By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
The 15th Congress is extraordinary not only because of the presence of actors and actresses and even a boxing champion who got elected as representatives of their respective districts. It is also the first time in Philippine history that a former president of the country was also elected as representative of her hometown.
“She is not only an ordinary president, she is a president who should be held accountable for her doings while in office,” Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Partylist said in an interview with Bulatlat.
The progressive bloc composed of Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, Anakpawis, Kabataan and ACT Teachers Party deem the 15th Congress not as exciting but interesting. In fact, a big challenge is ahead of them to pursue a pro-people agenda among which is the prosecution of Arroyo.
“Of course the fight for Arroyo’s prosecution will not be easy because we expect her and her allies among the congressmen to do everything to hinder the investigation of her crimes,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares.
Colmenares said that after Arroyo steps down from power on June 30, the progressive bloc in congress will have a campaign against impunity to prosecute those who are involved in human rights violations, electoral fraud as well as graft and corruption in the past administration.
Ilagan said the progressive bloc will definitely be looking for “creative and legal ways” to pursue action against Arroyo.
Colmenares added it should be easier to conduct an investigation against Arroyo because she is no longer in power but he admitted that it would still be a major battle in every attempt at investigating.
“It should not be as problematic like before when every impeachment complaint was just nipped in the bud. Presumptive president Noynoy Aquino also pledged to prosecute Arroyo so we will test his campaign promise during his term. If ever he will fulfill his pledge, it will be an added factor to pursue for Arroyo’s prosecution,” Colmenares added.
Battle for House Speakership
The battle for House speakership is another big fight for the progressive party-list groups. “Definitely the progressive bloc will vote as one. We are going to vote for Arroyo’s leading rival to derail her bid for speakership,” said Rep. Raymond Palatino of Kabataan Partylist.
According to news reports, Liberal Party’s Feliciano Belmonte is bidding for speakership while Lakas Kampi-CMD is fielding Rep. Edcel Lagman.
Even if Lakas-Kampi has the majority in the Lower House with 107 members, Palatino said, it does not guarantee that Lakas will win the battle for House Speaker. He said, historically, politicians tend to side with the incumbent president’s party. But Palatino also said, Arroyo should not be underestimated as proven in her nine years as president.
Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, on the other hand, said if Arroyo will pursue her bid as speaker of the House, he will personally oppose her nomination.
“The progressive bloc will not allow itself to be aligned with Arroyo now that she is just a representative. Nograles said the House of Representatives is the house of the people. If Arroyo will be speaker of the house then it will become the house of Arroyos,” Mariano said. He added Arroyo will only make the Lower House as her political refuge against prosecution.
Ilagan said both parties that are bidding for speakership have been approaching them. “In politics there are no permanent enemies, only permanent interests. But the progressive bloc will definitely look into their platforms, what their plans are if they bag the position of speaker.
Palatino agreed. “It depends on their legislative agenda, we want the next speaker of the House to support or at the minimum, give a fair treatment to the progressive bills that the progressive bloc is pushing for,” he said.
The progressive bloc said they will also prevent Arroyo from regaining power by pushing for a shift to a parliamentary form of government.
Colmenares said Bayan Muna expects a vicious Congress in the next three years. He said Arroyo will not take things sitting down, she will try to push her plans including charter change, but in the house of Congress what matters is the people’s outrage.
“I doubt if she can push through with her plans, she may try but I don’t think she will succeed. The progressive bloc has been steadfast in its fight against charter change, because, first and foremost, we believe that the problems confronting country does not have its roots in the constitution and therefore, its solution would not emanate from changing the constitution,” Colmenares added.
Not only will the fight for Arroyo’s prosecution be arduous, but also the struggle for the enactment of the Marcos Victims Compensation Bill, as well as other human rights and other progressive bills.
“Given that the Marcoses are both in Senate and in Congress, we expect that it will be more difficult to pass the Marcos Victims Compensation Bill. But the progressive bloc, with the help of the progressive people’s organizations, will still pursue it no matter what,” said Colmenares. (Bulatlat.com)