ABOLISH THE SENATE!
SPEAKING before a meeting of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce this morning, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has dramatically escalated the vicious confrontation between the Palace and the Senate by making such a pointed and provocative suggestion. Claiming that its ongoing investigations into a plethora issues, from the Venable contract to Northrail, are part of a calculated plot to destabilize her government, the President emphatically shut the door on the offer of dialogue and instead threw down the gauntlet.
Speaking with unusual umbrage towards the Senate for continuing to detain the hapless National Security Adviser, Norberto Gonzales, the President emphatically rejected calls for the repeal, or even clarification of Executive Order 464. The order gags members of the government and forbids testimonies before Congress without prior Palace approval. Then she rubbed their faces in it by calling for the outright abolition of the Senate in a revised Constitution with a unicameral Parliament.
Considering that it is budget time and the President is trying to get trillion peso slab of pork for her Congress of Trapos, the logic behind Executive Order 464 escapes me. How in the world can Congress get on with passing the budget if government officials that must explain and justify their allocations before Congress cannot or will not attend its hearing and deliberations.
This is becoming painfully obvious as House and Senate postpone hearing after hearing as many department heads are naturally reluctant to attend, and even when they do, they are studiously reticent. This at least is the prevailing situation as related by Senator Rodolfo Biazon.
So though Executive Order 464 is a mean ole lady slouching toward the Absalom of martial law, I think she's just pissing into the wind. Unless of course she and Jose de Venecia actually want a simple re-enactment of the budget as they did last year.
Exec. Order 464 was a knee jerk reaction to what happened to the National Security Adviser, Norberto Gonzales, whom the Supreme Court has left in Senate custody under charge of criminal contempt, though he is still confined at the Philippine Heart Center. No doubt suffering the slings and arrows of being a fall guy for his boss' fecklessness.
In the wake of the Leonardo Aragoncillo spy scandal in the US, Sec. Gonzales last night tried to give the Venable contract some vague connection to national security. He was mumbo-jumboing something to Ces Drilon about how the contract was actually for finding out about opposition activities in the US. Funny, the Venable contract being investigated by the Senate explicitly and directly describes work to lobby for Charter Change or Chacha initiative.
It is this kind of bald-faced disingenuousness that has alienated even such a stalwart ally of the President as Senator Joker Arroyo. The head prosecutor of Erap Estrada in the impeachment trial of 2001, was in the Supreme Court the other day, defending the Senate's arrest and continued detention of NSA Gonzales.
Joker's argument was quintessentially Joker, as in, succinct and crafty. He said the contempt citation and arrest was not for refusing to answer questions on the ground of executive privilege, which the Senate respects, he said. It was, Joker averred, for intentionally giving inconsistent answers whose sole purpose was to mislead the Senate.
She's cruisin for a bruisin, but it is the public that is bound to suffer the most from the gridlock that has been conjured up by a monstrous clash of egos, principles and agendas.