Senate coup – naked power grab?

Senate coup – naked power grab?

What this ‘coup’ – unceremoniously unseating Sen. Manny Villar out of the Senate presidency by forcing him to resign on the face of a resolution that expressed a vote of no confidence and his immediate replacement by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile accepting the unanimous nomination – teaches us is the fact that Villar serves as the single standing obstacle to any further move by Malacanang for a charter change. With Enrile at the Senate front, this vicious if official outcry for a shift to a parliamentary form of government that extends, in effect, the term of PGMA beyond 2010 shall find final fruition and would give semblance later on that the whole political exercise satisfied the requirements of a democratic process (euphemism for tyranny of numbers). With upcoming new appointments to the High Court to add to a perceived expanding pro-GMA alliance, getting the majority ruling for every legal question that may arise is never been more guaranteed. The House of Representatives is expected to simply follow suit. It will be recalled how the High Court claims to have sufficiently legitimized Arroyo’s ascent to the presidency and eclipsed the 2004 election controversy in the ‘Hello Garci’. What’s next in the monarchical agenda?

It then challenges reflection if there existed a so-called ‘principled opposition’ as advocated by its frontrunner, Sen. Jamby Madrigal who claims to have been responsible for Villar’s ouster along with Sen. Ping Lacson over the controversial P200 million double insertion issue that once rocked the Senate. This ouster might pose grave consequences on Villar’s presidential bid which at its present pace already gathers positive momentum next to Vice President Noli de Castro. On the other hand, it might improve Lacson’s lot in his perceivable bid to the presidency. Under the evolving configuration of a seemingly mixed opposition-administration Senate make up, it is yet uncertain where subsequent policy directions will point to. Some say it might bring to close all like-minded scams or probes in the notoriety of a Joc Joc or Dela Paz in so far as the requisite congressional inquiry is concerned. When this happens, Senate automatically becomes a protectorate of Malacanang which then betrays its self-avowed independence.

Not few are aware that Enrile knows the long and short of a parliamentary form of government and he is more conversant on the topic than even the constitutional experts in our midst. With Enrile as the main political chef, it is as if all kinds of menu that the guest at Malacanang so pleases, can be cooked to her all consuming delight. It will be at this point however that a whole work in congressional oversight would have failed because, first and foremost, this crucial job was purposely placed in the back burner. On the other hand, if Enrile proves to be his own man than what the Palace calculates him to be, then he can always play hero as he did play hero at EDSA. At least for now, Enrile is perceived as neither avid pro-GMA nor rabid anti-GMA. It would then depend what weights are placed in either side of the political scale, in a manner of speaking. This situation, if correct, inspires confidence and hope that the future of almost 90 million people will not be compromised.

The only difference with this recent comeuppance is that it clearly crystallized that in the Senate, a culture of corruption has no place. On the other hand, the House of Representatives seems to have worked in the opposite – courtesy of JDV or maybe even Villar when he was House Speaker – where payola is the name of the game and the lure of committee chairmanships dictates who sits as Speaker. In other words, the Lower House is largely into what political analysts call ‘transactional politics’ where Senate qualifies as the lesser evil, matter-of-factly. At least, at the Senate, we can hear of senators who do not enjoy their pork barrel funds. It bears watching how Enrile will stir the course of history – coming as he does from his own share of triumphs and failures. Old Raul of the justice department is better warned not to go into a collision course with old Johnny of the Senate or patience might wear thin in either of them.

So there is so much of work to do and it is hoped that trust or approval ratings for the Senate will improve considerably with an Enrile at the helm. And since, by his own admission, he is Senate president for as long as the majority wants him there, then Enrile should really expect to be booted out anytime likewise or at the first instance that he will be implicated in a scam of like proportion as the C5. Invoking conflict of interests appears to be the single most powerful tool one can take against another and Enrile is not far immune from this kind of viral attack in our brand of patronage politics. Maybe later on, Sen. Jamby Madrigal can always pull the rug from under Enrile’s feet which makes the Senate presidency of very temporal character since the majority vote can be embargoed anytime by a slight change of mood.

Any similar coup or naked power grab down at the House of Representatives is a little bit more complicated than the way it can now be done in the Senate. The good thing about Villar is that he proves himself to be not a sourgrape. It bears watching if Villar can play the role of a fiscalizer in the Senate now that there are no strings attached in him doing so. On the other hand, let us see how Enrile would metamorphose into the fiscalizer that he used to be as minority floor leader of Senate to being now the primus inter pares that he is at the Senate. Will good old Johnny Enrile stand to the occasion given both the dark and bright sides of his political career in the service of people and country?

In the final analysis, the sudden take-over of the presidential Senate crown still smells of politics vis a vis the coming elections of 2010, this despite no one knows yet who will most benefit with an Enrile-led Senate. Perhaps, Villar will find much more flexible time in his otherwise busy schedule now that he goes back to be just like any ordinary senator. But if Ping Lacson will not stop placing Villar on the defensive, it might signal Villar’s impending political funeral, pray not. With this development of no historical parallel, it can read as just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe, Malacanang wants to have full control of the High Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives in an orchestrated move to remove all forms of possible opposition to its ultimate workplan to allow GMA to hold on to power until 2010 and beyond.

Term extension through charter change is still high in the agenda of Malacanang, Inc., a plan to be executed – before, during, or after – GMA’s incumbency. But most of us know, nonetheless that under PGMA’s regime, corruption will always characterize major public expenditures in agriculture, public works, defense, health, communications, energy, et cetera et cetera. The AFP and the PNP have demonstrated its weak resolve to weed their ranks of corrupt officers and personnel as we see top brass from the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines, the Coast Guard receiving key positions in government after their retirement from military service. With Malacanang highly militarized, there is no way for coups, juntas, or attempts at an armed overthrow of government to succeed. RP politics probably is rooted on mother’s instinct, reason for at least two women being patronized to have led this country to nowhere.

UP Diliman, Quezon City (Email: