Pro-life advocates and supporters are advised to bring their cell phones to the House of Representatives on Monday. The likelihood is that congressmen will again avoid nominal voting. As was surreptitiously done the last time just before the habagat winds and rains slammed and deluged Metro Manila, it will be viva voce. The Ayes will simply din out the Nays and we will never know who voted how.
But a citizenry in search of transparency has powerful options. At the instance of voting, cameras must be ready to record the event. Make sure to pan them on those who have been lured to vote in favor of the substitute reproductive health bill. Let YouTube take care of the rest, unless House security is instructed midday Monday that cell phones be banned. If this happens, let us only understand why. Alternative media can be cruelly honest. They can affect the ballot next year. Still, the advice is to try YouTube if one wishes to be brutally frank.
For the news was already out last Friday—Malacañang has called all congressmen to a gathering for lunch today.
President Aquino wants to break the impasse on the RH bill. The invitation was sent through text messages by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte. It is, as an erudite analyst describes it, “another” trapo-esque railroading maneuver,” the script of which we can already read in advance for its predictability.
Expect Monday to be a day of circus masters and balimbings, that sweet-sour many-sided fruit that we once had in our backyard at home. The viva voce is the only way to railroad the RH bill in a legislature that has in fact sat on that bill since Congress resumed sessions last November 5. This has been a no-quorum House. But today will be a day of magic. And the spell is not just any abracadabra.
Ordinary mortals like us must ask: What is the Palace’s enticement for an Aye vote? We do have an idea how dirty politics works in the country. Surely the answer could not be in what will be served at the Palace lunch. In fact, the menu may be bland, given the economics of the present occupant. There is only one way to scare the daylights out of the congressmen. We know what that is. And the timing is perfect. Next year is election year. No one wants to be without her or his, well, that porcine and calorific matter called pork barrel.
Dangling the pork barrel has been done by all presidents. But there must be something uncanny and misplaced about it if it were done today. It is as if we are not in the daang matuwid. Because that is what President Aquino says he preaches. And that is what we expect him to practice. He says he is different—as vastly different as the deep blue ocean is from a hell of fire—from his predecessor. And so indeed we simply expect him to be different.
Enticing congressmen, therefore, to a lunch with threats related to the release of their pork barrel is going to be blatantly scandalous and immeasurably coercive. That it is done in the guise of transparency—Malacañang has not denied that congressmen have indeed been called to lunch and that they’ll be doing this in full view of the Filipino people—is nothing but bastos, if you may pardon the language of the gutter. But then again, people have been known to sell their souls in this country.
If this administration wants to pass the RH bill badly, it must do so by doing it the only appropriate way. Enticements are cheap. They are old tricks, in fact. They are, yes, of traditional politics. Surely the Speaker of the House should have better ways than being seen lending an ear to Congress lobbyist Beth Angsioco. Surely Malacañang should have better ways than being trapo-esque, not to mention being burlesque. One decent way to do it is conscience voting.
Edcel Lagman claims 71 percent of Filipinos want the RH bill (so why the lunch and viva voce?). Yet, why the “no-quorum” in the House since it resumed sessions? The answer must not be in the surveys. A Palace secretary had suggested (was he authorized to speak such, or did he make a faux pas?) that congressmen may be afraid of incurring the ire of Catholics. Is that admitting a Catholic vote, after all?
Our guidance on the RH bill must come from President Aquino himself. Last Friday in Cebu City, before the mammoth congregation in the National Thanksgiving Mass for St. Pedro Calungsod, one cannot help but be impressed by his commanding address after the Mass:
“Faith in God is our pillar of strength. Selfless sacrifice for our principles is the same sacrifice we are called today. The challenge is to live our principles.” And there is our guidance for the RH bill. For those who see the RH bill as an infringement on their religious convictions, President Aquino has spoken. He himself has told us this. Do not let your guards down. Not unless he was just playing to the colossal crowd. If he did, that is his problem. Let us assume he did not: that there indeed is a Catholic conviction that can be translated into action, into responses to Catholic suppression. History is replete with precedents.
But bring cell phones with cameras on Monday to the House. Then download to YouTube. The truth must be used to set us free. That is what they have taught us. That is what we are told.
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