In his weekly column for the Inquirer, Prof Cielito Habito highlights the opening salvo of the former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as a member of the opposition in the House of Representatives. As it turns out, Mrs Arroyo has chosen the Conditional Cash Transfers scheme (or CCT) that she introduced during her term as president which is now being expanded rapidly by PNoy her successor as the issue with which to mount a critique on the priorities being set by the present administration.
Using her expertise as a former Social Welfare and Development Secretary, Mrs Arroyo claims that the cart is being put before the horse. In this case, that the capacity of the DSWD to double the scale of its CCT operations is questionable. She criticizes the sequence of spending priorities. First expand the schools and healthcare facilities or at least expand them at the same pace that you expand cash transfers to the poor conditional on their accessing these services she claims or the money will be wasted.
Mr Habito on the other hand defends the position of the current president to adopt and even expand a program begun by his predecessor
By doing so, President Benigno Aquino III and his Cabinet have departed from the familiar habit of traditional political leaders of setting aside every initiative of their predecessor, for the sake of making their own mark. It takes magnanimity and statesmanship to do that—and humility too.
This article however is not about the merits of the CCT scheme. It is about the role of a responsible opposition in a functioning democracy. By opting to confront the PNoy administration on detailed policy matters such as this, Mrs Arroyo has taken to her new role in the opposition seriously in an appropriate manner.
I know. I know. We are all so used to Arroyo bashing by now that any attempt by her to exercise prerogative in her current capacity will be brandished as a form of political opportunism and partisanship. Not so, I believe in this case (put down those clubs and pitchforks for a moment, please!). Although as Habito points out, there are reasons to downplay Mrs Arroyo’s concerns, she does raise valid policy questions as to the timing and appropriateness of the massive build-up of the program.
This is what a responsible opposition ought to do.
Despite what her critics say about her intentions for seeking a seat in the lower house, Mrs Arroyo who has been silent so far regarding so many issues during PNoy’s first 100 days that other grandstanding politicians have readily exploited, and despite the antagonism she has faced with the formation of a Truth Commission to look into allegations of corruption by her, has demonstrated restraint and a respect for the office she formerly held for nearly a decade.
Contrast that with the intelligence reports concerning renewed destabilization efforts by one anti-Aquino group called the Solidarity for Sovereignty (S4) which took out a full-page ad on Tuesday in the Inquirer declaring all elective seats in the current government vacant due to the unconstitutionality of the 2010 elections and calling on the armed forces to perform its duty under the constitution to supposedly withdraw its support to the current administration.
This group which is said to be composed of former contenders in the presidential race as well as some allies of Mrs Arroyo is seeking to sew doubts about the legitimacy of the current administration under PNoy through such means as highlighted above. These moves are basically an unwelcome throwback to the past and have to be regarded with disdain for their unwarranted accusations and baseless claims. The conduct of the elections, though seen to be faulty in some respects, was given legal and constitutional cover by several branches of government and recognized by the international community as being fair and reflective of the will of the people.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander you might say. The move is being lifted from the playbook of the groups behind efforts to unseat Mrs Arroyo during her last five years in office. But, if the country is to move forward in developing sound institutions of democracy it has to get passed this habit of destabilization in the pursuit of power. The opposition has to act responsibly. No matter what the critics say about Mrs Arroyo, she is at least demonstrating some maturity in her new diminished role as a representative of the 2nd district of her province.
Of course, the more devious minds out there will speculate that this is all for show. That overtly, she is projecting this image of an honorable lady of the house, while covertly funding the conduct of such shady and questionable activities. I leave it to you, dear reader, to form your own opinion on that.
Image credit: Bulatlat.com