LP in deep shit

Hoping that the rude title has caught the reader’s attention, I can now moderate my statement. The LP or Liberal Party faces a serious problem. Among its noticeable members are politicians who break discipline and who go against PNoy’s reform program.

In an article titled “Team PNoy expected to toe the line” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 3 February 2013), Norman Bordadora made this report: “Sen. Frank Drilon, campaign manager of the Liberal Party-led slate, said there was no party discipline among President Aquino’s allies in the Senate, making it difficult to pass the administration’s priority measures such as the recently enacted Sin Tax Reform Law and the Reproductive Health law.”

Sen. Drilon, the most senior LP politician and the champion of the sin tax reform that barely passed the Senate, did not mince words about the LP’s predicament:

“There is no party discipline. Even administration measures are opposed by a certain number of the majority; that’s why it’s difficult.”

In relation to the sin tax reform, those who opposed the bicameral conference bill were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Tito Sotto, Bongbong Marcos, Gringo Honasan, Bong Revilla, Joker Arroyo, Chiz Escudero and Ralph Recto.

Surprisingly,those who did not show up for the vote to ratify the bicameral conference bill on the sin tax reform were Loren Legarda, Manny Villar, Alan Peter Cayetano and TG Guingona. Actually, Legarda and Villar were present for that session, but vanished during the voting.

Thus, the thin win (10-9) in the Senate for the sin tax reform. This narrow win is a cause for alarm. The Enrile faction is supposed to be supportive of PNoy’s legislative agenda. Escudero (who voted no), Alan Peter Cayetano, Legarda, and Villar (who did a Houdini act) are supposed to be part of the PNoy coalition. Recto, labeled“Recto Morris for being the champion of Philip Morris,”is supposed to be a stalwart of the LP.

In this light, Sen. Drilon ‘s statement is worth pondering:

“The President has asked that those in the Senate should be in support of his programs. If our people are convinced that the programs of the President are working, then we shall vote for the President’s choice.

“My point is Team PNoy must be committed to PNoy’s program, as they are committed that all legislation geared toward these programs should be supported.”

So Sen. Drilon is concerned whether everybody in Team PNoy will support PNoy’s reform agenda. The next Congress has to contend with tough measures that have to be passed to consolidate the economic and political reforms—rationalization of fiscal incentives, mineral taxation, amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act, freedom of information, electoral rules, to name some. This requires the support of each and every member of Team PNoy.

The Enrile faction makes the passage of reforms more difficult. But Enrile and his faction have exposed themselves as anti-reform. That they are with UNA also exposes the true character of Jojo Binay’s party. Enrile, Estrada, Honasan , along with Migz Zubiri and Mitos Magsaysay, are the faces of UNA. Are they the pleasant faces of reform? Their faces remind us of martial law, coups d’etat, Erap, Gloria Arroyo, election cheating, and Gigi.

But what is more dangerous is the enemy within. Within LP and team PNoy are unreliable, opportunistic politicians who at any moment can defect to UNA.

How reliable is Escudero, when he nonchalantly voted against a very crucial piece of legislation that PNoy certified urgent? What is our assurance that Legarda will not re-enact the scene of “The Lady Vanishes,” when she is called for another crucial vote on a controversial measure? Should we be thus sad that Escudero and Legarda are among the leading candidates in the 2013 elections?

That the likes of Escudero and Legarda have gotten away with their act of defection would only embolden them in the future to defect again. Incidentally, it is not only some of the LP candidates for senator who are undependable. A number of the Team PNoy or LP candidates for the House of Representative are uncooperative, if not downright treacherous. (See my BusinessWorld column titled JPE and Gigi, SB and Boyet, 28 January 2013.)

So what can the LP and Senator Drilon do? It’s easy to say “punish them by expelling them from the LP.” But Escudero, Recto, Boyet Gonzales, Ben Evardone and others were not punished before for betrayal or non-cooperation. So the threat is not credible. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised that their species can easily transfer and adapt to UNA.

I have a piece of unsolicited advice for Senator Drilon. Why not ask the unreliable ones in Team PNoy to publicly express a pre-commitment that will prevent them from subverting PNoy and his reforms? What form of pre-commitment? How about making them scoop the poo, using their bare hands, of UNA personalities?

Sta Ana is coordinator of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).

Filomeno S. Sta Ana III

Sta. Ana coordinates Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph)

  • GabbyD

    “Personally, I would prefer to see politicians unite on issues, specific pieces of legislation, than on party lines and shit.”

    whats the difference between party lines and specific pieces of legislation?

    party lines are about specific pieces of legislation, are they not? what else are party lines?

    • Yes, I agree. I suppose I am just more accustomed to the Westminster system where party discipline is stronger, in which the use of pork and other forms of influence to pass legislation is not required because of the institutional practices of parties.

  • Party discipline. If the LP was really serious about it then it would lay down a legislative platform before the election and have all its candidates including adopted ones sign an accord committing them to it. And if they fail to follow through, they should be made to waive their pork for a year. That should be the condition for being endorsed.

    • manuelbuencamin

      Doy,

      The LP lacks the funds and the national organization to get people to sign on the dotted line. Thus they had to coalesce with three other parties for the coming election. And the price for that is all members of the coalition have elbow room. But to me a loose coalition is better than leaving the field to UNA the party of crooks, liars, and election cheats.

      • That may be so, but as the administration party, it does control the purse strings. Some would argue that it is Congress that authorises PDAF expenditures, but in practice the Palace controls the timing of releases. The more confounding problem is that administration has said it would not punish opposition members by withholding their pork (although this has been challenged by some opposition solons). Why should the ruling party then discipline its own members in this way? It’s a conundrum.

        But then what would Daang Matuwid have meant? Simply an anti-Gloria, Villaroyo euphemism that is now to be applied to Binay and UNA which was part of the anti-GMA opposition. Daang matuwid it seems has more twists and turns and a lot of side-roads that criss-cross and intersect onto itself.

        • manuelbuencamino

          No Doy. Daan matuwid is matuwid however it has a lot of obstacles – some of them you can run over and others you simply have to drive around. This is a political fact that will never change. So as long as the president does not drive off the round when he swerves around some obstacles it’s going to be okay.

          2. Use of pork to impose discipline cuts both ways because the president would then be subject to accusations of trying to impose a dictatorship by dominating Congress through pork. You will have people screaming separation and independence of Congress and the Executive. Secondly, citing GMA’s use of pork as a stick, we saw that it didn’t work on those who were committed against her. At any rate, the president has gotten Corona impeached, the RH, Sin Tax, and AMLA passed without using pork as stick or carrot. So pork as a weapon or tool has limited value.

          What about FOI? The president it seems has been bitten by the security bug that bites all presidents. Once in and responsible for national security, a president tends to err on the side of caution in matters involving transparency.

          3. An entrenched congressman has nothing to fear politically. As a matter of fact, a president/political party needs him more than he needs the president and a political paryt. In other words, they court him for his votes and not the other way around. The only time a president becomes important to a congresman is when his hold on his district is tenuous and the president enjoys a high trust and endorsement value among his constituents.

          I think selling an issue to a congressman is more effective than forcing him to toe a party line.

          Personally, I would prefer to see politicians unite on issues, specific pieces of legislation, than on party lines and shit. I’d rather a representative serve his constituents directly rather than through his party because a party platform or party line by its very nature is something cobbled together.

          • Lincoln bought Democratic votes in Congress for the 13th amendment to abolish slavery. Not to downplay the significance of the RH, sin tax and other bills passed, but nothing probably would come close to the former. For senators, it is difficult to determine who their constituency is. I would prefer it if a party defined that constituency through their policy platform. Then they could recruit individuals who represented that constituency. As it is, they are merely representing whatever they choose, because there is no distinct party platform, culture or identity.

          • manuelbuencamino

            I guess that’s where we differ. To me it’s a politician’s stand on specific issues that defines him.

          • UPnnGrd

            Listening and monitoring those devices that can do e-mailand messaging… in the name of Security…. maybe that is the key. Those conversations that PersiDente Noynoy has been listening to, he can use to… you know…. get folks to toe the line.

  • Yes, indeed. The anti-dynasty laws under consideration have a term “turncoatism” for those politicians who flip parties for personal advantage. Perhaps there is another term for those party people who give lip service to the party’s agenda then go hide during the vote. Lilly livered back stabbers.

    • manuelbuencamino

      Slime.