COLUMN OF THE WEEK:  THE  FILIBUSTER

MANILA,  JUNE 10, 2004
(STAR) 
FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno  -  Nene Pimentel was given enough rope, and so he proceeded to hang himself.

And so it was that another day was wasted at the congressional canvass. Pimentel yakked. And yakked. And yakked even more.

The whole afternoon, he yakked. Many in the gallery, disgusted by the imperious show conducted at great public expense, simply walked out and went home.

He talked on everything that struck his fancy: the day’s opinion columns, the old issues that have been settled in the joint session, Bill Luz’s citizenship, and the opposition’s petition before the Supreme Court (which, he did not know then, was thrown out by unanimous vote).

Only when his voice ran out on him did he finally stop. And we hope that voice does not return just yet so that we can get some counting done.

Once more there are cries of outrage over the dilatory tactics being employed by a pathetic congressional minority. They have set back counting by weeks and seem bent on precipitating a constitutional crisis by not proclaiming a winner by June 30.

The point men of the opposition keep reminding us they are not bent on delaying the count; that they just want an honest tabulation. But their actions betray them.

When votes exceeded the indicated number of voters, the opposition blocked the tabulation of the canvass of domestic absentee voters. KNP lawyer Harriet Demetriou was quick to draw an unwarranted conclusion, declaring this to be a classic case of "dagdag-bawas." The facts tell us that was a hysterical thing to say.

When a Comelec official went over to explain the oversight and apologize for it, the opposition was all over the lady. For the minor matter of an oversight on the number of voters who actually voted, the opposition applied a leather-lock on the congressional canvass. Poll watchers for the candidates check and countercheck the votes for candidates and rarely pay attention to the report on the number of voters that actually voted.

The issue that perturbed the congressional canvass had no bearing on the results – not because of the small number of votes involved but because the clerical error happened on the matter of the number of voters not on the number who they voted for.

But the opposition has perfected the art of making a mountain out of a molehill. In the case of Pimentel’s peroration last Tuesday, he made a mountain range out of a molehill.

The strain of the long count had made our legislators edgy. They are easily piqued. They have become prone to lace their arguments with sharp insults. That is understandable.

What is difficult to understand is how a senior politician like Aquilino Pimentel would allow his ego to run unbridled so that he could inflict on the nation – and on himself – what he did last Tuesday. He filibustered all of us to the point of absolute disgust. He unleashed an ego that overwhelmed all sense of proportion.

I have known Aquilino Pimentel since the days when we both fought the dictatorship and sought a return of our democracy. I remember once, during a forum shortly after the Aquino assassination, I pointed him out to a foreign friend and said: "He might be the President one day."

I sensed this man aspired to rise to the presidency. But fate and his own quirks have not been kind to that ambition.

Perhaps he was disappointed about not being chosen vice-president after Edsa 2, after he held up the microphone for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s oath-taking at the Edsa Shrine. That was possibly his last route to position for the succession.

Perhaps he resented he was not trusted enough by enough of his peers to enable him to take the presidency of the Senate. That, too, might have improved his strategic positioning for the land’s highest post.

But these are all suspicions. There is no reliable means to establish someone else’s motives or passions. We can only read behavior.

Since then, I have found his behavior inexplicable. I remember bringing up that concern with some of Pimentel’s long-time friends in the Christian Social Movement network in Mindanao a few months back. They too were puzzled.

It is as if some malignant spirit has possessed his soul.

To a point, I could buy the line he peddled the past few weeks, about the need to exercise vigilance to ensure a credible count. But he crossed the threshold last Tuesday.

The filibuster was not meant to enlighten anything, and it did not. It was simply meant to massage this man’s wounded ego. It was meant to stall.

Whatever his purposes and whatever his motive, Nene has allowed himself to become a mouthpiece for a bunch of obstructionists who, despairing over their defeat, want to take down all our institutions with them to the dustbin of history.

By overindulging himself as he did last Tuesday, Nene Pimentel undermined his own chances for rising, if not to the peak of his ambitions, at least to the heights of statesmanship. After that incident, he has become, well, just another Dilangalen: a cheap mouthpiece for an unheroic cause.

More than Pimentel’s recently acquired propensity for political suicide, what is more worrisome is the subliminal message being conveyed by FPJ lackeys at the Congress in their mad effort to stall the count, prevent a proclamation and precipitate a constitutional crisis. These lackeys are spilling bile on all our institutions. They have cast malice on everything.

Tito Sotto’s vacant sneer and Tessie Oreta’s malicious snickering betray this cabal’s contempt for democratic processes and the intelligence of our people. Having no capacity to inspire our nationhood, they have limited themselves to snide remarks day in and day out.

Trust and goodwill are scarce virtues in our society. The behavior of the FPJ cabal the past few days have made these virtues scarcer still.

At a time when the nation aches for a vision, the opposition dishes out only bad faith. At a time when we need heroes, we get only filibusters.

Each day the count is delayed by whimsical behavior and demagoguery, our collective capacity to hope for a nation well-led and adeptly governed is taxed heavily.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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