THE arrogant behavior of top officials of this present administration and its penchant to rationalize or downplay controversial statements from President Duterte to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, including the pro-Duterte representatives in Congress, bloggers and social media influencers and communications executives is provoking the limit of tolerance and sensibility of the Filipinos.
Buoyed by periodic survey of two popular survey firms---the Social Weather Station or SWS and the Pulse Asia---that gave high popularity ratings to Mr. Duterte, the more emboldened the top government officials are pushing further the envelope, to a point of deviating from the standard understanding of government and parliamentary process, and sugarcoating with plausible explanations the agenda they are hiding that by all means must be fulfilled within the term of Mr. Duterte. They thought, rather wrongly, that the end will justify the means.
Alvarez’s thuggish initiative to convene the Constitutional Assembly purports that such call should be voted and resolved by both Houses voting jointly. He ignores opinions of top legal minds in the country that it cannot be joint voting because of the bicameral nature of the Legislative branch and the mode of approval that require concurrence of the Senate -- from naming of streets up to major policy decisions. Unperturbed, Alvarez threatened the Senate, that continuously stands to vote separately on the proposed revised Constitution, to go on even without the participation of the Upper Chamber, which is the Senate. Exposing the classic use of “the tyranny of the majority,” the Speaker believes, that the 296-member House of Representatives can override the Senate. In an interview with the media, Alvarez emphatically said that the proposed revised Constitution that the House will approve will be submitted directly to the Commission on Elections in preparation for national plebiscite. The means is through the
“tyranny of the majority” and the end is to change the government from unitary to federal form, including 10 years of extension of the term of current elective officials for the so-called transition period from unitary to federal form.
How about Alvarez’s threat to give zero-budget to local government units if the officials won’t toe the line of the Duterte administration of changing the government from unitary to federal form? Sensing the backlash of his statement that antagonized even pro-Duterte local chief executives, he soft-pedals and declares “he’s only joking.” Wwwhaaattt?
While Alvarez draws attention by creating non-sense pronouncements, Mr. Duterte continuously, aggressively and angrily harass independent news outlets, including ABS-CBN, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the Internet-based news portal Rappler.
Rappler’s struggle with the Duterte administration regarding the revocation of its corporate registration with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is another story. The SEC decision polarized public opinion whether or not it is an act of curtailment of press freedom or violation of the Constitutional requirement of media outfits in the Philippines to be 100 percent Filipino-owned. With the Solicitor General filing the case at the SEC against Rappler, the Duterte administration found a loophole in the agreement signed by foreign investor Omidyar in its document that tends to give it control over the corporate decisions of Rappler. Is this a threat to press freedom? Definitely this paper sees it as it is, especially that Mr. Duterte does not stop threatening mainstream media outlets critical to his administration regarding their permits to operate which include franchises for television and radio networks which the Congress approves, like the case of the ABS-CBN, one mainstream media outlet he castigates
. In the case of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mr. Duterte threatened to put behind bars the Prietos, it’s majority owner, regarding the acquisition of the Mile Long property. The Prietos bucked down and sold the majority interests to Roberto Ang, Mr. Duterte’s friend.
While distracted by the controversial statements and arrogance of Mr. Duterte and Alvarez, the majority of the Filipino people are confronted by the effects of the TRAIN that increases the prices of petroleum products and basic commodities. Meanwhile, the threat to the territorial integrity of the nation by China on our territorial waters is becoming obvious day after day, from building of artificial island in Panatag Shoal which is within the United Nations approved Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines, to allowing China to conduct research at the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise before the United Nations declared it as part of the Philippine continental shelf.) And what the Duterte administration’s response? The top officials parrot what the Chinese say about the issues in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise at the expense of our sovereignty. Their arrogance subverts to meekness before China.