OPINION: Congress a wasteful luxury?

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Jul 18 2020 01:10 AM

At no other time since the Filipino hankered for and achieved self-government has a political body ever generated as much anger and animosity as the incumbent Congress, specifically the Lower House, and from the very people whose interest and well-being these supposed “Honorables” were elected and sworn to represent!

The brazen impudence and insolence, the shamelessness by which ABS-CBN’s truths and facts were obscenely bloody bludgeoned by this cabal of moral misfits must require justful recompense. A people’s pound of flesh, no less, need to be exacted. There is a limit to the patience and forbearance of the long abused and cheated. Such is now at hand. There is a simmering moral outrage. May divine guidance lead us to the right path!

It has finally dawned upon the country that Congress is a political indulgence, a stupid luxury, that the Filipino taxpayer can ill afford. There had always been more sensible uses, albeit elusive, of the public peso, but for an electorate’s collective willingness to be hoodwinked! 

Comes now this food for thought: Imagine, without a House of Representatives, there may have been less poverty stalking the land.

Were the Philippine House of Representatives abolished completely, or at most allowed only its most benign composition, simply serving the minimalist fulfillment of basic legislation, there lie waiting an awakening, the opportunity to conquer tenacious poverty, at last! An inspired redirection of what otherwise will just remain Congressmen’s personal piggy banks masquerading as budgetary allocations, year after year, is therefore devoutly sought.

Poverty alleviation may just be a gift waiting to be unwrapped. Feeding the hungry is certainly Christian and humanely ameliorative than engorging fat cats and lapdogs who voraciously feast upon the people’s till, abetted by people’s uninformed passivity. 

The Filipino voting public possesses the political wherewithal to collectively institute reforms and rectify decades of error and malevolence. An opportunity has already been made available. It only awaits Filipino fortitude. Are we then ready to seize the moment?

The advent of ABS-CNN’s calvary has brought to the fore of public consciousness the existence of an empowering constitutional instrument. That people need not remain helpless, after all. The wisdom of the Constitution mandates the empowerment of the oppressed to fight back against chicanery and deception. That instrument is embodied in the legislation known as the “People’s Initiative and Referendum Act. (R.A.6735). That is People Power via constitutional mandate!

Now afoot is the process of people-initiated legislation, by direct democracy and referendum, a renewed franchise for ABS-CBN to resume and continue its public service and corporate existence.
But we must go beyond ABS-CBN. We must decide to go for the jugular, for the root of malaise in our short-changed polity: the politically brothelized House of Representatives.

Our tutelage in self-governance consciously wedded our system to the American model. And so let us take a look at the United States Congress’ House of Representatives and juxtapose it to ours. 
The US House representing all 50 States of the Union, comprising a current population of 331 + millions, has 435 Members. The American representation has a ratio of 747,000 citizens for one Representative. 

In the Philippines, where we are at 110 million, we have 297 Members of the House (238 by Congressional District and 59 party-listers). Our ratio is roughly 360,000+ citizens for one Representative. 

In other words, obviously unmindful of fiscal considerations, the Philippines wantonly indulges in double the number of Representatives over that of the world’s wealthiest economy, the USA!Extravagant and spendthrift are mild words. Profligate is aptly descriptive. Adult supervision over how the national purse is administered and utilized has apparently been absent all this time. 

Who is to ask: “Can we afford a Congress?” And who has the answer? The questions deserve to be repeated, to reverberate and be hammered into national consciousness because our Congress is no longer functioning as constitutionally conceived. In our “Democratic Experiment,” Congress is not just for legislation but inherent in its existence is the principle of check and balance, a linchpin of democracy now willfully abandoned.

Therefore, more than just the people’s initiative and action on behalf of ABS-CBN, it is time for the very existence of Congress to be revisited, assessed, possibly cauterized or even castrated!
Let me take you through a passing glance over a sample of responsible legislative management and performance. I pick Texas. Again, it is for stark and startling comparison. 

Were the State of Texas an independent nation, it would be the world’s 10th largest economy. The Philippines is at 36th place. The Texas State’s Gross Domestic Product is US$1.645 trillion. Translated into Philippine Peso, that’ s 85.5 trillion. Texas annual budget is US$217 Billion which is something like 11 trillion in Philippine Pesos. The latest Duterte national budget is 4.1 trillion pesos (roughly US$78 billion). The Philippines' GDP for 2019, on the other hand, was worth US$355 billion or 17.45 trillion pesos. In other words, our GDP is just about 20% of Texas while our latest annual budget is about 35% that of Texas.

The foregoing figures are inklings reflective of Texas governance, speaking of which here is a solitary sample, an aspect that lends relevance to where l am leading our thread. Texas administers the largest transportation network in the US. It comprises more than 504,000 kilometers of public roads; 16 seaports and 380 airports. The Philippines claims to have 34,000 kilometers, with an infrastructure development referred to as “Build, Build, Build,” now a floundered enterprise.

How does Texas manage the “fulfillment of basic legislation” and enables its government to set civic objectives, providing the fiscal tools through democratic representation and budgetary legislation?
The Texas House of Representatives meets, and is convened, only once every two years. Their legislative sessions are limited to 140 calendar days every other year!

Go figure!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.