Busyness in Congress
How many laws were passed by Congress in the last six months of 2016? Per government records, exactly two: the 2017 national budget and the postponement of the barangay elections.
In the House of Representatives, according to its Bills and Index Division, out of 5,360 bills proposed, only 321 were processed, equivalent to around six measures for each working day. One of the biggest tasks on which the hardworking legislators invested precious time was not a law but a resolution: the House panel report supposedly shedding light on the drug syndicates apparently still in fine fettle in the New Bilibid Prison that, not incidentally, was also the basis for the public crucifixion and eventual detention of the administration’s then public enemy No. 1, Sen. Leila de Lima.
The public is yet to recover from the shock over the essential defunding of the Commission on Human Rights with the House’s vote to allocate it a budget of P1,000 for 2018, which is well in line with Malacañang’s repeatedly expressed contempt for the office and its mandate. (The President had, at one point, threatened to order the shooting of human rights workers.) Also on the House’s plate are the duly endorsed impeachment complaints against three public officials in charge of offices critical to the operations of the democratic space: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and Commission on Elections Chair Andres Bautista. Now there are reports that the President is preparing to ask Congress to act on apparently yet another priority issue: the crafting of a law that would grant the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos immunity from suit, in exchange for the return of a portion of the wealth they had plundered from the country’s coffers.
The way it looks, the body politic is lurching from one controversial matter to another: Congress’ busyness is like multiple fires being stoked to blazing and now taking much of public attention that should actually be focused on issues of crucial import—such as, for instance, the P6.4-billion worth of smuggled “shabu” (crystal meth) that incredibly made it past the scrutiny of the Bureau of Customs. It’s an issue which the Senate has gone into knots tackling, resulting in a sideshow of fireworks among certain senators, but which the House, otherwise quick to the draw, has shown a strange reluctance to take up with zeal and grandstanding. Neither have Malacañang officials displayed any emphatic will to get to the bottom of the explosive issue, preferring instead to entertain the public with regular jabs at its bete noire of the moment, Senators Antonio Trillanes and Risa Hontiveros.
But social media is abuzz over it, and at least one perceptive netizen has noted, “Kung galit ka sa drugs, hindi ba logical na unahin mo (If you truly detest drugs, isn’t it logical to prioritize), with all your might and power, to investigate the P6.4B shabu importation?”
Indeed, this is the question of the hour.
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