The better title would be, “Drive Out The Clowns” — the real clowns.
We all saw the news on Monday night.
It was one of the bills approved by the Lower House during its plenary session Monday.
The bill was approved with a vote of 126 in favor and eight against.
Bugles and drum rolls, right? Public-private partnerships, after all, rank high on President Benigno Aquino III’s list of priorities.
Looks like the hosanna chorus was premature.
The House on Tuesday had to recall plenary approval on third reading of the much ballyhooed measure. (Yes, I noticed very few media outfits came out with this update.)
Why? Because Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares did his homework.
Colmenares takes the Constitution seriously. In his sweet, sing-song, Ilonggo-accented Tagalog, he moved to recall the third reading vote on HB 6631.
Colmenares pointed out that the third reading approval violated Section 28, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.
What does the Constitution say?
SECTION 28. (1) The rule of taxation shall be uniform and equitable. The Congress shall evolve a progressive system of taxation.
(2) The Congress may, by law, authorize the President to fix within specified limits, and subject to such limitations and restrictions as it may impose, tariff rates, import and export quotas, tonnage and wharfage dues, and other duties or imposts within the framework of the national development program of the Government.
(3) Charitable institutions, churches and parsonages or convents appurtenant thereto, mosques, non-profit cemeteries, and all lands, buildings, and improvements, actually, directly, and exclusively used for religious, charitable, or educational purposes shall be exempt from taxation.
(4) No law granting any tax exemption shall be passed without the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.
Colemares voted against the bill, one of only eight nays.
One of his reasons: “It grants tax exemptions and deprives both the national government and LGUs of taxes, fees, and charges. This will deprive the people of accessible public service and take away billions in public funds from our people’s needs.”
He checked the Monday rolls. Only 136 congressmen voted to pass the measure.
The House of Representatives has a membership of 291. For constitutional fealty, HB 6631 needs 146 members voting on third and final reading.
Gonzales say other legislators quickly realised the #FighterNgBayan was right. He did not contest. And so the House recalled approval Tuesday night.
They were going to push for it again Wednesday night. Elections are coming; some guys can’t afford a tantrum by that petulant guy in Malacanang.
Congressional staff say Gonzales tried to get Colmenares to push his SSS-pension hike veto override AFTER they rectified the results of their carelessness and negligence.
They probably thought Colmenares was the kind of fool their subalterns are. Of course, he’s not. As notes, news website Interaksyon’s sweet, back-handed compliment:
Funny how the President’s defenders now accuse Colmenares of “playing politics”, as if a socialist who actually knows how to work in a House dominated by the bourgeoisie is more frightening than a President who ignores what is happening in his co-equal branches of government until a paper with a deadline lands on his notoriously clean desk.
Colmenares, of course, said, nyet.
- The lard-bloated lapdogs of Mr. Aquino found themselves facing a nightmare:
- It looked like the 57 signatures on Colmenares’ override document were just for starters;
- A little bird from a top House leader’s office told me that some phone calls to representatives got nervous responses (there was a gallery filled with what Quezon City 3rd district Rep. Bolet Banal notes were elderly people “fooled” (nauto) by the militant legislator.
SIGNERS OF THE OVERRIDE RESOLUTION **Note: five more have since added their signatures.
With a quorum, how could solons who voted for the SSS bill explain their refusal to override the veto? By claiming they were irresponsible enough to sleep walk through three years of hearings? By claiming they were hypnotised into voting?
When Speaker Feliciano Belmonte says they didn’t want to embarrass the President (who deserves it, as the Interaksyon editorial clearly shows), the unspoken half of his thought was:
They didn’t want the public to see how cavalierly they take their tasks given the gazillions we contribute for their upkeep. They didn’t want the public to be reminded that this is a President who can’t exercise coherent leadership, especially where and when it counts. They didm’t want yet another example of the right hand going opposite the left hand — remember #Mamasapano?
The truth was simple. Aside from their fear of losing the perks of being presidential pets, they couldn’t let the nation’s last memories of the 16th Congress be that of buffoons.
So they sidelined the PPP bill just to cover that up. They cut off the microphone as Colmenares spoke.
That is why there was silence from Malacanang the day after.
When Belmonte, Gonzales and Banal (who voted for Colmenares’ bill and whose senior citizen father was one of those who spoke on behalf of the bill) rant and rave about Colmenares’ alleged politicking, they’re desperately trying to convince people that he’s like them. Tough luck.
Now we know who’re the real clowns and fools. One mistake following the other, one solution dragging them deeper into the muck.
He pointed out:
Under Sections 15 and 16, Article 6 of the Constitution, Congress sessions are predetermined and cannot be adjourned arbitrarily, especially in a bid to avoid taking up important measures.
House leaders may be charged with dereliction of duty before the Office of the Ombudsman, he warned. Of course, they can always contest this. But that would mean another nightmare and, certainly, embarrass the President (and his handpicked successor who is, after all, among the Liberal Party bosses).
Belmonte says they’ll ram it through when they next convene after the elections.
Guess what? There are now 62 signatories to the override resolution. And more representatives are calling to add to say they’ll be signing, too.
One of those additions told me there are some things you cannot swallow. Public displays of amazing stupidity for one. And public displays of dishonour.
As for Banal, he may have caused his dad a helluva number of votes. Guess which party-list many senior citizens will be voting for?
And that’s how cookies crumble in the Neverland we call Congress.