Sat. Sep 25th, 2021

When ABS-CBN bagged the opening extravaganza of the Southeast Asian Games, people started asking why the network and not the government’s People Television 4 won the contract.

Despite initial speculations, however, the spectacle of the show quieted many minds as the entertainment wow appeared to have been worth every peso spent for the shebang.  Yet the fact remains that the management of the SEA Games must still account with the Commission on Audit for the expenses involved.

Pundits are now saying that the liquidation of that SEA transaction appears to have been completed with the fantastic acrobatics at which through a manipulation of a “Committee of the Whole” House Bill 6732 proposing to grant ABS-CBN Corporation a provisional legislative franchise passed second reading to allow the network to resume operations until October 31, 2020.

How can a franchise be provisional? By law, a grant is good for 25 years, not a few months.

How can anything provisional be a law? The very character of law is permanency not temporary.

A franchise is a private law. How can a franchise not pass through the appropriate Congressional Committee on Legislative Franchises?

This stinks in my mind as not only a violation of Congressional rules of conduct and a shameless violation of law but a cunning, dodgy, crafty, insidious, foxy, coon, canny and shrewd hocus pocus of a master magician to force his will.

I did not see a quorum.

Left with no one to pass the buck on, Allan Peter Cayetano had to carry a task he may have long committed to the Lopezes, with only himself onstage together with his cacique adjutants Neptali Gonzalez, Raneo Abu, Roberto Puno, Dan Fernandez, LRay Villafuerte Jr., Ferdinand Romualdez, and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado.

There Cayetano delivered his ‘Et tu Brute’ sponsorship speech, that could as well be his valedictory from speakership, condemning the National Telecommunication Commission for failing to serve as his goat.

So how could have a full house voted? Through virtual zoom?

Alas, the bill was passed on second reading, by whom? Where was the substantial deliberation on the merits of the legislation that is done on second reading? Definitely never in the committee or at the floor of Congress!

Where is the evidence of a vote by the plenary that was absent from sight?

For all his gimmicks, not even Jose de Venecia in his prime was this fantastic!

Many hated Joe for his looks, his corny jokes and maybe some greed, but never in my mind did the former Speaker bastardized the legislative process.

Cacique mentality

So where do we draw parallels?

Sylvia Estrada Claudio once summarized: “The cacique mentality manifests itself in the civil bureaucracy. The pretense at being pro-poor while actually using them for narrow personal and partisan interests poisons our politics.”

Sylvia is a doctor of medicine who also holds a PhD in Psychology. She is Professor of the Department of Women and Development Studies, College of Social Work and Community Development, University of the Philippines.

Her thoughts flowed freely from an article Benedict Anderson wrote in a 1988 entitled: “Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams,” where he predicted much of our disappointments with our government since the People Power Revolution. Anderson traced the historical roots of elite rule and noted that the People Power Revolution still ended up with the elite capture of state power.

Cacique, originally a Spanish word for tribal chieftains, took on a particular connotation during colonial times. These indigenous chiefs were co-opted by the Spanish to serve as their local overseers. These co-opted local elites were subservient to the Spanish but imperious towards the rest of the native population.

With the coming of the Americans, they easily transformed as the new feudal lords.

Sylvia distinguished that while Anderson talked about a history of economic policies meant only to benefit the elite, we are seeing the bad effect of cacique elitism in the everyday conduct of society.

“We see it all the time. Cacique mentality taught us that merit and righteousness was not rewarded by power and wealth. Power and wealth kept power and wealth to itself. Obeisance was rewarded and standing up for oneself was punished severely. Ultimate accoutrement of power and wealth is to stop caring about those who have less while demanding subservience of them.”

The problem continues as our country attempts to become a democracy even as it is burdened by the continuation of feudal relations. The elite remain firmly in control of government and their children, whether deserving or not, take over from their mother or father or brother.

Worse, she adds, “Even those who come from the poor take on this attitude once they have made it to the top. Also, ‘wealth and power’ can be quite relative. In this extremely hierarchical society, the lower middle class can behave like caciques, treating their poorer cousins badly.”

On the other hand, she continues, the disempowered continue in habits of subservience. They hope each day to find public servants who are kind, or seek someone they know in the bureaucracy who they know. They hardly expect that in a democracy, service should be the objective and kindness should be the attitude of every public servant, at every level, towards each and every citizen.

A PhD in psychology, Sylvia applies a cross section of Philippine sociography, “Private citizens can be left to their own evil ways as long as they don’t actually abuse people. At best they can be accused of poor taste. After all, if they insist on pretending they are royalty, they may as well read up on noblesse oblige. At worse, their reputations will suffer when their employees begin talking about their unkind and niggardly ways.

Then she gets her feet wet with her background on social work and development, “But distancing from the poor and the expectation that they will serve, does its greatest damage when it manifests itself in the civil bureaucracy and in those professions asked to serve the general public. Here the egregious pretense that they serve the people whom they actually think should serve them, leads to mal-development and threatens our democracy.”

Cayetano’s loophole

To my mind this is where Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is pigeon-holed.

He is today’s epitome of the scourge of the cacique syndrome that has invaded our legislature, and if nobody stands up to him, the very house that represents direct constituents among our people could be denied the reforms for change that the present administration has won in the polls for.

Cayetano is busy pleasing the gods of media.

His ego goes beyond well-meaning presidents like Rodrigo Duterte and his penchant for the rule of law. As he is already being pilloried even for the shortness of breath by others in the executive department, what does the speaker do, he takes advantage of the situation to aggrandize his personal ambition even if just to deliver a momentary orgasm for an oligarchy.

Cayetano is busy wooing the votes of the terrorists.

Communists in the Cabinet, in the House of Representatives and the Senate are deliberate in their moves to discredit anything that the government does, even the fact that the poverty line has liberated almost eight million of our people in just the past four years of the man from Davao? Yet how many times have we criticized progressives, nay even Jose Maria Sison, living  privileged, affluent lives, and abroad at that under the protection of foreign powers?

Cayetano is distracted by Maria Ressa’s plastic compassion for ABS-CBN’s “11 million workers.”

But Sylvia’s microscope does not escape observing shops, airplanes, banks and offices everywhere the poor are treated with disdain by the people who are supposed to treat them with a semblance of caring.

She said “I have watched flight attendants patronize the poor OFW nanny they had to serve, bank clerks deal sternly with the itinerant vendor wanting to change money, government workers lose their temper with the ordinary citizen.”

Cayetano is caught in the hypocrisy of the moment.

He did not even listen to Soc Villegas appeal to the network to review the moral and social standards of its entertainment in a recent turnaround statement on the ABS-CBN shutdown.

Truly, the Catholic Church has its own share in towns across the country we find priests, allegedly the servants of God, living in opulence and expecting service from the people they are supposed to serve. In most of these parishes, poverty levels can be very high and the priest’s life of privilege is taken from the wages of the poor or charity better spent for the poor.

But Villegas’ admonition to media could be the metanoia that the biggest institution in the Philippines, albeit long tardy, may yet be forthcoming.

Solidarity of the true sovereigns

Sylvia notes there are numerous examples of poor people who learn from their marginalization and acquire the habits of solidarity.

“We see members of our upper class become true servants: doctors who uphold the dignity of the poorest of their patients; religious who live their vow of poverty; government officials who serve with utmost respect, especially those among their constituents who are most dispossessed.

“And we have those among government whose executive privileges do not stop them from having that basic human empathy that is the true source of democracy and  public servants who are kind to each and every citizen that comes their way.

“We I would not underestimate the power of these people and their small and disparate actions. They are the holders of a true counter-culture of democratic social relations. Such people and their actions serve as yet another important element in the struggle for social reform and genuine democracy that will not be won by our leaders, but rather, by an engaged citizenry.”

Thanks Ms. Claudio for all the words I loosely borrowed from you today.

Meanwhile, Cayetano’s completion bonus awaits full delivery that must be denied if we still want to continue under a democracy.

The whole house of representatives must vote down this onerous bill at third reading. Voters are watching and would mete out the political demise to those who will support this cacique bill.

They ought to be reminded that Noynoy Aquino is no longer around to cover up their corruption. Their vote will define their each and every character.

Besides, the national significance of the ABS-CBN shutdown cannot be over-emphasized. No less than the military, for the first time and without mincing words, gave an explicit signal by issuing its own statement warning everyone, especially the terrorists, not to demonize government on the issue.

As I have said in my earlier works, the new normal is not social distancing or handwashing, the new normal is respecting the rule of law.

And that includes respecting due process, that Cayetano has abused.

At the end of the day, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will not sign a railroaded measure, otherwise Cayetano will be laughing at him all the way to the bank.

I do trust that the mayor from Davao will be consistent with his legacy.

Due process and the rule of law. (ia/

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