Last night, I couldn’t resist the urge to drive off to Batasan and witness for myself how the Arroyo-controlled House of Representatives would pass House Resolution 1109 declaring that the House may convene itself into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) to amend the Constitution without the participation of the Senate.
There was an apparent media blackout early in the evening. Updates on the debates in Congress were absent in primetime news. It wasn’t after a few hours later when they would air the proceedings live on cable TV. By that time, I was already in Congress. There were more than 200 congressmen present that night, an unusually excellent attendance in a Congress that has serious problems reaching quorum during most sessions. Something, indeed, was up that night. The marching orders and the lure of bribe money from Malacanang must’ve been too irresistible.
Unlike my other colleagues who were blocked form entering Batasan that evening, Nessa, a blockmate of mine in Law, and I were able to swiftly usher ourselves into the session hall, apparently because we drove in with a car and we, perhaps, didn’t look like we were going to cause trouble.
Later that night, however, when I met with friends from the Philippine Collegian outside Batasan to ‘smuggle’ them into Congress with a car, I was eventually also prohibited from re-entering. The House security claimed we were suspicious because we were going in as a group (there was just five of us). They also claimed that session was over and that no one is allowed to go in anymore.
What the hell, I just came from session hall, I said. The debates were well on course as things were heating up. And just as he kept saying no one, not even media, was allowed to go in anymore, vans of TV stations and other ‘unsuspicious’ vehicles kept passing through.
The House security personnel, clad in army fatigues, was going around in circles with his arguments until it came to the point that he was already accusing us of being leftists who will disturb the proceedings with a rally. What the fuck. They even didn’t allow me to re-enter even if I said I would go in alone.
In any case, just before I went out of session hall and prohibited from re-entering, I was seated with Nessa, Airah (former UPD University Student Council Vice-Chairperson) and Terry (former UP Student Regent) watching the minority, lead by the bloc from Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis and Kabataan, valiantly interpellating the sponsors of HR 1109, also hoping to delay the proceedings. After an hour or so, however, Rep. Dilangalen of Maguindanao moved to close the debate and proceed with the passage of the resolution. This caused an uproar among the minority and among the audience in the gallery. There were a handful of other minority members who were still in line to speak and question the resolution!
By their sheer number, however, the Arroyo-controlled majority was able to get their way and proceed to pass the goddamn resolution. The rest of the proceedings, I already watched at home, since I really couldn’t argue myself anymore with the House security and re-enter Congress. It was infuriating really, they didn’t even give the people the privilege of knowing who exactly among them assented to the resolution. The vote was called by viva voce and they all just shouted aye.
Just as BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) Chairperson Carol Araullo said, “Persistent moves to push for con-ass will galvanize the broad anti-Arroyo opposition into taking to the streets once again. There is no other recourse but to engage in direct action to protest this latest measure to prolong Mrs. Arroyo’s stay in power. We cannot leave the matter simply to the Supreme Court because that is what Arroyo’s allies are hoping for.” (Isn’t Arroyo about to appoint new justice/s to the Supreme Court?)
Vigilance at this point, may not be enough. Sure, the Arroyo administration keeps assuring us that elections will push through in 2010. Even HR 1109 pledges that “there shall be elections in 2010.” What a cunning way of phrasing it, really. What kind of elections, then? God forbid, before we know it we may have Gloria Arroyo, elected representative in her native Pampanga, Prime Minister of the Philippine Parliament.