peter Cayetano and TG Guingona. Actually, Legarda and Villar were present for that session, but vanished during the voting.
Thus, the thin win (10-9) in the Senate for the sin tax reform. This narrow win is a cause for alarm. The Enrile faction is supposed to be supportive of PNoy’s legislative agenda. Escudero (who voted no), Alan Peter Cayetano, Legarda, and Villar (who did a Houdini act) are supposed to be part of the PNoy coalition. Recto, labeled“Recto Morris for being the champion of Philip Morris,”is supposed to be a stalwart of the LP.
In this light, Sen. Drilon ‘s statement is worth pondering:
“The President has asked that those in the Senate should be in support of his programs. If our people are convinced that the programs of the President are working, then we shall vote for the President’s choice.
“My point is Team PNoy must be committed to PNoy’s program, as they are committed that all legislation geared toward these programs should be supported.”
So Sen. Drilon is concerned whether everybody in Team PNoy will support PNoy’s reform agenda. The next Congress has to contend with tough measures that have to be passed to consolidate the economic and political reforms—rationalization of fiscal incentives, mineral taxation, amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act, freedom of information, electoral rules, to name some. This requires the support of each and every member of Team PNoy.
The Enrile faction makes the passage of reforms more difficult. But Enrile and his faction have exposed themselves as anti-reform. That they are with UNA also exposes the true character of Jojo Binay’s party. Enrile, Estrada, Honasan , along with Migz Zubiri and Mitos Magsaysay, are the faces of UNA. Are they the pleasant faces of reform? Their faces remind us of martial law, coups d’etat, Erap, Gloria Arroyo, election cheating, and Gigi.
But what is more dangerous is the enemy within. Within LP and team PNoy are unreliable, opportunistic politicians who at any moment can defect to UNA.
How reliable is Escudero, when he nonchalantly voted against a very crucial piece of legislation that PNoy certified urgent? What is our assurance that Legarda will not re-enact the scene of “The Lady Vanishes,” when she is called for another crucial vote on a controversial measure? Should we be thus sad that Escudero and Legarda are among the leading candidates in the 2013 elections?
That the likes of Escudero and Legarda have gotten away with their act of defection would only embolden them in the future to defect again. Incidentally, it is not only some of the LP candidates for senator who are undependable. A number of the Team PNoy or LP candidates for the House of Representative are uncooperative, if not downright treacherous. (See my BusinessWorld column titled JPE and Gigi, SB and Boyet, 28 January 2013.)
So what can the LP and Senator Drilon do? It’s easy to say “punish them by expelling them from the LP.” But Escudero, Recto, Boyet Gonzales, Ben Evardone and others were not punished before for betrayal or non-cooperation. So the threat is not credible. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised that their species can easily transfer and adapt to UNA.
I have a piece of unsolicited advice for Senator Drilon. Why not ask the unreliable ones in Team PNoy to publicly express a pre-commitment that will prevent them from subverting PNoy and his reforms? What form of pre-commitment? How about making them scoop the poo, using their bare hands, of UNA personalities?
Sta Ana is coordinator of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).